After the 7 Drainages loop last year turned out to be the same disaster as posted years earlier on MTBR, the goal this time was to finish with Stafford Creek. The bad thing about this loop in general is the gravel road connection – the reason being the insane drivers there. Exactly 10% – I counted. Almost got run over by an idiot going 50 mph downhill, around a blind corner on the wrong side of the windy gravel road. Seeing him trying to steer around me, but not being able to because he started fish-tailing, made me want to call 911, alas there’s no cell phone reception and I don’t have a helmet cam.
But, then the other 90% of drivers were surprisingly courteous.
On reaching the trailhead of the Esmerelda trail, I thought I’d be pushing as per usual the thick gravel that had been placed there a couple years ago. But, be it my new lower rear tire pressure of ~15 psi with a 2.8 Rekon, or my inhumane strength (probably not), I managed to pedal up almost everything to the top of the pass. The smoke from forest fires was not helping the pictures, but it also wasn’t hurting my lungs. Just high haze. I met a few hikers, and chatted with a young guy planning to section hike the WA-PCT this summer.
I have taken so many pictures of the same places, and they really don’t change much – but it always surprises me at how beautiful it is up here and I _need_ to take pictures.
Some more riding brought me up to the top, and then a most enjoyable downhill was had.
After the mandatory push up the Fortune Creek Rd., and seeing how some bozzos drove their 4×4’s across the alpine meadow, another fun downhill singletrack was had: down the Boulder de Roux. It gets a bit techy in places, and a couple motocross guys were weighing their options half-ways down. I suggested they turn around and go down the de Roux trail on the west side, since that’s a really fun trails as well and brings them back to their truck. I hope they did, as there was a big tree down across the trail that they would have had to saw out.
After a long lunch break at the campground at the bottom, it was time to see what the Iron Peak trail would dish out this time. Basically, 95% pushing the 2000 ft. up. Just like last year. I can’t believe that 2 years ago I rode most of it. Maybe with fresh legs and cool autumn air its doable? Maybe I didn’t realize how much I hiked the first time? Hikers were encouraging me on my push-fest; but I could hardly breath fast enough to say ‘hi’. Flatlander.
But, then there’s the top. Another snack break needed to be had.
Not even 10 meters down, flowers made it all the more prettier.
I wish there were more trails at this elevation.
The way down the Beverly Turnpike trail seemed much more rocky than I remembered it from past years, and had me get off a couple times at the lava field. The valley is big.
I had no expectations of riding anything going up the Bean Creek trail, and so it was. It’s a nice hike actually. I enjoyed some cool water at the meadow.
The final push is always hard, but it’s exciting to see more and more of Mt. Stuart.
Reaching the pass, I got to listen to 2 hikers having some loud argument on Earl Peak. Geez, after pushing for hours I don’t want to put up with that. Just take the mandatory picture “I was here”, and get rolling again.
This time I headed up Standup Creek trail, instead of going all the way down. Though the push was a bit longer than I remembered, it was much much better than bushwacking down Standup Creek trail. And then there are certainly good views over Stafford Creek and Navajo Peak.
At the intersection with Stafford Creek, I was feeling not too bad, so decided to head up, instead of going down. However, after 15 minutes I had enough of more hike-a-bike up a rocky trail and turned around. Some fresh water and snacks revived me back at the intersection, and gave me the needed energy to enjoy the Stafford creek downhill stretch.