As Dustin Gouker and I cruised around on dirt forest roads, stopping periodically to check the map, Gouker summed up our mountain bike ride that was quickly becoming more of an orienteering adventure.
“This is mountain biking the way it used to be,” he said.
We had set out to ride the latest gem of singletrack in the ever-growing Wanoga trail system southwest of Bend — Tyler's Traverse.
The trail is still somewhat under construction, but hardworking volunteers for the Central Oregon Trail Alliance made some serious headway at the annual Spring Fling work party last month.
What COTA has accomplished so far with the Wanoga system and its latest addition is astonishing. The trail is another reminder of how lucky we are to live in this outdoor recreation paradise — and also a reminder of how lucky we are to have a mountain biking community that continuously volunteers to enhance that recreation.
I remember standing with Bend's Paul Thomasberg, Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee and current COTA vice chairman, in the middle of the Deschutes National Forest near Wanoga Sno-park in 2005. He talked grandiosely about his vision of the Wanoga network, which included technical trail features and wide-open vistas, things that were somewhat lacking in much of the Phil's Trail system.
Not surprisingly, Tyler's Traverse, designed by Thomasberg and other volunteers, includes both ample views and technical features.
Gouker and I decided on a shuttle ride. Last Friday, we parked his car at Conklin Road near the turnoff to Dillon Falls and near the west end of Tyler's Traverse. Then we drove my car up Century Drive to Wanoga Sno-park.
An updated map of the Wanoga system is displayed on the kiosk at the sno-park and is available on www.ormtb.com. No signs have yet been posted for Tyler's Traverse, so those setting out to ride it should expect something of a route-finding adventure. The trail is, however, marked by pink ribbons on the trees in certain areas.
Our plan was to ride the Tiddlywinks Trail to the Kiwa Butte Trail and then find the east end of Tyler's Traverse at the junction of Kiwa Butte Trail and Forest Road 4133. We found it near there marked by pink ribbons.
The trail cut through thick forest before the trees opened up to an exposed ridge with a sprawling green meadow. Paulina Peak rose in the distance to the southeast.
We continued down Tyler's, and the trail eventually became somewhat of a straight shot downhill. The trail turned to doubletrack, although we would realize later that we had missed a junction onto singletrack.
We rambled around on doubletrack for some time, exploring the area where COTA is building a loop extension called Duodenum. A similar short-loop option off Tyler's is called Lone Wolf.
Finally, we backtracked to where we had missed the singletrack entrance near the intersection of Forest Road 200 and FR 100. We popped back onto the trail, which was marked again by pink ribbons.
The west half of Tyler's Traverse is a sweeping, sustained downhill (ridden westward) that took us over small humps and smartly banked corners. It is similar to the Whoops Trail in the Phil's network but much more approachable to intermediate and less-aggressive riders. Simply put, it is a blast.
The trail eventually opened up on the edge of another ridge, from which we could see in the distance the lava rock flow that lines sections of the Deschutes River. The singletrack dumped us back out onto Conklin, and we biked the road back to Dustin's car.
The ride took about 2 hours, 45 minutes, but about an hour of that was navigating the forest roads as we tried to locate the singletrack.
We finished the ride thoroughly impressed with COTA's work on Tyler's Traverse, which allows for myriad loop options in the Wanoga network and links Edison Sno-park to the Deschutes River Trail via singletrack.
Despite the lack of signs, Tyler's Traverse is no secret. Many mountain bikers have been riding the trail and we saw several during our ride last week. If you go, take a map and pay attention to the pink ribbons.
But remember, getting a little lost is mountain biking the way it used to be — perhaps even the way it was intended.
Editor's note: Mountain Bike Trail Guide, by Bulletin sports and outdoors writer Mark Morical, features various trails in Central Oregon and beyond. The trail guide appears in Outdoors on alternating Wednesdays through the riding season.
From Bend, take Century Drive southwest for 7 miles. Turn left on Conklin Road. After about 5 miles, park at a turnout near Forest Road 300 at the west end of Tyler's Traverse. The east end of the trail is located at the junction of Kiwa Butte Trail and Forest Road 4133.
Varies depending on loops.
Technically intermediate and aerobically moderate.
A mix of swooping downhill with moderate technical trail features; includes both open vistas and tight forest.