8 Miles of Heaven
8 Miles of Hell
8 Miles of Blubbering and Crying
Elevation: 5,414 Feet
Let me explain first the "El Jeffe Factor." This is a true, proven formula that is indispensible when asking El Jeffe for a trail to hike, a trail to ride or anything fun outside. You have to understand, El Jeffe is the Paris Hilton of Central Oregon; nobody really knows what the hell he does but he is sexy, slutty and knows everyone. He can tell you all the best trails that exist out here, the best lakes, the best streams, the best escort service (most economical, too) and the best food. But there is a caveat. The man is a beast, he is inhuman, and he is humble. So you have to take into account the fact that his miles, his difficulty, his rating exist outside the realm of mere mortals. He has semi-deity blood coursing through his veins.
The factored ratio is a Fibonacci number: 5/3. That is the multiplier with which all his distances, his difficulty ratings and his opinion of your physical abilities. Here are some of the responses El Jeffe has given in the past. It's not that he is lying, there is no untruth, it's just mathematically incorrect.
El Jeffe: Yeah, it's not too hard. It's around 5 miles. I think we did it one night after work in five hours up and back, you should be able to do it in less than that.
Truth: Hard and long. 12 miles. I did it in seven hours. There was exhaustion involved.
El Jeffe: It's a great trail, 16 miles or something like that. The backside has some technical pieces, but it's nothing you can't do. You should be able to get 'er done in three hours.
Truth: It was a fantastic trail. 22 long miles. The back 8 miles were friggin' ridiculous. And "nothing you can't do" means if you push yourself to gagging up the hills and crying down the hills, you can make it. It took me four and a half.
Paulina Lake Loop
El Jeffe: Oh, shit, this is a sweet trail! It's only 20 or so miles and it's an easy 20 miles (does that exist?). It's just as easy as Waldo Lake!
Truth: I flipped him off and walked away.
I didn't come up with the "El Jeffe Factor" until directly after this mountain biking trail.
We were camping at Odell Lake. I got up at the Crack of Ass and drove out past the Willamette Pass Ski Area to Waldo Lake. I parked in the north parking lot and got going in the early morning hours. I don't have a bike of my own. My wife got a new one just a bit ago and I was using hers. I refer, affectionately, to it as The Blue Hog.
The first section is a burned out forest that toasted in 1996. The hulks the burned out trees left were all about 13 feet tall and very dense. All that was missing was the burned smell, the smoke, the explosions, a few vietnamese crouching in the foliage and Oliver Stone behind the camera. It was a short distance from the lake so you couldn't really see much water.
After a few easy miles later I entered the actual forest. It was cool, refreshing and very quiet. It was easy cruising over the smooth trail with the occasional tree root and rock in the way. Nothing technical, nothing steep, just easy riding. I was thinking for a bit that this was going to be a breeze!
After about 8 miles, I started getting into some steeper terrain. There were more rocks. There were more tree roots. There were more areas to thoroughly kick my ass. It wasn't like there was a gradual breaking into the harder areas, it was like pavement pavement pavement WALL! I found myself struggling more and more to get up the hills. I was determined not to have to get off my bike and walk where I knew I could make it. But it was a beat down. It was going to be long. I knew that I had...um...14 more...miles...to...go. My legs were starting to turn to liquid hell, my arms weren't really functioning like they should, my head was starting to get into a bad place and the trail was getting progessively steeper and there were more rocks in the middle of the trail. every time I stopped there were so many mosquitos that every time I stopped to take a break, every resting minute translated into five itching bites. Even taking a leak was difficult. They landed on ALL exposed skin. Trying to pee and swat mosquitos off the end of the pecker requires more talent and finesse than I possess.
The next 8 miles were long, hard and didn't seem to want to end. I passed my first other human being on the south end of the lake. He looked so goddamn refreshed I wanted to stick my leg out and kick him off his bike; jousting with my feet in the days of yore. The worst part was the rubbing of the seat against the ever-tendering raisin-catcher on your ass. I didn't know you get could that sore, it was bone sore, raw and rippled with gouging edges and chaffed skin dipped in turpentine over an exposed flame.
After getting around the south end of the lake I took my first real break. It was for about 5 minutes. The mosquitos got so bad that you didn't want to stop for a break. I shoved some water down my throat, ate a Salty-Peanut bar, killed a few dozen mosquitos, got back on The Blue Hog and took off down the trail. On the south end I started seeing people. There are some hike in spots and your average early 20 Somethings were splashing in the water with their dog and bikinis, giggling and threatening a tickle/panty fights with the other women in the water. I hates them, precious. I was also just beginning to feel real pain in my legs. These weren't protest pains like it had been giving me for the last mile, but real, trembling-I-am-going-to-dump-you-on-your-ass pains. In both quivering thighs. My hands were cramping holding the handlebars. I was ready to be done. To be sitting somewhere other than this aching bike seat with a drink in my hand and no mosquitos.
I ended up getting lost at one point and taking a few miles worth of happy, fun diversionary trail. The best part was that it was down a steep hill, meaning I got to come back up that steep hill. The last parts of the trail were not fun. It was a gentle up and down with almost no steep or sustained hills, but I had nothing left. I think I invented a new sport on those last few miles. I call it Mountain Biking Hiking. Basically, drive out to your favorite trail and walk your bike along it. Anytime I saw any incline above 10 degrees or longer than 10 feet, I became and active and very exclusive "Miker" as I started call myself. I ended up taking a longer break along some indestinctable side of the trail. My legs were quaking just walking around the trail. My ass was aching, my back was aching, my arms were exhausted and didn't want to respond to anything I was doing. I was mentally cursing El Jeffe, calling him all the names that make him smile and blush.
A few more miles and I hit the parking lot on the north side. Getting into the vehicle and putting on my Chaco's was a major relief. It had taken me four and a half hours of pretty much continuous biking to get around the lake. Would I do it again? Yeah, I would. But it is hard.