This Friday, I explored the Taneum valley near Ellensburg, WA, a bit. I started at L.T. Murray’s Joe Watt canyon entrance, and headed into the mountains on the “Best Loop of 2011” track. The trail was fun single track for the first 2 miles. Afterwards, it became steep and loose, followed by a very scenic ride across several rocky meadows without any trail at all.
This lead to a rather bumpy dirt road which reminded me of the AZT dirt road south-east of Flagstaff. At the farthest point along the “Best Loop”, I left the L.T. Murray conservation area and headed into the nation forest where the roads improved immediately. The weather was looking ominous, so I was a bit anxious about the conditions to come. I calmed myself by reminding me that the weather forecast said “sunny” and 70F all day, and though that wasn’t quite true, it never rained on me and the weather improved again after a couple of hours.
The Taneum region is motorcycle country. All trails were clear of trees, but occasionally quite rutted and a bit steep / loose. First, I went down Hoyt trail. I surprised myself riding some pretty steep parts, but did walk one long, loose, steep hill. At the end of the trail, I forded the South Fork Taneum creek, which was flowing nicely. I had planned on refilling my water along the way, and this was the perfect place. With my new Sawyer in-line filter attached to my Camelbak, I dunked the reservoir in the river. Gravity then filtered clean water into my bottles and I left the rest in the reservoir to drink later. There is a small increase in drinking resistance, but not annoying enough to want to deal with a second bladder only for clean water. The half-hour spent fiddling around with water, food, and drying feet went by very quickly.
The South Fork Taneum starts as double-track with a few mud holes, also called “Lower Taneum trail”. After reaching a road crossing, the real South Fork Taneum trail starts. Its a fantastic single-track climb, a bit of pushing here and there, but a lot was rideable and was just what I had wanted. I reminded me of some of the gravel trails near Colorado Spring.
Once over the ridge, I took the North Fork Taneum trail to the first crossing of the North Fork, but was not willing to ford this one. Lots of fast-running water – so I backtracked a bit and rode the roads and a portion of Fish Hook Flats trail. The Fish Hook Flats trail was quite rutted from motorcycles and became a bit tiresome after a while. So, I stuck to the roads and arrived at the Taneum Creek campground around sunset. Spending a few minutes at the river with a coffee and an energy bar revived me. I hadn’t encounter anyone from the time I started, until the Taneum campground! Some 9 hours. I could image that it’s a bit less idyllic with motorcycles racing through the woods like angry bees, but for me, this ride was excellent! From there I headed back to my car. All in all, a very nice ride.
Stats: 55 miles, 10k ft., 10 hours. GPX track.