I'll spare you the "what a year" monologue and cut right to the chase: 2020 turned into an incredible year for trail building in my neck of the woods. With the exception of some long stints of stay-at-home orders, leaving us stuck in the suburbs to daydream and twiddle our thumbs, the vast majority of my year was spent 45 minutes down the road in a magical place called Tillamook State Forest.
Before I get ahead of myself, here's a bit of backstory - as I would feel completely remiss if I didn't give credit where credit was due: as with all sanctioned trails on public land, things take time. And this project is no different. A good buddy Ryan McLane, an Oregon native who's been at the forefront of the mountain biking scene around Portland for decades now, has been painstakingly working with Oregon Department of Forestry to bring his dream downhill trail alive in Tillamook: Fear & Loaming. If you're familiar with the area, then you may already know him and his work with Stub Stewart, Raven's Ridge, and many other local trail systems. After years of tedious lobbying and planning, he finally got the approval from ODF in August of 2019 for four miles of steep, hand-built trail cascading down from the top of Larch Mountain in Tillamook. And so the dirt work began, and Fear & Loaming was born.
By the time 2020 had arrived, we had about a mile of roughed in trail through steep and loose terrain and a few key features built throughout. Despite frozen earth, cold and wet PNW conditions, and a few inches of Cascade Concrete up top, January kicked off with weekend build days that saw upwards of 25 volunteers decked in head-to-toe rainwear with shovels and rakes in hand. The momentum was contagious, and the progress on the trail continued through February and into March...
...and then of course, COVID-19 hit. Oregon closed all State Parks and issued a stay-at-home order, and the trail sat untouched for over a month. But as the temps rose and the ground thawed, restrictions were finally lifted in April so that Ryan and his crew of builders could get back to business - albeit a significantly smaller crew with the pandemic looming and daily lives drastically altered for many. Luckily for us, trail building is already a relatively COVID-safe activity and our small group of core builders spent as much time out in the woods as possible: digging, building, riding, and getting just a small dose of IRL socializing to keep us 'sane'.
Sure it's been a heck of a year, but having this little slice of heaven just down the road has been a savior for myself and many others and I count myself incredibly lucky to have had a year where I could put my heart and soul into something that is already giving so much joy to the local community. And with this, I'll turn it over to my photos from the year. They do a much better job of showing you what this trail means, and for the sake of storytelling, I'll keep everything in chronological order.
Just some nature shots from a cold morning on trail. (January)
Building up a small gap feature through the woods. That fresh dirt looks oh so good, even with a light dusting of snow. (January)
Goose lapping up some rays and attention. (February)
Lockdown slightly lifted and the State Park reopened. A few of us quickly got off the couch and made a run for it up to F&L for a rainy ride. I'm not sure words can express just how good this day felt. (May)
Some light rain was welcome after a heatwave, and the boys party-trained all 1.5 miles of trail that had been built by this time. On the left is 'Josh's Nose Bonk Rock' with Josh himself nailing it, and on the right is Hornbecker looking heroic off of the Rock Drop. (June)
You know, just the dog days of summer. (August)
Another day of moving dirt and no one was complaining. This was actually the morning they called the election - just before we lost service driving up to F&L, NPR called it for Biden. (November)
While the lower section wasn't packed in enough to ride after digging this day, the upper section was on fire. Here's the road gap at the midpoint from two angles. (November)
While I was on shuttle duty, I was still able to get down to the sharkfin before the boys and get the camera out. Two angles, Ryan on the left and Mark on the right. (November)
Signs make it official! Thank you to Cascade Bikes for sponsoring this. (November)
Not so fast... just because we got the top section opened to the public doesn't mean we're done here. Through December we have gone flat out to clear the lower section of trail - and we're damn close to having a rough trail all the way to the bottom. I wouldn't take your bike down it yet, but it'll go soon enough!
A glimpse at what is to come. (December)
All hands on deck, let's get this thing built. (December)
But save some strength, because it's not a real dig day without some riding afterwards. Cami and Ryan clearing air with Porter in tow. (December)
I would like to take a quick moment to say thank you. First and foremost, Ryan - you have been such a strong leader throughout this year, and your dedication to this trail is truly remarkable. This entire community owes you a debt of gratitude for your hard work, not just on this trail but all of the trails you have touched before. Thank you for letting me join in, tag along, and take photos throughout these past months.
Of course, a massive thank you to everyone who has come out to help with the trail. It's been eyeopening to see just how many people are committed to bringing more trails to this region and getting to work by your sides and get to know you has been a highlight in an otherwise bleak year. More hands make less work, and this trail is a true testament to the community.
And lastly, I thank PinkBike for being a constant source of inspiration and good news throughout it all. And to you, PB reader, if you are actually reading this. You're probably not....so I could really say anything here. But thank you nonetheless for reading a story about a trail in Oregon and looking at my pictures. I hope you enjoyed this, and more will come soon...
Until then, you can check out the top section of Fear & Loaming on TrailForks now: