Foggy Dew and Angel’s Staircase

The Angel’s Staircase loop had been firmly in my mind for a number of months, mostly due to the many comments on MTBR about the fire conditions. With clear weather in the forecast, and the main trailhead still closed, a quick re-route via Foggy Dew trail added much yearned-for distance and elevation: 30 miles and 8000 ft., instead of the usual 20 miles and 6000 ft. This comes in addition to a 4.5-hour drive one-way from Seattle. Big day.

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Link to RideWithGPS

I started my ride at the crack of 10 am, with about 20 cars in the Foggy Dew parking lot. Busy! A large crew of runners and 2 motorcycles departed almost simultaneously as I arrived, and the stench from the engines lingered in the air for a few minutes while I got ready.

While Foggy Dew is a river trail for the first few miles, it is surprisingly rocky and steep in places. After 1.5 hours, the shade from the trees lessens and the views start to open up.

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Gaining elevation brought snow in the shady sections and even rougher terrain. Some first-class hike-a-bike here!

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And with that big push, one enters the astounding alpine known as Merchant Basin.

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This had to be ridden as much as possible, though it was still relentlessly steep.

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Soon, it was unrideably steep and bumpy, with larches next to me turning color. No more words needed.

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The descent into this valley went across a few patches of pretty big shale, which required me to walk. No easy miles so far.

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Finally, riding commenced for a few miles to the next lake. Though a lot of stopping was required to take pictures.

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After finding some goodies to eat in my bag, it was time for the next hike-a-bike that would have been rideable if I had more power. Though walking is not bad at all in a place like this.

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After 5 miles of (mostly) descending the sometimes pretty rough Eagle Lakes trail, it was dusk. Time for the last climb up Martin Creek trail: tough, but almost all of it rideable even with the thin layer of snow. It was good that I rode this later in the day, as there were basically no views in the forest. With the last bit of daylight gone, I reached the pass at the Cooney Lake trail cut-off.

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Time to put on all my warm clothes and prepare to descend for a long while.

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The Foggy Dew descend was sublime: the headlight shining a clear path in front of me, while I was certain there wouldn’t be any hikers on this dark cold night without a flashlight of their own. I stopped briefly to chat with a couple backpackers, who had set up camp about an hour before reaching the alpine. It’d be good to get out here for an overnight sometime.

 

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The backside of Mount St. Helens National Monument

Not nearly as well visited as the area around the volcano, this far northern end has miles of singletrack and plenty of hike-a-bike. Reading hiker’s descriptions had made it seem that it’s mostly a steep, wet, overgrown bushwhack, so this area wasn’t high on my list. But, with nothing else left within 2, 3 hours driving distance from Seattle, it was time to give it a try. What made it even more tempting, were the reports on Trailforks of ‘good’ conditions – i.e. someone had logged out the trails.

Due to fire danger, the gravel road from Taidnapam Park to the Goat Creek trailhead was closed. I had planned on driving up, but I suppose another 1500 ft. won’t kill me – especially if I don’t get dusted in by trucks. Taidnapam Park is an interesting place. There were a number of people just walking around, there are group facilities, and a guard house that is open at 8 am on a Saturday to collect my $5 day-use fee with credit card. In the middle of nowhere.

Properly parked, I began my journey and was considering if I should shorten my route a bit to compensate for the extra climbing at the beginning.

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After a very quiet climb, the clouds did not appear to lessen as I reached the Goat Creek trailhead.

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After seeing loose rocks and overgrown bushes at the beginning of the trail, I had low expectation for the rest – when suddenly this appeared:

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I was stunned. This place must be popular! Soon, I reached what must be the main attraction: what could be a giant waterfall was today merely a trickle, splashing the rock covered in brown-green moss just behind the tree:

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The huge rockwall nestles a big cave below it – the trail goes right through all this.

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There were even short downhill section, which had me thinking “oh no, I’ll have to climb up even more soon”. And so I climbed again.

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The trail was mostly cleared: even this tree pile-up was easy to walk around. 20180825_095625_small

There were red berries:

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and blackberries and blueberries:

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After an honest push up Tumwater Mountain, I finally reached a meadow. But the supposed lake there had dried up. Instead, I met another mountain biker in the middle of nowhere. After agreeing that we were both surprised to see anyone else out here, we continued in our opposite directions. A bit more riding brought me to this delightful lunch spot – which on a clear day would have been a million dollar view. For now, it was my quiet and warm place to eat bagels with cream cheese, banana and a bit of lemonade. Yes, ‘eat’ lemonade because it’s in powder form.

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The clouds lifted ever so slightly as I left, and I could can see a hint of Mt. Rainier just below the cliff.

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Another window in the trees had a bit of a view of Mt. St. Helens, but the smoke and clouds made it hard to take it in properly.

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Here is a picture of a tree, and I have no idea what else there is to see. I suppose it might be Strawberry Ridge, over at the other side, but maybe it’s not.

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Goat Mountain trail brings one along the northern side of an impressive rock wall.

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Ingeniously, the trail had been seriously brushed out and lined with ripe blueberries.

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I scarfed down a few handful of the delicious berries.

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Reaching the saddle of the ridge, the views did disappoint. But, it’s still nice to be up here. All alone. Not even pesky flies.

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And the trail is first class as it traverses just below the ridge.

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On the long downhill to Rifle Lake, I met a couple groups of backpackers and heard exclamations from tiny kids “You have giant tires!”. Oh how true.

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After the somewhat mindless waste of elevation, another new-to-me trail was about to be explored: The Green River trail. After being fairly fun and easy initially, it soon became tedious.

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I whole-heartedly disagree with it being called “green” river. It was definitely rust-brown.

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Some hike-a-bike lurked here and there.

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As well as some spooky animal that was surely lurking behind some tree. Certainly, I don’t leave fingerprints like that!

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After meeting another hiker couple, those would be the last humans I saw the rest of the ride. 20180825_145918_small

Just me and my trusty hiking companion: my bike.

This tree looked like a pipeline out of the corner of my eye at first:

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And here’s a tree that just shed all its bark. Probably not a good idea.

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It started to sprinkle as I began the ascent of Vanson Ridge. I have no idea where this supposed ‘ridge’ is; basically it’s many switchbacks up the side of a mountain called Vanson Peak.

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At the top, there is a ridge. A cold, windy, wet ridge. A label says “Goat Mountain” trail.

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Putting on all my dry clothes, and taking off all my wet ones, put me in a very good mood and after putting front and rear shocks in ‘fully open’ mode, dropper post down, Goat Creek was a sublime descent. The brakes gently swooshing on the rotors, a smooth trail with no-one on it.  A wee-bit of pedaling was necessary to get past a meadow.

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Wow. I’ve been in Washington a while now, but this place is spectacular. If you’re going downhill. It’d be quite a push going the other way to be sure.

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When I came to this section, it was clear that the chain-sawer was in possession of an advanced degree. Truly impressive work – just so that I can keep right on rolling through here. Thanks you Gifford Pinchot National Forest crew! This was an extraordinary ride.

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https://ridewithgps.com/trips/27091323

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Miles and miles on the Olympic Peninsula

Getting up late for this ride is a bad idea. And by late, I mean 6 am. But, that’s what I did. By the time I started riding it was 9.30 am, knowing full well that it takes at least 12 hours to finish this ride from last year.

There are now 10 miles along Lake Crescent that are paved. Such a weird way to spend millions of dollars: replacing a wide smooth-ish hiking trail under trees with a wide gravel road covered mostly in tarmac – lots of trees gone. Lots of character lost – who wants to hike on pavement for 5 miles? Turns out, no-one. All the hikers drive to the absolute farthest point they can, then walk the last < 1 miles. And who was out there biking? 2 people on ebikes and me. Really?! The lack of consideration to create an immersive outdoor experience is sad.

Enough of the rant. The ride is actually pretty good if you don’t know what you’re missing. The fun stuff being the “Adventure section” of the ODT and the Mt. Muller loop. – perhaps not the push up Mt. Muller.Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 9.29.16 PM.png

https://ridewithgps.com/trips/26845370

 

The smoke forecast had Saturday looking good for the Olympic Peninsula, and was able to snap some good pictures this time – much much better luck then last year when the smoke clouds were so thick that it got dark!20180818_105640_small

 

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I had stocked up on ferry food:

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Here are a few of the last remains of the fun singletrack along Lake Crescent, which also appear to be in process of getting paved over.

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Note the pavement below:

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More ferry food:

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First good view from the Mt. Muller ridge line:

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So many pretty meadows.

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The trail weaves between a dark forest and alpine meadows.

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A wee bit late in the day, but so much downhill goodness about to come.

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Lake Crescent below. Oh yes, there was more climbing before it goes down for good.

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With 15 miles left, the sun is setting on the Olympic Discovery Trail.

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Shortly after taking this picture, the pack of instant coffee that I took on an empty stomach did a number on me. Feeling too dizzy to ride, I had to sit for long periods of time while inhaling carbs. After a half hour (it seemed like an eternity!), my body stabilized and I could ride again. Though, feeling on the verge of throwing up because I ate too much.

After 13 hours, 45 min, I was back at the car. Woo hoo! I was feeling ready to ride more, instead drove back home for 3 hours. That’d be 2 am.

I was very glad that I did this ride on Saturday, as the smoke forecast for the next day was very bad:

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Teanaway 8 Drainages ride

After the 7 Drainages loop last year turned out to be the same disaster as posted years earlier on MTBR, the goal this time was to finish with Stafford Creek. The bad thing about this loop in general is the gravel road connection – the reason being the insane drivers there. Exactly 10% – I counted. Almost got run over by an idiot going 50 mph downhill, around a blind corner on the wrong side of the windy gravel road. Seeing him trying to steer around me, but not being able to because he started fish-tailing, made me want to call 911, alas there’s no cell phone reception and I don’t have a helmet cam.

But, then the other 90% of drivers were surprisingly courteous.

On reaching the trailhead of the Esmerelda trail, I thought I’d be pushing as per usual the thick gravel that had been placed there a couple years ago. But, be it my new lower rear tire pressure of ~15 psi with a 2.8 Rekon, or my inhumane strength (probably not), I managed to pedal up almost everything to the top of the pass. The smoke from forest fires was not helping the pictures, but it also wasn’t hurting my lungs. Just high haze. I met a few hikers, and chatted with a young guy planning to section hike the WA-PCT this summer.

I have taken so many pictures of the same places, and they really don’t change much – but it always surprises me at how beautiful it is up here and I _need_ to take pictures.

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Some more riding brought me up to the top, and then a most enjoyable downhill was had.

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After the mandatory push up the Fortune Creek Rd., and seeing how some bozzos drove their 4×4’s across the alpine meadow, another fun downhill singletrack was had: down the Boulder de Roux. It gets a bit techy in places, and a couple motocross guys were weighing their options half-ways down. I suggested they turn around and go down the de Roux trail on the west side, since that’s a really fun trails as well and brings them back to their truck. I hope they did, as there was a big tree down across the trail that they would have had to saw out.20180812_114052_small.jpg

After a long lunch break at the campground at the bottom, it was time to see what the Iron Peak trail would dish out this time. Basically, 95% pushing the 2000 ft. up. Just like last year. I can’t believe that 2 years ago I rode most of it. Maybe with fresh legs and cool autumn air its doable? Maybe I didn’t realize how much I hiked the first time? Hikers were encouraging me on my push-fest; but I could hardly breath fast enough to say ‘hi’. Flatlander.

But, then there’s the top. Another snack break needed to be had.

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Not even 10 meters down, flowers made it all the more prettier.

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I wish there were more trails at this elevation.

The way down the Beverly Turnpike trail seemed much more rocky than I remembered it from past years, and had me get off a couple times at the lava field. The valley is big.

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I had no expectations of riding anything going up the Bean Creek trail, and so it was. It’s a nice hike actually. I enjoyed some cool water at the meadow.

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The final push is always hard, but it’s exciting to see more and more of Mt. Stuart.

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Reaching the pass, I got to listen to 2 hikers having some loud argument on Earl Peak. Geez, after pushing for hours I don’t want to put up with that. Just take the mandatory picture “I was here”, and get rolling again.

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This time I headed up Standup Creek trail, instead of going all the way down. Though the push was a bit longer than I remembered, it was much much better than bushwacking down Standup Creek trail. And then there are certainly good views over Stafford Creek and Navajo Peak.

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At the intersection with Stafford Creek, I was feeling not too bad, so decided to head up, instead of going down. However, after 15 minutes I had enough of more hike-a-bike up a rocky trail and turned around. Some fresh water and snacks revived me back at the intersection, and gave me the needed energy to enjoy the Stafford creek downhill stretch.

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https://ridewithgps.com/trips/26632231

 

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