The 50 mile race at Capitol Forest and Bob Horness's wanting to do an epic ride prompted a trip up north to Capitol Forest.
George Barnett had ridden some of the trails; in fact he said he comes up to ride a couple of times a year. So he agreed to show us a section of trails between the Mima Falls and Fall Creek trail heads.
The plan was to ride over to Fall Creek along the Mima Porter #8 trail and back along the Green Line #6. The planned ride was somewhere around twenty two miles.
The day was a warm, 70 degree day with sun and clouds. We were hit with a couple of short showers but nothing that got us wet.
The four of us, Bob, George, Bob's wife Becky and I headed out at about ten o'clock.
We rode for about ten minutes through clear cuts and open areas. The tread was good and the sun was out.
Then we hit the timber. Nice stands of trees but the trail went to hell.
There is a lot of horse traffic on these trails and the ground was wet which left mucky puddles filled with horseshit and mud.
For the first several miles of the mucky mess I slowed to a crawl and rolled or pedaled through the muck, trying to keep my bike and legs as clean as I could.
Every time we broke from the forest to ride through clear cuts, the trail firmed up, the tread was firm and fast.
We hit a solid climb at about five or six miles in, it was doable in lower range gears and for the first half I tried to climb in the third sprocket. But as I was making the climb, I noticed that my bike would make an awful snapping sound every now and then when I pressed the climb hard so I dropped into my lowest sprocket and spun my way up the rest of the climb.
The climb was through a clear cut with one small section of timber about half way up the hill which made the tread good and firm for most of the grind.
Once on top there was a great view through a clear cut, although I have no idea what we were looking at.
Looking at my bike, I noticed the sprocket was crammed full of sticky gooey mud in between the first few gears, the biggest gears, the low range, the ones I had been using the most. My derailleur cage was one big block of mud and I realized why I had been hearing that snapping sound while pressing the climb, my chain was being pushed up off the sprocket by the buildup of mud until it slipped and jumped a tooth.
I cleaned out some mud with a stick and we pushed on.
There was some nice riding across the top of the ridge, the tread firm and fast with just a few little spots of muck that were easy to rail around. The distance from the horse camps was probably about equal and the sign of horses was less along here.
The trail dropped over the other side of the hill and we got a quick descent of a couple hundred feet.
The descent was fast with the line traversing a timber covered hillside. We did hit a few mucky spots near the bottom which dampened the speed and overall fun of the descent.
It only took a few minutes to make the descent to a trail intersection where there was a short connector trail, trail #20 from Mima Porter #8 to the Green line #6.
There was a trail closed sign tacked up on a tree, just a few feet down the trail which meant we were forced to take the trail #20 connector.
We rode a couple hundred feet up the trail to find another temporary sign that read, Trail Reroute.
The reroute looked awfully damn tough; the line a rugged and raw strip about four feet wide that looked like it had been put in with something like a bob cat or small rubber tired piece of equipment.
The connector trail #20 went on up the hill and Becky said she was going to take that over to Fall Creek trail head.
Bob asked George if he wanted to go with her but Becky was firm in that she didn't need anyone to accompany her, she was quite capable so she headed off up the trail and we headed down the reroute.
The trail was rough and bouncy, but it was solid. The few horses that had been on it had ridden in the center and there had not been enough traffic since it was put in to make it mucky.
The trail was very rough. We made our way up and down short steep climbs and quick descents as the line traversed the hillside. It has the potential to be a very fun section of trail if it were smoothed out a little.
After a couple of miles (30 minutes) we popped out onto gravel, an old gravel road and a sign hanging on a tree, with an arrow printed on it, pointing down the road to the next section of the reroute.
We blasted down the gravel, a very fast run and a bit of a disappointment since any time you invest in the climb, you are expecting the sweet reward and gravel is not a reward.
It took about two minutes to regain the reroute and follow that for another couple of minutes to find the intersection with the original trail.
The whole time we were on the reroute, I was thinking about how much nicer the single track was going to be, then we found it and I want to call it slutty, it was so nasty.
The original trail was three miles of the sloppiest, nastiest, stinkiest piece of crap trail I have ever been on.
The line was overgrown with brush and ferns. The tread was nonexistent, just sloop. The goop so deep that at one point I rode into a hole that dropped my bike to the frame, burying the back wheel up to the axel; the hole made a sucking sound as I wrenched my bike back out.
As we rode the trail I had to shift into higher and higher gears because the lower ones were getting so clogged with mud and debris that the chain could no longer make contact with the sprocket.
George had developed a slow leak in his front tire and when we stopped to pump it back up I noticed that Bob's cassette was clean. Puzzled, I realized that he was doing his single speed thing, using the middle chain ring and the large cog on the cassette. Since there was no back side to the large cog, that is there was not another gear, so there was no place for the muck to get trapped.
I grabbed a stick and cleared as much muck from between the large gear and the adjacent one then shifted to the same combination of middle ring and large sprocket. This gearing change made a big difference in the performance and the short climbs were all doable in this gear, I just had to stand up in a few places to achieve the power required to clear a short section of climbing.
We made the Fall Creek trail head and found a place in the creek where we could dunk our bikes to rinse them off. It looked as though someone had made this spot, since there was a flat spot carved into the bank, right over a deep pool in the creek where I was able to wash most of the mud from my bike by thrusting it up and down in the pool until all the mud had dissolved and washed away.
We took a lunch break and while George changed out his tube we talked about the return trip on Green Line #6.
Becky told us that the route she came over was just as nasty as what we had encountered on our six mile section of trail. She said that she had gotten directions off her phone to ride back by the road.
We broke out Georges map and decided we would ride up (north) on the Green Line and pick up the main road C-Line. Then we would follow that out until we got to Margaret McKenny Campground where we would take the Waddle Loop back to the Mima Falls trail head.
The climb out on the Green Line was all uphill. It is normally used as a downhill run by mountain bikers and not used much at all by the horses. Still there were only a few places where we had to get off and push our bikes.
When we hit the pavement, George said he was going to put on his coat since the run down the road would be a bit cool after the sweat fest climb. Becky said she was taking off and we could catch up to her.
Once on the main road, it was almost all downhill for the next few miles. Then it was a couple more miles on pavement to the campground.
The road runs into the Sherman Valley road that intersects with the Waddell Creek road, the intersection is easy to ride right by, I had made that mistake in my car a couple of years ago when I was up here.
Becky had missed the turn and when we reached Margaret McKenny she was not there.
A phone call later and she was heading back up the road a couple of mile to the missed intersection to wait for us at the campground while we rode back to the trail head to get the cars.
The ride from Margaret McKenny to the trail head had a couple of mucky spots but overall was not too bad a trail.
We did a big loop that took us seven hours to complete. The first eleven miles took us four hours, then after an hour of repairs, lunch and discussion we rode back in about two hours.
In the end, I will probably never ride this trail again unless it had not rained for at least a couple of weeks. I think that after a couple of weeks of dry weather the muck would dry up and hopefully the tread firm up and smooth out.
The 50 mile race is in late August and the tread should be good since that is probably the driest part of the year for us.
Solo Ride at Growlers
When I got up this morning, the rain was hammering the roof and I could hear the bushes next to the house rattling against the siding as they swayed back and forth in the wind
I had posted on the Cowlitz Mountain Bikers page that I would be riding up at Growlers today at nine o'clock this morning. The skies had been clear when I posted it but I knew I had to go even if no one else showed.
I made my breakfast and prepped my gear as I watched the weather report; the front was being pushed in by a low pressure area that was pulling the weather from south to north. My only hope was that the further north you went the better the weather would be.
As I headed north, my windshield wipers on full, the rain poured and the road spray was intense.
I pulled up to the parking area at the end of Growlers Gulch road to see a vehicle parked there. I was hopeful that someone was there to join me but I quickly assessed that since I didn't see a bike it was probably not.
I spun my rig around to back in and as I pulled up next to the other car, the window went down and Jim LeMonds smiling face was there to greet me. He just wanted to make sure I knew that there was work being done up the gravel road and the gate would be open, not to park in front of it and pass the word along to anyone I saw today.
I stepped out into the rain as it poured down, put on my heavy rain coat and set about getting my bike ready to ride.
With my riding gear on I headed off up the gravel. I had put on a pair of lightweight rain pants to keep my legs warm since I had not expected such a down turn in temperature.
There were two large pieces of equipment working on a plot, just off the gravel road right before the power line. It looks like they are leveling a spot for a new residence.
I cranked my way up the power line hill and hit the first of the trails, on the left side of the road. The trail called Predator.
This trail runs up and down a mild slope so the water sheds pretty well.
Considering the amount of rain, the tread was still good. I was able to crank through the turns and lean into the easy uphill sections along the line.
I followed the old line down through the woods as it twisted and turned to run back under the upper section, a continuous descent down a moderate grade with just one moderately steep section for a hundred feet or so.
Standing on the pedals, with my weight back I cruised down the line, bouncing over the roots when I felt a cold wet dribble of water seeping down the inside of my shoe. Normally these shoes hold the water out pretty good but I knew that I was going to have pruned toes by the end of this ride.
A continuous stream of water ran down the trail, following the line to the bottom where it formed a mud bog, five feet wide and twenty feet long, very slippery and sloppy. As I crossed the muddy section I could feel the grip of my tires break away and slip as I cranked down on the pedals.
I started the climb back up through the woods, the tread was sopping wet and the track filled with puddles.
Since I was riding solo, I was in no hurry and there was not a pace to keep so I rode slowly.
The tread was still very firm and my tires were sticking well. I was able to make all of the little short ups, crossing root wads and muddy mounds.
Every depression on the trail was filled with water, at first I tried to skirt the edges but soon found it not worth the effort.
When I hit the end of Predator I turned to continue down the trail called Cousin Eddy. This trail is much like the Predator trail, a very moderate descent down through the forest.
Cousin Eddy has two very steep, although very short sections to descend. I was a little concerned that they might be a little slick but found that my tires stuck as I descended with very light breaking on both.
Normally when I ride in the rain, my breaks will squawk pretty loud on the descents for the first few seconds, until the moisture evaporates, then they run silent except for the light modulating noise created by the slotted rotor sliding under the break pad. Not today, the heavy rain and the soaked plants hanging over the trail had my breaks saturated and they almost never stopped squawking.
I rode the trail out to the end where it loops back to the gravel road.
I reached down to take a sip of the energy drink in my water bottle, which has to be mounted upside down because my frame is so small. When I pulled the cap off the bottle, the threads were full of mud. I reached over to my shoulder and pulled the line from my hydration pack to my lips and sucked until the water started to flow, then leaning forward I rinsed the threads off with the water flowing from the end of the tube.
My feet were both wet but warm, kind of like the rest of my body, wet but still warm.
I turned my attention to the next trail, one of my favorites, Terminator. The trail climbs up over a broad ridge to descend down the other side, through a short section with a couple of big humps, root drops and a couple of swoops that were filled with water today.
The rain continued as I exited from the trail called New Guy and headed up through the area called Beauty and Belly to pick up the mini downhill on the other side of the ridge.
I blasted down the mini downhill from the top of the ridge to the gravel spur road, even soaked down the tread was good and grippy, my tires were running very soft and I think that helped a lot.
Crossing the gravel I continued the descent. The mini downhill merges with another trail here, Trail of Tears. I took the left off the downhill to roll through the woods and do the short loop on the end of the trail.
Returning to the mini downhill, I was now cranking my way back up. The downhill can be ridden further to a gravel spur but then I would have to ride gravel all the way back to this point and I would just as soon be cranking up dirt any time.
It was a short steep climb to the junction of Trail of Tears where I turned off the mini downhill to follow this line. I checked down in the gully below me to see if any animal carcasses have been dumped, there have been two horses and one dog dumped along here over the last year and a half. It was nice not to see any.
The rain continued to pour as I rode the trail. The line descends and climbs sharply a couple of times then merges with yet another trail to continue on the same theme of sharp descents and climbs until it reaches a clear cut.
I noticed a couple of surveyor's stakes along the route and then spotted another one on the return trail. The stakes form a straight line running through the forest, I can't help wondering how much longer we will be able to ride this trail.
I returned to the Beauty and Belly area and rode the two loops, great fun stuff with lots of swooping trail that screams down through the trees.
Checking my watch I noticed I had been out for almost two hours so I mentally plotted a route back that would take me back over Terminator, to pick up New Guy. Then I would take a turn off New Guy before it returned to the gravel and hook up with Cousin Eddy where I could ride it in the reverse direction.
Then finish the ride by again riding Predator in the reverse direction.
It was a good route; the sharp steeps on Cousin Eddy foiled me. I knew I would have to use a mid range gear if I was going to have any chance of clearing them, and in both cases I reached within a few feet before running out of momentum and having to put my foot down.
I was able to clear all of the climbs on Predator and finished off by descending through the high grass on the power line.
I hit the parking lot, expecting to see at least a couple of cars but found just one, mine.
I was wet, soggy, and soaked through every layer. But I was warm and happy.
Bob and I rode at Growlers today.
We hit the Predator trail and flowed right on through the Cousin Eddy trail. Bob moaned as we rode past the big log ride at the start of Cousin Eddy.
We hit the first of the road trails after crossing the woods on Walk in the Park and dropped into Big Wow. A quick skidding descent down between the two trees, my tire stuck in a rut and the tread just wet enough there that even slight breaking caused you to skid. But a modulating break with a light touch brought me under control. I had to pull up a little further down the trail until my legs stopped trembling.
We climbed up Bitter Bitch to A-Bomb. Since I was carrying my saw and had mentioned a gnarly root that was on A-Bomb, Bob asked if I wanted to go cut it out.
We bombed de Bomb and the tread was almost perfect. So many riders had skidded on that root that the line had moved over and benched out from tires sliding sideways to catch the dirt and push it a little wider. Cut the damn root anyway.
We climbed back up Bitter Bitch to grind out some gravel tread to the creek side entrance of Jekyll and Hyde.
We climbed Vortex and followed that with a climb up WTF. That was about the fourth time up WTF for me, it is a hard climb on the bottom half. I hit one rut on the climb that almost threw me off my bike, did a pedal strike with my left foot that pushed me right, then a pedal strike with my right foot that pushed me left, and there was a very steep hillside to my left. I was able to plant a foot on the edge of the rut and push myself back in toward the hillside.
Once around Legacy and back down WTF. Beautiful day in the clear cut, we could see the bright white snow covered Olympics stretched out across the northwestern horizon.
To the east the volcanoes stood out, gleaming dazzling white. The Goat Rocks still covered in snow, stretched north from Mt Adams.
We connected to Creation via the gravel and blasted down that.
All the climbing up Creation in preparation for the 5k has put that trail in pristine condition. About half way down Creation a small dog came running out of the woods and fell in behind Bob, trailed for a quarter mile then jumped out to the road where another dog was limping down the gravel.
When we hit the road, we crossed and headed down into the ABC trails to catch the last bit of the C trail, a great little section with lots of log over features to bring a grin to Bob's face, then down to the Railroad grade.
We followed that with a shot down Little Sister. Again with all the folks riding Little Sister in the uphill direction for a couple of months the downhill was outstanding. The line rolled and flowed like a pump track, just a screamer.
Crossing the road brought us to Jekyll and Hyde again, but this time we were going down. It is a great run, dropping around the big switchback and rolling over the short canoe log that crosses the creek we screamed down through the woods until we hit KMA.
Turning onto KMA the trail again drops out from under you and we flew down the hill.
A few more turns of the crank, as the line follows the side of a ridge to drop off and blast down the track; the trail ending with a steep descent into big banked corners where you can rail high and carry speed to finally drop through a ditch onto the gravel road.
One more little section of middle KMA and we hit gravel to head out. Bob wanted to be home by two and it past 12:30 now. It will be a good half hour of riding and I am whooped.
As we ride down the grave we see a logging truck coming through the gate. The driver is very friendly and tells us he saw a couple of dogs down the road, one he thinks has somehow gotten it's leg stuck through the collar around its neck.
A little more chatting and we head off to climb a short hill and blast down the gravel road.
We spot the dogs at the bottom of the hill and the one that is running on three legs turns away from us to limp off the road.
We stopped just past the dogs and Bob calls out with a whistle and a "come here boy". The dog starts to run off up the road as we turned around so we did not give chase.
A few more feet down the road and we turn off on to some of the un-named road trails to grind out the last couple of climbs. My quads are quacking as I start putting some power into the pedal. Bob is standing up and cranking the climb in the middle chain ring.
I think he is testing himself to see if he is single speed ready yet.
Our last run is back out Predator where it runs next to the road and down through the open area under the power lines to the car.
Four hours of hard riding on a beautiful sunny warm day. It doesn't get much better.
Spokane's Beacon Hill
Beacon Hill in Spokane, great single track with tons of granite rock features to test your skills. Great fun, but you need a week to explore it all
We parked at the John C Shields Park. The park is located on the south side of Beacon Hill.
I thought this might be the right spot when a truck with a mountain bike in the back pulled in and parked a few cars down.
I changed into my riding gear and hopped on my bike, swinging around and rolling up to the guy as he was getting his bike out, I told him I was from out of town and wanted to ride some of the single track on Beacon Hill.
He pointed toward the hill and told me there was a trail over there but it was mostly hike a bike. If I rode down the road around a curve until I got to a place where you could park, there was an access on a fire road that was ride-able.
I thanked him and headed down the pavement.
I rode down Upriver Drive until it turned into E. Fredrick Dr, and then followed that until I reached E. Liberty Ave. I could see a park, Minnehaha Park, about a block away and decided to follow this route.
The paved road turned into dirt double track that was embedded with large rocks.
I grunted my way up the double track, looking left and right for a line running off through the woods.
I came to a gate with a no trespassing sign and turned back to take a spur I had passed just a few hundred feet back.
I climbed around on double track, always taking the steepest and most direct route toward the top that I could find until I crested the ridge. I was not on top but the double track started to head around the ridge.
In a few minutes a very well developed single track crossed the dirt road I was on.
I turned onto the single track and could hear someone shout, off in the distance.
The single track wound up and over a small hill and I rolled through a couple of fast corners to round a granite outcropping as a couple of riders broke into the clearing, coming my way.
I pulled over as the lead rider told me there were four more.
Looking from the top of the rise I could see them crossing the hill as they flashed through the trees and dropped around the switch backs until they broke out of the trees to cross the small field in front of me.
I took off and started the climb through more than a dozen switchbacks. The tread was perfect, it had rained all day the day before and the ground was firm and moist.
The switchbacks were laid out well so that I could power through them, then dig in and do a slow grind on the next ascent before repeating.
It took less than ten minutes to climb to the top from this point, on my return trip I would find that I was half way up to the top when I found the single track.
The line ended at some power lines where there were also some block buildings and towers.
I looked at the tread to try and see tracks from the other riders and get an idea as to which way to go, following a half dozen tracks I crossed under the lines and started down a gravel road.
A few feet down the road and a trail headed off to the west and dropped down the face of a large granite feature. I rode up and looked down, thinking I can take this but when I circled around I found myself taking the easy line that rolled around the edge of the feature, still steep but not down the rock face.
The trail continued as a double track on the other side of the gravel with lines shooting off in, what seemed like all directions. There were a lot of granite rock features in this area and lots of short trails up and over features.
I tried a few simple ones then headed down the line that had the most definition.
Another short technical section then I flew down through a couple of turns to enter a dense midget forest. The trees were all no more than a few feet tall, like I was riding in the land of the giants.
There were lots of options in this area and I found myself backing off on a couple because the drops were somewhat technical, although I think if I had someone with me, I would have taken them on. Riding alone I didn't want to over extend myself.
I also rode past a few where I looked them over and turned around to re-approach and roll over some real sweet granite.
As I was riding around on some of the spur trails, I spotted a guy riding down the double track below me; the double track followed the power line easement that cut through the pine forest and across the hillside.
I decided to head down that way and see if there was a line down there besides the double track.
After I hit the double track, it was only a few feet before I found a single track that headed across the open, exposed area under the power lines.
The power line trail was a nice descending run that followed the terrain, weaving in and out as it traversed the hillside and ran in and out of the woods, to cross the open area again.
The trail was strongly benched and very exposed as it crossed the power line easement.
It was a fast run that took me back into the forest and a junction of three trails that flowed into one main line.
A short run down the main line presented another single track running out across the power line easement again, not as exposed, the hillside that the line traversed was a mild incline.
I stopped and looked across the valley to see another biker, two dogs racing at his back wheel as he screamed across the face of the exposed hillside.
The line I was following ran in and out of the terrain, following the contour of the hillside as it descended at a quick pace.
The hillside along here was sparsely populated with large pine trees and almost no underbrush, the city of Spokane the backdrop to the descent.
I passed a couple of trails that dropped down the hillside, one of which was the first signed trail I had seen, Rabid Rabbit, a signed and designated blue line.
The trail ended in an area of signed and designated trails, some blue and some black; the trail I had been riding was called Dans and was a blue trail.
I checked out the area, lots of granite rock with big rolls and drops and at least four trails either starting or ending here.
I took a quick shot down one of the blue trails called Upchuck, seemed like something I might like to ride. It was actually a mellow ride with a couple of simple granite rock rolls.
I made my way back to the central area, an area of very large granite formations with some manmade enhancements.
I had told my wife I would be back in a couple of hours and after checking the time I headed back down Dans line to retrace my route back.
There is a fire road that seems to run across the top of the hill and the trails wander off and back to that road.
Dans trail returned to the fire road and I was back at the junction of the three trails where I had ended after crossing the exposed power easement.
My choices here were to backtrack on the power easement trail, climb up a very steep straight up fire road, or to take the other single track that lay between the two.
The other single track turned out to be a good climbing trail. Plenty of switchbacks and straight sections that kept me in a low mid range gear to crank my way up the hillside until the trail intersected the fire road again.
I surprised a couple of hikers as I popped out of the woods onto the fire road, kept cranking and in a few minutes found the trail I had ridden when I crossed the fire road earlier.
It is a steep climb but I ground it out, stopping a couple of times to catch my breath before taking on one of the rock features I had ridden over on the descent.
I cleared the climb but did have to take the alternate route around a couple of the large granite features.
The trail runs up on top of the hill, lots of interval and technical climbing can be had, or there are optional routes that just supply a crank it out type of climb. I enjoyed some of the interval and technical stuff.
After reaching the power lines at the top of the hill there was a long descent down the switchback trail.
If you negate the fact you are sitting under high tension power lines, the view from here was great.
The descent started by rolling over a small granite dome, not a high one but an easy smooth roll onto a single track.
The track ran across the side of the hill and turned to start a rut filled descent for the first few hundred feet.
The line swooped back and forth as it presented small gardens of rumbling rocky sections.
Traversing the open hillside, the line swooped into a banked corner to turn a hundred and eight degrees and serpentine across the hill to the next corner, the edges of each corner dug in to form a berm.
This line repeated over and over through a dozen or so corners with a few nice rock slabs in the line.
The trail flattened out and offered a short climb before the next section of the descent.
I had been chasing a couple young of riders down the trail and they stopped here to let me pass.
The trail crossed over a double track, which is where I had picked it up on the climb.
I rode out over the end of ridge where the line started to descend at a steeper angle, a faster pace with a couple of quick corners.
The terrain not as open, more trees to swoop through as the trail steadily dropped down the hillside.
I continued to descend, slowing up a couple of times for riders pedaling up the hill, until I hit a couple of water bars and the trail turned to meander through the pine forest.
Even though the trail had flattened out a lot, I maintained a nice fast pace, cranking and gliding along over rocky sections and attacking every boulder on the line.
I followed this nice rolling section of track until it broke out of the woods into a clearing and the trail split.
I knew I had to be close to the end of the trail, I had read that there was a line that started at the south east corner of the golf course.
The route I had come up was on double track and it seemed to me that if I took the line that climbed up over the near ridge I would probably find my ascent route, which I did.
As I sat on top of the ridgeline I could see the golf course just a hundred feet from the trail.
I turned to head down the double track and back to the pavement so I could ride down the road and back to the John C Shields Park when I spotted a creature, sitting on top of a rock.
I don't know what kind of animal it was but I think it was a marmot; a dark brown, very furry creature that was about two feet long with a large bushy tail.
We both stood, frozen in our movement. I so I could watch him, he just alerted to the presence of a stranger.
After a thirty second interval, he scampered over the edge of some granite boulders and disappeared.
I kicked off and descended down the road to turn off and ride a rough line back down the hill and into Minnehaha Park.
Late last year, Paul Norris told me that Melanie and he would be doing the 24 hour race and asked if I would be their volunteer. The race organizer required that each team provide a volunteer for four hours. The volunteer would be able to pick their work assignment based on how early the team registered. Since Paul registered very early on, I was in the group A and was able to get a good time, 8:00am to 12:00 noon.
The thing I realized right after picking this time was that I would be at my assigned task until the race ended because they raced up until noon but if a team started a lap at 11:59 then they would be able to continue to complete the lap which could bring in the last rider as late as 1:30pm.
Ann and I decided we would tent camp and packed everything into a rental car (for reliability, then after parking it for two days when I went to start it the battery was dead and I had to get a jump) and headed for Spokane on Thursday the 24th of May.
We were a day early for the race, they would not allow teams in to set up until Friday morning so we got a place to stay at Northern Quest Resort and Casino, which is another story. Safe to say that it was the most lavish hotel room I have ever been in and the price was very reasonable considering.
Next day we set up camp and I was ready to ride some trail by noon.
Paul had been in town for a couple of days, visiting a friend (Clayton) and riding some trails. Clayton had some business to take care of but would be back around four to lead a ride on some of the local trail in the area.
As the day wore on, the arrival of the 900 entries and their supporting crews increased turning the small field into a small community.
The other teams in our group from Growlers Gulch showed up, there was a five man team, the AARP Chapter - Growlers Gulch, that was made up of Jim and Dave LeMonds, Bob Horness, Lance Brigman, and Ryan McMaster. The four man team of John Kowalski, Miles Olin, Greg Ogden, and Kevin Knorr with the team name of the Bushwhackers. A two woman team BikeRay USA, Juntu Capistrano Oberg and Dara Hartman and the final team was a solo team of Denise Livingston.
The teams were supported by Jeff Muldoon (master bike mechanic for Juntu and Dara but was mechanicing for anyone who needed help), Shane Oberg (volunteer), myself (volunteer) and my wife Ann (who ended up in the camp cook roll).
Clayton showed up a little after four and a group of us went on a ride.
Paul made a point of telling Clayton that we were looking to just turn cranks and our intent was to keep the pace down.
As soon as we rode out of camp I could see that was not happening. Clayton took off up the hill with Bob and Lance right on his wheel. Now neither Bob nor Lance have a slow mode, so every time Clayton looked over his shoulder, ether Bob or Lance was grinning back at him and he would pick up the pace a little until we were all cranking hard, I had almost run out of gears.
Cranking as hard and fast as we could, jumping up out of the saddle for short climbs and slamming down through the gears when we saw the couple of extended climbs pop up in the trail.
Paul repeated a couple of times to the group, Clayton is not riding in the race tomorrow...all to no avail as we hammered out some great single track.
Most of the ride seemed to be on trail 25 in the Riverside Park trail system. There seemed to be a lot of little connector trails running through the woods. Clayton led us out through connector trails until we hit trail 25 and followed that to a point where we hit gravel.
We turned off the trail to follow the gravel road down across a creek and back up around a hill to where trail 25 crossed the road again.
We turned back onto single track to follow this line back to where we had turned onto the road.
The trail was good single track with lots of half buried round rock poking up out of the ground, commonly referred to as baby heads. It climbed at a moderate rate, giving short breaks with little flat and downhill sections before climbing again.
We were probably somewhere around two thousand feet in elevation. The tread along here varied from dirt to rumbling sections of rock and started off with a nice single track running through a field that was sparsely populated with pine and dotted with black and gray boulders strewn across the landscape.
The trail wound around the mountain, flowing through sections of timber and open field. There were some great views of the valleys below and mountain silhouettes stretching off across the horizon.
There was one little section of hike a bike up a very rocky rough and steep section to where the trail turned and ran through the open understory of grass and white flowering brush. The tread mostly smooth single track, covered in pine needles but the short rock and rumble sections highlighted the fast line.
We followed the nice single track that led to a set of switchbacks. The switchbacks were tight with a solid dirt tread; there were six switchbacks that had me out of the saddle and back over the wheel as I negotiated each one.
At the bottom of the switchbacks the trail diverged and we took the line that went right to descend a bit through the trees and crossed a large rock field, a flow of lava boulders.
The descent picked up speed as the grade increased, we followed the track through the timber and around the hill to make another turn at a trail junction, again going right.
We were now on a fast paced decent as we rounded a corner to turn and traverse across an exposed line. It was a tight line that dropped away radically on the left and forced your focus to the trail as we continued dropping to round a couple more switchbacks before the trail dumped us at the edge of a dry creek bed.
A wide sandy creek bed filled with large boulders, some up to a couple feet wide. We carried our bikes across to a very steep bank. The climb up the bank was made with my bike in one hand and my other hand searching for a purchase on any root or rock within grasp until Paul reached down and grabbed my bike.
The trail was a steep ascent though a short climb, doable in low gears up and back to the point where we had turned onto gravel on our ride out.
We returned the way we had came up with one diversion that looped around through the pine forest.
Saturday and the race would start at noon.
I decided to take a lap and see what the teams where setting themselves up for.
The start took off up a moderate grade, this would also be the route taken in the Le Mans start. The first leg riders would run up this climb, to turn and run down along a narrow single track descent then loop back around to the staring area and grab their bikes.
Once I reached the top the trail was a double track. The track runs through very young pine trees, seven to eight feet tall. I followed the double track for a couple of minutes before it turned into the woods.
The next couple of miles were double track with a very small piece of single track, the opportune spot for passing other riders.
Then the trail hit a section of single track that started with a short challenging rock garden climb up a low grade slope to be followed with another couple of miles of single track running through a forest made up of large pine trees.
The trail route takes an upward turn, on a section called I Wanna Take You Higher. The map calls it a five minute hill. I shifted to my lowest gear and spun my way to the top in five minutes and thirty seconds.
The top of the climb ended at a gravel road with the single track running alongside, on the left side.
There was a great panoramic view from the top but I am sure it was lost on most riders.
The track was bouncy, not big bouncing but small bumps that mad the ride uncomfortable for this short section.
The gravel road turned away from the single track, and the single track turned into a very fast double track.
A little over a mile on the smooth double track and the tread turns rocky, still a double track a climb up a steep short section called Devil's Up, a short climb that ended with a very steep ten feet of climbing. This spot pulled me from my bike to hike a few steps then get on and continue on a low grade rocky climb.
A half mile later the trail presents the Devil's Down, with an optional route called Angels Down.
Devil's Down was a steep rock and rubble descent. I picked the right hand side to drop down through a nice chunky section but ended up drifting left about half way down and followed the established line to the bottom.
All the teams from Growlers Gulch said that they took the left line from the start. And by the end of the race lots of loose stuff had been kicked down the hill and the bottom was getting a little sketchy with loose duff.
The line turned to run for a mile across the Strawberry Fields Forever section, a flat run on double track across a plateau that was surrounded by high cliff walls to the right and the Spokane River far off to the left.
Another turn downhill and the track descends even more to switchback and head in the direction of the river.
Three quarters of a mile further and the trail crosses a paved road to run up on a ridge above the Spokane River.
The line runs along the ridge above the river, through a stand of small pine trees. It is a wide single track with a gravel and rock tread.
The trail soon descends to a wide flat above the river and the line moves back from the river's edge to run through a pine forest.
After about a half mile the trail turns away from the river and climbs, traversing the hillside on a moderate, low to midrange gear climb to gain the paved road.
Some years the trail will follow the riverside down through an area called Little Vietnam but this year the water is high and that area is submerged.
It could be a fast run down the road but the wind was blowing up the road so the downhill run was negated for me on my run. This is where some of the riders took advantage of the opportunity to draft on faster riders and gain some time and speed and conserve energy.
A mile later the end of the pavement turned the trail back into single and double track mixed through a couple more colorfully named places, Purple Haze and Piece of My Heart.
This section seemed to have the most single track per mile of course, with one short bit of single track that ran the line right down the top of a buried foundation wall from an old CCC building.
The trail was a mix of smooth double track, single track and lots of rock and rumble over a mostly flat course, one short easy climb up a double track to a low ridge.
After just over two and a half miles, check point four is sitting in a clear area on a pipeline right of way. There was a short but very steep climb where when I was working as a volunteer, I observed at least 4 people eat it. It was very interesting to see the level of power by each rider, some just stopping and dismounting, most taking the right hand route, which was to drop to the lowest gear and climb up a short steep, following the line running right next to the brush, almost like a switchback. Then the strong riders that attacked the hill straight on, always in a mid range gear and just powering through.
As a checkpoint volunteer I noticed this spot had lots of strong riders passing on the hill climb.
After gaining the top of the short climb the trail took a turn into the woods and back onto single track with more rock garden features and a few swells to cross.
Next the trail runs down a short piece of double track to take a sharp turn and gain the top of a very low ridge, more of a berm than a ridge. Following this line along the top of the berm to the end where it drops down to swoop about four times back and forth through a wide ditch, probably the most fun part of the whole trail (although I don't think anyone had fun on their mind when they came through here).
A little bit more single track running through a dense patch of small pine trees, then the trail turns back onto the last bit of double track and the last climb of the loop.
I think that almost everyone was caught by the last large climb, coming down single track to round a corner and be presented with a rocky double track climb. It caught me in a high midrange gear and I just did a turnaround circle to get positioned to shift down before making the climb, but I am sure that riders in the race were not afforded that opportunity and ether ended up off the bike to shift down or shifting under power, the rattling banging down shift that is so hard on the gears and drive train, hammering the gears and stretching the drive chain.
The last climb was not a long climb but just steep enough that taking it in a mid range was beyond most riders.
The climb put you up on a ridge with a flat out double track run to pick up speed and start the final run back to the timing tent. This is where the trail, after a short down, takes a turn past checkpoint three. A place where the trail runs up against itself, one side of the yellow ribbon near the beginning of the trail, the other side of the ribbon near the end of the trail.
This is the place where one of the riders on the AARP Chapter - Growlers Gulch team went to the left side of the yellow guide ribbon and ended up back at the beginning of the course, just a quarter of the way in. Not realizing he had went left when he should have gone right he ended up riding back around through the three checkpoints one more time. That made for a very long lap and some anxious team mates back at the timing tent. He said, and I paraphrase "I had my head down and when I looked up the ribbon was in front of me, I went to the left side of it and didn't know I had gotten off track until later".
It is a fast cruising descent down and around a few more double track corners to break into the finish line sprint with lots of speed. Almost all of the riders came screaming up to the dismount bar to hop off their bike and duck under the bar just in time, run to the table and swipe their wrist band so they could make the hand off to their riding partner, or start their next solo lap, like Denise Livingstone or do a double lap like Juntu and Dara.
The riders ran the course all night long, I felt almost bad as I laid there in my nice warm sleeping bag and listened to them moaning and groaning about the course and cold conditions that the night brought with it (it got down to 35 deg and some riders did not have full finger gloves).
Although none of the Growlers Gulch racers place high enough to podium, they all did a great job, putting it all out there on every lap, I saw a lot of determination and was inspired almost to the point of thinking about doing it myself, hahaha right. It didn't take me long to get over that thought.