Saturday, October 23, 2010

North Fork-Flagline Loop (Bend, OR)

A blog about biking in and around Sandpoint, Idaho you say?  Still in Bend, Oregon.  The last post was on the Deschutes River Trail, the Disneyland of Bend.  I've moved on to the real trails with the North Fork-Flagline Loop (let's call it NFFL for this post).  The NFFL lies West of Bend in the Deschutes National Forest.  More specifically this particular trail circumnavigates much of the Bend Watershed, we'll get to that in a bit.  The NFFL was a 20.5 mile loop with 2,800 ft of elevation gain.  It is listed as aerobically strenuous and technically rated at intermediate/advanced.  Both accurate statements.  Brace yourselves...this was an awesome ride.

The NFFL starts with a steady climb were you cover most of the 2,800 ft in the first half of the ride.  On the way up you pass 7 waterfalls as you parallel the North Fork of Tumalo Creek.  The climb features lots of roots.  The tread in general is hard pack and was a nice change from all the sand at Deschutes River.  Obviously built with mountain biking in mind, the switchbacks are very wide and sweeping.  It hardly feels like you are riding a switchback most of the time as the sweep is so gradual, it just feels like part of the climb.  The climb was a good grind and offered some good technical challenges, but it was all doable and a great climb.
1 of the 7 falls

if you only new how tricky this shot was...

imagine miles and miles of trail JUST like this

Once on top of the ridge, the great views continued.  The trail meandered through several high alpine meadows and around rocky peaks.  Although less climbing on the ridge, the trail still had many up and downs to keep you sweating.  Weather was much, much cooler up at 7k feet as evident by the frost on the creek crossing...keep the feet dry!
view from the ridge

yes, the mountain is actually red
The NFFL can be broken into 3 different rides: the climb, the ridge and the sweeeet descent. The downhill was a real burner. It seemed to go forever. The grade, like the climb, was kept very gradual. It appears the builders intended to use all the real estate they could and extend the fun as long as possible. The trail featured lots of rock and demanded your attention. It also had several places were more advanced lines were possible: gaps, skinnies, jumps, drops, etc. I kept the tires near the ground but loved every minute.

warming hut used by xc skiers

no shortage of fire wood
As mentioned at the beginning of the post, this trail rounded the Bend Watershed.  In case you glazed over that last statement, let me say it again.  The trail rounded the Bend Watershed.  There were trails that went through the actual watershed also.  Signs were very clear about were you were and some trails were designated as hiking only.  But, bike trails went all around the watershed and some shared the same drainages.  What?  Surely they thought about the possibility of bikers peeing on the sides of the trail.  Surely they thought about the possibility of chain lube flying off chains on those descents.  And surely they thought of the possibility of bikers sweating out all that beer from the night before on the trail (OK maybe not the last one).  Of course I am not familiar with the engineering surrounding the Bend Watershed.  I'm merely a casual observer.  However, it appears that Bend has found some progressive ways for trail enthusiasts to use areas in and around the their watershed.
signs like these are at trailhead that go into the watershed areas

Great ride, not an epic for me.  The NFFL is a trail a little of the beaten path, and maybe one most visitors would overlook.  Just keep in mind that Bend has many, many great trails, other than the Disneyland rides.

1 comment:

alan said...

Keep the great narratives coming Brian! I'm green with envy. I've ridden in the Bend area a couple of times, but these are new to me. Going to have to be a trip there in the near future.....