Finding Forest Park

Finding Forest Park

No joke.

Is it possible to have fun on a mountain bike in Forest Park? Ask five different people and you’re likely to get five different answers. In the end, I think it depends on what you consider fun.

On Sunday, I ventured out to discover some new (to me) roads and found that the park — despite having only 1/3 mile of singletrack open to bicycles — still has something to offer knobby-tired visitors.

I first considered exploring Forest Park’s northern reach nearly three years ago. Back in February 2010, I joined a park ranger to survey damage of an unauthorized bike trail that had been carved south of where BPA Road intersects with Newton. On Sunday, I returned to that locked gate, which is right off Highway 30 less than a mile north of Linnton. My plan was to stay on BPA Road and connect up to Skyline Rd about 1,000 feet and 2 and 1/2 miles up.

Right after I got onto the dirt, I quickly realized why no one ever talks about riding the BPA Road. It’s steeeeep. So steep that even with my generous mountain bike gearing — and my generous climbing ego — I still had to get off and walk several times. The unrelentingly steep sections were made even more interesting with the tiny layer of slick mud on the grass and rocks. On a hot day, the conditions would have been pretty miserable; but Sunday was chilly, damp, and foggy. The road was silent and there was just enough of a view back to the river below to reward my effort. It wasn’t until I finally reached the intersection with Fire Lane 13 that I got out my camera to snap a photo…

Forest Park ride-1

On Fire Lane 13, I finally got a respite from the climbing. A few ups-and-downs later and I came to the turnoff for Fire Lane 12. It was here where things turned magical…

Forest Park ride-2

Fire Lane 12 descended down into a canyon where a creek raged and fallen leaves completely covered the road.

Forest Park ride-4

I then headed back up toward Skyline on Fire Lane 15. There were a few more extremely steep pitches to navigate before I finally reached the highest point. As I rolled toward the gate where Fire Lane 15 meets Skyline Rd (a few miles north of NW Germantown Rd), I saw a sign pointing to Kielhorn Meadow. I followed the road up and was rewarded with a large clearing in the woods. It was a perfect spot to try the panorama mode on my camera phone…

A few minutes after enjoying the solitude of the meadow I was on Skyline Rd, and I had finally reached the sunshine…

Forest Park ride-5

From there I headed back home; south on Skyline to Saltzman Rd and then down Fire Lane 5. The short (1/3 mile) but sweet (it’s legal) singletrack was muddy, slippery, and challenging. Then it was back onto Leif Erikson and then the steep descent on Springville Rd which dropped me back into civilization near the St. Johns Bridge.

All in all it was a great adventure. It left me with a new appreciation of Forest Park, and a renewed sense of purpose in improving bicycle access that would build upon what’s already there.

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