Mad River, Tyee Ridge, Billy Creek

Drawing squiggly lines in Garmin’s Basecamp is easy, riding the track afterwards depends on how much research one did while drawing the route. In this case, I did almost zero research, and boy, did it pay off in HAB time.

The Forest Service map of the middle Entiat region is a pretty good resource to get the lay of the land. Three trails in the center of the map are closed until next month, so I decided to ride a bit to the east: Lower Mad River trail, Tyee Ridge trail, and Billy Creek trail. The trails were connected with forest service roads in the beginning, middle, and end.

Starting near Fish Lake, the route covered Lower Mad River, Tyee Ridge, and Billy Creek trails.

The route began with a couple forest service roads up to Maverick Saddle. A group of motorcycles passed me on the way up, and one of them was concerned about me because my bike was on the ground. Telling him that I was fine and merely taking a break seemed to satisfy the concern. Hey, not everybody has 50 hp to ride up the hills! 20150530_094442_smallThere were views of the Stewart Range on the way up, but I was lazy and didn’t feel like taking any pictures. Have taken too many probably, so that it doesn’t seem worthwhile anymore.

A little bit down from Maverick Saddle are the beginnings of the Lower and Upper Mad River trails.  The Upper is closed for another month or so, so I went down the Lower Mad River, as planned. Soon, there was the Mad River, and it was not happy! Snarly and gushing, it did not want anyone to pass to the other side.

Lower Mad River crossing - impassable.

Lower Mad River crossing – impassable.

“Hm hm.”, I thought. Let’s see what else is around here. Well, if that isn’t a bridge for bipeds and cy-peds. Careful balancing on the bark of the tree had me across in a couple minutes.


The Mad River trail exceeded all expectations. Dropping 3000 ft. over 15 miles, it was easy going. The trail had been recently logged, but was a bit brushy. Many portions of the trail have been reinforced and there are three pretty new bridges. It appears to be a very well maintained trail. Not a fresh track was on the ground, except for an old motorcycle track where the rider appeared to have some problems staying on the trail. Since the Lower Mad River trail is impassable at the top, I think it keeps trail usage pretty low. I did not encounter anyone on this, or the other 2 single tracks that I rode that day.

The upper portion is in the woods, shaded and flowy. The sound and sight of the river is nearby.20150530_112312_small 20150530_114328_small

Soon, one emerges from the trees and enters a different eco zone.

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At times, one rides a bit above the river, then the trail dips down almost to water level. One can fill up with water about every half hour or so. Below is an impressive instance of the Mad River carving it’s way through the rocks.20150530_121551_small 20150530_121656_small

Going lower, it gets a bit rocky here and there, and the views open up. 20150530_123829_small 20150530_124513_small

Here, the Mad River takes a somewhat odd route through the burned trees below. Maybe a beaver had been busy?

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The trail mostly follows the elevation contours, but does detour up high in a couple places. From there, one has nice views and can see what’s ahead. In this case: a series of rideable switchbacks.

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Which lead to a gorgeous little canyon.

20150530_141322_smallAt this point, my rear rim was hitting quite a few rocks, and sure enough, the tire was low. So I pumped it up, but before too long, it was hitting rocks again. I knew that there were a lot of holes in my tire and that the Stan’s sealant was almost dried out, so I added a bit, pumped it up, and it held the rest of the day. At the end of the trail is a campground, but it’s like an oven down there so I kept on going without looking around. I was ready to go back up high. The forest service road 5700, I believe, while steep, is paved, which makes riding very easy. Just a couple unfriendly guys on motorcycles put a slight damper on the riding. 20150530_150047_small

It was hot, but with a full water bladder and an occasional breeze, the first 2000 ft. of climbing went well. Views were impressive.


Baldy (right) and Stormy (center-left) mountains where I had been a couple weeks ago.

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Just as I was seeing my next goal: Tyee Mountain, my energy level was dropping, and all contact points (hand, feet, butt) were hurting.


I remembered that I had a banana in my bag, which was just what I wanted. Took a 20 minute break with shoes off. Ahh!  Then, I made it a bit higher before my energy level was near zero again. Shucks. What’s wrong, I was wondering. Am I not eating enough? I was trying to conserve food since I had started with only 1 loaf of bread, a pack of tortillas, some almonds, gummy bears, and that banana, and there was not much left at this point. However, food would be better inside my stomach than in my bag, if I was to complete the remaining 20 miles. Time out. Eat bread, drink water, take a salt pill. Hmm. Another break was had 5 minutes later. I am exhausted. And the top of the mountain is coming closer sooo slowly. Maybe I should not have taken the detour up to Tyee Moutain, but just headed down to Mad River trail and back to the car?  While I was pondering my food reserves and lack of energy, the views  inspired me to see what lay ahead.

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See the road snaking up in the middle of the picture?

After a bit more pushing, the Enchantments framed the Tyee Ridge trailhead. Not too shabby.


The beginning of Tyee Ridge was in primo condition and I was making first tracks up there this year.

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A bit farther west, the views opened up to the north.


Baldy (right) and Stormy (center) mountains.


Making first tracks, however, also meant that no trail crew had been here, yet. From Tyee Ridge to the intersection with Billy Creek trail were about 5 trees down. I was wondering if I should turn around, but I had just come down a steep rocky descent and thought that it would still be much faster to just keep going.

And how wrong I was about that, I was just about to find out. Billy Creek was a disaster. I started counting downed trees to entertain myself and after about 10 dismounts within the first 200 yards, of what could have been gorgeous alpine single track, I was starting to panic wondering if I would make it down, or if I should go back up and take the road to Mad River trail. The later would be a huge detour and I was low on food. What to do? I looked at the map, and it was maybe a couple miles to the next intersection with a road. Even though there were lots of trees down, it did not take too long to get over, around, or under them. The effort involved was more psychological than physiological, but I also knew that I only had 2 slices of bread and some gummy bears left. So I kept counting downed trees: 13, 14, 15, …, 31, 32, …, 40. Then, I was out of the worst of it and only got to 43 before reaching the road.The lower portion of Billy Creek trail had signs of recent chain-saw activity in the beginning, for which I was very thankful. The trail has a series of flowy switchbacks and it smooth and fun.


The sun was starting to set and I had high hopes of making it to Mad River trail before sunset.

But, not far ahead, I came to a very steep and rocky portion. That must be the reason why this trail is a ‘black diamond’ on the Forest Service map. Super careful riding and lots of walking got me down to a biggish creek crossing.

Lower part of Billy Creek trail.

Lower part of Billy Creek trail.

Not wanting to get my shoes wet, I walked through the creek in bare feet. Ouch, cold, numb feet! I finished my last ration of bread as I was putting on my shoes. The air was starting to cool, and oddly, my energy level was increasing. I wasn’t even hungry. Maybe I’ll make it out of here without too much struggle, after all. I quickly reached the Mad River trail and smiled. This trail is like a highway compared to what I had just come from. The Moon was shining brightly, and after a while, I turned my light on. What fun. My legs felt fresh, the trail was good, and I was the only one out there.

The walk across the big tree went well, as did the rest of the ride. Only the rear break pads were done for, once again. These finned XT ‘organic’ pads lasted only lasted 2 months. I am not sure if I break too much, ride too much, or if it’s the wet conditions. But, at $20 per set, I decided to buy the cheaper non-finned XT pads this time and see if they’ll be just as good in breaking and noise performance.

58 miles, 10k elevation, GPX track

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4 Responses to Mad River, Tyee Ridge, Billy Creek

  1. alpinemystic says:

    For the record, its “ride too much”. Hahaha! And hooray for ride-able switchbacks!!

    • 2wheeltrails says:

      But it seems hard to believe that XT pads only last about 80,000 ft of descending. On second thought, maybe that is about right; I hadn’t really thought about it. Cheers, m

  2. Martin,

    Quite a trip that one. Sure looks beautiful. I loaded the track in Topofusion. It says 14 K climbing.

    It’s getting a little toasty in Tucson town. I’m going to put a roof on next week if the material comes in. Nice hot work.

    Sold an Iris fountain today to the ex mayor, Bob Walkup.

    I’ve been studying the GPS models. Which one are you using?

    Congrats on a long interesting ride and good story and pics.


  3. 2wheeltrails says:

    I have the Oregon 300. Battery life is ~12 hours on rechargeable NiMH, and ~30 hours with the expensive Li-Ion batteries. Screen is very hard to read in daylight, but it’s a pressure-sensitive (not touch-sensitive) touchscreen so that you can use it even with gloves on. It went nuts a couple times when I opened the back to change batteries during rain. After it dried out, it was fine again.

    I am surprised that Topofusion has 14k climbing. The recorded track said 10k. Maybe I did more pushing than I thought. Possible.

    Congrats on the fountain!

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