Lunch in Mazama

The long-awaited winter closure of Highway 20 by the WS-DOT happened this weekend. With almost all of Washington State to be covered in clouds on Saturday, I was resigned to yet another ride with limited visibility of the majestic peaks in the North Cascades NP.

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And 93 miles and 8000 ft. of climbing later, I now know that there was barely even any snow on the pass.

Still a nice ride. Very peaceful – as neither cars, motorcycles, nor snowmobiles were on most of the route. Only met a couple hikers and a X-country skier on the easter-side of Washington Pass. And a few cars near Mazama.

The sun was lighting up the tips of the mountains as I arrived at Ross Lake. What would it be like to camp up there, waking up in the snow bowl?

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Or paddling across the water down there?

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What I do know is that riding with studded tires makes a lot of noise without snow.

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The clouds thickened the higher I got – removing color and making life a black-and-white television show.

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Whistler Mountain towering high to my left now, when it was in front of me just a few minutes before. Biking takes you places – fast.

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Washington Pass was not a place to linger long, and the decision was made to see if lunch in Mazama could still be gotten before 1 pm.

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The road down on the eastern side is nicer than the western slope, as it is closer to the edge of the rocks and higher up in the valley.

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A most filling lunch was had at the Mazama general store, which was surprisingly crowded with X-country skiers and look-alikes.

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A child’s remark “Oh, it’s an electric bike”, was soon followed by another question about electric bikes. That makes 3 e-bike comments so far – 3 more than I care to have gotten. Not only do I find ebikes to be a bizarre excuse for riding a motorcycle on walkways, but now I am being lumped right in with them. Great. Thanks a lot for giving fatbikes a bad rep.

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A tiny bit of snowy trail was found when I saw 2 guys riding bikes off road. Soon, this path will be off limits to bikes and the go-to place for X-country skiers instead.

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Big clouds rolled over me as I rolled back into the mountains.

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So peaceful. Not a person within 20 miles.

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How rare to find such solitude within 3 hours of Seattle.

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Farewell Fall Ride

Cool mist already lay deep in the valleys in the morning, but one last sunny weekend would surely bring some dry-ish ground to ride on. With the Middlefork Snoqualmie almost closed for the year, it had to be there.

Dirt roads quickly lead up into the valley, into sunshine. Sweat dripping, running down everywhere. Don’t stop or it will get cold!

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Rest and eat at the end of the road – the sun warming and drying my back. And drying the trail where the rays can reach.

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Leaves hide roots and rock, but the big front tire bravely goes where it is commanded to.

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Every imaginable contrast is created by Sun and Shadow, steam rising off the moses up into the blue sky, far above.

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A shower has been set up for the weary traveler; lukewarm – not bad at all!

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Down past Goldmyer hot springs, the big tree-bridge over the Burntboot creek has been taken out by another tree – marking the beginning of a soon-to-be forgotten middle-section of this trail?

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BC Alpine Mystic

The last day of summer was showing up on the weather forecast – on a Thursday. This is what Personal Leave days are for. The drive through Vancouver during rush-hour traffic delayed coffee and cake at the Purebread bakery in Whistler. Finally pedaled at noon on a blue-bird day, heading off to the new westside alpine trails built by the WORCA.

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Only 20 miles and 5k ft. of climbing, but quality mountain bike trails. The Flank trail is a repurposed logging road, but offers a (mostly) decent grade, shade and occasional views. Whistler Mountain on the right:

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The new trail, Into the Mystique, is machine-built and in a few places needs to be landscaped better, but it is very well laid out: grade, drainage and soil compaction are all first class.

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The entire climb was rideable for me, even with occasional steeps and a rock slab. Fun stuff.

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After an 2k ft. of climbing, the trail reaches the alpine. Amazing.

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Lots of riders out.

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Someone spent a lot of time thinking about how to lay out the trail.

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The trail layout looks simple and obvious – and is entirely rideable. It goes up the yellow hill on switchbacks:

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Alpine magic in big gulps.

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Keep riding like this will go on forever.

 

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A side trail gets a bit narrower and technical as it wraps around Mt. Sproatt. Just what I needed now.

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Eventually, there would be a few hike-a-bike sections. Can’t live on Koolaid alone.  The summit of Mt. Sproatt is a short scramble, but I stay on the trail east of the summit.

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The trail builders got a free ride down with a helicopter, just before I arrive at the final lookout.

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Not bad.

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Complete with picnic benches, there are views of the entire range: Black Tusk, Whistler Mt., Blackcomb Mt. Wedge Mt., Armchair … were just a few that other intrepid bikers listed for me.

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Could this connect to the Rainbow trail some day? How about winter fatbiking up here?

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Chatted with a guy from Redmond, WA, on the way down who was wearing a full-face helmet.

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The Lord of the Squirrels trail is rated “blue” in the downhill direction.

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Which is mostly true, but had me walking one roll-over/drop-off. If that’s a blue trail, I don’t think I’ll attempt the black trails at Whistler !  Super sweet, though.

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British Columbia, you’ve got the best alpine mountain bike trails close to Seattle.

Well done, WORCA!

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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

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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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