This past Saturday, Deschutes Land Trust executive director Brad Chalfant asked me to join him on a mountain bike ride in the proposed Skyline Forest. He wanted to show me the potential for a trail network if and when the property becomes a Land Trust holding.
"The riding out there now," said Chalfant, "will remind you a lot of mountain biking during the sport's early years in Bend -- lots of old double-track roads mixed with shorts stretches of single track." And so it was.
We started our ride on a spur road off the former Brooks-Scanlon haul road and via seldom-used double tracks and some single track ended up first at Bull Springs. Here a pair of equestrians watered their horses.
From Bull Springs we climbed for a mile on double track past Snag Springs before swinging off onto a single track that ran up a tight canyon bounded by basalt rock formations.
This tight trail led back to double track and a steady slog uphill to a grassy knoll, the high point of the ride with its incredible 360-degree views.
Directly to the west sat Surveyor's Butte. A shade to the north of it, North Sister filled the view. Swinging around further to the north, Black Butte was visible under the overall cloud cover.
The view to the east was wide open and to the south it was easy to pick out Awbrey Butte in the foreground and then shifting our eyes to the south Newberry Crater was easy to spot. In short-spectacular.
Off the grassy knoll, a fast long downhill ride on double track took us to a junction with the Brooks-Scanlon haul road. A short distance later a right onto a spur and a left onto a single track and we were back at the car.
In the space of two hours we'd seen some remarkable terrain. Terrain that will make for some exciting recreation opportunities if, as mentioned earlier, the Land Trust gets stewardship over the property.
A property that's encompasses 50 square miles and as Chalfant put it: "is big enough to plop down the Three Sisters and Broken Top Crater inside it and still have room to spare."
But for now while some riding, running, hiking, birding, etc in that space opportunities are available in the Skyline Forest, the future could see those opportunities expanded ten-fold.
And while the quest to create the Skyline Forest preserve continues, the Land Trust hasn't abandoned their other projects.
One of the most significant of those is the possible acquisition of more property along Wychus Creek between Camp Polk Meadow and Alder Springs.
If all goes well here, within a few years the Land Trust hopes to construct a trail that will follow the creek the entire way allowing hikers, walkers, fishermen, runners, birders, mountain bike riders access to more incredible terrain and nature.