The Angel’s Staircase loop had been firmly in my mind for a number of months, mostly due to the many comments on MTBR about the fire conditions. With clear weather in the forecast, and the main trailhead still closed, a quick re-route via Foggy Dew trail added much yearned-for distance and elevation: 30 miles and 8000 ft., instead of the usual 20 miles and 6000 ft. This comes in addition to a 4.5-hour drive one-way from Seattle. Big day.
I started my ride at the crack of 10 am, with about 20 cars in the Foggy Dew parking lot. Busy! A large crew of runners and 2 motorcycles departed almost simultaneously as I arrived, and the stench from the engines lingered in the air for a few minutes while I got ready.
While Foggy Dew is a river trail for the first few miles, it is surprisingly rocky and steep in places. After 1.5 hours, the shade from the trees lessens and the views start to open up.
Gaining elevation brought snow in the shady sections and even rougher terrain. Some first-class hike-a-bike here!
And with that big push, one enters the astounding alpine known as Merchant Basin.
This had to be ridden as much as possible, though it was still relentlessly steep.
Soon, it was unrideably steep and bumpy, with larches next to me turning color. No more words needed.
The descent into this valley went across a few patches of pretty big shale, which required me to walk. No easy miles so far.
Finally, riding commenced for a few miles to the next lake. Though a lot of stopping was required to take pictures.
After finding some goodies to eat in my bag, it was time for the next hike-a-bike that would have been rideable if I had more power. Though walking is not bad at all in a place like this.
After 5 miles of (mostly) descending the sometimes pretty rough Eagle Lakes trail, it was dusk. Time for the last climb up Martin Creek trail: tough, but almost all of it rideable even with the thin layer of snow. It was good that I rode this later in the day, as there were basically no views in the forest. With the last bit of daylight gone, I reached the pass at the Cooney Lake trail cut-off.
Time to put on all my warm clothes and prepare to descend for a long while.
The Foggy Dew descend was sublime: the headlight shining a clear path in front of me, while I was certain there wouldn’t be any hikers on this dark cold night without a flashlight of their own. I stopped briefly to chat with a couple backpackers, who had set up camp about an hour before reaching the alpine. It’d be good to get out here for an overnight sometime.