Bikepacking the PNT from Alger to Hamilton, WA

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.

Overview of route as ridden, starting in Alger, WA.

Overview of route as ridden, starting in Alger, WA.

Day 1

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.

Taking the bus from Burlington to Alger, WA.

Taking the bus from Burlington to Alger, WA.

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.

Heading up the DNR roads on Anderson Mountain.

Heading up the DNR roads on Anderson Mountain.

This is the beginning of the PNT trail on the west-side of Anderson Mountain that I had missed last time.

This is the beginning of the PNT trail on the west-side of Anderson Mountain that I had missed last time.

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?

The signs didn't stop the not-so-stealthy motorcycle.

The signs didn’t stop the not-so-stealthy motorcycle.

Motorcycle scars.

Motorcycle ruts.

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.

Heading up on the west-slope of Anderson Mountain.

Heading up on the west-slope of Anderson Mountain.

Heading out of the fog on Anderson Mountain.

Heading out of the fog on Anderson Mountain.

Lots of trail work had been done on the south-east section through this clear cut.

Lots of trail work had been done on the south-east section through this clear cut.

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!

View northwards from Anderson Mountain over a sea of clouds.

View northwards from Anderson Mountain over a sea of clouds.

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.

Quite a few inconsistencies between the KMZ file distributed by the PNT association (in grey), and the actual PNT trail (solid black/white line).

Quite a few inconsistencies between the KMZ file distributed by the PNT association (in grey), and the actual PNT trail (solid black/white line).

Starting off the wrong path that lead to an hour of bush whacking.

Starting off the wrong path that lead to an hour of bush whacking.

These 3 rocks guided the way into an hour of bush whacking.

These 3 rocks guided the way into an hour of bush whacking.

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. 20131019_144606small

Finally, the PNT was found again and in excellent condition it was.

Finally, the PNT was found again and in excellent condition it was.

Mount Baker from Anderson Mountain. Lyman Hill in the foreground.

Mount Baker from Anderson Mountain. Lyman Hill in the foreground.

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.

Lyman Hill is my next goal. First we go down into the cold fog below.

Lyman Hill is my next goal. First: down into the cold fog below.

Down in the fog below the sunshine.

Down in the fog below the sunshine.

Falling leave suspended by spider lines.

Falling leave suspended by spider lines.

Logging operations on Lyman Hill.

Logging operations on Lyman Hill.

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.

Self portrait.

Self portrait.

Climbing to 4000 ft. as the sun is setting.

Climbing to 4000 ft. as the sun is setting.

Sunset on Lyman Hill.

Sunset on Lyman Hill.

Day 1 stats: 30 miles, 8k el., 8 hours, GPX track

Day 2

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.

Campsite with Moon setting on Lyman Hill.

Getting up as the Moon is setting on Lyman Hill.

Waking up to the Moon setting.

Moon setting.

A tiny lake on top of the Lyman Hill ridge.

A tiny lake on top of the Lyman Hill ridge.

The PNT winds down some abandoned logging roads and a bit of single track, before coming to a big logging operation.

Big logging operation on Lyman Hill.

Logging on southern part of Lyman Hill.

20131020_075141small

You gotta love the view you get from clear cuts!

Moonset on Lyman Hill.

Moonset and sunrise on Lyman Hill.

Going down Lyman Hill, I was encroaching upon the cold fog below and had to put on all my warm clothes to stay warm.

Going down Lyman Hill and into the cold fog below.

Going down Lyman Hill and into the cold fog below.

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.

Fall colors in full swing.

Fall colors in full swing.

Getting the first glimpse of Mount Baker on the Josephine Truck Trail.

Getting the first glimpse of Mount Baker on the Josephine Truck Trail.

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.

Looking west to Lyman Hill near the top of Josephine Mountain.

Looking west to Lyman Hill near the top of Mount Josephine.

Looking eastwards from the top of Josephine Mountain.

Looking eastwards from the top of Mount Josephine.

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!

Along the ridge trail coming down Josephine Mountain.

Along the ridge trail coming down Mount Josephine.

Along the ridge trail coming down Josephine Mountain.

Looking off to the side while descending Mount Josephine.

Along the ridge trail coming down Josephine Mountain.

Along the ridge trail coming down Mount Josephine.

Once I cleared the single track, a logging road makes the descending business very quick, again.

View of Mt. Baker from the eastern side of Josephine Mountain.

View of Mt. Baker from the eastern side of Mount Josephine.

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.

Along the Cascade trail to Burlington, WA.

Along the Cascade trail to Burlington, WA.

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.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Bikepacking the PNT from Alger to Hamilton, WA

  1. Pingback: Two days on the PNT, a good drink and a physics lesson | Trails and Tours

  2. Roy knaak says:

    I backpacked this same route from cain lake road alger to hamilton.
    I had the same issues…
    I got to a clear cut on top of anderson and (aside from some quad trails… couldnt pick up the pnt again.. finally hiked a gravel road that passed a rock quary and went atop anderson (where i saw the pnt dump onto… ) amd then found the pnt again to leave the gravel road near a creek.. nice trail conditions… as it exited onto a fore road and switchbacked down and out from amderson to highway 9.
    Lyman hill was not an improved experience from lyman lol…
    I (after alot of hard work… submotted to the fact that even the logging roads were not a direct match to the pnt’s trail guides… and… in the end… the best i could do was land in hamilton….
    It was more a game of orienteering and routefinding… than it was a backpackong trip…
    Lol
    I had paper maps, electronic maps, and an i reache gps device… but the roads just werent where they belonged…
    I will attempt it again by bicycle soon here tho…
    Maybe we should do it together lol…

    • 2wheeltrails says:

      Yes, that section of the pnt isn’t very easy to follow. It is also a lot of logging roads in the woods and not that interesting a lot of the time. It is not high on my list to do again, but was worth riding once for the orienteering aspect;)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s