Late August is that time of year when mountain biking in Central Oregon can start to lose its luster.
Most of the trails are dusty and sandy, the air is often choked with wildfire smoke, and high temperatures can reach well into the 90s.
Riding early in the morning can usually solve the temperature problem, and checking the air quality index to wait for good-to-moderate air is helpful.
As far as the dusty singletrack, that’s going to stick around until we get some rainfall and cooler temperatures. The glories of fall mountain biking in Central Oregon are right around the corner. Until then, I find it’s best to try new routes.
That was my plan earlier this month when I decided to ride the Kiwa Butte and Upper Tyler’s Traverse trails, located in the Wanoga system southwest of Bend. I had not ridden those trails in a long time, and I figured something different would help me get through the August mountain biking doldrums.
I started out at the small parking area where the Storm King Trail crosses Century Drive. The plan was to climb up the Funner Trail, then link to the Tiddlywinks and Kiwa Butte trails to reach Upper Tyler’s Traverse.
The climb up Funner was not easy, and I required about an hour to reach the intersection with Tiddlywinks near Wanoga Sno-park. From there, the climbing only continued. (I should note here that shuttling the Tyler’s Traverse Trail is an option, by parking a vehicle at Conklin Road near the west end of the trail and then driving another vehicle to Wanoga Sno-park.)
The forest became deeper and darker as the trail got steeper. Finally, I arrived at the junction with Kiwa Butte, designated a state scenic trail because of the sprawling views of Cascade peaks it provides.
The trail topped out at a spot where I could see South Sister and Broken Top in the distance, then it became a fast downhill to the junction with Upper Tyler’s Traverse and Dinah-Moe-Humm (Junction 41).
At the junction, some signs read “Do not enter,” while others read “One way.” The Central Oregon Trail Alliance has done a remarkable job with its directional trail system, which features signs that are clear and unmistakable.
While most singletrack mountain bike trails in Central Oregon remain open to two-way travel, a select few are designated as uphill or downhill only.
Tyler’s Traverse includes both uphill and downhill routes. I turned onto the downhill path and soon arrived at a section of trail that took me over an array of bumps and rises and around swooping banked corners.
The sustained downhill seemed to last forever as I caught a bit of air over several jumps and cruised around the berms.
While Upper Tyler’s Traverse can be classified as more of a freeride trail, its features are modest enough that intermediate riders — and riders who prefer strictly cross-country trails — should feel somewhat comfortable on it. The trail is not as intimidating as, say, the Whoops Trail in the Phil’s Trail network just to the north.
After the thrilling descent, I arrived at a junction with a forest road where the trail connected to the Larsen Trail. The trail was relatively flat and led me back to Tiddlywinks, Storm King and, eventually, my car.
The 16-mile ride took nearly three hours, and I was pretty taxed by the end. But the effort was worth the pain for another memorable day spent on Central Oregon’s cutting-edge trails.
Sure, the trails were dusty, but riding a new route got me more excited about the late summer and early fall rides to come.