Olympic Discovery Trail and Mt. Muller

Or should that be Mt. Müller? I probably won’t ever know.

After mapping this route last month and deciding that it was too big to ride in 1 day, I took another look on RideWithGPS, and voilá, there the elevation gain was only ~10k ft. To save batteries and since I knew most of the way, I turned on the GPS for the Mt. Muller section only. This turned out to be a mistake as re-creating the route afterwards on RideWithGPS was impossible due to routing errors. But, I did piece it together manually eventually:

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The weather forecast for Monday showed some smoky haze rolling into the Olympic Peninsula, but I assumed that it would still be better than anywhere else in Washington State that day. So, at the crack of 4:10 am on Labor Day, I drove to the Edmonds ferry. Turns out that the ferry doesn’t board until 5:30 am, and since there was no traffic jam along the way, it was a bit of a wait before breakfast could be bought & consumed. Still much better hanging out on the ferry, than driving down through Olympia, even if it takes just as long.

After a stop for coffee at McDonalds in Port Angeles, the bike was readied. The new 3.5″-wide front wheel and 27.5+ fork added 1 kg. Now that’s what I call a serious upgrade – and I hoped that it would be worth it pushing that extra weight around.

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With only 3 liters of water on my back, I’d be on the lookout for water along the way.

The ODT just felt too easy, how can it be downhill all the time? Well, almost all the time. I stopped at the obvious places for quick photo-ops, and chatted with a couple guys, Nick and Mike, who were out riding. Nick gave me suggestions on shortcuts when he heard of my plan, and Mike knew a lot about the trails in the area as he had done a lot of trail work here and other places working for the NF and NP.

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Still no smoke! Lucking out.20170904_081613_small

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Canada in the distance.20170904_100350_small

Down the swoopy serpentines.20170904_102017_small

Lunch was had one of the nicest picknic places I know. The baby food was delicious!

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Onwards to Lake Crescent, I was looking forward to the sweet single track along the lake shore. But first, we go up the gravel road. Guess who was coming down?

 

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As menacing as the rig looked, the guy drove super slowly. Thank you!

But, when I came to Lake Crescent, the single track was gone. No way! A huge pile of gravel had been poured right over it. What a shame. What used to be people and kids meandering of roots and rocks, is now a 30 ft. wide gravel road filled randomly with people, some of whom manage to take up the whole road. Boo!

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Just before the tunnel, the old singletrack reappears. Yay! After letting a couple small kids pass, riding the techy trail was just as cool as I remembered it. Just too short, now.

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Lots of people hanging out at the swimming hole, then back on the trail, which hasn’t been destroyed by gravel, yet. I think it’s coming, though? Too bad if they do it.

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Such a cool trail.

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Much to my dismay, the ODT is then actually paved. For whom? Why? There’s a road just below the trail!

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The whole time riding along this trail, it seemed very dry, and I was getting worried about finding water. Alas, a tasty creek was found around milepost 33, 34.

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I did get a glimpse of my next goal, which I had to admit to myself, looked a bit daunting. But, a plan is a plan, so keep riding.

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The lower (southern) portion of the Mt. Muller loop is very gently-rolling single-track and well maintained. Good even for kids. Or someone hunting mushrooms.

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After a quick stop at the trailhead, it seemed to be really getting hot. There was one car left in the lot when I started, but I didn’t see anyone on the loop. It might have been the mushroom hunter on the lower trail?

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The first 1 mile is ~18% grade, which in the heat meant a lot of pushing and resting. Afterwards, it leveled out to only 15%, which was occasionally rideable by my tired and heat-exhausted legs. There’s a tiny spring half-ways up by “Oasis Creek”, where I refilled a bit of water.

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When I finally reached Snider Ridge at Jim’s Junction, I thought that I was done.

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But, as all ridgeline trails do, this one also followed the ridge up and down. You’re never at the top.

The forest up here was dark, with very soft ground in places. Various kinds of fir trees, apparently. There was a huge dark smoke cloud above me blocking the sunshine and it started to get a bit chilly and ominous.

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Occasionally, the trail pops out onto an alpine meadow. Very unique.  Mt. Olympus in the distance – still visible even with the heavy smoke in the air.

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Finally, the forested top of Mt. Muller was reached.

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If it looks like the rear wheel is a little outgunned by the front tire – I can attest that that was indeed the case. The front tire would gobble up rocks without slowing down, while the slightly smaller rear tire would get hung up and start to chatter. Poor little guy. I was surprised to notice the difference in roll-over that a 1.5″ larger wheel makes! The downhill was the place where all this extra weight finally made sense.

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Smoky view from the top.

But, before there’s downhill, there were even more short uphill pushes. Lake Crescent could be seen, if only barely.

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Back down on the paved ODT, I helped an older couple on bikes find their way back to 101. After filling up with water at the creek again, it was fast downhill spin to the bridge and swimming hole. So pretty. Please don’t pave!

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It was starting to get a bit later than I had hoped, so I skipped the gravel section where I had met the logging-truck on the way in, and instead took a bit of pavement to get back quicker to the Adventure ODT. Some calories were consumed at one of the nice picnic benches.

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Riding the ODT back it didn’t seem “almost all downhill” anymore, even though it’s 3500 ft climbing either way. This time it seemed more like climbing 3500 ft. Coffee was consumed yet again in an effort to keep my stomach from seizing up.

About 5 miles from the end, the front tire finally broke loose in one random corner, which definitely didn’t look like anything to worry about. Not sure what happened there. But, the tire found grip again and life was good. At the next corner, I actually paid attention to steering, and it hooked right up. So much for getting tired.

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It was getting late, the Moon rose, and with only 2 miles to go, I was getting jittery and had to take an extended cookie break. Water, Oreo — repeat.  A revival feast. No need to literally crash so close to the end.

As I arrive back at the car after dark, I was thinking that I might do this ride again next year if all goes well. It’s actually worth the 6 hour drive/ferry-ride.

 

 

 

 

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Teanaway Figure 8

After some pictures a month ago on the Washington mtbr forum, I felt dumb that I hadn’t noticed that one could connect the 2 trails in the Teanaway: Esmeralda and the Teanaway 5 Drainages, to make a mostly non-motorized recreation experience.

The morning started late, and not many cars were on the Teanaway dirt road. However, some jet fighter pilot almost ran himself and me off the road on a narrow section. Sunday, 11 am: Let’s make some good time driving down this dirt road!

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Not much to report on the way up. My legs surely haven’t gotten as much exercise as the the prior 2 years, as the climb felt a bit slower than usual. Probably I just need to upgrade my bike a bit more, rather than ride up grades.

New stem, front wheel and fork are on order! I am confident those will do the trick to my psyche.

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At the top, I remembered why I had left Seattle behind.

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The descent was too easy with a riser seatpost and 67 deg head-angle, which is 5 degrees slacker than before. Easy and fun.

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After the push up the jeep road to Gallagher Head Lake, there was the mandatory photo stop. It had to be done.

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The downhill was new to me – the Boulder de Roux trail is certainly a fun trail going down in either direction from here! In the middle, the rear break started to howl like Lee was after me, so I placated it with new break pads.

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Very fun trail. Too bad it appears to be closed due to fire danger right now. Seeing the Iron Peak ridge from here made it look like a lot of pushing would be happening soon. I rode it (mostly) up last year, so I had high hopes of repeating that feat. That’s the one in the back:

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Alas, it was a 99% push-fest. Slow and steady – I got high-5s from hikers and even a “You’re the second biker I’ve seen in my hiking career” from an older lady. I didn’t see bikes or tire tracks anywhere, except a motorcycle track earlier on ‘de Roux.

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Break #3 on the way up. I felt too hot and pooped.

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But the views make hiking worthwhile.

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The grand finale.

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The way down, as the way up, was torn up by horses and had lots of poop, but now there was the smell of urine near the campsite. Let’s keep rolling.

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Last year I was contemplating which bike I’d be on next year to ride this trail. Now, I know.

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The landscape is outrageous here. Colors. Rocks. Tech.

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After pushing up the Bean Creek trail, and filling up with water along the way, the ridge was windy and cold. Not much time to enjoy the Stuart Range – but at least there were no bugs.

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I was feeling pretty good on this downhill. But, who wouldn’t?

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So, when I came to the intersection with the Standup Creek trail, I thought I’ll try to save some time by going straight down there.

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And indeed. I went straight down – lots of it only barely rideable.

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And after it wasn’t crazy steep, it was overgrown. And when that wasn’t enough, it was a bit muddy. And when that let up, there were about 5 big trees and countless small ones to go over / under. It pays big dividends in training opportunities to do little / no research on trail conditions. Certainly, it was no shortcut, time-wise.

Doing some more research now, it appears that I did, 100%, the famous 7 drainages loop.

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Escape to Mt. Saint Helens

As my weekend was suddenly free to roam, and my cold/cough was not that bad, I wanted to escape the smoke from the B.C. wildfires that have been covering us the last week. After a bit of of researching the weather maps., Mt. Saint Helens stood out as being nearly smoke free between Saturday to Sunday-noon. And since NF-99 is closed to motorized traffic, it obviously needed to be included in a big loop.

The goal for this trip was to go really light, and with the low for the night of around 53 F, I left the sleeping bag at home. Instead, I _thought_ of using the Sol Emergency bivy inside the tent body, but didn’t actually pack the bivy bag or a warm hat, or long warm pants. Lesson learned: when going ultra-light, you have to pack super carefully. None of that “throw some stuff in the backpack at the last minute”. It was a pretty cold night after the dew soaked the tent body. But with my backpack acting like a pillow over my chest, I stayed warm enough to rest until sunrise.

After parking at the Ape Canyon trailhead and pumping up the rear suspension firmly, I began the long climb. Luckily, it’s tree-covered all the way up. I met a dad and his ~7-year old son coming down; they were out on their biggest ride so far and loved it.

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Once out of the trees, the views just open up. A running race, the “Volcanic 50”, was being held, so there were lots of people on the Loowit / Plains of Abraham trail. Many were walking at this point, including me. All good fun – and we wished each other well.

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The Plains of Abraham went by much too quickly.

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Except for this guy, I think.20170805_155947_small

My goal for the night was coming into view in the picture above: Mt. Margret is somewhere along the very far ridge line. It’s always surprising how much progress one can make on a bike.20170805_160101_small

The next section of benchcut trail along some along some big landslides also went by too fast:

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Wildflowers were out in full force. Usually that means the bugs are also out – but here the wind blew them away mostly. Heading downhill along the pumice ridge-line was certainly much easier than pushing it up. I had learned well.

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I was surprised by the number of cars that were in the area, even though it is clearly “closed to motorized use”.

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After 5 miles of most pleasant and empty paved-road riding, I made it to the Norway Pass trailhead.

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Just a bit in, I met a couple gals out for an overnighter. They had hiked in from the road closure and camped at Ghost Lake. I am sure they had the entire valley to themselves that night – save for the flys and mosquitoes. Wheew!  I was ready to get up higher.

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The trail was surprisingly dusty and beat up in places. At first I thought someone had brought their horses, but then I looked more carefully and the ‘hoof’ marks were someone shoes. ! Someone’s carrying a big load with steel-toed shoes?

Nevertheless, matches were burned and elevation was gained. Mt. Adam was barely visible.

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Getting closer to heaven.20170805_190031_small

My goal for the night was still a few pushes away, but there’s not a boring minute while walking up here. And what better time to be out than at dawn or dusk! Here’s Mt. Adam behind a carpet of smoke with the Moon to the right.

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The short, rideable sections were heroin.

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But even when it was rideable, photos needed to be taken!

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And I must find that gardener!

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The new Trance was making easy work of the rideable descents.

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Not a soul in sight.

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Just after sunset, I arrived at the camp site. It looks a bit cold and wet, but apart from me being cold and wet 2 hours later due to my bad packing, it could have actually been quite pleasant.

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Rising just before dawn, the plan was to warm up with the hike-a-bike up Mt. Margret and then eat a proper breakfast.

Same spot, different time of the day.

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Mt. Rainier gave a brief mystery appearance:

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At this point, I got chewed out by a woman who thought that bikes have no business up here. It included the memorable phrase “I don’t mean to ruin your day, but …”. I didn’t know what to reply. Oh my.

The place just didn’t seem as beautiful afterwards, though it clearly was just the same as before.

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Yup, still just as pretty. After chatting with a backpacker briefly at Bear Camp, my mind settled down a bit.

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Just me, my bike, and endless downhill singletrack back to NF-99.

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Well, maybe a bit of hike-a-bike.20170806_081801_small

Back on the road, the rear brake complained and needed to be adjusted, to the delight of swarms of flies.

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The Smith Creek trailhead is 5 miles back up, which is when the smoke started to roll in from the east as the wind had shifted.

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If you are jealous when you see your kitty playing in the litter box, this is the trail to ride. You drop 2000 ft (?) on that stuff, with exactly one reasonable section of trail in between.  Here it is:

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Up, just past the last bit of green on the ridge, is where I was riding yesterday:

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The narrow ledge was still walkable, just fine.

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There are quite a few interesting points along the lower Smith Creek trail section.

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The creek crossing was a bit hard to find, but after carefully looking for the red flags, I found the easy way across. It even seemed barely familiar from riding it 3 years ago. Back then, my luggage was a bit heavier. This rock seems to have formed around a tree.

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The last portion on the former road bed seemed completely different from what I remembered it 3 years ago. There was a lot of techy riding and even more pushing. Tons of trees to be ridden / jumped over.

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As described on the Evergreen website, I took the old logging road back to the Ape Canyon trailhead, instead of going over the Lava Canyon bridge and then riding up the endless gravel road. This was much better.

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I didn’t meet anyone else after the Mt. Margret backcountry experience. Strange, fewer people everywhere, but there!

I do want to thank the managers of the St. Helens Monument for making mountain biking such a big part of their recreation management goals, and everyone else who helped shape it that way. Cheers!

 

 

 

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Sunshine Coast exploration

A quick overnight bikepacking trip was the idea. The Sunshine Coast Trail (SCT) as such actually only exists on the upper peninsula where it looked intriguing on the map and is open to bikes. So, I wanted to check it out.  Then there is the lower Sunshine Coast, which is what is typically referred to by mountain bikers, which is a combination of the Suncoaster trail in the north, and other paths, roads, and trails farther south.

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Transporation

Ferry: I did not find any remaining legal parking at Horseshoe Bay for the 12 o’clock ferry – so I parked very far away and luckily didn’t get ticketed overnight. On my return trip, I saw a parking garage / tunnel which may have had open spots, but I doubt it.

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Next up was the bus from Langdale to Earl’s Cover: The Sunshine Coast Connector offers a bike transport option, but the bike rack on the bus was of a very poor design. Luckily, it was only the paint and not the carbon fiber, that was pulverized, as the friendly driver had mercy on my bike flopping in the breeze after a while.

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The ferry rides are nice breaks – with ample food and drinkable water.20170708_160423_small.jpg

After getting to Saltery Bay at 4 pm, and being chased by loud motorcyles up the ferry ramp, a sharp right brought me to a quiet gravel road. The Sunshine Coast trail starts there, but I chose to climb up the 1500 ft. on the road and hope for a quick singletrack decent later on, while still catching the evening ferry back to Earl’s Cove.

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It was a very warm and humid climb, as I watched the ferry go back.20170708_163057_small

After a while, the road narrows and trees shade the way. 20170708_171041_small.jpg

The first sign for the SCT points to a narrow road around the southern side of Rainy Day lake, and most people who visit go that way. However, I continued another mile up where the SCT crosses the road. Immediately, there is not doubt that there may be some hike-a-bike ahead.

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While at times the trail is rideable, those sections are very short. Often, there are super tight turns, up&downs over rocks and roots. Though I love techy trails, I couldn’t even ride this down later on. These 10 meters were rideable:

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which was promptly followed by this and other varieties of hike-a-bike:

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The little hut at Rainy Day Lake was cute: the top can be closed off, while the bottom is always open.20170708_174519_small.jpg

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I tried to ride a bit more of the SCT afterwards, but gave up in earnest and took the road back down to the ferry terminal. The little snack shack had already closed for the day.

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But, then there’s the ferry with it’s unlimited food resources, and the little shop at Earl’s Cover, which closes at 7.30pm.20170708_143902_small.jpg

The BC bike race was going to come through here on Sunday and Monday, so I wanted to be far ahead of them. I followed mostly their route or the Lower Sunshine Coast route on bikepacking.com.  This route consists of lots of ATV trails and gravel roads. Sporadic singletrack – often quite challenging – interrupts the monotony of riding deep in the woods without views. There were 2 areas with significant and fun singletrack: NW of Sechelt, and west of Langdale. And there is absolutely no good reason to ride north of Anderson Creek. Overall, I think the description is misleading as there certainly is _not_ anywhere near 70% singletrack, and I can’t understand why the BC Bike Race has this as days 3 and 4.

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Start of the Suncoaster trail20170708_194030_small.jpg

which gains quite a bit of elevation before becoming a roller coaster that goes around a campground / lake on a dirt road.

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Afterwards, the road turns back into an ATV trail, before dumping into a fall-line powerline road. Cool benches made from snowboards, and note the paved trail on the left 🙂

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The powerline is occasionally bypassed by almost dipping to the highway, before climbing back up.

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There are a couple elk herds in the picture above.

A sudden turn brings one through the first bit of real singletrack, before climbing the lost elevation back to the powerline on some dirt road.

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After some more climbing and riding along the powerline, I got tired and found a spot away from the thorns of blackberry bushes. I heard an elk being shot and killed, and swatted mosquitoes until late at night.

Sunday: At 4 am, I had enough of lying in the woods, and considered bailing on this ride all together. But, which way to bail? Let’s continue with the route and maybe take the next road intersection. But, then there were actually a couple very interesting singletrack sections: the ACDC creek crossing, and then the Highway to Hell, so that cheered me up.

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In between powerline stints, there were more dirt roads and some good single track pieces.

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If you like riding in the woods and cleaning off the spider webs with your face, this is the place to come to.

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Eventually after a lot more gravel roads, I reached the singletrack park north-west of Sechelt. Lovely. Finally. And even a rather nice view after the first climb.

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It was exactly an hour of fun, rideable singletrack.

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The view from the road into Sechelt was great.

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Breakfast was had a snooty cafe in Sechelt, right across from McDonalds. I wish I would have stopped at the McD, instead.

As I was taking a couple breaks pushing my bike up the next road, a couple cars stopped to offer help / ride. That was nice – thanks a lot! So nice to have people stop when I look wasted. But, I refused kindness, and pushed on and up to the Gravity Bike Park.20170709_171135_small.jpg

The route didn’t include any crazy stuff, just some handsome singletrack that turned into some very-wide and gently hiking path after a while.

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No, that is _not_ singletrack, if anyone asks me.20170709_110921_small

After the airfield comes a bit of gravel road where quite a few pickup trucks were going too fast and kicking up a lot of dirt and dust. That really brought the ‘quality’ rating of this route to a solid 3/10.

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The next piece of singletrack was so strange that I stopped to take a picture. Yes, we just climbed this annoying dirt road to ride this:20170709_120006_small

After some more gravel road, a few rooty singletrack sections were sewn together. Sort of fun when going downhill, other times super bumpy and with pitches too steep to climb.

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There seems to be quite an extensive ATV area that the route goes through:

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which is interrupted by singletrack portions.20170709_133846_small

Ignoring all the mindless climbing on gravel roads, this portion of the route had quite a few interesting trails. Especially, the last 4, 5 miles are very cool and fun downhilly stuff.

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In the end, I was glad to see the light of day once again and know that I am close to the end.

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The end.

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