Tronsen Ridge – Devil’s Gulch Epic

I turn off at Blewett Pass at 12:30 pm and park my car. I am late as always for my big ride of the week. I get into my bike clothes, grab the backpack, lock the car. The first hundred yards are not going very easy – the beginning is always a bit tough after not riding for a week. I ride the forest service road up past semi-permanent camping setups, meet a group of older asians looking for mushroom (they are not ripe, yet, maybe in 2 weeks, I am told), ride past a rock chute with an old car at the bottom, see vistas of the Cascade mountains to the west.

20130614_130944small 20130614_132013small 20130614_132244smallAt the first pass, I take a quick look around, ride up a side spur, and see downed, burned trees. I turn back to get to Tronsen ridge, about 5 miles east from here. I see people with pickup trucks out in the woods looking for stuff – probably mushrooms. I encounter a guy on a motorcycle, coming from the Tronsen ridge area, and follow his tracks up the Mount Lillian trail. Officially, motorcycle season starts tomorrow, but who would ever care to enforce such laws, I am thinking.

20130614_134513small 20130614_140151smallThe smell of charcoal after a rain goes through my lungs. Charcoal, that was made almost 1 year ago, in a big forest fire. I see black sticks that once were trees with green canopy. I ride ground covered in wet ash. It rained last night. I am apprehensive of what may await me if Tronsen Ridge trail has not been cleared of downed trees, yet.

20130614_140818small 20130614_141600smallTronsen ridge is clear and the big fire missed it for the most part. The trail is loose, chunky, and steep in places. Glad that I am going downhill here. Other parts are smooth and tacky.

20130614_141956small 20130614_143110small 20130614_143851smallI meet another guy on a motorcycle heading up. He stops and turns the engine off. I know that trails are closed until 15 June, but I decide to not say anything to him. After a couple sentences, it turns out that he’s with the USFS, patrolling the area. This guy has some serious motocross skills to confidently patrol this area. We chat and he tells me the best time to visit Pyramid mountain is probably September after the bugs will be on their way out. We chat some more, then he cranks the engine, stands up, and starts riding up the ridge-line singletrack.

20130614_145703small 20130614_145825smallI make my way down, stopping a couple of times to let out air of my tires. Tronsen ridge has amazing views in a sub-alpine environment, somewhat similar to Colorado. Mountain biking paradise – at least today, for me.

20130614_145230small 20130614_151254small 20130614_162002smallI come to a particular narrow part of the ridge and see Mission ridge to the east. I won’t be going there, but instead ride up Devil’s gulch in a couple of hours.

20130614_150910smallI turn onto Red Hill trail and am rewarded with more ridge line riding. At a junction with Red Hill Spur trail, I decide to forgo the shortcut and head down to Sand Creek, encountering a couple of horseback riders with dog. They are not very chatty, oh well. I bomb down Red Hill trail, riding the swooping berms and bumps. At the bottom, I take Red Devil trail back up. What a fun section this is, and finally encounter another mountain biker and one downed tree. At the bottom of Red Devil trail, I fill my water bladder at Devil’s gulch, and attach my Sawyer inline filter. The mosquitos are thick, so I head on quickly and fill my bottles later. I encounter maybe a dozen or more Mexicans with WalMart full-suspension bikes and plastic bins strapped to their backs. The bins contain mushrooms.

“How much do you sell these for?”
“55, maybe 60. Yes, 60.”
“60 dollars per pound?”
“Yes, 60 per pound.”

20130614_174534smallOne of the guys is loaded with probably 10 pounds of mushroom; that is a big stack on his back. Devil’s Gulch is a fine singletrack, never too steep to ride, but occasionally a bit sketchy on the side of the mountain so that it’s safer to walk in a couple places. I cross Devil’s Gulch a couple more times, and get my feet wet on a couple smaller creeks.

20130614_174058small 20130614_175251smallThe sun is shining, my legs feel great, and I am riding every switchback. What more could I want? I didn’t plan the route very carefully, merely glanced at some options and decided to ride as much as I pleased and then close the loop and head back to the car. That was a bit of a poor planning, I notice after cresting another in a series series of false summits. Time for a break! And, look, there’s the Moon between the trees.

20130614_195244small 20130614_195317smallAt this point, I have only 20 oz of water left, but not 1 minute later, I pass by a small stream and fill another 2 liters into my water bladder. Gotta love all that water in WA! The forest service had done a lot of work to restore the trail in this area.

20130614_201443small 20130614_201933smallAfter some more climbing, I encounter a small patch of snow, and I think that I must be coming to the top.

20130614_203509smallBut, it was only another false summit – and the trail continuous uphill for a while longer.

20130614_203629small 20130614_204514smallFinally, at 9 pm, I reach the dirt road and take a look around. Fantastic views in all direction. The Moon is setting in the West, and I catch it one more time with my camera.

20130614_205442small 20130614_205446small 20130614_205539smallThe road back turns out to be longer than I had though, and steeper than I am willing to pedal. My wet feet are getting cold, so I walk the next hill (15% grade) and they warm up nicely. The ridge line forest service road at the top is amazing: views over the whole valley and stars above. Not too chilly, either.

20130614_210938smallAt the turn off for the Mount Lillian trail, I decide to stick to the road as it is getting very late and I am getting somewhat tired. But, the slight uphill wears on me for some reason and makes me second-guess if the trail wouldn’t have been easier. After a while I give up frustrated, turn off the light and sit down on a patch of moss. Dang! I am tired and sick of this ridiculously endless road. The thought of coffee and an energy bar makes me reach for my bag and after 5 minutes of nourishment, all ails are forgotten and it is decided that I will just ride whatever comes my way and be happy with it. The irony is, that I had sat down on the top of the hill and it was all downhill for the next 10 minutes! After that, it was another short uphill and then the fiery decent down the last 5 miles to Blewett Pass, my Lezyne light shining a wide beam into otherwise complete darkness. I was back at my car at 11:20 pm and let out a big yee-haa. In retrospect, the road on top wasn’t that steep nor long, and the truth is that I was just tired.

55 miles, 10k ft., 10:30 hours, gpx track. This ride is now part of the Washington Endurance Series, and am looking forward to doing it again – but hopefully getting to the top before the sun sets to really take in the views. Starting before noon would probably be a good start.

Picture 491

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