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Oregon Timber Trail Rapha OCC Trailwork Weekend

Duty Now For The Future

A weekend of trailwork and camaraderie deep in the heart of Cascadia with the Oregon Timber Trail crew.

29 July 2022

Nothing creates a sense of community among mountain bikers like a weekend of trailwork. Sharing a laugh over a cold drink after a hard day of physical labor. Shoveling dirt alongside a complete stranger until they become a new friend. Staring into a flickering campfire whilst swapping stories of your wildest rides. Washing off a day’s worth of trail dust with a quick dip in a high alpine lake. These experiences instill a sense of camaraderie and fellowship that transforms us.

 

When we ride or race the trails, we are solitary creatures. But when we work on the trails together, we are a pack.

 

As riders, we are keenly aware that time, nature, and our own usage can damage the trails that we depend upon for our recreation and well-being. We believe that it’s our duty to build and maintain sustainable trails for everyone, especially future generations, to enjoy. To that end, we choose to donate tools, time, and funds directly to trail building and advocacy organizations in order to realize those goals. Last weekend we rolled up our sleeves and got to work with the Oregon Timber Trail Association, a nonprofit group that is improving the conditions of mountain biking throughout the great state of Oregon.

Nestled deep in the west side of the Cascade Peaks range of central Oregon, roughly midway between Portland and Bend, a timeworn dirt trail snakes its way below the craggy, soaring summit of Scar Mountain. This is Old Cascade Crest.


The trails in this area trace the routes of tens of thousands of years of human travel through a verdant, densely forested region that feels isolated from the modern world. The rough-hewn, raw lines of passage may seem to be as ancient as the landscape itself, but these trails don’t simply appear from thin air. They are made by hand, the end result of humans working against time and nature to allow future generations to explore the grandeur of this remote region.

This corner of the continent was shared by the people of the Molalla, Modoc, Yahooskin, Paiute, Kalapuya, Clackamas, Chinuk, Tenino, Wasco, and Wishram for hunting, fishing, gleaning, and quarrying long before colonial occupation.

In the early 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps built trails that connected fire lookouts within the newly-established Willamette National Forest. In the 1980s land stewards showed a revitalized interest in the region for recreational opportunities and developed connector trails, but after less than a decade, funding shortages caused many of the trails to be reclaimed by wilderness.

 

Then in 2017, the Trans-Cascadia race featured a stage on Scar Mountain. For more than a year before the race, trailwork crews worked tirelessly to remove downed trees and clean up the long-dormant trails. That’s when the Oregon Timber Trail Association (OTTA) got involved. Since then, the OTTA has continued to improve the conditions of these trails through advocacy and organized volunteer efforts.

The Old Cascade Crest is a highlight of the Hood Tier of the Oregon Timber Trail, a 669-mile bikepacking route that runs the length of the state. Although its main project is this legendary route designed for multi-day dirt tours, the OTTA serves dirt riders of every stripe and skill level through its stewardship mission – what kind of bike you ride doesn’t matter here; it’s all about how you can chip in for the greater good. Rapha is proud to support this organization, and even more thrilled to actually get our hands dirty as we were able to last weekend.

We pulled shots of fresh espresso every morning from the Rapha MTB Mobile Clubhouse, then headed to the trail for two full days of benching, brushing, clearing, and sculpting, led by trail building expert Adam Craig. Since he transitioned his career from pro XC and Enduro to full-time advocacy and product development, the former Olympian has been hard at work building tracks at Sugarloaf in the Carrabassett region of Maine. With the Enduro World Series coming to Sugarloaf in late August, we were lucky to have Adam take the time to return to his former stomping grounds in Oregon to lead the way.

Our group arrived on Friday and quickly set up camp in an old quarry, then watched a muted sunset upon the classically beautiful volcanic form of Seekseekqua (Mount Jefferson), its bulky silhouette dominating the horizon. On Saturday the real work began. After coffee and oatmeal, we split into groups and set about reclaiming the trails from eager rhododendrons and vegetation that had narrowed the three-foot wide bench-cut trail to a narrow, ragged line through the greenery.

 

We cut and dragged the slough upslope and cleared the erosion downslope, all while maintaining a healthy grade for proper water runoff. At the end of the weekend, what had been a sketchy descent from the pinnacle of Scar Mountain was now a ripping rollercoaster with proper sightlines.

 

All of the rugged rawness of the trail remained, now fortified to last another decade. Each of the 29 people in our group worked hard all weekend and every aching muscle felt well-earned when we looked back at that sinuous line of freshly-turned earth.

As the weekend came to an end, it was hard to say goodbye to these fellow travelers. Bikes are our common thread, but a few days of fireside camaraderie and playing in the dirt had created a real bond. After a quick rip and dip down Trapper’s Butte to Daly Lake, we parted ways, knowing that our paths will cross again.

For more information about the Oregon Timber Trail and how to get involved, visit Oregontimbertrail.org.

To find out more about Rapha’s trail advocacy, visit Rapha.cc/mtb.

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