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I intend for the takeaway from this story to be that if you haven’t ridden in Hood River, Oregon, put it on your list. If you have, well, then you already know it’s worth another visit. That’s not much of a story, however, and I’d be letting this place and this piece down if I didn’t try to weave together at least some kind of short tale from this incredible bounty of trail.
The story, simple as it may be, is one to which most fellow riders can likely relate. Three little boxes on a calendar; glowing just a bit brighter than everything around them. For a while, they’re too far away, then all of the sudden, your foot is on the gas pedal, and there’s nothing in the rear-view mirror but knobby tires and a week of work that doesn’t really matter right now. It’s a story about the thrill of newness and joy of familiarity; that cocktail of feeling you get when you meander into an unknown web of trails, and around every turn find either one of your favorite shapes, or just another entry to log onto that list. The kind of day when you spend a gluttonous amount of time with a bunch of absurdly green foliage whipping through your peripherals while your hips dance from one beautiful berm to another and your tires keep making one of those noises that Loris Vergier does so well and there’s not much you can think of besides, “hol-ee these trails are good!” Then repeat that day. Basically, this is a story of one of those trips that reminds you of why you love mountain biking.
I may be getting a little wound up thinking back on that weekend, though, when really I was just a fly on the wall in the narrative unfoldment of those three days. Myself and Beta photo director Anthony Smith were there to get the grand tour from Ren Walkenhorst and Robin Vieira, a Bend, Oregon, based couple who regularly make the trip north to dirty their tires here on the down slope of Mount Hood, Oregon’s most prominent peak, and a landmark within sight lines of Portland (on a clear day) some 50 miles away. Hood, or Wy’east as it was known by the area’s original settlers, the Multnomah tribe of Chinookan people, before gaining its present name in the late 18th century, rises 11,249 feet above sea level in the North Cascade Mountains and remains a potentially active volcano. The city is some 30 miles north of the peak at the confluence of the Hood and Columbia rivers on the Columbia River Gorge, a windswept canyon that has earned a reputation as one of the top windsurfing destinations in the world. But its location in the transition zone from the temperate rainforest to the west and the desert to the east, also sets it up to be a prime riding—with enough moisture to allow shovels to shape huge waves of red dirt, but also enough sunny days to keep the trails running fast and avoid the perennially soggy days that are the norm deeper into the Pacific Northwest. Of course Anthony and I had heard of Hood River classics Post Canyon and Syncline for years, but neither of us had ever spent any time in the area. We made a general plan (that basically just involved as much time on bikes as we could physically handle, and built in ample AeroPress time), Robin and Ren promised we were in for a treat, and Anthony and I were cautiously optimistic.
That cautious optimism turned to raucous enthusiasm pretty darn quickly—it was obvious right away that there’s an inordinate amount of good times to be logged in them hills. They might not truly be Hood River locals, but Robin and Ren did a stellar job of towing us through a little bit of everything. It was a feast of flow, a buffet of berms, and a veritable spread of sweet singletrack–a deliciously varied meal, as long as we were OK with plentiful helpings of beauty and fun alongside every course.
So grab a fork, dig in and enjoy this visual extravaganza from our time in the shadow of Hood. Though really, it might be best to order to go, and start typing “H, O, O, D…” into ye olde Mapquest. I’ll see you there.
Photos by Anthony Smith.