May 29, 2015

Fall Creek Loop

Despite having a head cold and fever, we managed to pull off a great loop in the Fall Creek basin southwest of Swan Valley in the Caribou Mountains. It has been a wet and rainy month of May and the trails were a mix of tacky dirt and slick mud. Out of the 25 miles, i'd guess only about 3 or 4 miles were just too muddy to enjoy. Not a bad ratio for trail riding in my opinion. The descent down Horse Creek was exciting and fast!

Heather climbing through wildflowers in the upper reaches of the S. Fork Fall Creek.
Single track with a view. Deadhorse Ridge
Plenty of hike-a-bike!
Sunshine and stormy skies on Deadhorse Ridge
The race is on. Incoming storm on Deadhorse Ridge.
Adventuring buddies back at the car. 

May 07, 2015

A Gamble With Threatening Skies

The forecast called for a 20% chance of a stray afternoon thunderstorm. We rolled the dice and pedaled away from the car as sinister looking clouds congregated over the Fall Creek Basin. Our intended ride would take us through a network of ATV trails and single track southeast of Fall Creek in the Caribou Mountains. The highlight would be ending with the mega-long downhill of Deadhorse Ridge back to the car.

On the Rash Canyon Saddle looking toward Deadhorse Ridge.
Occasional rain and hail accompanied us up Rash Canyon. These short-lived bouts barely dampened the soil and seemed to end before really getting started. Once at the saddle it was evident that a recent localized storm had just dumped large amounts of rain and hail into the South Fork of Fall Creek drainage. Lightening and black clouds quickly circled around and began to race up Rash Canyon toward us. 

Nature-made race slicks. Wet shorts. Mud butt. And a brief moment of sunshine!
It became pretty obvious that plans to continue along 4th of July Ridge and around to Deadhorse Ridge were not in the cards for this ride. We played the escape card and headed down into the South Fork of Fall Creek as the next wave of showers pushed their way up the canyon we had just ascended.

Mud. Mud. Mud. Heather clearing clay mud from her drivetrain and rear triangle.
At first, the trail into the South Fork was only slightly damp, but soon enough we crossed into where the previous storm had poured down rain and hail. The mud was slimy slick and clay-like. On a strait-away and with some speed, Heather slid out in the mud,  sending her crashing head first into a stand of trees. Excitement quickly turned to white-knuckle riding and frustration caused by mud-filled rear triangles and dropped chains.

Our escape route down the South Fork of Fall Creek.
Despite stopping often to clear mud and re-attach our chains to the chainring, we managed to stay ahead of the next storm. The lower end of the S Fork trail was only damp and managed to salvage some enjoyment by riding fast and playing on small trail features and rocks to pop off of and jump over. 

We rode out of that storm! It followed us down Fall Creek. 
Once down and onto the Fall Creek road, we sped toward the car as the next wave of rain and hail gave chase. The sky was spectacular and full of springtime glory. We reached the parking lot just as the storm engulfed us. Safe and sheltered from rain and hail!

Shelter from the storm. Those puddles weren't there when we started our ride.
There are many out-and-back and loop options in the Fall Creek area. Most will offer great mountain biking i'm sure. Despite the adverse trail conditions and poor weather, we still had a great time on our ride. I am even more excited now to go back and complete the loop we had intended to ride!

April 28, 2015

Old Ranger Loop - Big Hole Mountains

This is a great early season ride when other trails are still muddy or snow covered. The loop offers a lot of southerly exposure, so it dries out early and is accessible after April 15th. Consider this trail in the spring when the Stinking Springs area is still closed.

I suspect Old Ranger would be a hot ride in the summer, but surely worth a visit late spring or early summer when the wildflowers are in bloom. This is the poor man's (shuttleless) version of the South Fork Rim Trail and offers similar trail, terrain, and scenery.

Park at Wolverine Creek and ride up stream along the South Fork of the Snake River. This gravel section of the loop is scenic with short easy climbs and some down hill tossed in for fun.

Turn onto the Burns Creek Road and follow it for a few hundred yards. The first major canyon entering on the left (northwest) is where you'll pick up the Old Ranger Trail. This will be signed and obvious.

Climb singletrack up an nice draw offering a mix of open sage and treed terrain to a small notch in the ridge. A steep downhill takes you to another climb, with a short hike-a-bike section, before more granny gear climbing through a forested draw. Expect the occasional hiking section, but they will all be short.

At the top of the draw, the angle mellows and some nice views and forested trail leads to a long and fast down hill section. This was spectacular with twist and turns and long strait runs at high speed. At the bottom of this section, the trail follows a fence line, climbing back to another high point and more fast downhill trail.

A few short hike-a-bike sections remain but the majority is climbable with much of it being downhill all the way to Wolverine Cr Trail. Return to the parking lot via Wolverine.


April 23, 2015

The Fall/Porcupine/Pritchard Creek Mountain Bike Loop

Located in the Caribou Mountains a short distance west of Swan Valley, Fall Creek offers many trail riding options. Like the Big Hole Mountains, most of the trails are open to moto's; although,seemingly less crowded at times. Expect traffic on weekends.

Loop Info:

Total distance 13.4mi
Elevation gain/descent 2,105'

Fall Creek Road 4mi
From the parking lot, ride up the Fall Creek road. Expect some vehicle traffic as you follow this scenic creek with many beaver ponds.

Porcupine Creek 2.5 mi
This ATV trail climbs northwest at a moderate grade for 2.5 miles; reaching the high point in the loop nearing 6,500'. The lower half is open sage hillsides while the upper half passes through small meadows and generally becomes more forested as you ascend.

Pritchard Creek Connector 0.5 mi
From a saddle at the top of Porcupine Creek, the trail becomes singletrack and drops steeply down a north facing forested hillside. Many exposed roots, rocks, and small drops make for fun fast and technical riding with the steepest portion coming last. The final bit crosses Pritchard Creek.

Pritchard Creek Trail 7 mi
The highlight of the loop. Pritchard Creek trail is fast with many flowy sections, a couple of creek crossings, and a few short climbs. The canyon feels remote and is quite scenic as you pass small beaver ponds. The lower third of the trail becomes increasingly more rocky.

Cross a nice foot bridge at the bottom of the canyon where the trail meets private property. From here, the trail follows the property line to the east for a short distance before turning more southerly and climbing steeply to a small saddle. Expect about a mile of hard pedaling and hike-a-bike. Once at the saddle you're rewarded with a fast, steep, and rocky descent back to your vehicle.

September 08, 2014

Little Stream, Nice Fish

Exploring one of our favorite local canyons