February brought freezing rain to Oregon. On the morning of the 12th there was a quarter inch of ice above 1000 feet. Steady rain in the proceeding weeks left the trail muddy and soft leaving them nearly unaffected by the ice. The gravel roads offered enough purchase that running was not an issue, but I was a bit wary to ride my bike in the conditions. There was enough exposed gravel that braking and cornering were pretty predictable, but the conditions were a bit variable.
More freezing rain was supposed to arrive on the 13th, but temperatures rose just enough to keep any more ice from accumulating. As I toured the forest Oak Creek, McCulloch Peak, and Dimple Hill were largely free of ice. Soap Creek Valley didn't warm up enough though and dozens of trees were down on the roads and trails in the area. The next day I would bike down Tampico Road and see the damage further north was much worse.
After putting gravel tires on my bike in the fall, gravel roads have provided a reliable escape from traffic. McDonald Forest and Starker Forest have abundant gravel roads and all the access points are gated limiting traffic to an occasional authorized vehicle. Gates aren't necessary to find solitude as gravel roads typically remain unpaved because paved roads nearby provide a shorter, faster route. And with most people opting for a shorter drive, the gravel roads remain largely deserted.
Periwinkle is one of the first flowers to show up in McDonald Forest. After months of clouds, rain, and anticipation, they finally emerge. Trillium are next to follow, then the fairy slippers. Amidst the dark ground with only a few spring leaves starting to bud, fairy slippers stand out like beacons. After the first fairy slipper breaks through the ground, the second one can take more than a week to show up.