Kachess Loop

In planning for a good snowbike ride, I look for daytime highs of  <0 C, and decent visibility or even sunshine. Another lesson learned is that snowmobile trails are great, as long  as they haven’t been on them in a while. This is usually mitigated by getting an early start to get some climbing done on crusty snow from the night.

After a short exploratory outing at Gold Creek Snopark a few weeks ago, I looked more at the map and was surprised that I hadn’t ridden the loop there before. It’s close to Seattle, and not very ‘backcountry’, but still a nice place and much quieter than I thought it would be so close to I-90. During that short 3 hour ride, I only met 2 snowmobiles near the parking lot, and otherwise had the entire 10 miles along I-90 to myself. Perfect.

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The Kachess Snopark is on the other side from Gold Creek, and so a bit away from the craziness that is Gold Creek on a weekend. It was a nice (short) drive over there, seeing the sunrise over Snoqualmie Pass.

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Though there were a few trucks and cars parked at the Kachess Snopark, they all seemed to be parked there since a while.screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-8-45-31-pm

I quickly got my bike out, and rode with a couple big barking (happy) dogs for a minute. It was no small surprise to find the trail had just been groomed, and I was the first one to set tracks on it.

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Usually, the snowmobilers get started around 9 am, so I figured I’d have about 1.5 hours of blissful snowbiking ahead of me.

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As expected, around 9 am I heard the waarp, waarp of snowmobilers, but they came from ahead of me – down the mountain. Odd, I never did figure out which route they had gone. Within a few minutes, some real screamers came wizzing by and left nasty chemicals in the air. So amazing that they ride right behind each other, breathing the fumes as they do.

As I was gaining altitude,  the cloud ceiling lifted enough for a view of Mt. Stuart. 20170212_093538.jpg

Past the turn-off for the radio tower, the wind picked up a bit and had me quickly putting my windbreaker and hat back on. Mt. Rainier came into view; haphazardly shrouded.20170212_094624.jpg

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Reaching the top, there was quite a gathering of snowmobilers that had passed me on their way up. I chatted with a few, but noone wanted to take my bike for a spin. The general feeling was that of Tiger Mountain’s top, but with snowmobiles, instead of mountain bikes. 20170212_102640.jpg20170212_102400.jpg

After enjoying the views for a while, it was time to adventure.20170212_102326.jpg

Some of the snowmobilers seemed to say that there was quite a ice sheet under the snow, and they were breaking through every now and then. Which made me wonder if I could ride down the ungroomed ridge to the north? It certainly seemed like it for a few minutes.20170212_104044.jpg

But, this nice track came to an end just ahead and had me backtracking to the radio tower.20170212_104243.jpg

None of the snowmobilers seemed very adventurous to break trail, so I went back down the way I came – for a few minutes. When, I came upon the second minor intersection and decided to try if the single snowmobile track down a forest-service road would be viable. And, it was. Now, I was cutting out a few miles of blah groomed forest-service road at the bottom, and instead cruising down this fun roller-coaster section at 15 mph, which went all they way down to my car! Perfect.

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At the very bottom where some cross-country skiers and I checked out a bit of where they were skiing: again, frozen crusty snow perfect for biking (and terrible for skiing).20170212_115018.jpg

 

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Tinkham Rd. and Annette Lake Trail

This ride is so nearby, perfect for a short weekend ride. And when I found out that the I-90 pass was closed, it was the only option, really. The Annette Lake trail is a bit steep up to the Iron Horse trail, but it’s such a reward cruising it back down.

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Unfortunately, noone had broken trail along the Iron Horse and it was covered in 2-3 feet of snow.

On the way back on Tinkham Rd., I rode up a bit up towards Hansen Ridge just to check on the conditions. Indeed, nice trails had been created by 4×4’s.

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Quality time on the snowbike

After a couple stressful and annoying days at work, it was definitely time for a bike ride. The weather looked the best on Saturday near Mt. Baker, and the Seahawks have a 1:30 pm game! With highs in the 30’s F, I thought this might work.

I decided to try the Anderson Snopark just east of Mt. Baker.The new Subaru made the drive up the last bit of snowy road easy. I arrived at 8 am to find the Snopark empty, and a setting Moon.20170114_081947.jpg

The trail had been recently groomed, and only one or two snowmobiles had been on it probably right after it was groomed. The snow had set well, and it was a pretty easy climb while occasional glimpses could be gleaned of Mt. Baker. After a lot of switchbacks,  the views finally opened up.20170114_100858.jpg20170114_102417.jpg20170114_102039.jpg

The temperature was around 30F and the snow easily rideable even with the 80 mm rim in the back.20170114_103545

The groomer had done an excellent job and at a turn, I decided to take the road less traveled. Pinch me! 20170114_104411.jpg20170114_104419.jpg

This quickly lead to an ungroomed area and after a bit of pushing I gave up.20170114_105653.jpg

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It was past 10 am by now, and no snowmobilers, yet! I guess I am an early bird? I take it.

I turned around and then followed the snowmobile tracks up a ridge. Always remember to look back!20170114_111722.jpg

A bit of a push brought me higher, yet, before a little warming hut came into view. Not a bad place to spend a few hours, if one were so inclined.20170114_113516.jpg

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At this point, the groomed trail continues steeply uphill at 20% grade. However, there’s no view after the 15 min hike-a-bike, so I had a snack, put on warm clothes, and headed back in time for dinner.20170114_123955.jpg

Didn’t encounter anyone else for the entire 5 hours – now that’s a quality snowbike ride!

 

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Mt. Baker for the New Year

The first day of the new year requires something a little special. And while snowbike trips are nothing new, it’s the exploring and views that I look for.

The weather forecast, interestingly enough, was for cold and clear-ish in the NW of the state. Usually, that’s reserved for the eastern Cascades.  Looks like Mt. Baker is it! I hadn’t been to this volcano yet, and the more southerly of the two SnoParks is almost west of Mt. Baker, and should have decent light conditions around noon.Screen Shot 2017-01-01 at 8.24.27 PM.png

The drive to Glacier, WA, was interesting – quite a few cars were in the ditch along the Interstate, and driving the snow and slush-covered byways in early morning felt a bit like a daze. That is, until 4 idiots in pickup trucks came careening towards me at high speed.

Sunrise was pretty.

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The ride started with a short warmup on a snowed-in dirt road, before turning into a snowmobile trail. The trail is mostly in the woods.

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After the first 4 miles it gets a bit steep at 10% grade. The snow was fairly well packed, though.

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After about mile 6, it was all pushing. It didn’t help that I am riding on a 80mm rim in the back since my big one broke – it definitely feels less stable and has less traction.

A group of snowmobilers came to a stop and gave me the thumbs up. One of them writes for an outdoor magazine and wanted to know *why* I do this: for the downhill, or for the snow adventure? He said that I am nearing at a very nice view point, maybe 1.5 miles more.

Never listen to directions from people with engines. Pushing for 1.5 hours, I arrived at the fabled viewpoint.

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If I only knew where Mt. Baker is!

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I decided to push a bit higher in hopes of less tree coverage. Always remember to look back:20170101_122001.jpg

And I hit the jackpoint – at least for how much energy I was going to spend today.

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