Here in the Northwest, we've been jonesing to get out on the trail. Cold spells, rain, snow, and more rain made most of our trails impassable for the past six weeks or so. Great snow up high has also made the lure of the snowboard hard to resist, but to be honest, nothing can compare to sweet singletrack explored on two wheels.
The window we've been waiting for opened yesterday, with temperatures in the low 20s (cold for the temperate Columbia Gorge), it was finally dry enough to make the pilgrimage east to the Syncline riding mecca. Located just above the Columbia River, this trail network provides the spectacular scenery of the Gorge, and the opportunity to explore a very unique landscape. It is by far one of our most cherished riding areas close to Hood River.
Yesterday, the Syncline trails offered a little bit of everything to our group of intrepid riders: snow at the top, dry and squeaky enough to provide good traction, glassy patches of ice slippery enough to warrant a portage, frozen dirt sounding a crunching cacophony as tires rolled across the surface, and wet, heavy mud in the sun-warmed lower reaches, caking components and splatter painting clothing and gear. Freezing extremities, no matter. It was a glorious day on the trail.
The Syncline's iconic Columbia Gorge geology features long cliff bands of basalt breaking up expanses of rolling grassy fields, peppered with boulders and rocky ledges, dotted with oak groves. Trails weave in and out of damp drainages, climb to sweeping vista points, teeter on exposed cliff edges. We ride here in the fall, when shadows cast by lone oak trees tiptoe over golden, cured tall grasses. In the winter, the Syncline is a respite from gloomy, dark days in Hood River, just far enough east to escape the clutches of stubborn inversion layers. In the spring, the synergy of the Syncline is intoxicating, a combination of knowing longer days lie ahead and warm patches of wildflowers blanketing the velvety green hillside, inviting you to get off your bike and roll around in their fragrant bed.
Midstream winter, it's hard to imagine those long, sunny days. But we're ok with crunching ice, frozen fingers, and snowy traverses; for now, they're all we've got, and we'll gladly take them.
In the meantime, here's a video of an awesome early fall Syncline adventure, courtesy of our friend Allison at Extremeline Productions.
Syncline Mountain Bike Adventure from Hermosa Tours on Vimeo.
From Hood River, we welcome 2011, and the prospect of new adventures and lots of time in the saddle. Here's to a New Year, filled with friends, bikes, new places, and love for the familiar ones.