Monday, November 1, 2010

North Umpqua River Trail (Roseburg, OR)

A blog about biking in and around Sandpoint, Idaho you say?  This is the last stop on my tour of Oregon and therefore my last entry.  Heading North out of Ashland I stopped in Roseburg to tackle the North Umpqua River Trail.  Maybe not as "famous" as the McKenzie River or Deschutes River Trails, but it no doubt has gotten some high honors.  It is on IMBA's list of epic rides, click here to view.  The Umpqua River Trail follows the river, duh, for 16 miles between the Swiftwater and Tioga recreational areas.  It is listed as an advanced ride.  It can be ridden as an out and back, loop with the road or a shuttle.  Going North from Swiftwater is the preferred route and the one recommended by IMBA.  It features 2,600' of elevation gain and some great technical challenges.

First, where the hell is Roseburg?  Well, it's about 2 hours from Eugene and then it's another 22 miles East from there to the Umpqua trailhead.  This is probably the reason it doesn't get much attention, it's out of the way and not super easy to get to.  It would be like coming from out of town to ride Long Canyon.  Well worth the trip, Umpqua did not disappoint.

The first few miles of the trail has a very wide tread and follows close to the river. You pass yet another waterfall, surprise in Oregon. The river had an amazing green color and tons of good looking pools. Fishing is very popular here as almost every variety of trout resides here. Steelhead being at the top of the list. As a side note, steelhead trout are amazing fish. They are native to the Pacific Ocean from Alaska down to Baja. They are born in fresh water rivers, like Umpqua River, were they live for their first 1-3 years. As juveniles they migrate down stream to the ocean to mature for another 1-3 years. After maturation, they follow the scent back up the river to their birthplaces to spawn and live out their days. What a cool cycle.

Beside the river and the sweet looking fishing pools, the forest is amazing.  The trail takes you through some old-growth forest stands of Douglas-fir and Pine.  Many of these giants are as wide as I am tall!  Under the canopy of old trees lies tall ferns and younger growth, all of which seems to be covered in a dense mat of moss.  It feels very rain forest like and damp.  It is hard to stay focused on the trail as your attention is constantly drawn away by nature's artwork.

The natural beauty is obviously a benefit on this ride, but the trail would be great on it's own.  After the first few miles along the river, the trail climbs to the top of Bob Butte and some rocky high-top meadows.  The trail gets more technical and the climbing is fairly steady.  Once you crest Bob Butte it's a ripping down hill with several tight switchbacks.  Beyond this, the trail ungulates up and down as it meanders along the river.  Many of high points on the trail offer some extreme exposure.  I was focused on the trail, but at many points it was at least a 400' drop down to the rivers edge.  If you're not into exposure or intimidated by heights, this is not the ride for you.  Otherwise, I recommend staying focused and on the trail.

As opposed to some of the other Oregon trails, Umpqua is well marked.  Ironically, there aren't really any other trail intersections.  Nonetheless, a well marked trail, even down to each bridge being number and creek names displayed.  

This was a great ride.   I was spent and wet AGAIN.  Ahh, the joys of riding in the Fall.  There are several other rides in this area that are also supposed to be worth checking out.  This was a big IMBA Epic to check of my ride list.

A final note, some of you have asked "if I'm worried to do these big rides alone?"  Or what if this or that happens?  You can play the "what if" game all day.  Yes, there are risks, life is full of risks.  It's about managing the risks.  I always plan and prepare and for every ride.  I treat them all as if they could be "epic.  My packed Camelbak goes on every single ride with me.  It weighs close to 20lbs now and holds gear to address most issues I might encounter on the trail.  Of course, I can't plan for everything, but experience dictates the most probable.  I map and study the trails, options and bail outs before I go.  I let someone know where I'm going, approximately how long it will take and notify them as soon as I'm out...props to Jane.  I've been very fortunate, most of the things in my Camelbak I've never had to use...and hopefully they continue to gather dust in there.

Hopefully something in my blog will spark you to plan your own ride.  Don't take my word for whether a trail is good or sucks.  Do your own research and planning and then go ride.  And please let me know your perspective if you do, I love feedback.

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