Santa Cruz Bicycles - Trans-Cascadia Dig Party - 2018

Digging Trans-Cascadia


Trans-Cascadia and Santa Cruz Dig Party 2018

August 09 — 2018 | Gifford Pinchot National Forest

A couple of weeks ago we loaded up the company trucks with supplies we’d need for a few days of remote trail work in preparation for the 2018 edition of Trans-Cascadia.

A crew from Santa Cruz Bicycles embarked on the 13+ hour drive to a remote corner of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Joining in on the dig party from across the company were Sam, Kyle, Speedbump, Mike, Jordan, and our DO’er of things fresh off a trip from La Thuile, Allan Cooke. Everyone was stoked for a weekend of hard work, camping, and post-dig festivities in the woods. We would be joining up with the crew that runs Trans-Cascadia - Nick Gibson, Tommy McGrath, Alex Gardner, and an additional 40 volunteers.

Mount St. Helens is one of the four active volcanoes that you can catch a glimpse of in this region.

Stewardship is important here at Santa Cruz Bicycles. "We believe that without trails and access to them nobody’s having fun, so we support organizations and individuals that are doing the hard work as stewards of singletrack." We’ve been a partner with Trans-Cascadia for three years because of what they do and how they approach it. There’s no elitist attitude; we’re in this together—building and maintaining trails, giving back to the communities that welcome us, and having fun in the process. 


Santa Cruz Image
Dylan VanWeelden

40 miles of trail cleared in preparation for this year's race and there's 2000 hours of work in the bank.

Trans-Cascadia started as a race run by the Modus Sport Group back in 2015. It’s a blind-format style backcountry race in some far out locations of the Pacific Northwest. Their focus has been building and improving trails that have been lost over time as well as opening new ones. They keep it raw, they focus on preserving the backcountry vibe of the sport, and the best part is anyone can have fun no matter the caliber of rider. Pre-race 'dig parties' are organized to clear or clean up primitive PNW singletrack that surrounds the area, and it's all in preparation leading up to the race. The race has grown from a handful of riders to something more; it's now racers, volunteers, and sponsors coming together to pitch in for the love of great trails and great racing.

Fires everywhere from California to Oregon, stay safe out there.

After driving through the smoke of surrounding forest fires and then struggling with GPS coordinates, we arrived at camp around 2am, and then set up tents as quickly as we could. We knew the time to work would come faster than anyone was looking forward to. The next morning (after about four hours of sleep) we loaded up on burritos and coffee, sat around a fire and let the caffeine work it’s magic until it was time to sit down for a pre-game briefing. A local representative from the US Forest Service ran us through some pointers on the terrain we would be working in over the course of the weekend, and they couldn’t believe how many of us had shown up. This was the largest group they had ever seen come together to volunteer and revive some forgotten trails. Under the watchful eye of the Trans-Cascadia crew these build parties have continued to grow. It's more than a nod to the fact that the TC crew has been absolutely killing it since the race was founded.

Day 1

Today would be a combination of riding and working, so with with hydration packs full of trail tools and lunch we left camp and pedaled ourselves up a steep and loose trail. After the punishing climb, we were rewarded with a ripping descent through wildflowers on an exposed mountain side and then we dipped into the woods for some good ole’ PNW loam. It was just a small taster of what this region had to offer, but it was time to get to work. We parked the bikes and started our hike down the same trail that we would be working on. This section would mostly require lopping and raking of trails that had been overgrown for some time. 

Racers can look forward to big mountain, fresh bench cut trails with plenty of exposure for this year's Trans-Cascadia. 

Author Jordan Nguyen digging into the detail work. 

One thing that stood out on the packing list was bug spray. I’m not a fan of the greasy, smelly, and poisonous stuff but opted to pack some anyways.. and I'm lucky I did. We were fighting off swarms of flies - the ones that bite - within moments of hitting the trail on day one, and this didn’t stop till we left the area on Monday morning. This added an element of stress that would drive some of the sleep deprived a bit mad and the rest of us more than a little crazy. You’ve got to pay the toll for others to rock and roll though, and it's just the time of year when the flies are prevalent. Don't sweat it if you're racing though, the buggers will be long gone by the end of September.

Stay bloodthirsty my friends.

As the day wore on, the end seemed like an illusion, so to speed things up we split up and ventured down the trail in hopes of working backwards and meeting somewhere in the middle. We didn’t realize we were actually on a section of a big loop until much later and several miles down the trail. With the sun falling and the woods growing darker by the minute we started making our way back to the bikes but there was still no sign of the rest of our crew.  They had left us to go back to camp and call in a moto search party to comb the backside of the mountain. There wasn't much left in the tanks but we pedaled as hard as we could because neither of us wanted to get left in the woods with the flies and without water. After a sleep deprived sweaty day in the woods we were greeted with cold river beers, delicious, hearty ramen from Portland area chef, John Moch, and then some much needed sleep. We crashed ... hard.

Kyle Bowman, ripper on a bike and friendly face in the Santa Cruz showroom.

Day 2

Saturday morning came quick but after a good night’s sleep we were ready for another day of hard work on the trail. Today was the big day and roughly half of the entire crew was assigned to a big section of trail that needed a ton of work—and out came the gas powered trail tools. Chainsaws and brushers were complemented with rakes, machetes. You name it we had it. Some sections of trail were so overgrown that you just had to get in there and start cutting before you could make sense of where it was going. With one crew working from the top and another working from the bottom we were able to knock the entire thing out in a day. 

Without a burn ban we could count on gas-powered tools to handle the dirty work.

There's a trail in here somewhere.

When we linked up at the halfway point we leaped frogged our way back down the trail to finish up anything we missed and took the trail in from a rider's perspective to create some fun race lines. Everyone was worked from the long hike with heavy tools but at the end of the day the stoke was high with the progress that had been made. We made our way back to camp for another amazing meal from Nick’s neighbor, Xavier, who prepared an incredible crispy coconut rice with a cucumber ginger salad and fried chicken. We were literally in the middle of nowhere eating like kings. The Trans-Cascadia crew really takes everything into consideration and makes sure you’re more than comfortable living in the woods and rewarded for your efforts.  

There's a good chance this trail has never been touched by a bicycle.

Xavier crushed Saturday dinner .. and later the Tequila.

Day 3

Sunday morning came quick. The heavy lifting was over but there was still a bit of work to do. We took the opportunity to enjoy everyone’s company around the fire once more and shake off the post-dig festivities from the previous evening. Sore and itchy we packed up the truck and made the hour long drive to the top of the trail we cleared Saturday. Besides a little bit of tidying up, the main focus of the day was to enjoy the hard work we had put in ... and make sure this thing was ready to rip. Fast, wide open, techy, and tight with some punchy climbs this trail had a lot to offer and there's no doubt that it'll bring smiles to everyone this year at Trans-Cascadia. We're already looking forward to the race in September and then planning next year's dig party.

No better way to end a hard day than sitting around a fire with friends and some frosty beverages.

Wide open and fully pinned through beautiful ribbons of singletrack!

This all sound like your kind of party? Sign up to volunteer and then race >


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