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Rocky Point abounds with bike options

by: Darryl Swan The Longview Timber blue gate on Rocky Point Road.

In the world of regional mountain biking, Scappoose is something of a giant.

Just do a Google search for 'Scappoose' and 'mountain biking' and see for yourself. Groups of mountain biking enthusiasts, many based in Portland such as Bike Portland or Northwest Trail Alliance, post reams of blogosphere notes raving about the local mountain biking terrain.

Though I've heard it's not the most challenging for seasoned bicyclists, the privately owned timberlands accessible from Rocky Point Road south of Scappoose are interspersed with mile upon mile of user-built dirt trails and are ideal for those at the beginner to intermediate skill level.

I traveled one mile up Rocky Point Road earlier this week to check for myself. I brought along my aluminum-frame 1990 Giant, a far cry from the hi-tech, super-light bikes of today, but more than sufficient for my purposes.

Longview Timber owns thousands of acres of timberland along Rocky Point Road. Access is identifiable by tell-tale blue gates. Though the Longview, Wash.,-based timber company allows non-motorized recreation on its property.

The company posts rules at the entrance - such as day-use only, keeping clear of active timber sites and sticking to existing trails - and expects users to follow them. In fact, last year Longview Timber reached out to the mountain biking community over liability concerns due to the appearance of freeride and stunt trails, according to an article on the Northwest Trail Alliance website. And in 2009 the company temporarily shut off access due to fire risks. When users disregarded the closures and continued to venture onto the property, Longview Timber threatened to make the closures permanent.

I took heed of the rules as I pulled up to the blue gate, cautious not to block it - there's a risk of getting towed. The main trail heads up a steep hill, requiring me to hop off, panting, after a short few hundred yards, and push the bike.

Shortly thereafter I perked up as a screech pierced the forest and a large barred owl took flight through the trees. I removed my sweaty helmet and snapped a few photos as it perched on a Douglas fir, and then I continued upward, disregarding the half-dozen or so tempting trails splintering off from the main stem.

At the crest I climbed back on and shot off down a westernly headed, narrow trail through the trees. It was a blast, calling upon navigation skills I cultivated as a dirt-bike riding youth.

I lasered my concentration, focusing on the risks and the less-than-perfect shape of my braking system. Soon I fell into a rhythm and was able to marvel at my fluid, free movement through the trees.

Then two thoughts started to churn upon themselves much as my knobby tires churned over dirt and stone.

I want to do this much, much more often.

My bike needs a serious tune-up.