Upper Alpine/Saddle Blanket Ride
This past summer, I rode a new trail in Oakridge. When there are 60 trails in your backyard it takes a while to get to them all. It was our friend Cutler’s birthday and he wanted to ride, so I said what the heck. His girlfriend Lisa had just gotten a new bike so she joined us too.
We hopped on the daily Alpine shuttle offered by Oregon Adventures to head off for the ride, This is something I don’t do often enough because I am normally the one driving the shuttle. Okay, I still drove up and left the van for the ride back down, but I got to ride. Up the road we went to the normal drop spot. Once there we enjoyed the breathtaking view of the 3 sisters and other mountains. We pedaled the normal mile up the road to Kate’s Cut In to the Alpine Trail. But once we were there, everything changed. Instead of turning left with the other clients, we took a right on the Alpine Trail and rode a section I hardly ever ride. We rode the Alpine for a couple miles and enjoyed great views of the mountains and big trees and a really fun one-mile downhill.
Once we got to the gravel road, well, we rode on the gravel roads. The views were amazing. One of the coolest things about the Alpine area is you see 5-6 blooming cycles of Rhododendrons and other flowers because the top of the area in around 5,500-feet and the bottom is 1,000. So, you see the first blooms in March or April and the last in August. We rode on some gravel road I hadn’t ridden on before, I kept seeing a big mountain that I couldn’t see from the other parts of Alpine. Then it hit me that it was Mt. Hood. I didn’t know you could see Mt. Hood from our area, but you can on this road. That was pretty cool. Down the road we saw some of the biggest Douglas fir I have ever seen on the side of the road and one had a cross with a name on it…still trying to figure out who the guy is and his story.
After miles of gravel roads we came to the Saddle Blanket Shelter. I always find it interesting to see these shelters in the middle of no where and wonder what it was like for the people that built them many years ago. What things have happened at these shelters? Was there a time this shelter saved a lost traveler’s life way back in the day? I had never been there before and the place was pretty cool and it had an OLD outhouse. I had never seen an old outhouse like that along a trail. We had lunch at the shelter.
Then we started up the Saddle Blanket Trail. Not many people ride this trail because there is no signage and it is hard to find. Plus, this trail is usually overgrown and not maintained, but it was part of the famously hard Cascade Cream Puff 100 mountain bike race, so you could see the trail and didn’t have to go over a bunch of trees. Up and up we climbed. Because this was a new trail to me I decided to focus on the views along the trail rather then all the climbing. The flowers were very pretty and as with all Oakridge trails there were some amazing big trees. I came into a clearing where the flowers flowed over the trail and I looked to my left and there was a 100-foot plus tall old look-out tower. I almost rode right by it. The stairs where gone so you couldn’t go up into it, not that you would have wanted to, the tower at the top looked pretty old and unstable. You never know what you’ll see in the woods.
Years ago I was riding along and looked over in the woods and there was a 75-foot high railroad trestle. It was an incredible site, sadly a couple years later it fell down and now about 17 years later you can’t even tell it was there. Back to the ride, the tower was near the top of the trail. After that it was a couple miles of fun, fast flowing downhill single track followed by a mile of fast double track and then around a gate and we were back to where we started our gravel road ride. Instead of getting back on the Alpine trail section, we turned down a gravel road and jumped on a different part of Alpine. The famous Upper Alpine or Chrome Toilet section, as locals call it. I thought I hadn’t been on this section before, because like Saddle Blanket, it was not maintained. But, for the last couple years a groups of locals have started to keep this section clear. As I headed onto this trail, I realized I had been on this trail before. Yes, I had, and it was not a fun trip. Many years ago, I honestly can’t remember how many, a friend, 3 dogs and I decided to try this Alpine trail we had heard of. We started our ride after work one night about 6pm and we were told it was not that long of a ride.. It took us nearly two hours just to find our way though that first 3 miles to get to the part of Alpine where you could actually see the trail. So about 9:30pm, with no lights we got to the Sourgrass Meadow. The meadow was still 15 miles from where the other car was parked at the bottom but we didn’t know that back then and the whole meadow was full of elk bedded down. We kept going and going. We got back to the car at 1am and had a good laugh and said we would never do that again.
But I digress, So, here I was again in that same spot, but lucky for me it was the middle of the day. Thanks to the Cream Puff, you could see the trail and I was with people that actually knew where to go. As I said, the flowers bloom in late July-August up that high, so I was really enjoying seeing flowers that late in the season.
I almost forgot to explain why it is called the Chrome Toilet section of Alpine. Well right there in the middle of the woods is a shelter on one side of the trail and on the other is one wall of an old outhouse and a shinny chrome toilet. We stopped and enjoyed reading the signage at the shelter and wondering about the chrome toilet. Past the chrome, we rode, enjoying the trail and each other’s company until we came to a gravel road. At this point, I realized this is where were parked to start our infamous Alpine journey many years ago.
It was an 18-mile ride with a lot more climbing then I thought there would be. It was great day on the trail.
Editor’s Note: This is a difficult ride and it is recommended that you not embark on it without a licensed guide.
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