It’s a cool and cloudy winter morning at Roger’s Camp in the Tillamook State Forest; key staging area for folks who like to travel “off-road.”
I’ve traveled into the heart of the forest at the invitation of a familiar face and avid off-roader: my brother, Mark McOmie.
My brother’s off-road recreation is more than a hobby – it’s a passion that has shaped much his outdoor travel and recreation plans. It’s also been something that he’s shared with his entire family for nearly twenty years.
“Atv-ing is a great family sport,” explained Mark. “A super opportunity to get together and explore the outdoors. I think most of the fellows in our party probably have multiple uses for their machines – part workhorse, part recreation vehicle. In fact, I started riding in the early ‘90’s while on hunting trips and it’s taken off from there.”
Several of his friends joined him for a ride across designated trails in the state forest.
Thre are plenty of trails to choose from for a day’s adventure.
Jahmaal Rebb, ATV Specialist with Oregon Department of Forestry, said that there are more than 130 miles of trails across the Tillamook State Forest.
Rebb manages the trails and the riders who travel in the forest and he noted that there’s a “dedicated following” of riders who come to play on the state forestland.
“This is a community that’s been very active since the 1930’s ever since the first Tillamook Burn. Motorized recreation is a big deal here and the folks still come here, put in time on varied projects to improve trails and improve access – they really have a passion for play.”
A wide variety of trails provide access into some of the more remote and scenic parts of the forest and provide challenge and excitement for both beginners and experts.
“We offer a very extensive network of trails, said Rebb. “Scores of off-road trails are a part of a multi-use recreation system. So, you must expect to encounter quads, motor bikes and full-sized four-wheel drives out here.”
So, what it’s like to climb aboard and grab on to the steering of a powerful ATV four wheel-drive quad?
In a word – amazing! They are quick to respond, easy to steer and surprisingly comfortable too.
Steve Lewis, a veteran rider with close to thirty years of riding experience in the state forest, said, “For those who like to go to an amusement park and ride a roller coaster - well, that’s what it’s like only you are in the woods and you’re in total control of the machine.”
It is also a recreation where risk and danger wait at every turn, so safety and common sense and controlling vehicle speed are critical parts of the popular recreation.
That’s where recently adopted rules come in. For example, young riders must carry an “ATV Safety Education” card – that shows the rider has passed a mandatory on-line test.
The Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation manages the “ATV On-Line Safety Education Course.”
John Lane, OPRD ATV Safety Program Manager, said that by 2014 every ATV rider in Oregon must pass the test and carry the card.
“It’s free…takes just a couple of hours to complete, and when you’re all done we’ll send you a safety education card that’s required to be with you when you go out and ride.”
There are more changes coming to enhance the safety aspects of Oregon’s off-road riding: a new “Hands On ATV Training Class” will be required for all riders aged 15 and under in 2012.
Lane added that there are 35,000 Oregon youth riders will have to take the course, so now is the time to do it.”
“If you have kids that are thinking about getting into the sport or are already in the sport – get them into a training class right away. Get them in now – don’t wait for the last minute rush!”