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.
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.
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.
Usually, the snowmobilers get started around 9 am, so I figured I’d have about 1.5 hours of blissful snowbiking ahead of me.
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.
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.
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.
After enjoying the views for a while, it was time to adventure.
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.
But, this nice track came to an end just ahead and had me backtracking to the radio tower.
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.
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).