Kettle Crest Bikepack #2

The Kettle Crest trail is a national scenic trail near Republic, WA. The Pacific Northwest Trail includes this trail along its 1200 mile course. A couple years ago, Lee and myself rode a loop that included the northern half of the Kettle Crest trail. We had plans to ride the PNT for quite a bit more, but running short on food and energy we called it quits at Sherman Pass. A ride is a good ride when you start making plans for the next time already on the way home. And so it was: since then, the idea had been on my mind to try a race-pace through-ride of the Kettle Crest trail. In my case, race-pace with bikepacking gear would be similar in speed to a casual day-ride, but in spite of getting slowed down by camping gear, I really wanted to ride this as a self-supported loop starting in Republic.

Since the southern end of the Kettle Crest trail actually goes east to the middle of nowhere, I modified the route to go along the Barnaby Butte trail at the southern end to get me back to Republic.

Kettle Crest loop showing day 1 (pink), and day 2 (maroon) with 110 miles and 14k elevation gain.

Kettle Crest loop showing day 1 (maroon), and day 2 (pink) with 110 miles and 14k elevation gain.

Day 1 GPX track

My ride started in Republic at the Golden Tiger Pathway, aka Ferry County Rail Trail. This recently connected rail trail goes past Curlew Lake, to Danville, which is very near the Canadian border. The trail is paved for a few miles near Republic before it turns to soft sand, followed by rail road rocks.

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I did not really want to ride 25 miles of railroad ballast. Glancing at the map that I had picked up along the way from a information kiosk, I saw that in a couple of miles the trail surface would improve again. Near Curlew Lake the trail was sort-of-paved again and I could see the trestle bridge that had been reopened a few months ago.


A couple people were fishing from the bridge. The trail surface then reverted back to railroad ballast, and since there’s a very quiet highway right next to it, I took the smooth and easy road to Curlew. There’s a small coffee+ snack place on the highway, called Tugboat, where I had ice cream and a lemonade, but downtown Curlew also has a couple old-time bars and a general store where one could stop in.


I followed the Ferry County rail trail a bit farther north before turning off to head up to the Kettle Crest. The trail north of Curlew was very nice, shady with reasonable trail surface.

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The ride up the Lone Ranch Creek Rd. turned out to take a lot longer than anticipated, as I kept loosing air in the front tire. After pumping a couple times, I finally stopped to investigated the situation by spraying water all over the rim. Air was leaking out from the underneath the valve stem! Since I also couldn’t hear any Stan’s sealant sloshing around in the tire, I added 1 oz of sealant, did the Stan’s shake, and pumped it up. No air leaking this time. Good. The next day, I would repeat this dance a few more times.


My plan had been to camp near the northern Kettle Crest trailhead at Boulder Creek Rd. As I was riding through the dark forest, the trail turned uphill again and was very wet. I finally found an actual spring right by the trail and filled up my water bladder. By this time it was 11 pm and I was tired. I had brought only the tent body without stakes or rainfly, and used it as a bug bivy by tying off the top corner to a tree branch. It worked great. The night was warm and quiet, and I slept pretty well considering that I am usually on the listening to the random little noises in the forest, in case there are wild animals coming for their dinner. As per usual, nothing bothered me. I set my alarm for 4 am and fell asleep.


Day 2 GPX track

The birds announced that it was time to get up before my alarm went off. Since I was awake, I ate a little, and once my alarm did go off at 4 am, it only took 20 minutes until I was pushing my bike again. That was unbelievably fast for me; usually it takes me about an hour to get ready, maybe 1.5 hours if I am particularly dazed.

My dwindled-down bikepacking setup, with enough food for another 24 hours.

My dwindled-down bikepacking setup, with enough food for another 24 hours.

My goal today was to ride pretty much all of the Kettle Crest as fast as I could. The last time I had been here with Lee, and I remembered many times along the trail where we stopped for lunch, took pictures, or had naps.

This time I was on a mission, and though I would have liked to stop and rest along the way a bit more, the bugs were really bad and left me no choice but to keep going. At first, there were just plain ‘ol flies, but later horseflies, 1/2 size horseflies and deerflies joined the attack. Towards evening when I was past Barnaby Butte, all the flies went away and mosquitos took their place in unprecedented numbers. Luckily, I had mosquito spray with me.

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I filled up quickly with water near Long Allec Creek. Mostly, I pushed up the hills to keep my exertion level very sustainable. After about 5 miles, I crossed the first tree down across the trail, after which it quickly became apparent that this winter’s downfall had not been cleared past this point. Many, many trees were down, but most were pretty easy to go over/around/under. A few required puzzle-solving skills. Many sections seemed to go by much quicker than I had remembered them, and after a while I realized, that I was going twice as fast as I had been traveling with Lee a couple years ago.


Copper Butte would be the big push for the day and I was ready for it – or so I thought :o/. There were quite a number of trees down and this is where I sliced my leg a bit. Oddly, it didn’t hurt.

Pushing up Copper Butte and crossing tree number 73, or was it 140?

Pushing up Copper Butte and crossing tree number 73, or was it 140?

Going down the southern side, there were markedly less horseflies than on the northern side, so I took a break and downed a big serving of oatmeal. By the time I was done 10 minutes later, the flies had started to find me and I was glad to be on my way again.

The trail is really nice. Yes, there are long pushes, but also long downhills and overall it would be mostly rideable without bikepacking gear. I liked the HAB as it gave me a chance to use other muscle groups and stretch.

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Grouse mother hen protecting her tiny offspring.

Grouse mother hen protecting her tiny offspring.


Sherman Peak is next!

Sherman Peak is next!

Past Sherman Pass at Highway 20, the trail’s character changes at it becomes quite a bit rockier and less shaded.


Sherman Peak behind me.

This new-to-me portion south of Sherman Pass, was pretty fun for about 5 miles until reaching the Snowpeak Cabin. I chatted with three guys who had reserved the cabin for the night.

The spring near Snowpeak cabin was not flowing.

The spring near Snowpeak cabin was not flowing.

About 2 miles past the cabin, the PNT is supposed to go west over the mountains. However, I did not notice anything that could be called a trail and kept going. I have read that the PNT at Bald Mountain is supposed to be a pretty strenuous bushwhack, so I am not surprised that I did not notice a trail.

The Kettle Crest trail, meanwhile, is well traveled and goes down steeply. After reaching a saddle, one climbs steeply back up on the other side towards Barnaby Butte. The trail layout is really bad on both sides. Instead of following the Kettle Crest trail to its southern terminus over Barnaby Butte, I followed the Barnaby Butte trail going down SSW, loosing 2500 ft. over 7 miles along abandoned logging roads. This portion of my route was the biggest disappointment of the entire ride, and put me in a contemplative mood about what I am doing out there riding on-and-on, when I could be in places that are actually fun, or even at home. To me, abandoned logging roads are as much fun as busy highways, but while the former gives me a creepy feeling, the latter just scare me.

Barnaby Butte trail heading west down from Barnaby Butte.

Barnaby Butte trail heading down south-west from Barnaby Butte.

More creepy & wet abandoned logging road - I mean Barnaby Butte trail.

More creepy & wet abandoned logging road – I mean Barnaby Butte trail.

I was very glad to be done with the Barnaby Butte trail. It had taken me 15 hours to ride 45 miles and with 10,000 ft. of elevation gain. That was a personal best with bikepacking gear.  Mosquitos were starting to swarm me on the ride up a forest service road, but the mosquito repellent worked pretty well.20150627_192329_small

It was about 8 pm when I reached the trailhead for the Thirteen Mile trail. My legs were feeling fine, oddly, and the trail looked generally ok from the trailhead. But it would also be completely in tree-cover and probably offer no redeeming views, while adding 3000 ft. of climbing, or ~5 hours of riding. The 13-mile trail had been on my list of things to ride that day, but I couldn’t figure out why I would want to ride this trail now – and so I didn’t.  My mind was decidedly done riding for riding’s sake alone after the creepy Barnaby Butte trail, and so I took the roads back to Republic. Once I was riding on the dirt road, I was smiling to myself and knew that I had made the right decision.

What’s the upshot of all this? I learned that going as fast as I can decreases how much time I spend taking in my surroundings. Which might be ok when it’s really boring and buggy, but mostly I like to go out to explore new places.  Maybe I needed this long, fast, ride to prove to myself that I could do 10k elevation with bikepacking gear in a day, but I don’t feel like I gained anything of value in the process.

If someone is thinking of riding the PNT along the southern portion of the Kettle Crest, I would recommend heading down at Snow Peak trail. That extra detour was not worth the effort required.

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Mt. Saint Helens Bikepack #3

Plans for this 3-day bikepacking trip near St. Helens came together a few days before the weekend, when I realized that I could catch a ride with pickup at a different location. There are so many trail options to consider. The Siouxon trail has certainly been on my list, but another area that I wanted to explore was north-east from St. Helens. And having ridden the Mount Margaret backcountry last year, I knew that I also wanted to go back there. With so many options, my route finally changed from possibilities to reality while my tires were rolling on the ground. Here’s the final version:

Coldwater Lake to Randle, WA: 107 miles, 14,500 ft. elevation.

Coldwater Lake to Randle, WA: 107 miles, 14,500 ft. elevation.

I started to ride late evening, 8 pm. It was a bit cool, but I quickly warmed up and stayed in just my short sleeve shirt until 10 pm.  20150612_202605_small

The higher up I went, the colder and windier it got. Brr. Just past 11 pm, I arrived at my reserved campsite at Margaret Camp. I remembered vaguely the layout of the site, and with just my light illuminating the area, I set up my tent in gusty conditions. It took me quite a while to get the tent secured in the wind, and by the end, I had lost feeling in my fingers. In another couple of minutes I had got my gear inside the tent and was happy. The wind and dust was outside, and I was inside starting to warm up. I ate a bit of bread, finished my corn chips, and put my earplugs in. I laid there waiting to see if I’d be warm enough under my summer down-blanket, and the answer was: no. I put my windbreaker on and was just warm enough not to shiver. But, sleep didn’t really come to me until early morning when the wind died down and it started to warm up.

When I could really start to feel the sun warm the inside of the tent, I got up and looked around. Here I am, in my favorite place.

Margaret Camp.

Margaret Camp.

Just east of the camp area is a tiny creek. It would have been enough to get water, but I still had over a liter and there are a couple of tiny little creeks coming up east of here. There was less water up here this year, then a month later last year. Just something to be aware off if going on this trip later in the summer.

Oh, I love this area. What views, what views. There was more pushing than I remembered, but how could one mind slowing down when there are sights like this:

Mt. Hood!

Mt. Hood!

St. Helens.

St. Helens.

Whence I came from.

Whence I came from.

Or these:


Mt. Rainier!

Mt. Rainier!

Mt. Adams!

Mt. Adams!

Note the many layers of mountains towards Mt. Adams. My plan was to make significant progress towards this volcano, and I think I made it up to the last dark, jagged ridge line: which would be the Boundary trail.

The Whitter Ridge trail is apparently a bit damaged, and the sign seems to say that it’s not a good idea. I stayed on the Boundary trail and headed east.


Heading down to the Norway Pass trailhead, I met a few hikers. Most were heading to the Shovel Lake area for an overnighter or daytrip. No one asked me what I was up to – maybe bikepacking has become a very commonplace occurrence, or maybe they just didn’t care. Time to hit the pavement and ride up to Windy Ridge. Past Windy Ridge, the road continues as a pumice-gravel road. Pumice are super light rocks, just like you’d buy in the store. Basically, airy volcanic rocks.


20150613_114656_smallThe Truman trail is quite the sight, but it was a bit rideable every now and then, when I didn’t push my bike up alongside the ladders.

Truman trail is the first ridge in the picture.

Truman trail is the first ridge in the picture.

Oh yes, we are going up this spine.

Oh yes, we are going up this spine.

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A look back north from where I came


And Mt. Adams in the east, St. Helens up close to my right:

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I met a few hikers, and many mountain bikers. All the bikers were super happy, the hikers were kinda snobs / unhappy. It was weird. Once I had pushed up Truman trail, my work was done and it was a smooth-ish coasting along the flowing Plains of Abraham. 20150613_123933_small20150613_122305_small 20150613_122643_smallAfter a lunch break on the Ape Canyon trail, I headed south to the Swift reservoir and the Eagle Cliff general store. This time, I used a much shorter forest service road that almost directly connects Ape Canyon to the store. While the beginning of the FS road was chunks of granite and really rough, the later portion was smooth and fast. Wheew!


At the Eagle Cliff store, I bought chips, bananas, and a couple loafs of bread to get me through the next 2 days. I also had a couple Mountain House dinners left and other snacks. Next up: Lewis River trail. I met a huge group of hikers in the first 1-3 minutes, then I had the trail almost to myself. I did meet a farther and his 2 young boys on bikes a bit later. One 6, the other 7 years old. The youngest kid had little tears running down his face – he was in way over his head. They had started at the campground, and I’d guess it had probably taken them 3 hours to get to this place. They probably had another hour or 2 to get out. It was the biggest ride for both of them. The trail then winds through beautiful forest, and becomes progressively steeper.

Along Lewis River trail.

Along Lewis River trail.

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I passed by the Lower Falls, then a few more falls came and went:

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The next trail had been on my list since 2 years ago. Back then, the only report that I could find was that it had not been maintained and was difficult hiking. Now, 2 years later, I came across this post describing the clean-up of the Quartz Creek trail the forest service did in 2014. It sounded great, even with the WTA trail description of “that while this is a river trail, it is not a smooth river-valley trail and goes in and out of the valley”. Oh, how those words would repeat in my head while I pushed and pushed my bike the many unnecessary ups & downs along this section.

Almost immediately, the trail shows its real character:

Tough reroute along a washed out section of the Quartz Creek trail.

Tough reroute along a washed out section of the Quartz Creek trail.

There were rideable sections, and the downhills were actually fun, but the ups, oh my, the ups were tough hike-a-bike. I made it to Straight Creek and looked for a good way to cross for a while. The crossing was easy once I found a good spot.

Straight Creek.

Straight Creek.

As I was pushing up the other side, I was wondering if I should have gotten water at the creek. So, I started to go back and in the process, looked at the campsite. Boy, did it look good. Pine needles cushioning the tent sites, and a large fire ring with several logs to sit on. And a big table made from the trunk of a tree. It was just around sunset, and I convinced myself to take it easy and settle down here by the river. I found a nice campsite a bit away from the noisy river, and was asleep within an hour. Not too cold, not too hot. And so I slept until 6 am.

After a good breakfast, it was time to continue pushing my bike. Again, the ups were often hard hike-a-bike, then a rideable flat portion, followed by an awesome downhill. Repeat. Some portions were almost flat, but difficult to pass.

Along Quartz Creek trail.

Along Quartz Creek trail.



Quartz Creek crossing just past Snagtooth trail (which I never actually found).

Right afterwards, I crossed a very interesting creek. It was flowing over a wide, smooth slab of granite for quite a ways down before collecting in a pool below. I was imagining that the water heats up quite a bit and down in the pool would be warm water.  I didn’t try it out; in retrospect, I think I would have liked to try it out. At the time, I wanted to keep going and make it up to the boundary trail before 4 pm.

The hot tub.

The hot tub.

Overall the Quartz Creek trail was super tough, but except for this one big blow down just before French Creek trail, the trail had been logged out. Thank you, forest service and WTA volunteers!

Big blow down just before French Creek trail.

Big blow down just before French Creek trail.


Past French Creek, the Quartz Creek was even less traveled, and the only signs of use were deer prints. Long, white flowers were reaching into the trail from both sides, and it was very steep the last part up.


After 10 miles, 7 hours travel time, and 4400 ft. total ascent (while only gaining 2200 ft. elevation), I reached the Boundary trail. It was a super highway. I heard the brrrr, brrraaap, of motorcycles quite a while before being on the Boundary trail, but then didn’t see a single one – though I kept hearing them. Oh well, fine with me. While there are some super easy parts on the Boundary trail, and some hard pushes, there’s nothing on this section like I had experienced along the Quartz Creek trail. It was nice to be somewhat out in the open – out of the canyon covered in trees.

Boundary trail.

Boundary trail.

20150614_142603_smallI did get a brief view of Mt. Adams and then kept going toward the Juniper Ridge trail.


I thought I could ride that trail and make it to Cispus in 4 hours. After pushing up the first 1000 ft. the trail was leveling off, but it was still sandy, loose, and with a sufficient number of ups, that I decided to turn around. The trail is open to motorcycles, so the ground has been churned well. I ate some bread and checked in with my ride, while sitting in a small meadow:


The short & easy way back, was to go down what I had just pushed up, and then take the Dark Meadow trail down to the forest service road. The trail was initially not too bad, but the middle portion was ridiculous. Yep, I pushed my bike down for a while.

Dark Meadow trail.

Dark Meadow trail.

Once that section was over, the trail was rideable again, and quite fun. The last creek crossing can be done over a huge tree. To get to Cispus, I took a gravel road. So smooth, so awesome, and I could even see the mountains to my right.

20150614_174734_smallThe pick-up in Cispus didn’t work, and I rode on farther to Randle were I was picked up. There was hardly any traffic on the road to Randle, and the views were first class near Randle.


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Teanaway Highcountry

The Wenatchee National Forest south of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness offers a host of opportunities for mountain biking. In addition, the Teanaway Community Forest is adjacent to the south, and combined with the trails above Roslyn offers year-round riding opportunities.

49 miles, 11k elevation gain.

49 miles, 11k elevation gain.

Near the northern boundary of the forest with the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, a series of trails connect with each other and open up the possibility for an all-day backcountry excursion. Most trails in the high country are quite technical: roots, rocks, steep grade, or narrow tread on sloping bench cut are common. So if that’s what you like, and views and solitude are also of interest, this is a great area to visit.

Some trails in the Teanaway seem to be more popular than others. On this particular day, about 20 cars were parked at the Stafford creek trailhead, but in the past I’ve seen an even larger number of cars at the Esmeralda Basin trailhead. During the first 10:30 hours of riding, I met 1 group of hikers on the Teanaway Ridge, 4 groups on Stafford, and 1 guy camping out on top of Iron Peak. The ride then back went along a couple forest service roads and then over Iron Bear Creek back to highway 97. Again, on the trails I didn’t meet anyone, but saw many people in campgrounds along the way.

I started the ride at 10 am just off highway 97. The forest service road leading up to the Iron Bear trailhead is a nice warm up. The trail itself is a great climb, some parts are shaded by trees, some rocky stuff, almost all is rideable.

Along the Iron Bear trail with Teanaway Ridge in sight.

Along the Iron Bear trail with Teanaway Ridge in sight.

At the 4-way intersection with the Teanaway Ridge trail, I turned right: up towards Miller Peak. Views quickly open up from here on.

Teanaway Ridge trail.

Teanaway Ridge trail.


Mt. Rainier in the distance.

Mt. Rainier in the distance.

It was a very warm day and I was very cautious not to exert myself hard. I ate chips, drank water, and just afterwards, had a bit of a dizzy spell. Whoops, held on to a tree and kept from falling over. It went away in a few seconds – and luckily I would be fine for the rest of the day. Not sure if it was the heat or having just eaten something that caused it.

Lots of climbing in the beginning, with a quick downhill in the middle that ends by going down a pile of rubble.


Mt. Stuart in the distance.

Long rubble chute.

Long rubble chute.


The County Line trail around Miller Peak was a treat, as always.

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My next goal came roughly into sight along the west side of Miller Peak. The Stafford Creek trail goes up behind the first range in the picture below.


A long downhill and a snack break were had going down the Miller Peak trail. The lower portion was a big soggy, but better than usually. All the trees had been cleared from the winter, which was nice.

At the Stafford Creek trailhead were a ton of cars. I only met 4 groups of hikers on the trail, so there must have a been a lot more people higher up to experience the wilderness together. The trail is quite techy to ride, but it’s mostly riding, not hiking. Yum!

Stafford Creek trail.

Stafford Creek trail.

I wasn’t quite sure yet if I wanted to ride up all the way to the pass (before it enters Wilderness), but at the first opportunity to take the trail less traveled – I did indeed take it. Standup trail was one level above Stafford Creek in terms of steepness and rocks. Maybe 2 levels up. Higher up, the views opened up the north where the Stafford Creek trail goes. Looks beautiful – I must take it someday.


Standup trail - if you're riding on a horse you probably need to stand up a lot. Ditto for mountain biking.

Standup trail – if you’re riding on a horse you probably need to stand up a lot. Ditto for mountain biking.


At the saddle are a nice viewpoint and camping spot. After heading down a few switchbacks, the trail intersects with the Bean Creek trail and heads up the next ridge towards Earl Peak.


Down Standup trail.

Hence I came from.

Up the east side of Bean Creek trail.

The Bean Creek trail down from the ridge is extremely steep. I had to walk a few times. My rear brake was making an awful sound all day, but now it was particularly bad. I think the metallic break pads are responsible for that which I had swapped in from my spare parts bin. I am back to the resign-based version next week. But, another noise was coming from the rear wheel: a bit of a griding / crunchy. I was concerned about having a mechanical out this far, but it held / healed itself. Looking at this at home, I think the rubber O-ring on the freehub tore and let some dirt in.


Looking down into the Bean Creek drainage. Trail to the lower right.

Looking down into the Bean Creek drainage. Trail to the lower right.

The lower portion of the Bean Creek trail was a fun downhill – lots of rocks and roots, and down near the river it got downright tight in places. At the intersection with the next trail, I looked at the watch. Hmm, almost 6 pm. Ok, if I turn around now, I’ll be back at the car at 9 pm. And if I were to add on the next singletrack section up to Iron Peak, it’d probably be 11 pm. That’s too late. Ok, so lets go back. And with that rational decision made, my bike mysteriously turned right: up the Beverly Turnpike trail towards Iron peak. It was a very nice trail to ride in the beginning, before heading through a bunch of gravel slides. The Beverly creek valley is big, as if carved by a glacier. I was impressed by the views and the geography. It’s quite different from other parts of the mountains that are much smaller in scale. Here is a big open valley similar the ones I saw in Idaho last year.

From whence I came along the Beverly Turnpike trail.

From whence I came along the Beverly Turnpike trail.

Headiong towards Iron Peak.

Headiong towards Iron Peak.

The Beverly Creek drainage from the Iron Peak pass.

The Beverly Creek drainage from the Iron Peak pass.

A bit more riding and pushing up higher, and finally I found a place void of ants where I could rest properly. And enjoy the view without swatting insects.

Almost to the top of the pass where the Iron Peak trail heads just a bit south to the real peak.

Almost to the top of the pass where the Iron Peak trail heads just a bit south to the real peak.


“Bill Peak” I believe this is called, just east of Teanaway Peak.

Note that spire in the back - called Volcanic Neck.

Note that spire in the back – called Volcanic Neck.

At the top of the pass, I finally met a hiker: he was out with his dog for an overnighter. We had a nice chat and he was telling me a lot about routes, the geography, and various mountains around us. The thing that stood out most to me, was the spire in the picture above. It’s surrounded by pretty loose rocky, so that needle is made of some different material. It’s actually the remnant of an old volcano, called Volcanic Neck. Very cool – I had no idea there were other older volcanoes in this area besides the big ones with snow on them.

The Iron Peak trail down from here to the North Fork Teanaway river was long and rocky. It wouldn’t have minded either, but my feet and hands were really sore from the barrage of bumps all day long. I took 3 breaks to shake out my hands and give my feet a rest, too. Whoot. Nice views, though, when I took my breaks.

Mt. Rainier in the distance.

Mt. Rainier in the distance.

Took the forest service roads back to the Iron Bear trail, where another big break was had. My bread was starting to taste really sour and sort of disgusting to me. But, it did fill me up. It was getting dark, and with the last big of daylight gone, I rode and pushed up and over the Teanaway ridge, as per usual.

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Big ride – lots of good trails.

49 miles, 11k elevation, and 13 hours later, I was back at my car. GPX track.

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Mad River, Tyee Ridge, Billy Creek

Drawing squiggly lines in Garmin’s Basecamp is easy, riding the track afterwards depends on how much research one did while drawing the route. In this case, I did almost zero research, and boy, did it pay off in HAB time.

The Forest Service map of the middle Entiat region is a pretty good resource to get the lay of the land. Three trails in the center of the map are closed until next month, so I decided to ride a bit to the east: Lower Mad River trail, Tyee Ridge trail, and Billy Creek trail. The trails were connected with forest service roads in the beginning, middle, and end.

Starting near Fish Lake, the route covered Lower Mad River, Tyee Ridge, and Billy Creek trails.

The route began with a couple forest service roads up to Maverick Saddle. A group of motorcycles passed me on the way up, and one of them was concerned about me because my bike was on the ground. Telling him that I was fine and merely taking a break seemed to satisfy the concern. Hey, not everybody has 50 hp to ride up the hills! 20150530_094442_smallThere were views of the Stewart Range on the way up, but I was lazy and didn’t feel like taking any pictures. Have taken too many probably, so that it doesn’t seem worthwhile anymore.

A little bit down from Maverick Saddle are the beginnings of the Lower and Upper Mad River trails.  The Upper is closed for another month or so, so I went down the Lower Mad River, as planned. Soon, there was the Mad River, and it was not happy! Snarly and gushing, it did not want anyone to pass to the other side.

Lower Mad River crossing - impassable.

Lower Mad River crossing – impassable.

“Hm hm.”, I thought. Let’s see what else is around here. Well, if that isn’t a bridge for bipeds and cy-peds. Careful balancing on the bark of the tree had me across in a couple minutes.


The Mad River trail exceeded all expectations. Dropping 3000 ft. over 15 miles, it was easy going. The trail had been recently logged, but was a bit brushy. Many portions of the trail have been reinforced and there are three pretty new bridges. It appears to be a very well maintained trail. Not a fresh track was on the ground, except for an old motorcycle track where the rider appeared to have some problems staying on the trail. Since the Lower Mad River trail is impassable at the top, I think it keeps trail usage pretty low. I did not encounter anyone on this, or the other 2 single tracks that I rode that day.

The upper portion is in the woods, shaded and flowy. The sound and sight of the river is nearby.20150530_112312_small 20150530_114328_small

Soon, one emerges from the trees and enters a different eco zone.

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At times, one rides a bit above the river, then the trail dips down almost to water level. One can fill up with water about every half hour or so. Below is an impressive instance of the Mad River carving it’s way through the rocks.20150530_121551_small 20150530_121656_small

Going lower, it gets a bit rocky here and there, and the views open up. 20150530_123829_small 20150530_124513_small

Here, the Mad River takes a somewhat odd route through the burned trees below. Maybe a beaver had been busy?

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The trail mostly follows the elevation contours, but does detour up high in a couple places. From there, one has nice views and can see what’s ahead. In this case: a series of rideable switchbacks.

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Which lead to a gorgeous little canyon.

20150530_141322_smallAt this point, my rear rim was hitting quite a few rocks, and sure enough, the tire was low. So I pumped it up, but before too long, it was hitting rocks again. I knew that there were a lot of holes in my tire and that the Stan’s sealant was almost dried out, so I added a bit, pumped it up, and it held the rest of the day. At the end of the trail is a campground, but it’s like an oven down there so I kept on going without looking around. I was ready to go back up high. The forest service road 5700, I believe, while steep, is paved, which makes riding very easy. Just a couple unfriendly guys on motorcycles put a slight damper on the riding. 20150530_150047_small

It was hot, but with a full water bladder and an occasional breeze, the first 2000 ft. of climbing went well. Views were impressive.


Baldy (right) and Stormy (center-left) mountains where I had been a couple weeks ago.

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Just as I was seeing my next goal: Tyee Mountain, my energy level was dropping, and all contact points (hand, feet, butt) were hurting.


I remembered that I had a banana in my bag, which was just what I wanted. Took a 20 minute break with shoes off. Ahh!  Then, I made it a bit higher before my energy level was near zero again. Shucks. What’s wrong, I was wondering. Am I not eating enough? I was trying to conserve food since I had started with only 1 loaf of bread, a pack of tortillas, some almonds, gummy bears, and that banana, and there was not much left at this point. However, food would be better inside my stomach than in my bag, if I was to complete the remaining 20 miles. Time out. Eat bread, drink water, take a salt pill. Hmm. Another break was had 5 minutes later. I am exhausted. And the top of the mountain is coming closer sooo slowly. Maybe I should not have taken the detour up to Tyee Moutain, but just headed down to Mad River trail and back to the car?  While I was pondering my food reserves and lack of energy, the views  inspired me to see what lay ahead.

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See the road snaking up in the middle of the picture?

After a bit more pushing, the Enchantments framed the Tyee Ridge trailhead. Not too shabby.


The beginning of Tyee Ridge was in primo condition and I was making first tracks up there this year.

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A bit farther west, the views opened up to the north.


Baldy (right) and Stormy (center) mountains.


Making first tracks, however, also meant that no trail crew had been here, yet. From Tyee Ridge to the intersection with Billy Creek trail were about 5 trees down. I was wondering if I should turn around, but I had just come down a steep rocky descent and thought that it would still be much faster to just keep going.

And how wrong I was about that, I was just about to find out. Billy Creek was a disaster. I started counting downed trees to entertain myself and after about 10 dismounts within the first 200 yards, of what could have been gorgeous alpine single track, I was starting to panic wondering if I would make it down, or if I should go back up and take the road to Mad River trail. The later would be a huge detour and I was low on food. What to do? I looked at the map, and it was maybe a couple miles to the next intersection with a road. Even though there were lots of trees down, it did not take too long to get over, around, or under them. The effort involved was more psychological than physiological, but I also knew that I only had 2 slices of bread and some gummy bears left. So I kept counting downed trees: 13, 14, 15, …, 31, 32, …, 40. Then, I was out of the worst of it and only got to 43 before reaching the road.The lower portion of Billy Creek trail had signs of recent chain-saw activity in the beginning, for which I was very thankful. The trail has a series of flowy switchbacks and it smooth and fun.


The sun was starting to set and I had high hopes of making it to Mad River trail before sunset.

But, not far ahead, I came to a very steep and rocky portion. That must be the reason why this trail is a ‘black diamond’ on the Forest Service map. Super careful riding and lots of walking got me down to a biggish creek crossing.

Lower part of Billy Creek trail.

Lower part of Billy Creek trail.

Not wanting to get my shoes wet, I walked through the creek in bare feet. Ouch, cold, numb feet! I finished my last ration of bread as I was putting on my shoes. The air was starting to cool, and oddly, my energy level was increasing. I wasn’t even hungry. Maybe I’ll make it out of here without too much struggle, after all. I quickly reached the Mad River trail and smiled. This trail is like a highway compared to what I had just come from. The Moon was shining brightly, and after a while, I turned my light on. What fun. My legs felt fresh, the trail was good, and I was the only one out there.

The walk across the big tree went well, as did the rest of the ride. Only the rear break pads were done for, once again. These finned XT ‘organic’ pads lasted only lasted 2 months. I am not sure if I break too much, ride too much, or if it’s the wet conditions. But, at $20 per set, I decided to buy the cheaper non-finned XT pads this time and see if they’ll be just as good in breaking and noise performance.

58 miles, 10k elevation, GPX track

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