Trails ‘n Trials – Navigating the Wildlife in Central Oregon

Drew is our Central Oregon blogger, a member of the Redmond Oregon Running Klub (RORK), and a lover of trail running.  Today looked like it was going to be the Juniper trail and then I changed my plan en route, opting for the tree covered shady river trail at Eagle Crest. Staring down the barrel of my upcoming half up at Smith Rock, I knew I needed some hills and Juniper just wasn't going to cut it. Eagle Crest would at least provide me with the climb back up to the car and as it turned out, provided me with so much more, as I realized I could incorporate 3 really good climbs into my run while also attaining nearly 10 miles.

The beauty of the river trail at EC is that there are usually not too many people out there in the afternoons, the river always provides both a breeze and great scenery and the trail itself has every aspect I love; single-track, tight turns, rocks galore, elevation gains/losses and shade. On some weekends, it’s the only trail I run! The only downside is the limit to mileage. From the parking area near the cafe, the trail comes to a sad end just after mile 4. It is rumored that it used to go all the way to Tumalo but I challenge any runner to prove that. The resort above keeps walkers and runners moving down to the river on a daily basis but the majority of people only want to go so far so they turn around at some point and head back, which explains why the trail peters out when it does. In the past, I have ventured further, seeking to discover the elusive “trail to Tumalo”, but loose shale, barbed wire fences, no trespassing signs and trails that suddenly end have kept me from pushing through. Maybe someday I will don a pair of hiking boots, a shovel and a machete and I will blaze my own trail! In the meantime, my turnaround point will continue to be the shale that I come to at mile 4.1 (the trail at this point is made up of shale from a rockslide that occurred some time in the past…it is treacherous to run on).

As I sailed by trees and over rocks in my Topo’s (if only Tony knew how much I loved his shoes), I think I counted 5 other humans during my run. In fact, I lost count of how many lizards darted out of my way and was overjoyed as always by the wildlife I encountered. There were 2 rabbits and 2 pheasants (not together, because that would be weird), scores of lizards, 1 snake (jump!) and a swarm of butterflies around mile 5. One of the rabbits ran ahead of me for 10 yards or so before bounding off into the bushes. I am positive I could have taken him in a race.

After my turnaround at mile 4, I readied myself for the 3 hills I had planned for in my head. The first was the South Trailhead trail that leads up to the south edge of the resort as well as homes that have been built past the edge of the area. The trail is switchback style and becomes very steep near the top, which was perfect for training reasons. At the top is the apt sign that warns resort visitors to avoid this descent if you are not in good shape. It’s an ambiguous gesture to be sure but one that I am sure is overlooked by most. Still, the trail is indeed steep and the downhill run was AWESOME!

My second uphill was just a half mile away from the bottom of the first but is nothing like the others. This gave me a chance to put the pedal down and truly race up it. Of all the ways to get back up from the river trail, this way is the easiest but seems to be the least known. Right next to it is a paved trail (the only paved trail out there) that leads from the pool, up at the resort. Most visitors to the area follow the signs and take the paved trail down to where the dirt of the river trail starts and all seem to go back up the same way. The trouble is, the paved trail is super steep and no one I know runs that way because of it. So, we run up the alternate dirt trail that leads to the pool because it’s not so steep and because we can run up it quicker, making us look like rockstars!

After running back down to the river trail, I ran north for a mile and a half to the far end of the river trail and my final ascent of the day…a hill that is short but oh so brutal. There are a few hills out there that we runners come to that just stop us in our tracks and this is one of them. The hill doesn’t really hint that it’s coming with a gradual incline, it just hits you square in the mouth. I have seriously wondered why someone hasn’t just installed stairs with a railing because the goal would be the same. Granted, that would be one steep set of steps but I think I might prefer the stairs. Once at the top, savvy runners know to turn left and follow the golf course until reaching the street, then turning onto the paved trail to get back to the car. For me, I knew I was just past mile 9 at that point and chose to turn towards the resort to get just a little more. I ran by a nice group of older women who were all smiling and staring at me. One even made an “ooooooooo” sound. I believe they may have been catcalling me but they all qualified to be my mother based on an estimate of age. Needless to say, I waved like I always do and might have even sped up a little.

I got back to the car, inhaled a bit of water and headed out, assuming I was done for the day but upon nearing home decided I needed a little more…so I cruised out to the Radlands trails for a short loop. The Radlands are a newer set of trails to the area, having just been built a few years ago and are continuing to be added to. There are several trails to explore which when run consecutively will give you nearly 8 miles. By adding a couple of turnarounds and retracing some of your steps, a runner can easily get 14-16 miles out there. As for my prerequisites for truly awesome trail running, the Radlands have little shade and no river. However, as far as technical running goes, few trails around here rival them. The rocks are something special and give most people pause. For those of us who live here, the Radlands provides one of the best stable places to test new shoes and mountain bikes.

I knew I didn’t want a ton more mileage for the day but wanted to get close to 13 so I took the north loop and added a little double back near the end to net just over 4 miles, giving me nearly 14 for the day. Unlike EC, I saw no one at Radlands, which is typically the case anyway. One sure positive was the fact that there were no elderly women making weird noises. Don’t get me wrong, I love the cheering of a crowd during my runs but I think I prefer the other kind of wildlife; the kind that is more natural and less, well…like my mother.

About Drew Roberts (203 Articles)
Insanely happy husband & father. Trail running junkie. Ultramarathoner wannabe. Saved by grace.
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