Sugarloaf Peak – all snowed in

I wanted to see if I could peakbag Sugarloaf. As I found out on my ride last weekend, the Fish Lake SnoPark is a bit too far away for doing this as a day trip for me, so the next best approach appeared to be from Deer Creek Road. There are a couple small parking lots plowed for vehicles along the 7520 Rd., and I parked right at the intersection. A lot of snowmobilers were going up and down in the first mile, so many actually that I almost thought of turning around; the stench of the engines was just awful.

But, after that initial busy-ness, I had the road all to myself for the next hour or so. It’s so peaceful to ride on a snowed-in road, and snow makes everything look so pretty and clean.

It was snowing all day and I almost chocked on a big fat snowflake. That was silly – it melted and I didn’t even have to cough. My thick woolie baselayer kept me warm enough, even though it was soaked and covered with snow. It seems to be the ticket down to 25 F while climbing at a snails pace.

Heading up the Entiat Summit Rd.

Heading up the Entiat Summit Rd.

Sugarloaf Peak! Almost there.

Sugarloaf Peak! Almost there.

I had to walk the last mile – the snow was getting soft and thick. A group of ‘bilers arrived just before me and wanted to take my picture. That’s the second time in 2 weeks; I seem to be quite the attraction out there on the trails. Many people would stop for a quick chat or gave me a thumbs up.

Sugarloaf Peak lookout.

Sugarloaf Peak lookout.

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The snowmobilers up at the top told me of all the views that one would have on a clear day. I need to come back here! After the obligatory peak shot and my last cookie, I spent 10 minutes in the outhouse trying to come up with the best way to switch up my clothing layers. In the end, I just put the fleece pullover over my wet woolie, and then the thin wet jacket, covered all with a windbreaker. For bikepacking, the wet baselayer on the bottom would have been a bad idea as my fleeze was damp after a while, too. I added a backlava and pulled the hood over that. Finally, big puffy mittens went on my ice cold hands and I was ready for the descent. After laughing and sliding for the first mile down, I let some more air out and was on my merry way. I’ve never heard of anyone riding with 2 psi, but that’s what my digital gauge tells me I have in the front and rear tires. It seems to do the trick. With still an hour before sunset, the ride down was incredible. All the hard work going up paid off: coasting, riding bumps, sliding, pedalling some, watching snow-covered trees go by – all the while enjoying toasty toes and warm fingers.

Back down the Entiat Summit Road.

Back down the Entiat Summit Road.

21 miles, 4000 ft. el., GPX track

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Fish Lake SnoPark excursion

There are a lot of SnoParks in Washington. This weekend, I explored the trails starting at the Fish Lake SnoPark near Lake Wenatcheee. It was cloudy and foggy all day – not the best for pictures, but it was still a fun outing. I met sled dog teams near the beginning – a first for me. The dogs are totally quiet when they run, and they were excited to be running. Their blue eyes looked like they just came out of “Dune”.

The first sled dog team that I encountered - ever - near Fish Lake SnoPark.

The first sled dog team that I encountered – ever – near Fish Lake SnoPark.

Sled dog teams 2 and 3.

Sled dog teams 2 and 3.

I decided to ride up the Faultline trail and then head out towards Sugar Loaf Peak. At one intersection, a couple guys on snowmobiles were taking a break and asked about my bike – I let them ride it – and in return they offered to let me take a snowmobile for a ride. I accepted. First time riding a snowmobile for me! So, off I went about a hundred yards and then decided to turn around. However, that didn’t really happen as snowmobiles do not turn around easily, and my manuvering and heaving the beast just got it more into the ditch. After a while, the two guys came over and just gassed it. It went right over a brush and out of the ditch. Whoof. That was fun.

I headed onwards and had my lunch break after a while. Looking at the clock, I was only 1/2 way along the bottom trail, 7D, towards the turn-off for Sugar Loaf Peak, so I turned around. Maybe I’ll go for that destination another time.

20150110_135934small 20150110_152316smallIt was a pretty good ride. The trails were semi-busy. A group would pass me every 20 minutes or so, and wave or count-down which position in the group they were in. Nice. But overall a bit too busy for me with regards to the exhaust fumes which lingered in the still air for a long time.

32 miles, 4000 ft. el., GPX track

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Snow ride to Cayuse Pass

My idea to welcome the New Year was with a fatbike ride to look at Mt. Rainier. The weather was cooperating (not cloudy), so I headed out at 6:10a for the 2 hour drive to the Highway 410 area. The density of cars increased the closer I got to Chrystal Mountain ski resort, but instead of following up to the resort, I parked below near the Mt. Rainier National Park entrance. About an hour after sunrise, I set the bike wheels in motion to see what would be rideable along the 410 Highway and perhaps the Sunrise Rd.

The Mt. Rainier entrance was decorated by a headless snowman.

The Mt. Rainier entrance was decorated by a headless snowman.

After all the teaching preparations for the upcoming quarter, my mind was spinning faster than my wheels. Frozen waterfalls graced the rock wall along one side of the road. With time, I found a rut left behind by a wheeled vehicle to ride in, and made fairly steady progress.
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I was the first person out there, but after a while I heard a snowmobile approaching from behind. It was nice to chat for a while with the avid backcountry skier, but I quickly cooled off and continued at my sluggish pace to stay warm.
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It’s quite techy to climb a 5% road covered in semi-slippery snow. The snow was a on the edge of being rideable for me. I let air out of my tires 3 times, each time gaining valuable traction. I learned some new skills that helped when the wheel started to slip and I was still getting bogged down in spite of the very low tire pressure:
1: go easier (not harder) on the pedals
2: gently shift your weight over the rear wheel
3: pedal smoother than humanly possible
4: hone your instinct of where snow is slightly more compacted
5: ride in a straight line at 3 mph in said 8″ rut for miles on-end

It was fun, despite what it may sound like. A few times I thought that I was done for and would have to turn around, but a bit of walking through a soft section and more rideable snow was found again. I surprised myself and laughed as I was riding a bike where it really didn’t seem possible at first glance.

After gaining a bit of elevation, a break in the trees made the whole trip worthwhile. It’s the early morning of Jan. 1, 2015, and I see this. Not a bad way to start the new year.

Mt. Rainer from the 410 highway up to Cayuse Pass.

Mt. Rainer from the 410 highway up to Cayuse Pass.

A few pictures later, I was on my way again, constantly surprised that the snow, despite getting deeper, was still rideable.
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The higher I got, the warmer and sunnier it became – time to take off the thermal pants. Towards the top, it was only 50% riding. But still, riding a fatbike, up here? In winter? Conditions were as perfect as they probably ever get here.
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As it was getting time for me to turn around, the road started to level out and the snow was getting too fluffy and deep to ride. I had just reached Cayuse Pass. I didn’t think that I would make it here. Ah ha: there is Naches Peak! The only sound I heard was snow falling off tree branches. Amazing.

Snowbike ride the top of Cayuse Pass, just past the intersection with the snowed-in highway 123.

Naches Peak comes into view at the top of Cayuse Pass, just past the intersection with the snowed-in highway 123.

Gratuitous Dillinger 5 shot:

Dillinger 5 on the front.

Now it was really time to turn around and see if this white stuff is any easier to ride down. And it was! I rode everything, no pushing required. I couldn’t believe my luck.

Back down Highway 410 we go.

Back down Highway 410 we go.

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I quickly made it back to the White River/Sunrise Rd. and had to stop to chat with all the hikers/snowshoers/skiers that were heading up. “Those are the biggest tires I have ever seen.” was the exclamation from almost everyone I met.

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Route stats: 20 miles, 2500 ft. elevation gain. GPX track.

Cayuse Pass snowbike trip.

Cayuse Pass snowbike trip.

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Rides in 2014

Did I ride my bike last year? The stats seem to say “heck ja”:

Total distance ridden: 2394 miles
Total elevation climbed: 320,000 ft
Total time spent riding/pushing/carrying bike: 20.5 days

Rides in Washington State  in 2014.

Rides in Washington State in 2014.

There are a few rides not shown on this map, notably the Idaho Hot Springs tour with Lee – which was a highlight.

My resolution last year was to explore new areas in Washington state that were left blank on the map. Here are the rides done in 2013:

Rides done in 2013 in Washington State.

Rides done in 2013 in Washington State.

Comparing these two maps, I think that there is still more exploring to be done in WA. I actually think that I did ride quite a few new trails, but they don’t show up easily on these coarse scales as being from last year’s. But, if I want to explore new destinations, I would also need to plan for even more driving – unless they could somehow be explored on a bikepacking trip? Well, we’ll see.

Good New Year and Happy trails everyone!

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