AZT from Mexico to Flagstaff

Time for a quick update from April:

 

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Entiat winter views

After a very snowy (and slow) drive across Steven Pass from Seattle, I was still the first one driving out to Eagle Creek.

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To make matters better, the groomer had come last night!

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The first couple ‘bilers finally passed me at 9:30 am, and immediately stopped to get a picture of my contraption. Several more people passed on the way to Sugarloaf Pk., but all came back rather quickly. Hmm.

Just before riding out of the tree-cover towards Sugarloaf Pk., I took an extended snack break under my emergency blanket, and layered up with some warmer clothing. The trail ahead, going around the bottom of Sugarloaf, looked very windy with only 100 m visibility. Finally, I started pushing for a while, but gave up when I was sinking a couple feet deep in snow drifts. Even the lone snowmobiler, who was the only one who had gone farther than me after passing a few minutes before, came back; riding the drifts skillfully one-legged.

What to do, it’s not even noon, yet.

A family of snowmobilers at French Corral suggested Ardenvoir for burgers. Only 25 minutes! On a snowmobile, that is.

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I decided to head a bit east towards Chumstick Mtn. and see what it’s like along that route. From my summer rides, I knew that there should be some views, but I had no idea that riding slowly in winter would make the views that much more impressive.

After 30 minutes, I came to this hut, which would be a sweet spot to lounge for a while.

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The wind was blowing sideways across the ridge, stirring up snowflakes.

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Quite some weather: sunny, dark, stormy, quiet, 20 F then all of a sudden 30 F… all in 5 minutes. Repeat.

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The Cascades and Enchantments are getting an even bigger storm show.

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While back in the Entiat, things look much calmer at Stormy Mountain.

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A couple vultures expertly circling the gusty winds blowing up the ridge.

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One last look back before heading down.

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And then a look back up at that same feature – with Moon.

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Stampede Pass and Lost Lake

The early biker gets perfect snow. Sometimes.

Even if 7 am does not count as particularly early, it was still sufficient for enjoying perfectly groomed, crusty snow for a couple hours.

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Sunshine after 3 months of dreary weather.

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Perfectly peaceful.

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Easily rideable.

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This is luxury snowbiking. Even detailed maps are placed at key intersections.

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After my last exploration of this area in soft snow and windy/white-out conditions, I was more than thrilled by the blue skies, evergreens covered in white puffs, and by the views of jagged mountains near and far.  Wherever the snowmobiles have gone off-track, there are usually good views. This one did not disappoint.

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I knew I had left my sunglasses at the car, but figured I could squint a little and survive. I did both.

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Not long afterwards, a ‘hurry up and wait’ kind-of group of snowmobilers passed multiple times. I understand: tough to ride past views of Keechelus Lake with the Cascades.

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Too pretty.

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“Ridge-line” riding.

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After catching up with the snowmobilers -again-, I decided to race them on the downhill. Even at 20 F, the sun made it feel decent in my skimpy windshirt as I flew downhill 3 miles at an average of 18 mph. I never saw them again.

The Lost Lake loop had interested me since the map says “intermittently groomed”. It was perfectly groomed, except for a short section on the north end.

The next climb was a good warm-up from getting chilled on the downhill.

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Almost 10 am and the snow’s still crusty.

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Elevation was gained, and where snowmobile tracks zigged and zagged up the side, even better views were had.

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A short break at the top, before more stopping for pictures made the downhill almost as slow as the uphill.

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Geeking out with a cell phone camera.

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Lost Lake below.

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Then, I approached what looked like a minor avalanche, but there was an even bigger bunch of ice blocks behind it. I am pretty sure that must be the reason why I hadn’t met any snowmobilers in the last hour, as the lower bunch of ice looked impassable to a snowmobile.

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No sooner had I walked across the area, when a snowmobiler came from behind, stopped, and with a ‘beep beep beep’ backed-up and drove back up.

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The Lost Lake shoreline glistened in green – though the picture didn’t come out right. Still pretty.

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Sugarloaf Peak with dry socks

The snowmobile trails in the Lake Wenatchee area aren’t open, yet – so it’s a free-for-all for trucks and snowmobiles (and a lone snowbiker) to play around. On my way up, I chatted with a snowmobiler from Leavenworth, Matt, about the WA SnoPark regulations for fatbikes, warming huts, and snowmobile trails. Turns out, that more warming huts do exist! The Bavarian Boondockers have one on the way up to Sugarloaf, which they invited me to visit. After they were done collecting christmas trees in a large tarp, Matt and the others drove off to their trucks parked below.

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I plopped myself down in front of the fire and dried my socks!

Luxury.

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I chopped some wood to warm up a bit more, while waiting for the weather to clear as the weather forecast had said it would, yesterday. Verizon has signal up there, and checking the weather forecast, it now said “cloudy”. I finally got going around 2 pm, just as some blue sky seemed to appear. Outside, it seemed colder to me now that I had sat for a while, but my thermometer seemed to agree.

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Near Sugarloaf Peak, a family stood around a pick-up truck to cut down their Christmas tree. As I rolled up, the little boy asked “Why do you have such big tires?”  –  “So it’s easier to ride over the snow.” I replied.   To which his mother said to the little boy “He’s an extreme athlete” without looking or talking to me, and then turned towards their father who was wielding a running chain saw, without actually being in the process of cutting a tree.

Then a huge snowmobile group came by, and I got almost run off by one of them. It seemed to be a rental group with a guide.

Not quite the views they had hoped for, I think.

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The top of Sugarloaf was impressive in as much as 20 -30 mph winds can make life interesting. Icy snow crystals were being pounded into everything.

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Time to head back down. I lingered for a while starring at the winter storm clouds over the Cascades.

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Lots of people out here for a Sunday with mediocre weather. I need to get going much sooner when I plan to do a bigger ride.

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