Right now, we’re fresh off a five-week road trip that began in Santa Cruz and ended with a 22-hour push from Whistler back to California. The trip was a successful mission in support of the Santa Cruz riders at Crankworx and at the two North American rounds of the Enduro World Series. Now, only twelve hours after arriving home, I’m right back at it—loading the truck up, grabbing buddies, and hitting the road North to the mountains in Oregon. Why not, right? It’s only an 11-hour drive back the way I came. The thing is that 11-hour drive takes the crew and I to fresh new trails that the Trans-Cascadia/Modus Sport Group guys have been cultivating and when they call you about pitching in on a new trail, you just go—no excuses—you just go.
This is the second year that Santa Cruz Bicycles has partnered with the Trans-Cascadia crew and the upcoming Trans-Cascadia race.
In their words, "the Trans-Cascadia is a blind-format, backcountry race in the wilderness and small towns of Cascadia, USA"
. It’s four days of racing coupled with a backcountry experience that includes gourmet food, a whole bunch of socializing with like-minded riders, and the kind of primitive singletrack that puts a dirty smile on your face.
Trans-Cascadia Inc. is a non-profit that was founded by a group of long-time bike industry professionals and they hosted the first of the races in 2015. The event is part of their broader mission to promote and build sustainable trails in the Pacific Northwest and the whole thing is made possible by a community of racers, volunteers, and sponsors who pitch in at events and trail building days.
Nick Gibson, Tommy Magrath, and Alex Gardner are some of the most solid guys in the industry. They care first and foremost about creating, curating, and maintaining trails in the Northwest Cascades and, as a close second, they want to make the experience the time of your life… every time. That’s why we partner with this group; we see eye-to-eye when it comes to having trails to ride, having a good time riding those trails, and collaborating without ego or bullshit. It’s been great, we’re not just writing a cheque in order to be part of the action, we also have the opportunity to invest blood, sweat, and resources towards their goal: more trails! When the call comes in for help, we load up company vehicles with tools, food, and employees from across the company and show up to lend a hand. Oh, and we get to ride a bit, too.
This trip was a special one because we were out in a new territory about two hours northwest of Bend, Oregon in the middle Santiam Wilderness. The area is little known for its mountain biking trails, so it was exciting to get into it. Joining our regular crew was Jordan Nguyen from the Santa Cruz showroom and Mike Thomas our in-house photographer; both eager to get into the wilderness and contribute to the cause. After driving up from Santa Cruz and well past any town in sight, we arrived at the campsite around 11pm and set up camp. On the outside, these trips look like a typical weekend of camping and riding but in reality, there are 8–10 hours of raking, lopping, cutting, and clearing each day. The days are long and hot but always followed by cold beer, good food, and the best company. It’s out here in the wild that people from all walks of life come together for a greater cause and form new bonds through the sacrifice of the one thing that can’t be rush delivered via Amazon or saved for a later date—that’s time, sweet, valuable time.
The goal for the week was to tidy up the months of brushing and chainsaw work already done by the TC crew. We needed to make the trails race ready for the following month's event. The Trans-Cascadia race is basically a celebration of the hard work done over the last year. It brings the mountain bike community together and shows that with hard work, good intentions, and the help of your friends, we can all be the reason for more open trails in every state in the country.
Everyone set to work for the weekend and we dug, high-fived, rode and hung out in the woods. When it was all over, I asked the Trans-Cascadia crew some questions about the organization, the race, and their history. Here’s what they had to say...AC: Where are we and what's the history of this zone?TC Crew:
The system we worked on this weekend is named the Old Cascade Crest Trails, which was the crest of the Old Cascades around 300k years ago. The new Cascade Crest is made up of all of the volcanos we see in today’s backdrop, like Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Hood. Kinda cool to think this was the high point of the Cascades at one time, and now we’re riding it.
The trail system was constructed between 1930 and 1950, and was first built by the CCC and later completed by the USFS. These trails were originally created as a transportation network between fire towers; fire towers were on most peaks in the Old Cascade Crest Network. These trails were also used for animal grazing and hella gold mining at one point. What’s now super remote and feels really deep, once had thousands of people living there mining for gold. It’s still one of the most active hobby mining areas in the Willamette.
The network was finished as recent as the mid 90’s when the US Forest Service connected all of these trails. The Three Pyramids, North Crescent (what we rode down the last day) and South Pyramid Creek Trail were all built or re-discovered in the mid 90’s, and those three trails make the network connected. The South Pyramid Creek Trail was an old Native American pathway that was discovered in the process of the trail's development—you can just imagine the history in this area and how many different people have used this area—pretty cool. It’s been dormant for the past 20 years, with very little use… We saw an opportunity to maybe find something good. AC: How did you find this zone and specifically the trails we worked on during this trip?TC Crew:
Our process for finding trails is a lot of looking over maps and identifying things that look fun and interesting. We also find trails through networking with the local riding community and the USFS. Finding the Cascade Crest Network was a bit of all the above. If you get the chance to look at this network on a map, without riding it, you see a lot of dotted lines running down tight topo lines for miles. On paper, it looks good.
I verified the quality of the network through a guy named Eric Brown who wrote a blog post on the area, he had some pictures and some good information on the network. We talked last winter for a couple hours—talking topo lines and direction of travel—and he helped picture what this place may look like on wheels. I also chatted with a local named Joe Myers, who shared some information on the trails he’d been on and he also verified the quality. Joe and Eric both thought I should chat with local USFS Sweet Home and Detroit District Trail Lead, Brandon Haraughty, to get a better idea of what trail we could and couldn’t ride. We ran into a couple major issues, and one of those issues was the SW Corner was illegal to ride because it dipped into Wilderness for about a mile. This wouldn’t work for the race… so digging into some old maps we found two old abandoned logging roads (old roads with shitloads of trees growing in them) that paralleled the wilderness and would create a legal ride around that would make this place work for mountain biking.
Fast-forward through some meetings/emails/talks and we eventually proposed to the Sweet Home Ranger District the idea of a re-route… and they were keen to make it work.
AC: You three are the driving force behind all of this but nothing happens without the help of others, anyone you would like to thank?TC Crew:
We talked it all over internally and decided to move forward with resurrecting the Old Cascade Crest Network and trying to include it in this year’s race. I don’t think we expected to bite off as much as we did, and we really didn’t know what we were getting into until the spring came. We found out—there was a shit load of work to do. The network was really overgrown and really deep in the woods, and there are really no roads to get tools and equipment in. The re-route was deep in a hole and required a mega effort to cut out. For a couple months, we ran chainsaws and brushers, slowly peeling back the years of overgrowth. Focusing on keeping the machinery on and running while the IFPL (Industrial Fire Precaution Level) allowed for power tools. This last work party was super important to clean up all the debris we cutback and refine the good work that had been done. At the end of this last effort, we left a groomed backcountry network.
Getting all of this done was through the coordination of some very productive work parties and asses being worked off, in Tommy’s case, his feet literally worked off. This is definitely not happening without the community effort and volunteers we’ve had out. This includes our sponsors, like Shimano, Santa Cruz and Oakley, who’ve all sent people out this year to get work done, and it’s made a huge difference in our effectiveness. We’ve also had incredible help from our Bend buddies Joe Myers and Adam Craig as well as the Oregon Timber Trail Association. We’ve had a great year meeting new people and collaborating on such a fun project… it’s really rewarding to share the experience of hard work and opening new trails with the community that comes together to make these things happen.
The USFS are the OG stewards of our land and provide an incredible resource. We’re lucky to know these people, they’re some of the most interesting and hard working people you’ll meet. The Middle Fork, Sweet Home, McKenzie, Detroit and Sweet Home Districts all contributed to making this a successful project. In particular district Ranger Nikki Swanson for having an open mind and for being the leader she is, and Brandon Haraughty for his strong ground game. Ranger Dwayne Bishop, Brian McGinley, Kevin Rowell, Tyson Cross, Brad Peterson, and Matt Peterson are all folks who’ve been helping us over the years. Can’t thank them enough for the access they provide and opportunities they create for mountain bikers in Oregon.
kicks off on September 27th and runs through October 4th and the last time I checked there were still a couple of spots left. If you can come up to celebrate with all the people that made these trails possible, check it out or at least plan for next year. You’ll make the best of friends, eat the best food, drink the best beer, and create memories for a lifetime. It all happens at an off-the-grid campsite or the seat of your trial bike. The best part? Your skill level or motivation to race doesn't really matter; if you’re into good times and the outdoors, this is your chance—and it really doesn’t get any better.Words: