Bellingham tour: Galbraith, Padden, Chuckanut, and Blanchard

A friend from Tucson was in Bellingham this weekend, and I hadn’t been there in a while: 2 good reasons to revisit the trails there. It began with a morning ride through Lake Padden and then onto Galbraith. The trail gnomes have been busy at Galbraith the last year, so that I was able to enjoy the almost complete linkage of single track up to the top and down again. It was early enough that I had the place to myself, though by 11 am, a few were heading up the dirt roads on their big rigs, and I even met 3 young kids pushing their big bikes up some single track as I came down on my hardtail. Makes me smile. I, too, was young once and had the best full-suspension bike that was sold back in the early 90’s.

I am beginning the get the lay of the trails at Galbraith; I feel that I appreciate the randomness a bit more – it lets you choose your own adventure: including a little 10 mile loop. It was very foggy, probably 60F, and without anyone else there, riding the twisty trails felt a bit like meditation.

Finally headed back via the switchbacks at Padden and met up for the loop with Scott. We crossed the Ski2Sea mountain bike course a couple times where lots of volunteers were already waiting more than 2 hours in advance of the racers at all the intersections. Fancy. We rode up the techy, rooty Hemlock, then over to Raptor viewpoint, and down to Lost Lake. Along the trail, we met a family out with a wagon – they own a parcel near Raptor viewpoint right in the middle of the state park and were determined to lug everything they needed for an overnighter along the brand new trail on their wagon. Interesting.

Over at Blanchard, we rode out to the viewpoint and were able to see a little ways.

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Riding up and over Blanchard, we met a guy with his 3 goats training for the summer hiking season in the Cascades. I had met him last year, so it was fun to see him again. He was just the friendliest guy and so were his goats, which were basically big pets to him. We rode up some steep and sweet single track, followed by a helping of British Army trail descent.

Back to Chuckanut, it was getting a little late, so we short-cut my extra-big loop and headed up to the clearcut viewpoint near South Lost Lake trail. Still not much of a view with all the clouds, but Pudget Sound was glistening pretty in the early evening sun. Lastly, we rode along Chuckanut ridge were there are a couple places that I am not able ride. However, Scott didn’t even notice that there was something difficult here ..

We finished the day with the techy Salal and Hemlock trails and the got some pizza at Fat Pie pizzeria. Excellent outing.
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Ardenvoir – Lake Chelan loop

Last fall, I had planned to ride from Ardenvoir to Lake Chelan and back with Colin – but due to a Google maps navigation error, we never made it to Ardenvoir. We ended up riding Icicle Ridge and 4th of July near Leavenworth, instead, which was also epic, but much more strenuous and technical. This weekend, I really wanted to go on a long exploratory ride, so this seemed like it should fit. The drive to Ardenvoir is ardunous, 3.5 hours form Seattle on Highway 2. And Hwy. 2 is annoying and dangerous – not my favorite route to drive.

Upon arrival in Ardenvoir, I found out that my InReach was dead. I plugged it in for 20 minutes while I got ready. That brought the battery to 20% – good enough for an emergency. It was almost 11 am when I finally started riding. Good thing it was going to be light out for a while: sunset at 8:30 pm.

Arenvoir - Lake Chelan - Steliko Ridge loop.

Arenvoir – Lake Chelan – Steliko Ridge loop.

The beginning of the WABDR from Ardenvoir is paved. After a couple turns, the first major goal came into view: Mount Baldy.


Mt. Baldy in the distance.

Mt. Baldy in the distance.

Off to my right, I could see a bunch of trees on a ridge – keep this in mind as you’ll see them later on from the other side.


That fuzzy stuff on the farthest ridge are trees.

The road snakes around some hills and dips down a bit before actually climbing up Mt. Baldy. It was pretty warm and humid, so I was sweating a lot during the initial 2 hours of the climb. I met a group of 13 motorcycles and chatted with a few.20150516_114412_small 20150516_114459_small 20150516_120344_small

Heading up higher, it got cooler and made the ride quite pleasant. Not many trees nor shade along the way, but it’s fun to see where one came from – and where one is going. Some dark clouds showed where it was raining in the valley below.

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I was wondering how my water situation was and if I should be drinking less, when I ran upon this happy circumstance:

Baldy Spring

Baldy Spring

Yummy – filled up the bladder with a cool refreshment. Passing Mt. Baldy on my left, I got a first glimpse of the rest of my route: Lake Chelan. The road on the ridge to Stormy Mountain mostly follows an elevation contour so it is really nice riding. 20150516_143853_small

Towards Stormy Mountain.

Towards Stormy Mountain.

The pass near Stormy Mountain at 6100 ft. elevation was clear of snow, but just beyond it on the north-facing side were some snowy patches. The Devil’s Backbone trail starts at the pass, and it sure looked like an adventure may be found there without looking too hard.

Start of Devil's Backbone trail.

Start of Devil’s Backbone trail – which I did not ride.


Top of pass was clear of snow.


Some snow remains on the north facing portions of the road up to 1/2 mile below the pass.

The road then goes down for a while, before following the undulations of ridges almost to the edge of Lake Chelan. I had not studied the elevation profile carefully and was surprised by the amount of climbing that lay ahead before the final, long, downhill to the lake.

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This is the ridge that the Devil's Backbone trail traverses.

This is the ridge that the Devil’s Backbone trail traverses.

The WABDR route has an alternate route going down to Lake Chelan – which needs to be taken by cars and other non-bikes. The real route going down to the lake is pretty steep, overgrown, narrow, and rocky. I had fun riding it down, though. And the views were first class.

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Along the NF-125 portion of the WABDR.

Along the NF-125 portion of the WABDR.

Down at North Fork 35 Mile Creek, I filled up with ice cold water. 20150516_165421_small

Then it went down a dirt road, which turned into a paved road to Lake Chelan. Lots and lots of vacation homes, but hardly any traffic on this Saturday afternoon. My legs were hurting and getting tight, but I wasn’t hungry or thirsty and not sure what to do. I oiled my chain, instead, and that seemed to help :) Maybe I should have stretched a bit. After a few miles along the lake shore, it went back up into the mountains. 20150516_170601_small 20150516_174740_small 20150516_181013_small

A little county road turnoff took me even higher as my energy level was near zero. I took 2 pretty nice breaks and then downed the 2nd instant coffee. That finally woke my stomach up and was able to keep going. It was getting near sunset time with quite a good breeze blowing.

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Remember that row of trees from the beginning of the ride? Well, here they are from the other side. Not too shabby of a little loop, I thought.


The Steliko Ridge is primo hiking & biking terrain: rolling grasslands overlooking the Columbia River. The Steliko Ridge trail is a rough 2-track for a while, then turns into single track, then 2-track, then single track, before finally remaining a rough and steep dirt road back into Ardenvoir. I thoroughly enjoyed this trail. It doesn’t seem to get much use, but I had a grand time riding it (mostly) downhill. It’s a first class trail and the scenery was great. I bit of night riding had me back in Ardenvoir at 9:30 pm.

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Steliko Ridge trail.



Steliko Ridge trail.

Steliko Ridge trail.

Steliko Ridge trail.


Great route for a cross country rider like me – nothing too rocky or technical.

70 miles, 10,000 ft. el. gain, GPX file

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Tour of the Umtanum Ridge and Skyline Rim

This was the third time that I’ve gone to ride the Yakima Skyline Rim near Ellensburg and Selah. That also means that I’ve lived here now for 2+ years. Doing annual rides is sort of like birthdays, only the numbers are much smaller. And this time Colin signed up for the hike-a-bike madness and Tucson-like conditions. While the stats for the ride don’t sound that impressive, I am always pretty beat afterwards. Maybe it’s the non-stop sunshine or thinking that it’s not that big of a ride, and thus not packing enough water or food, but I once again burned lots of protein and fat after I ran out of carbs to munch on.

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A couple new trails had peaked my curiosity: 1) heading up Roza Creek canyon, and 2) trying out some of the tiny trails down into Selah from the ridge. We actually did both, and they turned out pretty well. We also rode another section that I’ve had my eyes on for a while: the powerline road out of Selah heading up Umtanum ridge. I was happy with the way the route worked out: more riding and a bit less of hike-a-bike.

The parking lot at Umtanum Creek is a BLM fee site, but luckily Colin had a Federal recreation pass that was honored there. We started up Umtanum ridge and did trail work whenever it appeared necessary for a smooth downhill experience at at the end of the day. Dealing with sagebrush isn’t too hard, and we were able to resurrect the trail in a couple places where it had been overgrown a bit. Someone else had already done some nice tread work on the slopes recently – which was appreciated. A baby rattler was very unhappy to be disturbed by us, but kindly moved off the trail after a while. A noisy fellow!


We also saw a few horny toads, this was the biggest one:


While there is some riding to be had early on, the trail gets steeper the higher one gets. Near the top, the grade is 37%!

Stuart Range in the background.

Stuart Range in the background.

At the top it was pretty windy and maybe 70F, so we stopped to cool down and munch on a few things. Turns out it was a two-volcano day: Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams to the left.


Photo by Colin Farrell.

Then, the ridge road turns into single track, which gets rather steep and loose in the end: a 30% grade downhill. Last year, I didn’t make the last corner and fell off my bike in very-slow motion, so I was curious to give it another try. In the beginning I was sliding vertically down instead of staying on the trail, but did manage to stay on the trail afterwards and came clean out of the bottom left curve. Made it all the way down and scared a deer in the process. Here’s Colin just past that curve:


Next we rode up Roza Creek Rd. and thereby avoided the hike-a-bike up on the Skyline Rim trail the other side. I had spotted some greenery on satellite images of this canyon, and it was indeed gorgeous. There was even a small gove of aspens! The road is closed to vehicles, so it felt pretty remote. There was one muddy patch that we rode through, but we didn’t follow up on where the water was coming from. Maybe next time I’ll figure out if there actually is a spring down there, as some hikers suggested last year.

Along Roza Creek.

Along Roza Creek.

We then turned left to ride the Buffalo Ridge dirt road up to its end. There’s a not-so-old road sign, which is a bit hard to read unfortunately:


The coolest thing about the ride up Buffalo Ridge Rd. were the flowers that had popped out of the hard ground. No leaves or water seemed to be anywhere near. But they’re pretty as can be.


Reaching the top, we broke out the munchies again and checked in with folks at home. Afterwards, we dropped down a bit and joined the Skyline Ridge trail to the southern butte, it’s pretty fantastic single track for the most part.

Heading down to the Skyline Ridge trail from the top on an old road bed.

Heading down to the Skyline Ridge trail from the top on an old road bed.

Photo by Colin Farrell.

Photo by Colin Farrell.

At the far point on the ridge, we had to decide what to do next. We each had brought approximately 3 liters of water, but were down to 1 and 1.5 liters now. It would probably just get us back if we were careful. As another option, we could filter water down at the Yakima, or head down towards Selah and find the water spigot near the horse corral. The Skyline Rim trail from there quickly turns into a rock garden, and after a few hundred yards I had enough. Colin obliged, and we headed back up and took a tiny side trail down. Someone had built features along that tiny trail: 2 big rock piles to ride over, a double-jump, and a step-down. Later the trail became very faint, but with instinct (and a GPX trail drawn from satellite images), it was easy riding through the grasslands which then brought us to larger trails and we quickly reached the horse corral. And water was turned on. Yay for us! Water, food, and shade under a tree. Basically your run-of-the mill oasis in the desert. 3 horses looked at us curiously; they were some of the most beautiful horses I had seen a while.

Well, at this point we could either take the Sheep Company Rd. back up north, or try the Powerline road that runs inside the Wenas Wildlife area. With full water bladders, we felt adventure was the right decision over riding a dusty dirt road with people shooting their guns. The Powerline road was pretty nice double track. It’s impossible to get lost out there, as the lack of trees and gentle sloping terrain makes it easy to see where you are going and where you came from.

Green Dot Map of L.T. Murray - Wenas Wildlife area near Selah.

Green Dot Map of L.T. Murray – Wenas Wildlife area near Selah.


Photo by Colin Farrell.

Photo by Colin Farrell.

We walked almost all of the steep Durr Rd. up to the radio towers on the Umtanum ridge, contrary to what the above picture is showing. Then, with daylight to spare, we rode the ups & downs along the Umtanum Ridge Rd..


At the Skyline Rim trail, we lowered our seatposts a bit and set off to see what we could ride. The initial 37% grade was way too steep to ride, but later on it was oh-so-fun twisty trail through recently-maintained sagebrush :)


11 hours later, we returned from where we started from: dirtier and hungrier, but content with a having finished a worthy ride. Warm sodas and chips were pulled out of the car to celebrate.

40 miles, 8000 ft. el., GPX track

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A chummy lollipop ride from Cashmere through Ardenvoir

An odd title, but a blog entry has to have a title! And this ride was a big lollipop starting in Cashmere and followed the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route over Chumstick Mountain to Ardenvoir. Then it went back via the Entiat Summit Rd. to Chumstick Mountain and down to Cashmere. This ride really did me in at 85 miles and 13,500 ft. elevation gain. But for some reason, I’d already like to repeat it – sans snow drifts.

Lollipop loop from Cashmere to Ardenvoir in the Entiat valley.

Lollipop loop from Cashmere to Ardenvoir via the WABDR route and the Entiat Summit Road.

A couple weeks ago, I took advantage of this area being the only place in Washington that wasn’t raining and rode to Chumstick Mountain. I only went to Chumstick Mountain that time as it was getting late, there was still quite a bit of snow, and I was getting cold. This weekend, there was still some snow in the shady north-sloping portions on the Entiat Summit Rd., but good conditions otherwise. Instead of writing two blogs, I am mixing pictures from both rides. If you really want to figure out what picture was taken on which day then look at the filenames. Overall, the pictures from 2 weeks ago show a lot more flowers and more dramatic weather. What makes for good pictures, doesn’t necessarily translate to good riding conditions, though, and I was glad that it was a mild and sunny day on the second ride instead of the gloomy & stormy afternoon from before.

From Cashmere, the ride up Nahanum Canyon Rd. is one of these idyllic road-bike rides that I am sure lots of people do. However, I only saw one roadie, so maybe the out-of-the-way location and rather short 5 miles and 1500 ft. keep it from seeing much use as a road-bike climb.

Nahanum Canyon Rd.

Nahanum Canyon Rd.

Hillsides were covered in flowers.

Hillsides were covered in flowers.

The end of pavement marks the transition to steeper grade and it’s granny gear time up to a saddle point at 3300 ft. elevation. 20150411_134952_small

Once up to that first saddle, the WABD route goes through forest for a while before coming out in the open again near Chumstick Mountain.


Watch out for falling snowflakes :)


Snow-covered tree tips that are lit up by the sunlight.


Where there was snow two weeks ago, the road was now bare:




.. after!

The really big views comes right after the saddle point by Chumstick mountain.

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This Entiat Summit Rd. practically yells “Riders wanted!”


I enjoyed the nice view from the top, and then it was easy pedaling with only a few pushes through snow-covered patches. Glacier Peak made it into every picture that I took up there. I was adding and removing layers whenever the road went from downhill to uphill – which got a bit tiresome after a few times.


The Entiat Summit Rd. is contouring the slopes in the distance.

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I missed one turn going downhill and had to backtrack 500 ft. of elevation. Being stubborn, I decided to not take off my warm clothes and just “quickly” ride back up. I finally overheated and had to remove my warm clothes. Rode 10 yards, and found that there was a long downhill ahead. Put clothes back on. Ride downhill, then the road goes back up and notice that the sun is baking me again. Yes, jacket and hat come back off again. After a while, I reached Moe Ridge Road and appreciated how the WABD route is laid out to take one along the ridges of the Entiat.

I was over at that other ridge just a couple hours ago.

I was over at that other ridge just a couple hours ago.

And now we are going down - finally!

And now we are going down – finally!

The 3500ft. of elevation were quickly lost on NF5801 to Ardenvoir. Beautiful. I did meet one quiet motorcycle heading up as we passed on the wrong sides of the road. All good. Here are some of the sights to see

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The bustling metropolis of Ardenvoir.

The bustling metropolis of Ardenvoir.

Upon reaching the valley floor, a small bridge crosses over the Mad River. I would like to find out what the reason for that name is.

Mad River.

Mad River.

Before heading back, my goal was to stop in at Cooper’s cafe and store. I initially went the wrong way (north), before asking a farmer for directions; taking the scenic route. Cooper’s is a general store and cafe in one building, with an attached Post Office. It even has its own ZIP code. Neat. The store & cafe is open 11 am – 7 pm, 7 days a week, all year long. (The hours may be slightly longer during summer.)

Cooper's general store, cafe, and Post Office, and gas station ($4.50 per gallon!).

Cooper’s general store, cafe, and Post Office, and gas station ($4.50 per gallon!).

Pretty well-stocked general store, if the beer selection is any indication of the canned food isle :)

Pretty well-stocked general store, if the beer selection is any indication of the canned food isle :)

Deep-fried bread pudding with bacon bits on top. It was rich, but pretty good.

Deep-fried bread pudding with bacon bits on top. It was rich, but pretty good.

If this little guy is any indication of the locals, they must be pretty good folk.

If this little guy is any indication of the locals, they must be pretty good folk.

At this point, I had 47 miles and almost 8000 ft. of climbing behind me. Roughly 5000 ft. of elevation gain lay still in front of me. Onwards we pedal – down the Entiat River Road. The valley looks pretty well off, lots of new buildings, green lawns, blooming orchards, and nicely paved streets.

Along the Entiat River Road.

Along the Entiat River Road.


My return route was via the Entiat Summit Road (called Mills Canyon Rd. in the beginning). The turn-off for the road is tiny and would be easy to miss. After a gentle grade it becomes more rugged – yeah!, but I am beginning to feel tired – boo. No time for stops as it’s getting late – so I start walking a few miles, and probably push my bike 3000 ft. of elevation.

Up the Entiat Summit Road.

Up the Entiat Summit Road.


Still pushing.


Yup, still pushing.


Unfortunately, near sunset it clouded over so that this concludes the slightly excessive photo series. The rest of the ride went like this: Push the uphills, roll the downhill and then decide that the road really should be leveling out now. I had done my fair share of climbing today. I was pretty upset at the road. I realized that it was quite silly, but I was mad. After all, I deserved better than pushing my bike at 10 pm in the middle of nowhere. I had climbed all day already! Why do I come up with crazy big rides like this all the time? What is wrong with me? And why can’t this road be reasonable? And then, at last, the road did level off and followed the contour lines of the ridge. But here, the snow hadn’t melted yet, so instead of pushing up hills, I was now pushing through snow. Lovely. Just 2.5 miles to go until the final downhill. Keep pushing, try to eat more, and sit down when all else fail. Don’t mind the 2.7 mph average speed…

Nevertheless, the final downhill back to Cashmere was reached. I had learned a couple weeks ago that this is a cold and long descent, so I had come prepared by bringing lots of warm clothes, including chemical foot warmers, shoe covers and warm gloves. All were put on and the 12 miles and 4000 ft. descent went fast and were fun. Halfway down, I met a car going up. Whoops? It was around 10:30 pm and this woman was out looking for her run-away horse. All I could tell her that I hadn’t seen it, but that I hope she finds it. How does one look for a horse and then take it back down 4000 ft. at night?

By the time I reached my car, it was 11 pm, making this a 14 hour adventure. All I wanted was to drink and eat, and go to bed, but the latter was still a 3 hour car drive away. And all stores were closed in Cashmere, and Leavenworth, and so I drove on. My eyes were beginning to drift, so I knew I had to pull over soon. My goal was the rest area a bit up on Highway 2 from Leavenworth. I could sleep there and then keep going. I was hoping that there would be a vending machine at the rest stop. Bingo. 75 cents per can of pop. The machine takes coins and $1 bills? Rats. I only have a $5. Go back to car, try to sleep a while. But, I am too thirsty, so I get up again with the intent of trying to buy one can of soda for $5. A guy pulls up in a Jetta next to me and I ask if he has change for a $5. Nope, he doesn’t. Alright. But, he gives me 4 quarters for free! Yay! Diet Coke was the choice, and it woke me up. Thank you random person!

GPX track (corrected for some routing errors and battery issues)

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