The weather forecast for the weekend was sunny and dry, but I also knew that there was snow above 6000 ft. elevation. I figured this would be the perfect time to give the Pacific Northwest Trail east of Bellingham another try before winter really sets it. After my last rather unsuccessful exploration, I had done some reading on forums and found out where the PNT goes up Anderson mountain on the west side. And, after I found out that a bus goes from Burlington to Alger, I quickly decided that going from Alger to Concrete, WA, and then back on the Cascade trail to Sedro-Woolley would be a viable plan: 80 miles, 12k el. over 1.5 days. And, if I rode quickly, there would be the option of continuing north along the PNT a bit towards Baker Lake.
At the Chuckanut P&R, I loaded my bike on the 80X bus to Alger for the hefty price of $1. All gear needed to be off the bike during the bus ride, so it took me 30 min. upon arrival at the Shell station in Alger to get ready.
Cold fog and a surprising amount of traffic on a road without shoulders made the ride to Anderson mountain a bit unpleasant, but it went much faster than I had remembered. Upon reaching the DNR road going up Anderson Mountain, I removed layers and enjoyed the quiet dirt road climb to the PNT trail.
The trail was steep in places, and some hike-a-bike was had. An errand motorcycle had scared the trail surface just like last time I was out on the PNT. Is there some kind of not-so-stealthy moto guy living here?
Further up, the PNT was going through some new-growth forest. Lots of blackberry bushes, hidden roots, and spider webs kept me on my toes on the switch-back climbs. I was rising above the fog and it felt great to be in the sunshine.
The top of Anderson Mountain is overgrown, but there was one spot on the northern tip of the PNT where a few trees had been cleared. Time for a lunch break!
On my way down, I lost the PNT. I knew that the .kmz file distributed by the PNT Association isn’t quite accurate, so I was prepared to look a bit for the trail by heading a bit further on roads. But, after a minute I didn’t see anything, so I went down a rarely traveled and muddy logging road that the .kmz indicated to be the PNT. This soon turned back on itself, so I turned around and followed the GPS track dead into the forest. 3 rocks seemed to (mis)-guide the way, which lead to an hour of heaving my bike over trees.
In the end, I got fed up and decided to just go back up to the road and see where it goes. Not 2 minutes later, and I saw the sign for the PNT – with trail in perfect conditions. I was happy – but also somewhat annoyed at the poor track that I have. The trail lead down and over bridges to a sweet view point.
From there, it was a bit more of single track, then a dirt road lead all the way down. My next goal: Lyman Hill. First, though, we go down and through the cold fog – to emerge on the other side bathed in sunshine.
It was the weekend, so it was very quiet on the private forest logging roads. Only one ATV with a couple hunters passed me a couple times – I have no idea how they got around the barriers. Towards the top, I filled up my water bladder from the last stream crossing that my topomap indicated. It was getting late and I was planning to spend the night at the top to enjoy the view! I raced against the setting sun to the highest point – but it was all overgrown and only tiny glimpses could be had of Mt. Baker. So, I settled for going on and soon found a lovely meadow with great views of the ocean of clouds and the setting sun to the west.
Day 1 stats: 30 miles, 8k el., 8 hours, GPX track
The night was beautiful: clear, 50 F, with the moon and stars above. I am not a morning person, but with the sun setting at 6:10 pm, I had laid around enough and was eager to get going with the first light of the morning.
The PNT winds down some abandoned logging roads and a bit of single track, before coming to a big logging operation.
You gotta love the view you get from clear cuts!
Going down Lyman Hill, I was encroaching upon the cold fog below and had to put on all my warm clothes to stay warm.
The next goal was the top of Mount Josephine. I had a map of the Les Hilde forest trails in the area, but they looked wet and soggy, so I decided to take the Josephine Truck Trail (road) up. It was nice to ride up into the sunshine, again.
The top of Mount Josephine offered some nice views, but I didn’t stay long as I knew that the downhill may well take a while.
The PNT .kmz file indicated 51% downwards slope at this point! Luckily, that didn’t turn out to be true. Instead, the trail descends Mount Josephine along a ridge line heading straight east. It was a very slow walk along the steep sections in the beginning. I would not go this trail back up with a bike unless a heard of wild animals were after me!
Once I cleared the single track, a logging road makes the descending business very quick, again.
As I was riding down the logging road, which basically goes all the way to Concrete, WA, I came to an intersection with the trail marked “Proposed PNT Equestrian route” on the map put out by the Les Hilde Backcountry Horsemen. Completing my original goal of riding to Concrete, WA had a strong call, but checking out a potential re-route to the hike-a-bike down from Mount Josephine, also sounded intriguing. As I was thinking about this change in plans, I started to ride downhill for another few hundred yards. Then I hit the brakes. No way was was I coasting down a well-known dirt road when there’s exploring to be done! The Upper Josephine lake trail was alright to go down, very loose and steep in a few places. Afterwards, I couldn’t find the lower portion of the Lower Josephine Lake Trail – which left me with taking the #2000 dirt road basically down to Hamilton and from there to the Cascade trail. 12 miles of Cascade trail and only 4 miles along the super-wide shoulders of Highway 20 brought me back to Burlington.
Day 2 stats: 50 miles, 4.5k el., 8:30 hours, GPX track
I really had a great time being out on the PNT with my bike. But, I was also thinking that if I were hiking this, I am not so sure if this section between Alger and Concrete wouldn’t be a bit boring with all the dirt roads in the thicket of the forest.