Oregon, specifically the Willamette Valley, is a very wet place. This is no secret. The secret is what lies beyond the foggy curtain that covers the deep, dank, moss filled forests of the Oregon Coast Range.
Just west of the sleepy college town of Corvallis, Oregon lays a wealth of single-track, hand sculpted and etched into the earth by a dedicated and diverse group of mountain bike-minded humans.
When I was in my junior year at Oregon State University, a strong, tight-knit crew of rugged bike nerds had banded together and rented a ragged, sprawling house a few blocks from campus.
I occupied the detached cinderblock garage that only had a single roll-up door for access. For $100 a month, I got a roof over my head, a propane heater and access to the main house for the kitchen, bathroom, and most importantly, a large well stocked bike work area.
In the basement bike shop, we had a whiteboard where we would scratch out challenges to one another. Various bicycle related feats of strength were hatched, but the one that seemed to stick, gain traction, and become a tradition among our crew was the Three Peaks Challenge.
The premise was simple. Grab three beers, ride to the top of the three main peaks in the forest and drink a beer. Over the years various additional challenges were included, including doing the ride at night without lights, riding the final decent nude, or completing the challenge on our road bikes.
Ever since I left college and started my racing career, I had mostly forgotten about the TPC. Then my friends Sean and Patrick moved back to Corvallis and started talking about it. A chance trip back home to work on my mother’s house was all the impetus we needed to revive the tradition.
On a fittingly damp and cold day, we set off at the crack of 2:30 pm. First stop, the obligatory beverage procurement at the Country Market and Deli on the corner of 53rd and Oak Creek Drive.
As they do, beer is sold is portions of sixes, so with three riders, we selected a 12 pack. With the conclusion that it would be the appropriate procedure to stash the extra beers, one at each summit for others to enjoy, we filled Sean’s backpack with all 12 while he wasn’t looking and then set off.
The first peak is actually only a small hill, aptly named Bald Hill, but what it lacks in elevation it makes up for in spades on its greased lightning trails. Slipping and sliding our way off the peak, giddy with our quest, we set our sights on the next, much higher summit.
Topping out on McCullough Peak for summit number two, the wind had picked up considerably. Our soggy frozen fingers struggled to rack the beers, but we got it done, downed the nectar, stashed the extra and then sent it down one of the gnarliest trails in the forest.
Exciting the bottom of South Side Slip coated in mud and laughing, we steeled ourselves for the final push to summit three.
Good natured shit talking became joking half attacks became full throttle race mode as the summit approached and we raced our way to the large tree marking the top of Dimple Hill.
As we downed our final beverages and looked out over the soggy city, the wave of nostalgia was almost enough to convince Sean to disrobe and shred the final descent au natural, but fading light and a worry of shrinkage (and common sense) took over and we headed down into town to gorge on the best Thai Food in the universe.
A final round of high fives was exchanged as we saddled up for the final cold solo miles back home. Tired, cold, covered in mud and with a perma-grin plastered all over my ugly mug, I said a silent what’s up to all those who have completed the Three Peaks Challenge before, and to all those who would follow in our sketchy footsteps. Get it!