Winter in Seattle means weather forecasts ranging from “drizzle with a chance of rain” to “rain with a chance of showers”. The fine distinction between these forms of wetness is still eluding me, but one thing you can count on: the weather forecast will be wrong. Even 12 hours in advance. Just plain wrong. Last weekend there were even short periods of sunshine and that, certainly, was not in the forecast.
My weekend rides are not being curtailed much in duration, but they have certainly changed form. Whereas I used to ride backcountry epics, I now seek refuge from the snow in the Cascades by staying on gravel roads and an occasional trail at much lower elevation. The snow level is down to ~2500 ft., which also marks the beginning of snowshoeing season.
Two weekend rides have led me to explore the nearby Snoqualmie forest, an area managed by Hancock Timber. The forest is only a short 30 min drive away and offers hundreds of miles of gravel roads. Lacking logging operations on the weekend, it is sometimes eerily quiet along narrow tree-lines alleys and the wider mainlines. A $8 daily access permit is required to enter and one time I was checked by security patrolling the area.
The roads are pretty well maintained and every now and then the clearcuts offer some pretty views of the valleys.
To the west of the forest is the Snoqualmie Valley Trail which makes it easy to do a big loop.
I still have some gravel roads to explore at Hancock, including the connection to the Cherry Valley trails. The network of roads is astonishing, and these two pictures of the map posted at Gate #11 give some details. Not all these roads actually exist, so it really is a bit of an exploration.
Besides the Snoqualmie forest, I have explored the Capitol Forest a bit more and rode a bit on the North Rim #1, 2, and 3 trails. Some sections have very big standing puddles, but others sections of the trail were drained and made for some good techy (wet rock) climbing fun. There are also some new sections of trail being constructed to extend the Porter Creek trail, which will allow some pretty big single-track loops once that work is completed.