Just worked out that I was back in town after grueling vacation stints in Vegas and LA and was able to connect with veteran rider Tony Harisimowic from Vancouver on July 17th.
Tony has a great blog that details his wide-ranging ride experiences on 254 trails in 26 states. The fact that he was impressed with Growlers is a real testament to our system.
His report from our ride is below. Be sure to give his blog a look.
I was able to explore the Growlers Gulch trail network on my own last weekend after reading about it online earlier that week. It seemed like a large area with forum posts estimating total singletrack in excess of 30 miles. That certainly had my attention – and the fact that it was only an hour from my door off of I-5 was a plus as well. How this area went undetected by my ride radar all these years is a mystery to say the least. I did get in a few solid hours of riding but the network was difficult to navigate in locations. It was clear I needed someone to show me the ropes, especially the preferred directionality of the better trails.
The area itself is on private timberland so there are no trail signs nor markers to speak of. In addition there are no public maps online of the trail system either and this is the desire of its creators and builders. What I also quickly learned is that newbies were most welcome to get a tour from one of the local riders. So with a short series of emails to Jim LeMonds I confirmed that the best way to get familiar with the system would be to tag along with a veteran guide or be part of a group ride. I was in luck as Jim was just back in town from vacation and looking to get a ride in early Sunday morning.
We met up at the small lower parking area adjacent to the yellow gate and started our climb up the gravel road crossing under the power lines and into the forest. Jim gave me some general background on the lower trail area and a bit of history on the substantial trail building that had taken place to date. We met up with three other riders new to the area and all followed Jim’s lead down the gravel road. We dipped down taking a left off of the gravel road to the Carnage trail to start the tour. This rolling, twisty trail was a great intro to the type of tread in the area. The fern-lined trail was hard-packed and fast with a few log-overs to negotiate along the way – it was a blast overall. After some small uphill grinding we joined back up with the main gravel road and headed west up to, and past the blue gate.
We passed several more trails to the right along the way with Jim describing each. Not long after, we turned off the road and hit some of the mint singletrack segments that eventually worked themselves back to the road. Short climbs and descents, roots, logs, and some carefully sculpted bermed turns were all part of the trail mix. It was damp and humid from early morning rains but the tread was in excellent shape due to the firm soil. Regrouping back at the road, the group of three had to start heading back to their car so Jim and I carried on, heading further up the road to hook up with the Legacy trail.
Ripping down this section of trail was a real treat after a stint of serious climbing. Jim showed me several more closed loop segments that were amazing. Even though my GPS was recording our every pedal, the constant twists and turns had me more than a bit disoriented. A-B-C, Canoe, Vortex – the trail names had little meaning to me as I tried to keep pace with the two-wheeled ‘Jeep’ in front of me, and 29-inch wheels at that, coupled with a two-chainring setup that had me at a serious log-over disadvantage. We noodled around for several more miles and coming back down FR 9312 in a now steady rain we ran into two more trail prophets, Paul and Mel, out for a climbing workout. With a final, ‘well while we’re here,’ we polished off the Predator trail paralleling the road and headed back down the power line hill to the parking area.
I can’t thank Jim enough for what ended up basically being a three-hour-plus personal tour of the trail system. He simply exudes energy and loves talking trails. How can you blame him given the incredible network that has been forged over the years.
Despite being a very experienced and skillful rider, I had trouble keeping up most of the morning. The riding is quite varied but key to many of the trails is the flow and continuity. You can just keep riding and riding, connecting from trail to trail. Several of the shorter loops that circle back to the gravel road have constant short climbs and descents. Subsequently, you can rack up some significant elevation gain without really noticing it. We climbed just under 2500 feet in 15 miles on the morning. This did include some initial gravel road climbing, but nothing major.
In the past whenever I’ve read or heard from riders that ‘you really need a guide’ to show you the trails in a certain area or location I’ve rolled my eyes. However, this is one network where having a guide definitely pays off. The myriad of short trail segments and faint gravel road connectors had my head spinning just an hour into the ride. And riding a certain trail in the direction it was intended to be ridden makes all the difference. Get in touch with Jeep to show you the way or try and hook up with a weekend group ride to get a taste of this special place.