Monday, September 5, 2022

Rail Bikes on the Noyo (KLLR)

If you live in California you need to put this on your bucket list and doubly so if you're a pilot.  The old logging rail line aka "The Skunk Train" in Fort Bragg CA that has been running since the 1800's had adopted to the times and had turned towards running a scenic rail line between Ft. Bragg and Willets CA.  They were felled by some bad luck when one of the tunnels they relied on collapsed blocking the full path to Willets.  To keep the business alive they converted the open section of track to guided rail bike tours.  Rail bikes are side by side seated metal framed four wheeled pedal powered rail cars that also have a lithium ion battery assist just like modern e-bikes.  You can get as much or as little exercise as you like by peddling and throttling along the track in quiet smoothness through the incredible scenery of the pacific Northern California redwood forrest.  

Driving to the area is painful in my opinion.  Google will tell you that it's a 3.6 hr drive with no traffic.  I can tell you from experience Google is wrong!  It will take at least an hour longer to drive it.  The last 30 miles will take nearly 2 hours and you'll need to stop multiple times or else everyone in your car will be ready to throw up from the twisty and winding road (though beautiful).  

If you're a pilot however, the calculus changes drastically in your favor!  The winding 30 mile section of road becomes a quick hop over the forrest.  With about any GA airplane the 4+ hr journey becomes a beautiful 45 min flight from KCCR.  With temps in the Bay Area blasting through 100deg over Labor Day weekend, we took off and minutes later were landing at Little River (KLLR) with clear skies and temps in the low 70's.  An enterprising woman who flies Beechcraft professionally out of Sacramento saw a need and created a side hustle business doing self service rental cars at LLR.  I called Mary at Air-Galore (707-972-4498) and she left us a key to an old but reliable and clean Nissan Sentra.  

There are so many things to do and explore.  We checked into a beautifully classic North Cliff Hotel with pano views of the ocean.  We explored the marina there and ate some really great local blackened cod sandwiches at Princess Sea Food and listened to live music and drank Boont Amber Ale.  We went to Glass Beach and enjoyed the sunset and my boys scrambling up the rocks. 

But the really awesome part was the rail bikes!  We got going in the morning for a 9:30am tour.  It starts with a hike from the starting point down to the Noyo river about a half mile hike down a steep switch back trail.  From there you cross a rail bridge and then board the bikes and head into the forrest following the rail line along the river.

This is an all day adventure.  We arrived at Camp Noyo around 1pm, which is a campground and swimming hole in the middle of the redwoods.  They provide you with a really good box lunch and there is about an hour to chill and swim if you like, although the water is freezing.  The drought has the river level much lower than normal, but it's still flowing.  The bikes are turned around on the tracks and it's back on the bikes for the return trip.  

Departed and headed down the coast for a beautiful flight home along the coast. 

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