If you're into taking an easy winter mountain bike ride, seize the moment and head out to the Maston Allotment where the riding of late has been excellent. Get out there soon as the continued dry weather and winds are already starting to turn some sections of the trail from hardpack into loose sand.
The word is obviously out as to how good conditions are at the Maston as this past Sunday the parking area was filled to capacity with the overflow vehicles parked along Newcomb Road.
If you're unfamiliar with the Maston Allotment it's a swath of 4,100 acres of BLM land located just off the Cline Falls Highway as you head north out of Tumalo. The acreage covers an area from Cline Falls Highway east to the Deschutes River canyon and south towards Eagle Crest.
After turning off the highway onto Newcomb road, look for the informal parking area about a quarter mile distant on the left.
The trailhead is in the parking area and by following the well defined trail tread you can make a loop trip lasting anywhere from just over and hour to and hour and a half in duration. Many Maston regulars think the trail rides better counterclockwise. That means making a right turn when you get to the first fork in the trail not far from the trailhead.
There are other options besides the big loop at the Maston some of which are shown on trail maps left in a Ziploc bag nailed to a old juniper at the main trailhead. Others trail options simply take some exploring to findor piece together.
The Maston trail system is restricted to mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking and trail running. This restricted use is clearly marked on trailhead signage.
It wasn't always so as the area was popular with of-road motorcyclists for many years. A few motorcyclists still show up on the trails and invariably plead no knowledge of the change in usage or of seeing the restrictive signage.
A new trail network being added across the highway at Cline Buttes will give off-road motorcyclists more miles of more challenging riding.
The Maston first started getting mountain biker use three years ago and s that use has increased so has the tread has firmed up measurably. That noted, the trail reverts to its sandy self once winter ends and the chances of a rain or snow are greatly diminished.
And chances of heavy rain or snow at the Maston aren't promising Oregon because of its microclimate zone location. It can be raining or snowing like crazy in Bend only to be clear, snow and rain-free, and several degrees warmer at the Maston.
So how did the area come in to being? Years ago a development was planned on the land. The land was subdivided into large parcels suitable for farming.
The key to the development's success was having water. So, a canal system (over which much of the current trail system runs) was constructed to carry water to landowners. It, in turn, was to be fed by an arterial canal linked to Tumalo Reservoir.
As good as the idea looked on paper, it didn't work as when the water was let loose from the reservoir it disappeared into the ground never reaching the Maston canal system. The development was doomed.
Eventually, the BLM purchased the property and turned it into one of their grazing allotments. Thus it remained until motorcyclists started riding there until the area became part of the BLM's 2009 Cline Buttes recreation plan.
If you haven't checked out the Maston do it sooner than later. It's the mellow winter riding, running and hiking alternative to Horse Ridge.