Saturday, July 12, 2008

Epic Mountain Bike Ride

Today was a great day! One, the weather today was perfect, low 80s with very little humidity. Two, Joe and I rode on one of the Pacific Northwest’s most epic mountain bike trails with a group of good mountain bike friends. The day began when I woke up at 5:30 AM. I went down to the kitchen and started my coffee. Joe woke up about 20 minutes later. He said he would get the bikes ready and then load them onto the truck while I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and filled our hydro packs with water. We decided to stop at Starbucks for swirl mochas and then Burger Kings for their sausage croissant breakfast sandwiches. Joe also had an orange juice which he shared with me. Finally, with our breakfast sandwiches and Starbucks purchased we drove out of Enumclaw towards the Dalles Campground in the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest to meet up with our friends. About ten of them were camping there in the Dalles Campground for the weekend. But a few of us, Joe and me included, could not do the campout. But we couldn’t miss out on today’s ride, so we drove there for the day just to ride this epic trail.

The Dalles Campground is 26 miles east of Enumclaw up highway 410. We arrived around 8:30 as our friends, who were camping there, were just finishing their breakfast. We were the first “day riders” to arrive. We had to wait for 5 more people who were driving in to do this ride too. While we waited we sat around and talked and caught up with bike rides. Who did what ride, who was doing what ride, new bikes, crashes, friends doing the STP this weekend, etc. Finally around 10:30 AM the last rider drove into the campground. Half of us were going to shuttle to the end of the road and the other half were going to pedal up the forest road (8 miles) to the trailhead. The ones riding up set off while the rest of us got our bikes loaded onto the two vehicles that would be shuttling riders up the forest road. The road was very steep and winding, I give those riding up a lot of credit. Maybe if I had been riding a lot more than I had been I would have rode my mountain bike up the hill today but today was not the day. After about a half hour in the truck we reached the end of the road. We unloaded our bikes and began pedaling . . . up! Yes, we still had to climb 3 more miles before we could begin the awesome descent which starts on the Suntop Trail. It was a very steep and hard climb. Why is it that the last few miles before a crest are always the steepest? But our hard work soon paid off. We reached the top and the view from there was eye popping! There was Mt. Rainier in all its glory! With a clear blue sky for a backdrop! Just breathe taking. After much oohhing and aahhing we set off and picked up the Suntop trailhead and the single track.

Some parts of the trail were smooth but other parts were rocky and had some pretty difficult drop offs from water bars, roots, and rocks. But everyone was in the “zone” and we swooshed effortlessly down the mountain. After about an hour of riding we stopped on a gorgeous section of the trail for a break. Food, water, rest, and a good stretch break. We sat around and talked about our ride and how great it was so far with yet more miles of fun ahead of us. Then we were back on our bikes and back to the rapid descent towards the river valley below.

The next few miles of the trail had some surprises for us. First the descent became a lot steeper. We were flying down the trail. To prove how hot a disc brake can get, Joe spit some water onto his brake and steam hissed off the disc. This section of the trail was also very dusty and rocky. I had to fall back because the dust from the rider in front of me was irritating my eyes. Then came the switch backs. Very sharp ones! And if you didn’t pay close attention you could fly off the edge to the trail below. We also had to stop and carry our bikes over some trees that had fallen over the trail. Next we encountered about a mile of trail covered with snow! We had to walk this part. We also had 4 streams to cross. I unsuccessfully tried to keep my feet dry but the rocks were slippery and no sooner had I started across I was up to my ankles in ice cold water. Finally we reached the bottom of the mountain! But our ride was not over. Now we picked up Skookum Trail and followed the White River to the Dalles Campground 11 miles downstream. This part of the ride was very difficult. Parts of the trail had been washed away this past winter and we had to detour it up and over roots, rocks, trees, and debris. After about 4 or 5 miles of this it began to get better. The trail returned and the final 5 or 6 miles were sweet swooshing, winding, up and down single track through a quiet old forest.

After almost 6 hours of hard mountain biking we reached the campground. Both exhausted and exhilarated. What a ride! What a day!

A few pictures from my ride today!

I took a picture of everyone from this view point.

Fields of high mountain wild flowers.

Close up of Bear Grass

Friends finally on the trail and the descent down to the river valley

My mountain bike. She is a sweet ride!
Crossing trees that had fallen onto the trail.
Walking over snow!
Crossing streams. Brrrrrr but the water was icy cold!

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