After a long time away, I’ve returned to my home town of Astoria, Oregon to enjoy some downtime. Many of my first memories of mountain biking took place here, in the hills above town. In fact, the first bike shop I ever worked at was here- at Bikes and Beyond. We also had some good times with our friend Norman Wentworth, a local rider that was well known in the mountain bike community for a network of trails aptly named “Norm’s Trails.” Norm had built a system of trails solo, and by hand, starting right out the door of his home at the end of Clairmont Road.
It was a shocking disappointment to find that where mountain biking is concerned, things have changed for the worse. Due to the worst winter storms in recent time, all the local single track was buried under fallen trees this past season. Stopping by local bike shop Bikes and Beyond, (now with different owners, as Rich has passed away) I was unable to get a straight answer from the guys working, as apparently none of the employees ride off-road. They were unsure of the status of the trails, although they didn’t believe the trails were ridable. They didn’t know about any other trails in the area either. Other then mentioning that they knew of a local group of riders, they were a bit out of the loop.
Seeing as how Norm’s Trails are a short jaunt from where we’re residing at my mom’s place, I made Inga mount up and join me, and we rode my old route to the trails. The way was blocked by quite a bit of undergrowth and black berry bushes, but somewhat passable, though Inga was not very pleased by the scratches she received from the black berries. (and that is putting it nicely) What we found when we got there was extremely disappointing.
Out of 12 miles of trail that Norm built, only a mile or two of ridable trail remains. Bummed out, we headed home. I returned on another occasion, this time in trail running shoes, determined to seek out sections of trail that could be salvaged. Perhaps some chainsaw work on a few of the bad parts, and we’ll have a new reroute to these sections? Wrong. After stomping around in the bush for several hours, it was clear- building new trail from scratch would most likely be easier.
“OK,” I was thinking to myself. “This sucks.” However, I used to lead a group ride Wednesday nights from the bike shop, and we spent much of our time riding up in the hills above town, starting at the Astoria Column. In fact, it was getting passed by Trask, a local Expert level rider, on a down hill section of trail here(where I thought I was going pretty fast) that actually got me started in riding and racing downhill. Unfortunately, the trails here were suffering the same fate as the trails at Norm’s. The downed trees were every where.
That sucks. Is there any riding at all?
Where does that leave Astoria mountain biking? At the moment, officially, not much.
On the upside, we’ve hooked up with the local scene. In fact some of the old gang are still around. Eddie is back in town for the summer, Trask is still around and riding a bit when he’s not doing the family thing. There are a few new additions as well- Al and his brother, and their friend Jeff. They have been busy in the woods, and have constructed some secret trails in the vicinity of Knappa/ Svensen. They are on the down low, as they are on private land, but efforts are being made to form an MOU with the landowners. None of the trails are signed, many of the trails are fall line and head down some extreme grades with drops, (not all feature go arounds) limiting them to advanced riders only, although some of them are passable by intermediate level downhill riders. An all mountain bike is the minimum price of entry to get in though, and a full blown downhill bike is preferred, as well as a full face and armor due the some tight sections in the trees.
However, until progress is made on this front, the trails are locals only. (sorry)
As far as I know, this is currently the only legit single track multi-use trail in the area. The locals also have a few group rides going, and this is the site of a summertime Wednesday evening ride. We’ve become active and helped form a new local advocacy group, the Lower Columbia Bike Project. One of our goals is to adopt this trail and eventually hope to help expand it.
Wauna Trails AKA Taylorville
There used to be single track trails in the vicinity of the Wauna Mill. It sounds like there are a few people riding out there. No further information at this time. This has been updated; plans to reclaim these trails as well as the creation of new trails including a one way downhill trail have just begun.
There are single track trails in the Scappoose, Longview, and Castle Rock area as well. They are all located on private land owned by the Timber Industry. They do graciously allow mountain biking and hiking type recreation. In Scappose new construction is limited and only happens through the relationship with the Northwest Trail Alliance. (formerly known as PUMP). There are some great trails in the Longview, Washington area- The first is Stella/Harmony system has been built and maintained by locals, including Ken Robers, Vaughn Martin, Ed Strong, Joel Rogauskus, and Ken Pearson.
The Castle Rock system (Growlers Gulch) has been built and maintained by Jim Lemonds and a passionate group of locals. Please note that these trails are on private land, and access to them remains due to the efforts of dedicated local riders that maintain them.
For more information on the trails in the Longview/ Castle Rock area visit http://writeteknorthwest.com
WTF, the Westside Trail Federation out of Hillsboro, is also working on a trail system in the Tillamook State Forest, at LL. Stub Stewart State Park.
They have also assisted as consultants in the construction of a bicycle skills park in Vernonia. The park project appears to be stalled at the moment due to a lack of local interest; a visit to the site resulted in the following images:
BMX Racing comes to Astoria
There is also a BMX track being constructed on the Clatsop County Fairgrounds. While it has been rumored to be in the works for a while, last week construction actually began. In fact, they are hoping to have it completed by this Saturday for the inaugural races, and will be working every night until dark to get it finished. They have even been advertising on the local radio. Al mentioned it, and we headed out to check it, and it’s legit!
note: post edited 11/2/09
Eddie, Al, Jeff, myself and a few other local riders have discussed the formation of a non-profit advocacy group to create more mountain biking opportunities on the North Coast & Astoria area. If anyone is interested in helping make this happen, please visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lower-Columbia-Bike-Project/321725915709 and chime in.
While the current state of trail riding is a bit down, with a solid scene of riders forming, it will only get better.