Underexposed EP12 - Cannon Beach, OR

December 24, 2020

Underexposed is a series dedicated to showcasing trails around North America that fly under the proverbial radar for most riders. PEARL iZUMi athlete Brice Shirbach has seen firsthand what sweat equity can mean among mountain bikers and its impact on the places we call home, and this series will look to help open eyes and shift our attention to some of the brilliant riding that exists in places both unexpected and unheard of.

I don’t know what Paradise looks like for you, but I have a good idea of what it looks like for me. It includes a beautiful coastline, some rolling and rugged mountains that jut up against the said beach, massive evergreen trees with fuzzy green trunks, and the best dirt on the planet, blanketing the forest floor. But that’s just me. Enter Cannon Beach, the coastal community of 1,700 in beautiful Northwest Oregon. Cannon Beach is flanked to the east by the Oregon Coast Range and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Cannon Beach is probably most famous for its appearance in the venerable 1980’s classic adventure film, The Goonies, during a chase scene along the beach in the shadow of Haystack Rock. This 235-foot tall iconic landmark sits about 100 feet off of the beach in the water. Cannon Beach, a part of the traditional territory of the Tillamook tribe, is a fairly quiet community despite being a popular tourist destination. While very much anchored to the ocean, it benefits a great deal from its proximity to the mountains.

The Coast Range is a 200-mile-long north to south running range that tops out at just over 4,000 feet above sea level at its highest point. The mountains are relatively young, having formed about 65 million years ago. They’re responsible for a rain shadow over neighboring Willamette Valley to the east, which is precisely where we find the Klootchy Creek trail system.

Klootchy Creek County Park is home to what was once the largest tree in the state and is now a massive stump due to damage sustained during a 2007 storm. It is also home to a rapidly growing network of trails built and maintained by the North Coast Trail Alliance. It offers up a bevy of trail options, including plenty of flow lines, a properly fun jump line, and the trail featured here, the mile-long rough and loamy descent called Defibrillator.

Defib is easily accessed via a 15-minute climb up a comfortably graded gravel road that meanders through a beautiful forest of hemlock, spruce, and cedar trees. Klootchy Creek is effectively divided into two sections: the westernmost area (rider’s left) will take you up to Defib and provide access to a couple of other short and loamy trails. To the east is where you’ll find some of the newest trails in the network so far, which tend to favor flow, jumps, berms, and other delightful trail attributes. When comparing Trailforks to the map at the trailhead kiosk, you’ll see that Trailforks isn’t entirely up to date, and with more and more trails being flagged and built, I suspect Trailforks will look very different sometime soon.

The riding itself is brilliant. The scale at Klootchy Creek is very manageable, but there’s enough vertical and miles to keep you happy, and the diversity between the trails is really quite impressive when you consider how young the network is. Of course, the proximity to the coast is something special, not just because of the range of recreational activities it presents but also because of the ocean’s impact on the trails themselves. While this year has been a disastrously dry one for much of the American west and has seen some truly terrible fires raging across Oregon, the Coast Range’s western slopes benefit from the coastline being so close by. Summer highs rarely exceed the low 70’s (F), and the consistent precipitation leads to deep and lush forests as well as deep and lush dirt. Defibrillator, in particular, seems to celebrate these characteristics, as it sweeps down the fall line for much of the ride, accented by lovely corner pockets, loads of off-camber sections, and a handful of purpose-built features to keep things lively.

The thing about Paradise is that it’s a very relative and subjective place. Personally, it is tough to beat those rare corners of the globe where the mountains and the sea coexist, and the convergence found along the northern coastline of Oregon is a perfectly realized embodiment of my love for both. It’s as rough and rugged as it is serene and beautiful, and of course, the amazing trails check off one of my most important boxes. While the Pacific Northwest is renowned for its plethora of world-class riding, the magnetism found in those unexpected corners will always draw my attention. Of course, my affinity for buried treasure, pirates, and Sloth doesn’t hurt either.

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