Ride Report Archive November 2011
Saturday 11/26/11 - Lucy goes missing.
Barry was going to meet me at the park and ride, 8:00 am so that we could be on the trail by 9:00 am. At a quarter after I got a call and Barry was going to be late. I headed up on my own so we wouldn't leave Bob Stanton waiting.
When I arrived, there was one other car there, Greg Ogden. He was waiting for some friends.
We started the climb up Heart Attack hill just after 9:00. When we hit the top Bob asked where we wanted to ride, I told him that I would like to do Alley Oop.
We started our ride by heading down Mr. T, which parallels the road on the right as you head in. The trail, one of the first built in the system, contains some elementary features. Beginner mountain bikers always find this trail to be somewhat exciting because there are a couple of places that feel very exposed. The line follows the edge of a sharp drop off and can be distracting to new riders.
As Mr. T ends The Big Easy starts, a trail that hits a couple of big rollers to break into a fast descent through a couple of corners and then present you with a short but very steep climb. The first couple of climbs I made up this I kept asking myself why they didn't put in a couple of switchback corners, but after making the climb a few times, you learn it's all about technique and this is a good place to get a little practice in.
Just after making the climb the trail turns to run down hill and hit a series of rollers but this is also where Alley Oop starts. The trail almost obscured from lack of use. If someone doesn't point it out to you, I doubt that you would know it was there.
The line heads away from the road and immediately takes a quick sharp ten foot skidding drop across a root. The trail takes a right turn to follow the edge to the ridge for a short distance then turns and makes a descent into a wide open valley. Just below the Big Easy, the trail meanders back and forth through the broad leaf trees, dropping through a series of plateaus as it descends into the valley.
The trail flows through the center of the valley, coming around a low lying ridge to drop down a steep. An uncontrolled skid for about thirty feet, a light break would work if the ground was not covered in fall leaves and the track was not already loose from the many riders that have also skidded down the steep section.
A relatively flat line crosses a small valley and a turn to head down again as it approaches the edge of another ridge.
Following the edge of a ridge the trail finally turns and makes another quick descent, skidding down a slope to roll over a long swell and turn up hill, to start paying the dues for the ride down in.
A low gear climb that grinds up and across the hill, through the thick carpet of fall leaves until the line takes a turn across the ridge to a quick short descent into a rugged little valley. The trail carved into the hillside, a narrow track with a couple of sketchy spots to negotiate as it gains the next ridge where it turns downhill to ride the crest of the ridge for a quick descent. The descent flows right into the switchback climb out of the valley. I was surprised at how quickly we gained the top and found ourselves back on Big Easy, a three quarter mile loop that cuts out a hundred yards of the road trail.
Back on gravel, we ran into a couple of other riders, Lance Brigman and a friend of his. We fell in behind them to catch the next road trail, one of my favorites. It starts with a short climb that can be done in any gear from low to mid range, then a fast run down through the fir trees to drop over a swell and swoop around a couple of banked corners. The key is speed, as the trail turns and heads for a big banked corner you have to let the bike run. Swoop through the corner and the track presents a very sharp short climb that can be made in a couple of pedal strokes if you keep your speed up.
After gaining the top of the bank, the trail runs swiftly through the timber and drops across a small gorge. The exit will launch you over a root and into a quick turn to rail across some roots and drop down to either exit back onto the road or kick yourself over a big stump, right at the end of the line. I have seen riders clear the stump gracefully and I have seen riders plant themselves on the other side.
We followed gravel out past the blue gate and up to the intersection where we bid farewell to Lance and his friend.
We were going to try the new line, A-Bomb. The trail building day two weeks ago had yielded a couple of new additions to the Growlers trail system. I had walked most of the new trail called The Hog Line, a trail that follows the Arkansas Creek for a couple of miles but had only seen the top of A-Bomb.
We turned off the gravel to start rolling down Bitter Bitch. The new trail started a hundred yards or so down Bitter Bitch. It drops off sharply to the right and swings left to parallel the bitch.
A fast descent at first, not taking in too many features or making too many turns. Descending down the fall line until it turns to cross a small creek where the design changes from open trail structure, where there is no real dirt work to a benched trail that makes a large switchback and starts a descent that runs across the face of the hillside.
Back off my seat, the line is still pretty rough but a great fast downhill run. The trail wanders across the hillside until it drops through a tight little valley. The drop is fast with a small log bridge at the bottom and a quick turn back up hill. This crossing is going to bomb once the trail firms up, but this time the uphill bank was wet and greasy so my progress ended quickly. The little bridge was made up of logs lying parallel to the stream and supported by some structure below that I could not see. A very short bridge that was also very narrow, I just caught the uphill edge of it when I crossed and know that if you missed that you would be doing a face plant.
There had been a lot of bench work along the next section, nice benching with a couple of big tree wells then the trail again breaks into a narrow valley. Another steep descent down and quickly up the other side, wet and greasy, the line will not support the couple of quick pedal strokes to get you back on the descent. But once the line matures it is going to be a real hoot.
The trail flattens out just a little here, a few pedal strokes to clear the series of tree wells. Lots of good dirt work has gone into this section which also features a big log ride.
The line splits with one leg going up onto a large decaying log, a good thirty feet of log ride ends with a sharp decline down a narrow little log bridging the gap between the upper log and another smaller chunk of log laying just a few feet away.
The two lines merge and head down through the woods, with more rollers and swells, with just a little bit of climbing and then the trail merges with the Little Bitch trail.
The Little Bitch tail is a well aged line that runs through a flatter section of terrain. The trail escapes detection in a few places and makes you hunt for it but that will change with use. The trail has been re-routed just before it hits gravel with a barricade of limbs lying across the old line, the new section throws in some quick log overs and big rollers just before it hits gravel.
We landed on the gravel road that is at the bottom of the Growlers trails, the Arkansas Creek is just a few hundred feet down through the woods.
Our next trail was going to be the Hog Line. We cranked our way up the road until we hit the entrance to PMS (Paul and Mels Secret). The Hog Line starts as a spur trail that comes off PMS.
The timber company has been down working the roads in the area, real concern that they will be harvesting soon, and they dumped a load of gravel in front of the entrance to PMS. We got off our bikes and started breaking off limbs to open another access a few feet away. Just as we finished, Barry noticed Lucy was gone.
We all started looking, Barry calling her name, then the question was; when was the last time we saw her? Barry could only recall seeing her at the log ride. I thought I had seen her when we hit the gravel. So after a little discussion we decided to ride up A-Bomb. (hahaha)
The lower part was good, rolling terrain climbing at a steady incline, right up past the log ride and on until we hit the small ravine. Quick descent into it but I could not make my way up the other side. The track was very steep and slick. I ended up circling around and the face of the hillside and making my way up through the brush, carrying my bike.
So the climb came down to grind out what you could in low gear until the tread gave way and you started to slip, then get off and walk the bike until you got to a point where you could ride again. I was off my bike and walking probably eight to ten times.
No Lucy to be found. Barry decided to head back to the car while Bob and I headed on up the hill. It didn't seem like all of us riding back to the car would accomplish anything.
Bob and I ground out he road climb up to Little Sister where we put our tires back on single track. Little Sister is a good, although busy, climb.
Little sister is split by a gravel spur road, and when we hit that, Bob saw a couple of riders down on the main road. Bob hollered and waved a hand, to see the riders turn and ride down toward us.
Bob knew the riders, Michele and Katherine. I think Katherine's boy friend worked at the Highlander bike shop for a while and had quite to go to school. He was home for the holiday and riding with some of his friends. So the girls were out, riding around looking for trails. Bob pointed out that they were headed uphill the same way we were so they could join us if they wanted.
I headed on up the trail with Bob and the girls behind us. Bob stopped to let some air out of their tires since they were having a lot of trouble with slipping on the tread, while I rode on up and waited at the top.
We climbed up the Vortex trail and rode gravel up to the access to Legacy.
At Legacy, Bob wanted to ride the full loop around the mountain, but that part of the trail was so busy that I opted to take the shorter route, most commonly the down route. Michele decided to follow me, so we headed up the hill.
Just after gaining the upper slope, a rider, Jeremy Howard came down the trail. Jeremy was riding alone and asked if he could join us. I rode with Jeremy and Jim LeMonds last week, Jim and I gave him a tour of some of the trails on the slopes just below us. He turned around and rode back to the top with us.
The wind was very strong on the top, so I added another layer, my rain coat.
Bob and Kathrin showed up and we all headed down. The downhill run from Legacy starts with a sweeping long run around the south side of the mountain, to drop off a ridge, straight down an uncontrolled rush and bounce across a bunch of breaking bumps at the bottom. The trail then loops out for a short ways to come back in and cross a steep hillside on a bench. The bottom of the bench run turns out through the clear-cut and crosses to drop across a big roller and head down through a stand of small timber.
We crossed the Legacy access road and started to bomb WTF when Kathrin's tire lost its seal on the rock garden. We tried everything we could think of to get it to seal but with no success. I had a tube but it was a Schrader valve style and her rim was set up for the Presta style tube.
Just as we were talking strategy on how to get down the hill Tom a friend of Chris Laughlin came walking down the trail. Chris and Tom were up here doing some work on the trails and Tom offered to drive her down to the parking area.
With that problem under control, we headed on down the WTF trail.
When we hit gravel again, Bob asked Michele if she wanted to catch Tom and ride down with them in the truck. At that point, I told Bob that Jeremy and I were going to head on down.
Last fall when we put the Vortex trail in, the tread was slick and many areas were hard to climb and a little sketchy on the descent. Since then it has aged just enough to become a screamer. It was my preferred trail for both ascent and descent to and from the top.
Jeremy and I bombed our way down through Jekyll and Hyde, then on through the upper KMA trails.
I told Jeremy I was going to head on out, I had already been to the bottom of the system and was ready to head back and see what was up with Barry.
As we rode up the gravel, the crew of Jerry and Andrea de Ruyter and friends emerged from the Bitter Bitch trail. Jerry said that Barry was just behind them.
Barry had not found Lucy even though he had ridden back to the car twice and all over the lower trials.
Barry said he left her a note, in the form of his sweaty jersey hanging from a limb down in the woods by the cars. This is an old trick that hunters use when they lose a hound in the woods.
We returned to the parking area and still no Lucy, Barry and I drive our cars back down to the lower trails. Barry was going to leave more scent down where he last recalled seeing her and make one more attempt to find her.
I drove up and down the lower road, honking my horn and calling her name but to no avail.
Barry and his wife Karen came back the next day and Lucy was waiting under the jersey by the parking area.
Video of A-Bomb
Wednesday 11/23/11 - A solo ride at Growlers.
Paul called this morning and said that everyone had bailed on the riding at 11:00.
I needed to get out and turn some cranks so I decided I would go it on my own.
Watching the news this morning, the weather man was saying that the front over us right now would be moving off soon and by this afternoon the weather would start to break, giving us showers. The results differed from the forecast.
I arrived a little later than I would have with the ride group but since I was on my own I could set my own schedule.
There was one vehicle parked by the gate, a new red truck with a bike rack in the back. I didn't recognize the truck.
The rain was coming down steady as I pulled my heavy rain coat on and stepped out of the car. Hunkered over with the rain coat shielding me I pulled on a pair of tights and slid my riding shorts on over them. Quickly exchanging the heavy rain coat for three layers of poly ware, I was almost ready to mount up.
My old biking rain coat has seen better days, it doesn't really stop the rain, but at least it breaks the wind. It is a shell, helping to keep me warm even when I am soaked through.
Dressed and saddled up, I started cranking up the gravel toward the power line hill. I hadn't gotten more than a couple hundred feet when a couple of riders came down the hill and stopped to say hello.
Young guys Scott and Jerry, one of them, Scott had worked with me on the work crew building the Hog Line a couple of weeks ago. He had brought his industrial weed eater and really had an impact on the progress we made that day. Jerry and he said that since the trail build day he had been up three times. They were really cashing in on their investment.
They were both exuberant about the condition of the trails, even though we were on the tail end of three days of solid rain that had accumulated three inches or more of rain fall in that time, the tread for the most part was very firm.
I picked up the road trails. Last Sunday I was here and had ridden with Jim LeMonds and Jeremy Howard. We had run across some quad riders. There was a bit of heated discussion and I was curious to see what kind of damage they had done. The road trails were in good shape, the tread intact and firm.
I rode on out to the Secret Garden, my goal was to remove the fir tree that had fallen across the new line, Plan B.
It took me about fifteen minutes to cut the limbs and hack the tree into three sections that I could handle.
Cruising on down the trail, I removed two more small trees before I hit the bottom of the hill.
The trail ended at a lake, all the runoff from the hillside was pooled at the skidder road. The road itself was half submerged. Free riding around some trees and over a swell I was able to get on the far side of the road and ride down to the Bitter Bitch trail, where I rode through the water using a ratcheting action on my crank so that I didn't get my feet wet. I could hear water running further down the skidder road, it sounded like a small stream.
I climbed the Bitter Bitch trail and came across at least six downed trees. None of them more than a few inches in diameter. All of them appeared to be dead deciduous trees that had fallen in the wind storm the day before.
After making about ten of the fifteen switchbacks on the climb to the top, the line turns and runs to the south, just below a ridge before making the next switchback. I stopped to cut out a couple of small trees that had fallen and after clearing the track I decided to check out the top of the ridge. One of the nice things about riding alone is that if you want to stop and take off through the woods to check something out, you can.
I made my way up the hill, maneuver my way around and through the dense undergrowth of Oregon grape and broad leaf ferns to the top of the ridge. Noting as I did so that there was a bunch of Chanterelles just a few feet away from the trail. As soon as I broke over the ridge line I spotted a trail. I quickly recognized that I was standing just a few hundred feed down from the road on the lower KMA trail.
I made my way back over the ridge and cranked out the rest of the climb back to gravel.
The Carnage trail was clear of down trees and only a few limbs on the track. Just as I was nearing the end of the trail (the start for most people since most ride it in the other direction) I stopped to take a look. I could see a patch of broad leaf trees that ran down the hill toward the Mohan Creek. I knew that was where the greasy mud patch was on the Creek trail; a piece of real estate that needed to be routed around.
While standing there looking over the valley I noticed a jump line just below me. From where I stood it looked like a well established line that someone had invested a lot of work in, there was a big berm just below me and I could see a gap jump just beyond that.
I made my way down over the hill and walked down the jump line, some pretty heavy work had been done. The line was short and I could see where someone had done prep work for more jumps but it just petered out. There was really no start or end, just a big banked berm and a couple of gap jumps.
I decided to finish out my ride by checking Beauty and Belly; I wanted to see if the quad had done any damage there.
I rode the outer line, furthest from the road to the top. The tread was in good shape, the trail across the top was in good shape. I was going to take a run down the slalom but I was starting to feel the cold from being soaked through every inch of clothing that I had on and opted to bomb back down the Belly trail and hit Predator in reverse to try and burn some calories on the climb back out.
Predator was in good shape, except for the small stream it had running through one section.
I had not ridden Predator in this direction since last winter. The climb up from the creek side is solid. A couple of good root steps to negotiate and challenge you. It starts with a short enough yet long enough ascent that I can power through the root steps and drop to a crawl on the dirt so that I maintain a pace to get my up the initial slope to a point where the rest of the climb can be done in a low midrange gearing.
I rolled the rest of Predator and bombed the power line trail to hit the gravel and glide back to the car. And yet another rig, a big truck was parked there. It was getting late so I changed and headed home.
Just pick a line.
After making my ride report for the Saint Helens trails, I received an e-mail from Jim Niece that said that if I wanted a 3 hr tour of the trails to contact him. I replied to his e-mail and through that and phone calls we set a time to meet at the power line gate.
I picked up Bob Horness in Rainer at 8:15 and as we drove up Smith Road, we came across two guys riding bikes up the road. I pulled up and looking at one of the guys asked "are you Jim"? Brad Korpela pointed to Jim and said my name is Brad, after the short introduction we drove on up to the gate.
Our route up would be the same one that we had come down the week before. Brad told us that before the spur road had been put in, they would pack their bikes up through the woods to access the trails. The access from the road is very steep, bike on your shoulder, grasping at vegetation with the other hand as you pull yourself up, kind of steep.
When we hit the short climb up the spur road I was in too high a gear range and was overwhelmed with the climb right from the start, funny it didn't seem that steep coming down.
I finally gave in and stopped to shift gears into low range so that I could climb this thing.
We hit the first of the single track. It was very steep stuff and could not be ridden by any of us, a hike a bike section. As soon as the slope allowed it, I was on my bike and cranking in low range, head down kind of cranking.
The climb from here on was not bad, crossed a spur road from first section and rode some good single track to the next spur road, crossed into the third section and did a good very low gear climb, then down some double track and across the derailleur breaker mine field to finish with a couple more section and one good hard pull up to the clear cut at the top.
After catching our breath we headed down the same double track we had done last week, a little slicker, with some slipping and sliding down across the big water bars towards the bottom.
We followed the same route that Bob, Vaughn and I had done the week before.
At the top of the climb where we had met Ron and Brian, is an area that they call the Tulip. There is a patch of Tulips that pops out every spring alongside the double track.
Jim told us that the single track we had ridden last week was called "No Deposit". Then he asked if we had noticed the bottles stuck on the trees down near the bottom, and we had.
The guys said they were developing a new trail and they would take us over to ride that. Jim said they had found a place along the hillside where the elk and deer had been traveling; they have been using it for so long they had developed a natural bench on the hillside.
We headed off toward the east and picked up a double track that rain along the top of the ridge. A nice easy flow down the double track, quick pace with big rollers, then Jim and Brad turned off the track and onto a rough line, an honest elk trail. As I swung down to pick up the line, I noticed that the tread was very soft and chewed up, like a heard of elk had just been through there.
We followed the elk trail across the face of the steep hillside to a point where both guys turned down hill and just rode through the woods across soft forest detritus, no trail just free riding down a very steep hillside.
Next thing I see is Bob going over the handlebars as he started down the hill. I put on my breaks and the back of my bike slid sideways as I put down a foot and skid along until I came to a stop. Bob picked up his bike and walked it down the hill; I followed.
We turned and started back across the hillside, as Brad put it "Just follow the 2.4 inch line" and that was just about how wide the trail was. The route was again an elk track that ran horizontal across the steep hillside, a fairly level grade running from tree to stump to tree. The hillside was such that in some places I found myself sticking my foot out and pushing like a scooter to propel myself through a section where I was concerned with making pedal strikes.
We made another turn to run free riding down the hill, this time I was able to stay on and make it to the bottom, where we bounced through a ditch onto a gravel road.
Bob stopped and said his front fork was not rebounding, it had failed and was probably the reason he went over the bars up above, every time he hit something it would dive and not rebound.
I know that I won't be able to keep all the trails and their names in the correct order or even remember all of them, because by now I was already just about lost. I had a general idea as to where I was, Jim told us we were just four miles from the Deer Island store.
We rode gravel for a ways then I think we picked up a trail called "Up and Over", a climb up and over a ridge line. The climb from this side was pretty short with a couple of switchbacks. It dropped down the other side through a series of very sharp switchbacks and side hill trail, a well developed line.
That led us over to "Swamp Thing". Jim pointed out that a lot of their trails had been poached by quads, and what used to be a nice single track was now this wide, as he lifted his arms and spread them as wide as they would go.
It was easy to see why "Swamp Thing" was called swamp thing. The line ran across a flat area where there were lots of little swales filled with muck or muddy slimy goo that had the wheels spinning and sliding with little side slips as you bounced through. There were some old two by four bridges rotted away and broken down in a couple of the smaller depressions.
We followed an old single track converted to quad line up and out, of the swamp area. There were a few log over crossings on the climb out that made it a little difficult for the uninitiated. Bob bit it on a couple of them because of the failed fork.
Another quick run down through the trees to where the trail swings around and crosses itself to climb up through an area where the guys have named the trail "Bear Bait", since a "hunter" had hung garbage bags with rotting meat in them to attract bears. There was a black garbage bag hanging in a tree next to the trail where it intersected the road, but I didn't smell anything.
We crossed a gravel road and did some more climbing until we hit a screaming descent. I didn't get the name unless it was what Jim hollered as we turned downhill "Drop In Bro" or something to that effect.
The line made a swooping descent around a tree then turned radically downhill. Another spot where Bob bit it, he went over the handlebars and got his leg wedged between the front fork and the frame, could have been serious but like some many other times he popped back up and hit it again. Unlike so many other times, he did say "that hurt". Later he commented that his knee was bothering him when he compressed it.
We climbed back out of the area we were in to hit gravel, crossed over the road and went back up and over on "Up and Over". The climb from this side had probably eight switchbacks, a couple of which were very tight and hard to make, leaning into a tree on one and just plain could not make the other. It was a solid climb that I found myself doing in the small ring gear but about the third sprocket gear. That gearing had me huffing and puffing across the hillside but giving me enough torque to rail most of the switchbacks.
We hit gravel and headed up the road for a climb back to the top, to tulip.
We turned back into the woods on the trail we had rode up on when Bob picked up a very large stick that crammed his derailleur into his wheel. It did not break anything but the derailleur was wedged between a couple of spokes and took a bit of fretting to get it free. The derailleur hanger had been bent so the first few times Bob tried to shift into low gear, it over shot the sprocket and became wedged between the spokes and cassette. But after a little tweaking, he finally got it re-aligned.
The ride out was very much like it was last week except I baulked even more at the final descent. The last few feet where the line runs past or over the ladder drop. The tread a little greasier this day as compared to last week and had me hedging my bets, playing the 10 foot rule (walk this ten feet and keep riding throughout the year)
I want to thank Jim and Brad for their patience and for showing us a good time. Great ride, can't speak for poor Bob who lost count of how many times he went over the handlebars or ditched it crossing a log over (his stock in trade). I know Bob was beat by the time we got back to the car.
The Search for New Trails.
While riding with Bob Horness on Wednesday, he told me that he had met a guy that knew of some trails over by Saint Helens, Oregon. The guy was going to show Bob around but bailed.
So on Thursday, Bob, Vaughn Martin, and myself went over to the area to take a look around and see what we could find.
When we hit the outskirts of Saint Helens, we turned onto A Street which turns into Smith Rd.
Bob thought the access to the trails was around some power lines, or on a power line access. The key was to look for power lines.
We passed two gated access points before spotting a guy walking some dogs. Bob pulled over and talked to the guy.
He told Bob that there was an access road that ran all the way to Deer Island and the trails were down by the blue gate on that road.
We mounted up and headed in past the gate. With Bob in the lead, we rode a double track, taking the right hand track at any intersections and we were soon at a dead end. We backtracked to the last intersection where we started a steep descent. The track was becoming thinner. As we descended down the hill I noticed lots of blackberry brush, the tendrils creeping out across the track became more plentiful the deeper we went.
Soon the trail became more primitive. We made our way across a creek and after climbing up out of the valley on the other side. Carrying our bikes, following deer and elk trails until there was not a line to follow, we decided to head back to the cars, to drive back down Smith Road and see if we could not find the Power Lines.
We headed back down Smith Road until we saw the power lines. Going up the hill we had driven under them but had not noticed, coming down the hill they were very visible.
There was a path around the gate that looked like it was made by bikes and we felt confident that we had found it.
We rode up a rocky road that climbed at a steady rate. There was a spur road just a few feet up from the gate and I noticed a few bike tracks in the mud. We chose to climb the main road until we reached the top of the hill.
There was another spur road running off into the woods at the top of the ridge, we could either ride down through a valley and up the other side or take the spur and see if there was a single track in the woods; we took the spur.
We found a single track that ran through a narrow clear cut. Like crossing a mine field full of derailleur breakers, the line crossed over piles of broken up limbs.
Finally on single track the line crossed another small road then climbed up through the small timber to exit out onto a logging landing that sat high on the ridge.
The view from the ridge was spectacular on this cool clear sunny day in late fall, where the sun hangs low in the southern sky at noon. Another month and it will reach the equinox and winter will be fully on us. The Columbia River stretched away toward the town of Longview off in the distance, Kalama just down the river from us and Woodland directly across the river. The far shore covered with trees and undergrowth except for a single rectangle of order in the chaos. A postage stamp sized block, from our position high on the ridge, an RV camp. It was a cookie cutter arrangement of gravel rectangles separated by green blocks of grass each with a picnic table and a naked shade tree standing in a splotchy orange circle.
Two major peaks of the Cascade Range, Mt Saint Helens and Mt Adams, sparkling white with a fresh coat of snow, were standing right in front of us.
After a short break we headed across the landing, and following some tire tracks found an opening on the far side.
The line was a narrow overgrown double track that after a few feet made a turn downhill. The descent straight down but with lots of big water bars. The double track followed the line of the ridge which fell off sharply to the right.
At the bottom of the descent we spotted a single track a on the edge of the ridgeline. At this point we were intersecting it in the middle and decided to follow it back uphill. It crossed the double track about a third of the way up, the line was a little rugged but clearly visible, even being covered with fall leaves.
The trail traversed the hillside, picking a line that leveraged the natural features of the tree wells and plateaus until we hit a thinning area. There had been a thinning operation and the hillside was covered with debris. The line obliterated, a spot over behind a stump some twenty feet away marked where the trail once was but the thinning operation went on as far as I could see so we turned back.
We followed the trail back over the double track and down to the bottom of the run on top of the ridge line, taking the course that led up the other side of the valley, the trail ran along the edge of the ridge as it climbed.
There were lots of natural features to negotiate as we climbed the steep hillside.
Bob was leading, with me just trying to keep his back tire in sight and Vaughn sweeping the small crew. We stopped for a second to catch our breath as the line broke on to the flat on top of the ridge, when we heard somebody coming up the trail behind us.
The two guys, Ron and Brian stopped when we greeted them with our pleas for trail guidance. They told us that they were on their lunch break and rode the trails up here a couple of times a week. Following their lead we headed across the ridge until the trail exited onto a gravel double track.
Brian pointed up the road at a double track and told us that was the same one we had ridden down on the other side of the valley. He said there is a real nice single track just around the corner, as he pointed off toward the west. With hand gestures, drawing lines in the air Brian explained that the single track had some steep stuff and there was an intersection down at the bottom and keeping to the right would bring us back to the road and a climb back up to this point. But that if we went on down the other line it too would eventually lead back to the road, which again we could follow back to this point.
The entrance to the trail was not obvious and had a tough approach. Bob took a shot and missed, Vaughn and I walked it in. The track was well established, which you never would have guessed by looking at the entrance.
We rode through the woods on a somewhat level route with a few technical log over, wells and roots until we made a turn down a very steep descent. I dropped my seat quickly as the line turned down, my breaks rumbling with a frequency that alternated between a humming, buzzing sound and a purr as I maintained a steady pressure on the levers. I was focusing on the line to maintain a non skidding controlled descent.
Dropping quickly down the slope the line jogged back and forth between trees and stumps to turn across the hillside for a few feet then return to the steep almost uncontrollable descent.
The trail almost leveled off as it traversed the hillside to turn again and drop. The line not as radical as before, the descent breaks once more across the hillside before making the final drop and presenting us with a trail junction.
We make a right turn and follow the track through the deep forest across the rolling terrain to cross a small creek, where the approach was a short steep drop of a few feet. Bob dropped to land hard on both wheels as he straddled the creek, unable to mount the other steep embankment. Both Vaughn and I chose to carry our bikes across.
A wandering line, the trail finally emerged on a rough double track, just as Brian had indicated. We followed the double track uphill to a gravel road and followed that to a gate. The gate was a rusty brown color on one side and a well faded blue on the other side. Bob had heard talk of a blue gate.
We climbed the gravel road at a steady rate, grinding out a cadence in low gear, paying the price in sweat for the exciting downhill run we had just completed.
Back where we left Brian and Ron, we retraced our route back down the ridge, a very good swift run. The line weaving in and out of the timber as it skirts the edge of the ridge.
The double track back to the top was the steepest stuff we had seen all day, I had good grip on the moist dirt surface which I was sure would be impossible to climb if it was wet. The climb, at one point, had me lowering my seat to lower my center of gravity, getting as low as I could, to lean in and crank. My weight shifted up on the saddle, the front tire just kissing the ground as I turned the bars back and forth doing the climbing dance as I cranked up a very short section with a half dozen large water bars.
A few seconds later, I popped my seat back up, not missing a pedal stroke, and cranked out the rest of the climb to break over the top and roll out onto the logging landing.
We took one more look at the view and headed down the rough single track we had found on the climb up.
When we reached the spur road we came in on, we decided to follow the track further and see if it led back to the gate where we had parked the cars, confident that if it did not break over the ridge to the east we would stay on course.
Soon the track became real single track, as the spur road ended and we started descending down a steep slope through the timber. This was a good line for the descent but would be rather difficult for the climb but could probably be climbed.
We crossed another spur road and the track took an even steeper descent. One of those lines where you had to ride with your weight as far back as you can get, the line so steep that riding was the only way down because you could not maintain your footing on that steep of a trail. The trail ended with one final steep, next to a ladder drop to another spur road.
The spur looked like the way out but there was a faint trail on the other side, I followed it just long enough to see it was too steep and covered with broad leafs that would never hold, a suicide ride that, after riding down the spur road and out onto the main road, I saw had a six foot drop to the gravel.
We hit three trail systems in Seattle.
I met Paul Norris at 7:30 in Kalama, we fueled up and headed for Seattle. 9:40 found us at Fred Schmidt's house and in just a few minutes we were headed down the hill to the Colonnade.
The Colonnade is a bike park and skills area built under one of the Seattle freeways. Completely covered the area is always dry and dusty.
When we arrived there was no one there. We hit the pump track for a few rounds to warm up then looked over the map and headed down sidewinder, a set of switchbacks to the lower beginner skills area. The switchbacks were very tight turns with cinder brick pavers in the corners, laid out on an angled radius that I had a hard time committing to.
At the bottom there were a series of raised features, a small but steep rock garden, a couple of small slatted bridge structures and a semicircular plank platform.
We rode all the features in the lower area then headed up above to another area called the Limestone Loop. It looks like a maze of trails all switch backing down the steep hillside. It turns out to be one single line that goes all the way to the bottom then runs back up to the starting point, but I think that most people would ride either one or the other side down.
Within this serpentine trail of switch backs are scattered numerous features; such as log rides, bridges, teeter totters, and rock step ups.
We finally turned our attention to the big stuff at the southern end of the skills area, just to take a look at the features.
We all rode one of the features, called Nicks Kicks. A wooden bridge structure that had a drop off one side but could be rolled on the other; our choice. It flowed down over a few large rollers that with speed could probably be jumped then to a big vertical up onto a drop. That also had an optional out that dumped us in an area with ramps that were practice drops. Each drop was progressively larger. I rode the small one a couple of times.
Down below all of this was an area called the cyclone. The cyclone was a wooden structure. Wooden slats probably four to six feet long fastened to a frame that mimicked mounds so the track undulated up and down, like riding a section of roller coaster. We passed on this and headed for our next stop Finn Hill/Saint Edwards State Park.
As we turned into the entrance to Saint Edwards state park we were greeted with the dreaded Discover Pass Required notification. We turned around and left the park to park our rig across the street in a grocery store parking lot.
There was an undeveloped trail head directly across the highway from the store parking lot that led us into Finn Hill.
Finn Hill was a fun ride, lots of meandering single track that wandered around through thick foliage with lots of log over options on the trails. We followed a line that dropped quickly, with a few light banked corners and a big roller, down into a low area. From there we climbed up to find the southern boundary of the park, where we turned around and rail back down.
Finishing the Finn Hill portion of this ride by climbing a short easy climb and follow a line that brings us around full circle to the trail we came in on.
Crossing back over the highway and into Saint Edwards state park, we followed a meandering line that took us over to the Big Gully.
The Big Gully was a fast descent down a steep grade, to rocket through the natural radius at the bottom and shoot up the other side. The key here was to have your bike in the right gear for catching the half dozen pedal strokes required to gain the high ground on the other side.
There were two tracks up the far side, the line to the left topped out with a log over and the line at the right did not. After hitting the top there was a left turn to hit a second crossing that would put you back on the other side just a few feet away from where you had started.
This was a place you could keep repeating over and over until you were tired of doing screaming loop de loops.
The main trail took us over to cross another road and put us back where we had entered the park. We rode one more large loop here; a fast descent down a straight line with numerous log overs and a slick root and mud climb back out of a valley.
On to Duthie! We took off toward Duthie with a quick stop at a taqueria truck parked behind a stop and shop where we had some little tacos for a buck a piece. Now that was a dollar menu worth the buck.
Duthie Hill is located in Issaquah, just 20 minutes east of Seattle off I90. The park is dedicated to mountain biking in all forms. There are huckin big air, flow, and cross country trails.
We arrived to find the parking lot full so we drove up the road and parked in the suggested overflow parking area, about a half mile away.
The ride in starts with a long wide bridge that serpentines over a wet area into the center of the trail system.
All the trails start from a central point. This area has a number of features, a pump track, some practice drops, and log rides.
Our first trail was called Bootcamp. An easy trail that was almost as much fun to climb as it was to descend.
The trail starts with at least three elevated ladders next to the trail. The riders having the option to ride the ladder bridges or the trail, all the free ride sections are low to the ground but do provide a simple challenge.
The theme seems to be flow. All the corners are banked, both on the climb and the descent.
There are a number of log rides on the top of the ridge, all with good approach and exit to and from large wide logs. There is one very large log at the top of the trail which has an easy approach for a log ride that takes off and parallels the trail. The trail makes a turn and crosses the log through a section that has been cut down to about half the logs height. The cut is a long sloping cut that allows the log ride to continue as it crosses the trail and curves around to return to the trail.
The return line was fast, swooping down through the timber on a line that just kept turning back and forth from one wide radius corner to the next. I noticed that most of the banked corners have been built with a slatted board drain in the low spot, the boards aligned with the angle of the corner so they do not affect the flow.
After returning to the commons area we hit a very short track with some big rollers that are designed for beginning hucksters.
A return to the top of the free ride area where we picked up a flow trail, I think it was called Jabulani it was filled with very large banked corners and jumps that could be easily rolled. A super fast section that drew lots of young riders learning the skills required to move on to the big stuff. We rode the line twice and both times caught up to some of the young riders.
The next trail, I think was Movin' On but am not sure. Short ways up the trail and we had to take a mushroom break to pick some Zeller's Bolete.
There were a number of features on either side of the trail, ranging from skinny's to elevated ladders with rollouts or drops.
At one point along the trail there is a spur trail that was called Cuss Hollow; I think the name came from the climb back out not the steps and sharp switchbacks going in. There was one corner on the way out that had a 4x4 plated on the corner where both Fred and I ended up falling into it, almost like it was by design.
Toward the end of the trail there were a couple of roller coaster rides; I hit the first one because the height of the humps was only a couple of feet, the second one was about twice that and I rode around it.
Finally we rode up to do a trail called Ryan's Eternal Flow. The trail is dedicated to Ryan Pringle; this web page on the Evergreen Mountain Biking Alliance explains the dedication.
The trail starts with a drop-in from a wooden platform or a ride in just below the platform. We rode the trail three times and always used the ride in option.
A very exciting free ride flow trail, it starts with a couple of very large banked turns that are separated by a jump that can be rolled. The line drops quickly through a small ravine and guides you over a small drop, followed by a larger drop, then a quick traversing trail that maintains a constant flow around a ridge on a banked cedar plank bridge.
The line drops off the other side of the ridge to plunge down around a couple of corners and then drop vertically through the bottom of a valley, launching you back up the other side.
A couple of pedal strokes and a sharp turn presents another vertical drop driving you through a gully and back up a shear cinder block face to literally pop up over the top on the shoulder of a ridge where the trail makes a 120 degree turn and dumps you back into another vertical descent.
Once again a couple of pedal strokes at the top of the trail as it turns and drops across a log, the log hardly noticeable because you feel like you're in a free fall plunging toward the next sling shot effect at the bottom of the gully, launching you back up to take one more turn and drop back into the valley where the trail presents an option of hitting a big drop feature or turning and railing a ladder bridge to pick up the line as it levels out a bit.
A short ride down the trail to a quick climb up a cinder block incline to a turn into a short drop down and around a turn into another drop, then the line starts to level off as it winds down through the thick lush understory to circumvent a small ridge on another banked cedar plank bridge and exit to a junction with the Step It Up and Duthie Hill trails.
The whole screaming roller coaster of a ride takes all of two and a half minutes.
We were so stoked, that we immediately turned up the Duthie Hill trail and headed back through the commons area to climb back to the top of Ryan's Eternal Flow.
We rode Ryan's Eternal Flow three times. By the third time it seemed that this trail could be ridden without the use of your brakes. It is just so hard not to at least touch your brake lever as the trail presents those vertical drops but the flow is so well laid out that by the time you reach the top of the line on the opposite side, you would coast around the corner and drop again.
After the second run we took the Step It Up trail to climb back to the top. A good climbing trail, laid out like all the trails here, to take advantage of the terrain and make the climb almost as good as the descent. Video of Ryan's Eternal Flow