The Chinook trail is neat.

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By Max.

Owning a bike shop makes it tough to get out and ride sometimes. I have sorta settled on working my butt off on Saturdays so that I can ride a bit on Sunday mornings. It reminds me of the “church of skate” we used to do at the Ashland skatepark. That park is right next to a big old foursquare type church and they crank modern christian jams all morning on Sundays. Its so loud you can hear it while you skate. It makes for a pretty rad sesh. So anyways, thats what I am shooting for this summer.

I got out the last couple Sundays, and even though it was Easter Sunday today, I went for consitency and planned a ride at Chinook trail. The Chinook trail is one of my favorites for a number of reasons. First off, it is a good length, without compromising the rest of the day, so that I can go be with the family later. Living in PDX is tight, cuz we have so many rad zones and trail systems just a bit away, in every single direction. We do have to drive. But when we do drive, we can pick for how long and in what direction and almost always have something ill to shred on bikes. So it’s not that bad then, huh? While Chinook Trail is a bit out there ( takes 45 to get to bottom, then another 30-40 to the top) its also totally half day-able if you get after it. And as a dad with a bike shop, and tons of other shit going on like trailbuilding and writing this modest zine, I need half day missions now. Chinook is epic, but its like Epic-light.

View from the Silverstar lot. Not bad.

View from the Silverstar lot. Not bad.

The second reason I love Chinook is that it’s special. The Chinook Trail is high, it has great dirt and really different terrain from top to bottom and it is not always open, do to it’s elevation. It is a special piece of Moutnain Biking trail, that goes unridden often and that makes it a nice little jewel of an early morning mission. You get these rad views at different points of cool angles in the mountainous regions of SW Washington and NW Oregon. On one turn in the first climb there is a view of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood, and on another, you get to see these rad cliffs that you just pedaled above. On yet another section you can see all the way to Vancouver and the neighboring Cold Creek and Thrillium trails. And if you pedal past the single track, on the hiking trail up to the top of Silverstar Mountian, you get really high- technically 4170 ft.. Its just really really really neat up there.

Being that the trail is so high up, you get a lot of good downs. The third reason I love Chinook Trail is that the ride is so dialed on most everybodys’ average mountain bikes. If it has full suspension and wheels, you can ride the trail and have fun. From 3 inch XC bikes to 7 inch FR bikes, everyone has fun. And even though we shuttle out the road parts, the trail has enough climbing to feel like you didn’t cheat and enough decending to really reward your tech skills and suspension set up. The any-bike-is-fun nature of the trail, combined with the epic-ness and diversity of dirt and rock and rhythm really helps the trail appeal to all kinds of riders. I love taking old friends and new friends there because its so up there and out there, and worth it, everyone is always stoked.

The MEATNECK mountain biking team. Great homies =great trails.

The MEATNECK mountain biking team. Great homies =great trails.

I haven’t measured it, but its like 10 + miles of rad. With maybe 1 or 2 miles of climbing, and lots of loam, rocks, a few mud pits, fast-sketchy and fast-flowy and a handful of lung buster climbs that can fuck with your head a bit. There are woods, and views and big rocks and cliffs. And there are rocks too.

On this particular day, it was also 4/20 and Easter. So ditching the family this morning was hard. but I’m trying to get my riding back and I knew it would be a limited chance to catch the weather. I was going to just run some shuttles in the AM and call it, then I got the text. Chinook is clear and open. That instant I knew I would be pushing the limits of fatherly and husbandly respect to their limit. I also knew if we moved through the pre flight check list well and quick, we could be home before 1 or 2. That wouldn’t suck.

My fellow rippers this mission were Hi-5 Bikeshop Mechanic Dirty Wes Nile, The Muffin Man (customer of the week!) my close friend and fellow father/shredder/lumberjack/trailbuilder C-bass and Goood Old Slippery Ed Rogers -the royal vassal to the Chris King empire in our distant galaxy. These four dudes and I have never ridden with one another in this arrangement, and you never can tell how a crew will work till they out there in the cut, just doing shit and ripping berms and what not. But you know with Wes: there will be potty mouth, and with Cole: a little extra kick in the pants to keep moving. and with Muffin Man: we would all be highly saturated in sweets and positivity. Ed brought a certain JVA stoic stoke that is unfazed by compression damping or complete trailside hub overhauls. Luckily we tested none of these attributes in any way and had a complete giggle fest with zero mechanincals . Good buds = Good rides. And these four homies can all seriously kick a trail’s ass properly.

Me and the Muffin Man played clean up all day.

You got any Muffins in that pack bro?

 

It was kinda a Banshee Bikes kinda crew. Wes is soon to be absolved.

It was a Banshee Bikes kinda crew. Wes is soon to be absolved.

The Bikes:

Eddy came partly to borrow the Hi-5 Bikeshop Demo Spitfire Bike. He said it rips. and that was about it. ┬áCole brought his trusty banshee Spitfire and tried to break it. It didn’t break. Muffin Man has been pimping out his Banshee Rune lately, and though he was short of a dropper post, his coil and thru axle won the day for tracking and stability in the upper rock-field high-speed shred-fest. I was hyped to be back on my Spitfire, with 2-6 wheels and all nimbly bimbly and such. Dirty Wes was the only one of us not on a Banshee, he rode a dirty Nomad C1. It was green, and it had a coil shock. We will say no more about this bike.

The Weather:

Was awesome.

The Dirt:

Was dialed.

When you start from the Silverstar Parking area, its always hard to remember what you are there to do. We were already at 3000 ft. and it is just gorgeous. Then you have to pack your stuff and everyone is always nervous. The three dudes that have never even heard of this trail before a couple days ago are totally wondering where it is, and where they are. More so, after an hour plus drive into the semi-deep of Southern Washington logging country. The two of us that have ridden the trail are both remembering different parts of it and grabbing extra tubes and checking our snack packs. This makes the other three more restless. Calm before the storm.

The Climb up to the Trail is mellow, scenic, but sustained.

The Climb up to the Trail is mellow and scenic, but sustained.

Everyone kinda chilled here for a second, knowing it was as high as we would be today.

Everyone kinda chilled here for a second, knowing it was as high as we would be today. Some did yoga.

Then the calm drags on as you hike and pedal up some weird hiker style single track and Scottish highland inspired rock flats and catch a couple views. Its always funny to hear the “Are you sure this is the trail?” combined with the “Hell yeah this is pretty sweet up here!” mingle in conversation as we sludge up the nearly 1100 ft climb, in 1.5 miles. Its not bad, but you notice the air difference. You know you got good mountain folk with you when they say “hi!” to the horse peoples and catch the unmarked trailhead first try. While my sorry ass huffs for air and cleans up the rear.

Not being a racer and just getting my season started has left me both lacking motivation and hyped to be on my bike. Its an odd paradigm where training is for comfort and not performance and pace is dictated by enjoyment and not ego or pride. Or training. I call it “Flying Casual” and I am enjoying the fuck out of it right now. I climb slower and happier and I eat more cookies. My rides may take longer, but I am soaking in the moutnains and bringing them back to my family for proper feeding of the youths’ chi.

Anyways, Wes gets the pads on, Muffin Man does absolutely nothing to his bike, Cole looks good and Eddy asks if we are ready. Its go time and we just drop in like we have all been here and this is just another Sunday stroll to the chapel. Boom! Chinook just hits straight out the gate with a couple of rad turns and handfuls of sketchy, rocky speed. Then she spices it up with weird dicey switchbacks and epic views. Its like a mountain bikers cocktail of Rad! and Whoa! and Oh Shit! moments all combined into the first two minutes on a trail you have taveled over 90 minutes to get to. And it rules.

With the Chinook Trail being so high up, part Horse use, and on three different agencies’ ┬áland, it gets less trail work than other spots. So its always good to know that you might find some unexpected obstacles. Which adds a little zest to any mission where trail speed is zany, and trail behavior is rowdy. We only discovered one small tree down,blocking the trail to bikes- and it was totally hand saw-able. Of course, Wes grabbed his small pack, and while Cole has a chainsaw in his pocket at all times, I had used up all his two stroke fuel cooking tea at the truck. What I am getting at is that the upper section still has a little tree down.

After the upper rocky stuff, Chinook turns to the higher elevaion type pine trees that grow loam for a living. And loam is awaiting you there. Shallow, loam stacked, kiddie style roller coaster ribbons, with rocks and silly wall rides. Just about everything you could want with a nice fast trail. And that was just the second terrain type we encountered. That section drops you into a serene little wooded single track. That ends abruptly at a weird high country logging road crossing and an inspired T in the trail. The sign says <— Waterfall, but we headed on the faster Rock Creek Campground —> direction, knowing that we were on a mission from god. To descend and return to families.

This right turn is where you could go really epic, or more regular. Seeing as we chose a regular day of riding, its nice to think that “really epic” is waiting for our return with looser timelines and larger snacks. The right turn is no joke though! You get a nice little flowy climb, its kind of swoopy and scenic for a minute and you use your dropper post a bit, which is cool. Thats about a half mile of trail that the dropper was made for. Then, as you think you have gotten to nice place for a snack, and a breath: BOOM! you are climbing in the shade of a dank wood. The humidity goes up, and the trail goes up, and your heart rate goes up, and all of a sudden everyone is talking shit and laughing about what a head trip the blind uphill sweepers are giving us.

Its not really a bad climb at all. But its one of those climbs that should end based on appearance after about four corners. It doesn’t. So when you get to the climb at the top of this section, remember to keep your stoke in check and pace yourself. There are two little punchy fuckers right at the end: and they break hearts. But not Slippery Ed’s heart. and Wes was cackling: he was having so much fun. This is where me and The Muffin Man took a little break to just enjoy the warmth of spring, the clicks and breeze of the woods in the high country in the morning and got to talking about goggles versus glasses. Gloves versus bare hands, and gluten free sugar cakes.

The Muffin Man and I took a break right here to enjoy the dankness of PNW life.

The Muffin Man and I took a break right here to enjoy the dankness of PNW life.

This served as a great point to sell The Muffin Man a dropper post. I did.

Then I took some gratuitous pictures of my rad Banshee Spitfire. This bike is blowing me away everyday I get to ride it. The Rune was an amazing ride, super plush and climbs really well, but the Spitfire is more sporty in the travel, sits a little higher up and climbs more like a hard tail. Seriously, it takes off underneath you, where the Rune is more planted and climbs with a lot of traction, the Spitfire just motors out from under you. It loves to be mashed on, and I am enjoying the aggro geometry combined with the very DH-ness of the Double Barrel Air with the Climb Switch on it. I have tried both wheel sizes on this frame lately, and found them to both be winners. One frame, two wheel sizes, and lots of fun and versatility all rolled into one. Simply put: This bike goes good and likes to play.

This bike is at home up high and going long and deep!

This bike is at home up high and going long and deep!

The DH geo and XC climbing make for a good time. Jibbing + Charging = dialed MTB riding.

The DH geo and XC climbing make for a good time. Jibbing + Charging = dialed MTB riding.

So we finally get to this point that, if you look on the topo, is right on the nub of a contour. And we don’t know it, cuz we are in the woods. And the trail starts to flow just a little bit more and more around each corner. And before you realize it, the damned thing has you up at race speeds just giggling and so stoked you got a dropper post. Seriously. I have done this ride without one: The dropper post changes this trail for the better. And before you know it, you are ripping loose, muddy, fun, turn fests with little bumps and drops between each cornering clinic. Seriously, lists of adjectives are the only way to describe the middle sections of the Chinook trail. Its just a freaking blast. And the corners are holding, but there is just enough moisture in the dirt to let it get loose. Flat pedals are fun here. I catch a little bobble just long enough to hear my friends behind me all laughing out loud, echoing up the hill with whooping and hollering. Even the MuffinMan has found extra air in his lungs to blast out.

There are no pictures from this section because it is so awesome.

After the rip roaring good times in the lower woods, you ride through some old school clear cuts that have nice vegetation cover back in them, and we see some horses. You should be advised that horses are almost always on this trail. We almost thought about going back up to milk the little DH section that they interrupted, but we decide to keep moving, and later I thought I would definitely like to have enough time to session certain parts of the lower sections. They are definitely a lot of fun, very rowdy and totally worth sessioning. There is a nearby road, and I am curious how climbing little laps on that road would work out. The coolest thing about Chinook is that it always inspires future visits. Always a good sign of a wonderful trail.

So we go ripping the little DH sections, still high from the above cornering clinic, when we hit “The Swamps.” Which is what Cole and I call the section from the Tarbell Parking lot down to Rock Creek Campground because of how they used to ride. Now these aren’t really swamps. Or are they? They might be! But you aren’t really in a marsh, just really really close to a creek and the trail has relatively poor drainage when compared to the modern built stuff we are all so fond of riding. Still, the sections from the Tarbell Lot to the Campground used to be worse. But a bunch of work has been put in and a new bridge so the trail flows pretty good now. Still its the least fun part of the whole trail. Little downs and little ups and really crappy rewards….. That is, until you get to the mini rock gardens. Which by the way, come on totally unexpected and add a little spice to the end of the day.

We were all so hyped and in the zone when we hit the swampy little rock pitch, that I heard some “Man Down!” heckles behind me. But Eddy escaped without a scratch or patch of dirt on him. So, no blood no foul. Either way, there are no pictures from this section, because it sucks and I was charging back to the truck for some tea.

This is the spot we plundered down to get recovered. you can smell the horse apples!

This is the spot we plunkered down to get recovered. You can smell the horse apples!

Penelope was waiting patiently for daddy and his pals.

Penelope was waiting patiently for daddy and his pals.

 

The Chinook trail has so much different stuff. And it really ends on this akward high note: crappy little climbs and a man eating rack garden? Sure, I guess I hadn’t seen that yet today! Everyone was amping at the truck, which was helpful, cuz we had to go get the other truck and leave the boys to some snacks, brews and a little dip in the creek. Rock Creek Campground is pretty chill. Its a horse campground, but it has day use spots and also overnight units. The creek is right there and down the road is the shuttle trails. But best of all is that it is quiet and relatively out of the way. We all agreed that camping and riding lots would be rad here.

We locked em and loaded em. Tres Amigos.

We locked em and loaded em. Tres Amigos.

After such a rad morning, and mini-epic trail attack, we loaded the bikes and made it back to PDX by 1. Yes, we made it by 1pm. Pretty rad to have a nice shuttle on versatile mountain bikes and get some exercise, some views and some shreditation all done and wrapped with plenty of day left. I am trying to hit all the spots this summer so I can show Wes around. Don’t hesitate to check in with us at the shop and tag along as we check out all the funnest AM rides that PDX has to offer!!

-Max

 

 



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