The first 3 miles are great singletrack that leads you along the banks of Clear Lake. Clear Lake is, well very clear. It is phenomenal. A person could take pics at every vantage around the lake and they'd all be perfect. The clearness and blue/green colors made it look tropical. I saw a guy fishing out in a boat and imagined that he could actually see the fish swimming around.
Trail directions indicated there was a trail along both sides of the lake. The East side trail being full of lava rock and not recommended for biking and the West side being the recommended route. I took the West side, but do to some lack of signage on the South end of the lake I ended up riding back up the East side. I got half way up the other side before I realized this. Too late, I decided to got for extra credit and ride around the whole lake. As stated, the East side was not very rideable. Several lava rock fields to cross. Steep mounds with little run up, at least now I know.
After Clear Lake the trail gets much more difficult (4+ time). Rock and roots galour. I passed a couple more waterfalls. Waterfalls are great and all, but they were all starting to look the same.
One other amazing natural feature along the trail was the "Blue Pool." For 2 miles leading up to the pool, the creek beds were dry. The river just disappears and goes underground. It travels underground and then reappears at the Blue Pool.
For a few miles leading up to and then after the Blue Pool, lava rock was the only tread and the only thing you rode. The trail went through, over and around mounds and mounds of lava. I would say this section around the Blue Pool was fun, but I'd be lying. The lava rock is very sharp and abrasive, so falling was not an option. I was byself and had to make it to the end of the trail for my shuttle. It was a great challenge.
At the 10 mile mark of the trail (I had 17 miles, damn detours), the lava rock began to subside. I sat and had lunch to regroup. I had been riding for 3 1/2 hours, and I was less than half way through the trail. I told my "shuttle bunnies" that I would be done and at the end in 4 hours total. The detours certainly didn't help, but I obviously miscalculated my ride time. At this pace I would be lucky to be done by dark. I needed to pick up the pace.
Now let me make a little side note here. I've been giving Oregon a lot of love lately. No doubt there are great riding opportunities and some amazing trails. BUT their signage sucks! McKenzie is not the first time I've run into issues with signage. Many trails lack signage all together. Others, the map names do not match the names on trail signs. And yet others, are just missing arrows or indicators at key points in the trail...like at freaking trail intersections around lakes. Anyway, enough said.
Lucky for me, the trail took a major turn after the Blue Pool and all the lava rock. Sweet single track was all that was between me and the finish line. I put her in the middle ring and was flying. The trail snakes like a serpent as you parallel the McKenzie River. There were several short climbs that took you up to some exposed ledges, and then you were rolling back down to the flats of the river again. It was up and down and back and forth for pretty much the final 16.5 miles. I was in the zone and had no idea how much time had passed between me stopping for lunch and the end of the trail. I didn't stop for pics, my only focus was the trail ahead.
|looking over the edge of the trail at one of the exposures|
|bridge builders were super busy on this trail, at least a dozen like this|