Finally a few us managed to get off our winter fattened asses, fantasizing ourselves as latter day Lewis and Clarks heading out to explore the wilderness of Soft Rock. Soft Rock, a wilderness, you scoff. The perennial Corvallis party spot, home of the local folfing, not foffing, course. A site of numerous paint ball fights. A place where junked cars can still be found hidden in some gullies.
Regardless, it was an adventure for us. The trails, where they exists, consist of game trails and short sections of residual ATV trails. Across the valley, views of the Bitterroot remind you why they were described by Sgt. Patrick Gass from the original Corps of Discovery as, “The most terrible mountains I ever beheld!”
Our seven modern Corps of Discovery members differed a bit from the original. We lacked an indian maiden, or a maiden of any sort. We had bikes rather than canoes and horses. Despite the wild guesses of our local weather forecasters, our weather was quite different from what Clark described on their westward crossing of Lolo Pass, "I have been wet and as cold in every part as I ever was in my life, Indeed I was at one time fearfull my feet would freeze in the thin mockersons which I wore." Usually our first ride has tremendous turnout, but not this year. I imagine quite few of our regulars were fearful their feet would freeze in their thin Sidis, or maybe they were out buying themselves some cute bonnets for Easter.
Soft Rock is a couple of hundred acres of state land just east of Corvallis. Just look for the "C" on the butte. Just south of the "C" the land becomes wooded and there is a series of low ridges topped with rocky knobs and ridges. A great place for trials practice. The ridges are broken up by a series of steep gullies, many of which are rideable, depending on your degree of body armor and lack of good sense. In one of the gullies someone had built a basic free ride descent with jumps, gaps, and the beginnings of some burmed turns. Hidden in here a a variety of drops from a few inches to as high as you are stupid to ride.
Warwick, being the generous Kiwi he is, volunteered to anoint that rocks with a small bit of flesh, but no blood, to begin the season. In your honor I'm reposting the Gingerbread Man Haka.
Our Corps of Discovery searched the hollows and ridges of Soft Rock, searching for fast downhills, and lung busting climbs. Finding several of each. None of the ups or downs are very long, a couple hundred feet. Being on the east side, the area is one of the first to dry out, aided by the decomposed granite that makes up most of the dirt. This area is potentially safe to ride most of the winter. Have fun checking it out.
Elsewhere in the Bitterroot, Coyote Coulee is essentially snow free, with 2 downed trees on the upper side of Hayes Loop. As of a week ago, Como had hard packed rideable snow between Rock Creek and Little Rock Creek. Around 10 trees are down on the south side. If anyone clears these trails, post an update on the Trail Reports page at Bitterroot Backcountry Cyclists. This helps us keep track of trail clearing and helps us show the Forest Service what we are doing.
Rumors are Coyote Coulee to give the ticks at Como an extra week to prepare for our arrival. When reading a little about Lewis and Clark's time in the Bitterroot I came across this log entry, I think from Clark. "9 miles over a high mountain steep & almost inaxcessible much falling timber which fatigues our men & horses exceedingly, in stepping over so great a number of logs added to the steep assents and [descents] of the mountains . . . rained and snowed & hailed the greater part of the day all wet and cold." Some things don't change.
This map of Soft Rock is a general guide to help you find the general location. Feel free to find your own way and explore.
View Soft Rock in a larger map