It’s 5pm and I am still in Seattle. I’ve been living out of the Silver Cloud Inn for the past 10 days. Hotel life is great at first but I am itching to get back down to Portland.
It’s 6pm and we’re still awaiting for approval. Our clients are making last minute changes on their big Monday pitch. The office is anxious, the whiskey bottle is already empty and I can’t stop thinking of tomorrow’s Our Mother the Mountain ride.
It’s 8pm,we’re on the road back to Portland and I am in good company. I guess I really am riding the Dark Larch tomorrow.
It’s 6am and I can hear the pouring rain bouncing off my rooftop. The water is boiling and I sip my coffee while watching the weather unfold through my front window. My phone buzzes and my first friend drops out of the ride. I don’t blame him.
It’s 9am and we’re in the Dabney parking lot. A solid crew of brave souls circle the parking lot waiting for the un-official roll out. Words are had and we pace line down the highway.
I loose track of time, I focus on the pedal stroke, my mind wanders amongst the green and the crunching sound of tires over earth. I am thankful I didn't bail, the Dark Larch delivers.
Route info via OMTM.
This year’s Dark Larch V2 packs the same condensed wallop of forest road, singletrack, gravel and faerie footpath as last year but with a couple of fantastic improvements to the original course. It will have the same Historic Highway rollout to Alex Barr and Palmer Mill singletrack climbs to the Larch Mountain gate on the front end, but will bypass the decommissioned forest road NF20 in favor of a quick drop down Larch Mountain Road to the elusive Dark Larch Wizard Trail at mile 26.4. This quiet slice of loamy bliss crosses Buck Creek in the way nature intended before dipping off down the Dark Larch Byway, a forgotten bit of forest road with a few punchy climbs which completely sidesteps the Bull Run watershed boundary. The Dark Larch Byway lets out at the legendary powerline gravel bomb to Gordon Creek. Take it easy on the Gordon Creek hairpin descent at mile 41.7, let’s keep the rubber side down this year.
At mile 42.6 we dive into the Jurassic singletrack of the North Oxbow Trail and the Sandy River Beach Club at mile 43.9 (look for the spur leading off to the left). After some rays and a few piña coladas, we’ll coax our bronzed bods up the herculean OXBERG climb and ease back down the Historic Highway to belly up for some burgers and brews at Shirley’s Tippy-Canoe.
Disclaimers, warnings, caveats and wisdoms:
* The ride will be rolling out of Dabney at 9am sharp, so plan accordingly or you’ll be playing catch up.
* This route requires GPS navigation. Please download the route to your Garmin, or use the fine RWGPS app on your phone.
* Tire sizes of 35c-45c recommended. While we suppose you could have feasibly #roadbikesoffroad-ed this on 28c’s last year, the severity of the rainfall and wetness in many areas of the course make it a really bad idea this go-round. Please please please, nothing smaller than 33c. The course is much, much wetter than the late summer run last year, rendering it very difficult for smaller tires.
* Be very considerate of any hikers or ghosts you might come across – though it’s frankly unlikely you’ll see any. We want to convey how nice cyclists are on trails that don’t often see them.
* You will need to be prepared to filter/treat water for refill. There are many ideal opportunities to do so.
* Dabney State Recreation area does require a day pass ($5)…another parking option w/ no fee would be Glen Otto park @ Historic Highway + the Sandy River, a couple of miles NW of Dabney on the Historic Highway. There are bathrooms and great water at both Dabney and Glen Otto.
* Since the route is close to Portland and not very long, we encourage you to ride to your ride. It’s a 15 mile warmup to Dabney from SE PDX.
Stay safe and enjoy!