Big Chief Trail is the newest trail in the Truckee area, and Greyson and I rode it from the top! Check out the video (not pictured: some gnarly stuff we had to walk) which also includes some of the Sawtooth Trail.
I did a bunch of fun things in 2018, and here are a few of the highlights!
The winter did not start out very strong in the Sierra, so I was riding well into the start of 2018. Some highlights include Mills Peak in Graeagle, Wendin Canyon in Truckee, and Peavine in Reno (trails guide coming soon).
I also took a quick trip to the Oregon Coast to celebrate my mom’s birthday.
I also ended an eight year run working at the Sierra Nevada Alliance and accepted a new job with a land use advocacy nonprofit, Mountain Area Preservation.
Greyson and I kicked off February with a Big Sur road trip where we had the most amazing weather and absolutely no crowds. It was incredible!
We ended the trip by mountain biking at Wilder Ranch State Park.
Truckee and Tahoe had a miracle March and got dumped on with snow! I got some super fun days at Sugar Bowl. Better late than never!
Greyson and I also did our annual midwinter ride at Foresthill Divide Trail in Auburn.
Life goal achieved: I saw Ludacris at a pool party day club in Vegas with my HLP.
Greyson and I headed up to Graeagle to do a day of trail work on Mills Peak, and we were rewarded with a free trip on the new shuttle.
June was all about an amazing trip to the Big Island of Hawaii with Greyson’s family. We swam, snorkeled, hiked, ate shaved ice, and soaked in the sun.
Just a hint, Manini’owali Beach (pictured above) is amazing!
I snuck in a quick ride on the Flume Trail with some friends before the month was over, too.
Greyson and I also celebrated our one year wedding anniversary!
In one weekend, I completed the June Lake Triathlon and rode at Mammoth Mountain Bike Park! It was an exciting couple of days.
Other July highlights were taking friends to visit Webber Falls, working at the Phish summer Tahoe show, and diving into Donner Lake.
I had an amazing time at my first @phish show last night, tabling for @mountainareapreservation with the awesome @waterwheelphish foundation! The show was incredible, both by the band and by nature. Thanks again for this opportunity #waterwheelfoundation! . . . . #tahoefabulous #phish #phishtour #summertour #livemusic #tahoesouth #music #latergram #sunset
August was super smokey in Truckee, so we escaped down to Point Reyes for fresh ocean air. While there, we rode our bikes out to Drakes Head on the Estero Trail (trail report coming soon).
Will #mountainbike for #ocean views. We snuck away from the heat and smoke for another weekend on the #pointreyes #coast. . . . . . #california #visitca #pointreyesnationalseashore #mountainbiking #marincounty #adventureseeker #travelblogger #instatravel #wanderlust #getoutside #girlswhobike #travelblog #coastal #seashore #beachviews #drakesbay
On our way back, we stopped a GoatHouse Brewing (a brewery featuring rescue goats!) to celebrate the engagement of two of my favorite people.
The Donner Lake Rim Trail from Castle Valley is becoming one of my favorite mountain bike rides, and we rode that a few times this summer.
@greyson_goes_outside and I had a fun after work #mountainbike ride on the #donnerlakerimtrail. I still struggle A LOT on the granite-y Castle Valley section, but I’m getting better and the views are the best. . . . . . #mountainbiking #biking #getoutside #tdlandtrust #truckeelove #truckeemoments #girlswhobike #adventure #wanderlust #instatravel #travelblogger #publiclands #sierra #tahoefabulous
September was all about the mountain biking. First, Greyson and I went down to South Lake to ride the Corral Trails. The access road was closed, so no shuttling, but the trails were basically empty.
Getting after it in the #berm section of Lower Corral #trail yesterday. 📷 by @greyson_goes_outside . . . . . . . . #tahoe #tahoefabulous #tahoesouth #mountainbike #mountainbiking #girlswhoride #girlswhobike #outdoorwomen #getoutside #instatravel #travelblogger #wanderlust #adventureseeker #transitionbikes #visittahoe #bikelife #womenwhobike
While we were in Oregon, we also visited Salt Creek Falls and took my first trip to Crater Lake.
We took a slight detour on our way home from #Oregon to visit a new to me #nationalpark- @craterlakenpark. I think the extra hours in the car were #worthit. . . . . . #craterlake #craterlakenationalpark #wizardisland #findyourpark #getoutside #roadtrip #travelblogger #wanderlust #wanderer #adventureseeker #outdoorwomen #visitoregon #nationalparks #publiclands #tahoefabulous #travel #outdoorbloggers #girlswhotravel
I finished out the month with a super dust ride at Hoot in Nevada City (trail report coming soon!).
Fun (dusty) riding Hoot #trail in #NevadaCity. 🤞🏼for rain this week. #tahoefabulous 📷 by @greyson_goes_outside . . . . . #mountainbike #mountainbiking #ride #getoutside #outdoorwomen #womenwhoride #mountainbikelife #instatravel #wanderlust #travelblogger #outdoorblogger #ride #bike #california #adventureseeker #transitionbikes #transitionsmuggler
I got a gravel bike! I’m super excited about riding this bike even more in 2019.
First time out on my new #gravelbike today on Elizabethtown Meadows #trail. Great #fallcolors on the #aspens and a beautiful day! 📷 by #instagramhusband @greyson_goes_outside . . . . . #tahoefabulous #truckeelove #truckeemoments #truckee #martisvalley #gravelride #mountainbiking #girlswhobike #outdoorwomen #getoutside #wanderlust #adventureseeker #outdoorblogger #mountainbikelife #cyclocross #diamondback #haanjo #instatravel #tahoe
I finally did one of those classic Tahoe hikes, Eagle Rock, that I somehow had never done before.
And we went to Santa Cruz where we saw some good otters in the Elkhorn Slough.
In November, we went for a ride on one of Truckee’s newest trails, Big Chief (trail report coming soon). It’s got great views, amazing rock work, and fun flow sections.
Checking out some of the awesome rock work on #bigchieftrail In #Truckee. #latergram from last weekend, #photo by @greyson_goes_outside. . . . . . #mountainbiking #mountainbikelife #tahoefabulous #girlswhobike #outdoorwomen #bike #truckeelove #mountainbiker #wanderlust #outdoorblogger #travelblogger #instatravel #tahoe
For Thanksgiving, Truckee got its first snowstorm and my parents came to visit. While they were here, we went to Nevada City and went for a foggy walk along the Yuba.
The snowboarding season started off strong with an awesome opening weekend at Sugar Bowl, complete with their famous bloody marys.
My friend Erin came into town and we went on a couple of snowshoe hikes, and I started to enjoy snowshoeing!
The resorts are crowded, your pass is probably blacked out, so you should go for a #snowshoe #hike in Donner Summit Canyon. Details on my #blog, link in my bio. ❄️❄️❄️ . . . . . #tahoefabulous #womenadventures #outdoorwomen #getoutside #adventureseeker #wanderlust #travel #snow #instatravel #travelblogger #outdoorblogger #tahoe #truckee #truckeelove #visitcalifornia #womenwhohike
2018 was another amazing year, and I’m looking forward towards more adventures in 2019.
After a fun couple of days in the Cumberland area, we headed north to Campbell River. Taking the advice of locals, we got off of Hwy 19 and drove up the coast. The drive was gorgeous and worth the slightly longer trip. Considering that it only added about 20 minutes, I would highly recommended the scenic route.
As I mentioned in my lodging post, we stayed at Elk Falls Provincial Park. This was yet another amazing BC Provincial Park with access to a waterfall. A brand new suspension bridge giving new access to amazing views had just been completed so we made sure to check it out.
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We had fun exploring Campbell River, which had a more rustic and ocean-y feel than the other spots we’d visited on the island so far. I especially liked driving out to Dick Murphy Park at the very end of a long spit and getting my feet wet in the ocean. Next time we’ll have to go on a whale watching or kayaking trip out of Campbell River. My parents did a multi day kayaking trip off of Quadra Island, which looked amazing!
Of course, we also went biking while we were in Campbell River. I ride a 2016 Transition Smuggler, a shorter travel 29er that was basically designed for the rooty XC trails of Campbell River. I, on the other hand, am not used to that type of riding, and spent a lot of time getting stuck on short, steep, punchy and rooty climbs. I was also surprised by how narrow lots of the trails are up there! The forests of BC have a lot more biomass that the Sierra and we were frequently fighting our way through overgrown trails. Note: ferns are better than blackberries, but will still scratch you up! There were some frustrating moments along the trail and I didn’t feel like I was riding very well.
I did have fun on the trails we rode in the Pumphouse area of Campbell River, especially on the return trip when I finally loosened up. We rode Water Tower , which is a gradually climbing, wide trail (basically a double track) to the Ridge Trail for about a third of a mile before turning onto Dean Martin. Dean Martin had some really steep climbs – I could have used that twelfth gear. We then took Lower Deliverance until we hit the Forest Service road. I decided that with the struggle riding I’d been doing so far that day that I was ready to turn around. We headed back down Lower Deliverance until we came to Connector which took us to Alligator Rock. I enjoyed Alligator Rock much more than Deliverance, so I’m glad we came back that way. Though it was rockier, it was less exposed. After that we were back on Dean Martin and back the way we came.
Location: The Pumphouse, Campbell River, BC
Trails: Water Tower, The Ridge, Dean Martin, Lower Deliverance, Alligator Rock
Mileage: 9 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet
See my Strava route here.
Things got super busy at work for a while, and then I got a new job, but I’m feeling back to normal finally. I think I’m going to spend this awful winter we’re having in Tahoe finishing up my mountain biking road trip recaps. Hopefully I’ll finish by spring when it’s time to get back on the bike.
The previous stop on our #toasterroadtrip was Englishman River Falls Provincial Park and the Hammerfest Trails. After an amazing couple of days there, we headed about an hour up the road toward the three Cs – Courtenay, Comox, and Cumberland. I’ll do a post about the lodging/food/beer of this area next, but now, the mountain biking.
The mountain biking in this part of Vancouver Island is centered in the small town of Cumberland, which is just a short, 15 minute drive from Courtenay. Despite a population under 4,000, Cumberland is a dream destination for mountain bikers. There are more than 50 miles of trails, several bike shops, delicious pizza, a cool brewery, and even a hostel that caters to mountain bikers.
Trail map in hand, we headed to Cumberland Forest and up a fire road. Through no purposeful planning, our honeymoon followed the path of the BC Bike Race, and we began to see the pink route marking tape that would become very familiar over the next 10 days. After about 3.5 miles of fire road climbing, we turned into the forest and began to climb single track – the trail Truffle Shuffle. This was my first hint that BC trail grades are significantly harder than in the other places I’ve ridden.
As I got off to push for the 10th time in under 400 meters, I told myself, “You’re just not used to technical climbing. Most of the uphill you do in Truckee is on fire road or easy single track. Get to the downhill. You’ll be fine.” We crested the climb with 3.6 miles and more than 1,000 feet of climbing. The route that had been recommended to us was approximately Upper and Lower Vanilla to That Dam Trail to Missing Link to Found Link. Vanilla and That Dam Trail were recommended as new, super fun trails that are representative of the type of riding in Cumberland Forest. Vanilla was fast, flowy, and rideable. We hopped onto Teapot briefly to connect to That Dam Trail. Trailforks rates Vanilla & Teapot as blue/intermediate and That Dam Trail as black/advanced.
In the places I usually mountain bike, I can typically ride everything on a blue/intermediate trail and everything to nearly everything on a black/advanced trail. Before this road trip, the Downieville Downhill was the most technical trail I’ve ridden, and I could ride ~90% of it. I can ride the easier double blacks at Mammoth. I say this because mountain biking in BC is different. Vancouver Island is closer to the grades of California/Oregon/Washington, but on the Sunshine Coast/Whistler/Squamish, the trails are much more difficult. This is something I really wish I had known beforehand. I still had a great time, and I’d go back to any of these destinations in a second. If I’d known about the difficulty of the trails ahead of time, I could have adjusted my expectations and been less frustrated.
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That Dam Trail was a little more feature-y than Vanilla, and had jumps, drops and an optional log ride. Some of the features were WAY above my pay grade and I walked some steep drops, but it was still a smile-inducing trail. That Dam Trail dropped us out on the fire road which we rode down until we came to the Missing Link trail head on our left. Note – Cumberland Forest is pretty well signed, but some of the lesser used trails get overgrown which can lead to confusion. Having Trailforks on your phone is great, as well as the paper map that the local bike shops sell. We climbed up Missing Link for less than a quarter mile and ~100 feet of elevation gain before turning onto Found Link for our last downhill of the day. This short trail has jumps and a drop at the top, and the lower section is rooty with berms before dropping us out on the fire road, which led us back to our car.
Greyson and I agreed that Missing Link/Found Link (sometimes called Lost and Found) was our favorite part of the day, though I also really enjoyed Vanilla. Our full ride was 7.25 miles and ~1,230 feet of climbing.
Our second day was more of a slogfest, which involved a lot of pushing bikes – not necessarily because of difficulty, but because of how overgrown the trail was. A local bike shop had recommended Bronco’s Perseverance, which connected to a trail we later found out was called Swamp. We got onto Mama Bear after that -which involved pushing up a very steep and short connector- so I’m not sure if we did that correctly. I wouldn’t full heartedly suggest this route. Bronco’s was pretty fun, but Swamp was a pretty miserable slog, overgrown, humid, and buggy. Mama Bear was decently fun, but I was pretty done after Swamp. I told Greyson that I’d definitely ride Bronco’s again, if I could do it without riding Swamp. From the Trailforks map, it looks like you can get from Bronco’s back up to the fire road, but I don’t have first hand experience.
We loved Cumberland so much that we actually returned to the Cumberland Forest for a quick ride before our ferry trip. Since we knew it had to be short ride, we decided to revisit what we already knew we liked, and we did a quick fire road – Missing Link – Found Link lap. It was a perfect end to our time on Vancouver Island!
Long: Truffle Shuffle to Vanilla to Teapot to That Dam Trail to Missing Link to Found Link. 7.25 miles and ~1,230 feet of climbing. If you want to skip the technical climb on Truffle Shuffle, it looks like you can continue up the fire road and take another fire road (called Vanilla Access) and get onto Lower Vanilla.
Short: Missing Link to Found Link. 2 miles and ~375 feet of climbing.
I’ve done quite a few mountain biking/camping road trips over the past few years, and I really think that I’ve got my gear list dialed in. Overpacking and underpacking are both things you want to avoid on a road trip – especially a long one. You don’t want to run out of clean chamois or have too much stuff to dig through when you’re looking for a specific tool. It took a lot of trial and error, so I’m going to share my gear lists and what I’ve learned.
I’ve broken down my packing list into a few categories: biking, camping, apparel, and miscellaneous for ease. In this post, I’m focusing on bike gear and apparel. I’ll be posting about camping gear and the other odds and ends soon. I’m basing this on our one month, 2,700+ mile road trip. We used pretty much everything we brought, and there wasn’t really anything I felt like I was missing. For a shorter road trip, you might not need as much stuff, but I think that this is a good base. Here’s what to pack for the Ultimate Mountain Bike Road Trip:
Bike: You’re definitely going to need this. I love my 2016 Transition Smuggler (a short travel 29er) so much. It was a perfect bike for nearly everything we rode. Spoiler: I wish I had more travel at Whistler.
Helmet: For a nearly perfect combination of safety, comfort, and versatility, you really can’t beat Bell Super R Helmet series. The newest version is the Super 3R, but I have the Super 2R, which is just an earlier version that you can still find a really good deal on. These helmets have a removable chin bar. I love this feature, because I can leave it off for easier rides or climbs, and then attach it for more protection on the more technical rides. Overall, the helmet has lots of venting, so it’s cooler than pretty much all full face helmets, even with the face bar attached. If you don’t plan to ever need the chin bar, I really like Giro Montara MIPS helmet.
Pedals: I ride clipless pedals 95% of the time, but I almost always pack both clipless pedals and flats for road trips. Two sets of pedals and shoes don’t take up that much room and add a lot of versatility. Even for clipless pedals, I like ones with a bit of a platform, like these Shimano PD-M647. For flats, I like these basic Race Face Chesters. They have small hex screws for extra grip that are easily replaced.
Shoes: I am recommending my biking shoes with a caveat. Once I’ve got the Five Ten Kestrel Pro Boa on, they are a perfect biking shoe. They’re comfortable, the boa system instead of laces makes sure they’re always secure, easy to walk in, shed mud well, and, if I can’t clip in immediately, their slightly sticky bottom means that my feet still stay on the pedals pretty well. However, they are a little hard to get on and off, and the pull strap that’s on the heel of the right shoe broke immediately on both mine and Greyson’s, which is annoying but doesn’t effect the function at all. I’d still highly recommend them.
Hydration pack: I think that a comfortable and functional hydration pack is one of the pieces of gear that’s most integral to having a fun ride, especially as the distances get longer. I’ve recommended the CamelBak Solstice before. It’s a women’s specific, lumbar pack designed for mountain biking. I still love it, though the light grey color mine is has started to look pretty gross on the back. Greyson has the men’s version, the CamelBak Skyline, shown above. Click here for my round up of mountain bike hydration options!
Gloves: It’s really nice to have two pairs of gloves to give each pair a chance to dry out. I don’t pay a lot for gloves. I usually buy what’s on sale and what fits my rather large hands. Right now, I alternate between the Giro Xena and the Giro LA DND.
Eyewear: I am hard on and terrible to sunglasses. I admit it. I’ve found that the Suncloud brand is a nice balance. They’re polarized and hold up pretty well, but don’t break the bank so I don’t feel too bad about immediately dropping and scratching them. I also have very light sensitive eyes, so I tend to like my sunglasses pretty dark, even when mountain biking. I’ve finally come around, and I like the Suncloud Cookie with rose lenses for rides in the trees where the light is variable. For rainy/windy/dusty conditions, or just when I want to look like an enduro bro, I wear Smith Squad MTB.
Pads: For a trip like this, we went for light, breathable and smaller pads to save space. The G-Form Pro X2 are really comfortable – they’re fine if you need to pedal and are about as cool and breathable as you can get.
Anti Chafe Protection: For long, sweaty summer rides, Chamois Butt’r and Body Glide are essentials.
Various Tools: You’re going to want a few things with you on a ride, like a basic multi tool and a mini bike pump for repairs on the trail. However, when you’re on a long bike trip, a more thorough tool kit will save you time and money. If you don’t already have a bike tool kit assembled, this Park Tool SK-3 Home Mechanic Starter Kit is a good place to start. Finally, having a nice floor pump makes keeping your tires at exactly the right psi simple and easy. We have the Bontrager Flash, which has an air chamber and can set tubeless tires, but if you don’t want to pay more than $100 for a tire pump, there are other options at lower price points.
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- Liners: First off, think of how many liners/chamois you think you need. Then pack at least one more, especially on a long trip. While you can wash these by hand, they take a long time to dry, even in the summer sun. We were doing a lot of liner algebra. “Ok, I have two pairs of clean ones, and two wet ones and we want to ride three times in the next four days, and the wet ones should dry in x hours…” etc. Liners are definitely not a one size fits all type of gear – find what fits your body best. For a combination of price and comfort, I think it’s hard to beat the REI Coop Junction liners.
- Baggies: I also like the Fox baggies, especially the Fox Ripley shorts and Fox Lynx shorts. Note: the Lynx only have a tiny back zipper pocket, which is dumb.
- Tops: I am a very sweaty person, and mostly bike in tank tops. If I am going to wear long sleeves, I like lightweight tops like the Pearl iZUMi Launch Jersey, which is so breathable I don’t even notice it. For wind, I have a Patagonia Houdini Jacket, which packs down very, very small.
- Accessories: Smartwool makes good socks and low impact sports bras. For high impact sports bras, Brooks Rebound Racer (formerly Moving Comfort) is amazing.
I hope you’re reading this because you’re planning an awesome mountain bike road trip. Check back in for my camping recommendations. If you’ve been on a mountain bike or other long road trip, chime in with your suggestions.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!
After a few days exploring the Olympic Penninsula, it was time to head to Canada and mountain biking paradise!
We took the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, and we ran into some issues. We were leaving around the 4th of July and just after Canada Day, and we ended up not booking the ferry we wanted early enough. That meant that we had to rely on the first come, first serve spaces. We got to the ferry terminal almost three hours early, and we still had to be on standby. Luckily, we were able to get on the earlier sailing that we’d been planning on. Just something to keep in mind if you’re planning a similar route – buy your ferry tickets in advance or prepare to wait around for quite awhile.
The ferry boat ride (Greyson’s first ever car ferry!) was gorgeous, with views of the Olympics, the Cascades, Mount Baker, and the San Juan Islands. I was hoping we’d see some sea life, but nothing made an appearance. Crossing the border went smoothly, and we were quickly on our way north to the campground I’d booked outside of Parkside. We stopped at a brewery for a sampler and some snacks in Nanaimo. (I’m going to write up all of the Vancouver Island breweries at once, so stay tuned.)
I booked a campsite at Englishman River Falls Provincial Park because it looked pretty close to a trail network when I was doing basic research on TrailForks. I figured we could stay there one night, and if it sucked, we could move on. It turned out to be one of our favorite campsites on the whole trip.
You can literally ride from your campsite at Englishman River Falls Provincial Park to the Hammerfest Trail network, which is awesome. It’s super convenient, and the trails themselves are great. We only ended up riding there one day, which we regretted. Now we just have to go back!
I had a great time riding the Hammerfest trails. Obviously, in a single day, we could only ride a fraction of the network, but I found everything rideable. The climb up was a long fire road slog, but not nearly as bad as the climb in Ashland. The trails were fairly well marked, and we followed our chosen route using a combination of trail signs and the TrailForks app.
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We got off the fire road on to Jughead. This trail started out heading down a hillside in a clear cut or burned area. The trail was a little rough – narrow and beat up with loose rocks, but still fun. You quickly got into the forest and the trail turned into the fun, flowy trail of my BC dreams.
Once in the cover of the trees, we switched from Jughead to Locomotion. Here is where we first encountered an issue that would cause us problems on pretty much every trail we rode in British Columbia. We’re used to staying on a single trail for miles, not riding spiderweb like networks with potential turns every 100 meters or so. Even the trail network I ride most often only has a few choices. Since we weren’t riding with locals, and we were just navigating for ourselves, that often meant stops at every fork in the trail to make sure we were taking the correct turn. This really threw off our rhythm sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, the trails are super fun. Just be prepared to do some stopping in order to stay on route.
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The last major trail we hopped on was Dem Bones. I remember this one seeming really rooty, but it turns out it was just the first taste of rooty BC single track, and we’d encounter even more roots on trails to come. We popped out just down the road from the park and rode back to camp, giddy with our first taste of BC mountain biking.
Englishman River Falls Provincial Park is an awesome campground – even if you’re not into mountain biking. It’s clean, the employees are super friendly, and they take quiet hours very seriously. These facts were true about every provincial park we visited in Canada, but this was a great introduction. The person driving around collecting fees even told us he was “so sorry” about our current leadership when he saw our California plates, which we appreciated.
After eating lunch and hanging around in the hammock, I decided that I wanted to hike down to the falls and check them out. Greyson wasn’t feeling great at this point, but he agreed to accompany me. The falls were small but pretty, and there was a perfect swimming hole (neither of which I got a picture of, oops). We were there late enough in the afternoon that it wasn’t very crowded and no one was in the water. Dipping my toes in, I could tell the water was freezing, but it was so beautiful and clear that I had to jump in. I stripped down to my underwear and dove in. The cold was shocking, but refreshing and I dove in a couple more times before I had enough.
I loved this park, the trail network, and the general area. I’d go back to visit this area in a heartbeat and I highly recommend it.
After Oakridge, Oregon and Bellingham, Washington, the next stop on our awesome OR/WA Mountain Bike Road Trip was Leavenworth, Washington. Leavenworth is an adorable “Bavarian” mountain town in the Alps-like Washington Cascades. Leavenworth is on the east side of Stevens Pass (both the ski resort and the physical feature) on Highway 2. I drove Highway 2 across the state during college when I was traveling between my hometown of Reardan and Bellingham, so I’ve been through Leavenworth lots of times, and I’ve stayed there with friends and family several times.
While the Bavarian theme can be a little cheesy, Leavenworth is an amazing town. In the Leavenworth area, there is great camping (I’ve stayed at Lake Wenatchee State Park), epic backpacking and hiking (the PCT runs by Stevens Pass), Icicle Creek and the Wenatchee River flow through town, so there are swimming, floating and rafting opportunities galore, world class climbing, great food, wineries and beer, and more! The drive along Highway 2 from Everett in the Seattle area is beautiful and is almost worth the trip by itself.
Greyson and I met my parents at Stevens Pass to caravan the last segment of the drive to the rental house. We stopped at a couple of points along the way to stick our feet in the gorgeous (and cold!) Wenatchee River.
Obviously of interest to us this trip was the mountain biking, which Leavenworth is also on the map for. Nearby Stevens Pass offers lift serviced biking (sadly, only on weekends so we missed out by arriving on a Monday) and the epic, 24 mile, 3,000 foot climb and descent on the Devils Gulch Trail is on my bucket list, and there are many more trails in the area. We weren’t sure which of the trails we wanted to tackle! Luckily, two of my best friends from college, Morgan and Tommy, met us in Leavenworth, and Tommy is an avid mountain biker. He recommended Freund Canyon.
The trailhead for Freund Canyon is up a gravel road, off of Freund Canyon Rd, parallel to the Chumstick Highway.
Freund Canyon turned out to be an amazingly fun, featured, and flowy trail with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains that are so beautiful, you are slightly distracted from the brutal climb.
It was pretty hot by the time we got on the trail, which did not make the 1,950 foot climb any easier. The climb wasn’t technical at all, just unrelenting. I’m in much better mountain bike shape than I have been in the last couple of years, but it still took me over an hour to do the ~4 mile climb.
The hour of suffering (Type 2 fun!) was truly cancelled out by the incredible downhill. We lost those ~2,000 feet in about 3.5 miles of fun berms and jumps, well built out of Washington’s amazing dirt. This is one of my favorite trails I’ve ever ridden (even though I don’t jump my bike, except when I get a tiny bit of accidental air), and I was woo-ing it up with pure joy. Some of the berms are built so that you’re turning into the steep, downhill side of the mountain, which felt a little disconcerting (what if the berm collapses and I fly into space?), but for the most part I felt comfortable letting off by brakes a little and flying down the trail. Greyson and I were talking about it later, and decided that the downhill part felt a lot like resort riding without the crowds. It was definitely a very “built” trail.
We spent a couple of days hanging out in Leavenworth – swimming in the river, drinking beer, eating good food, watching turkey vultures, ospreys and a bald eagle from the deck of our rental cabin, and we even had some very special guests on the morning we left – a mama bear and her two cubs up in a tree. Greyson got some great pictures with his nice camera.
After an amazing time in Oakridge, Greyson and I pointed north (and west) towards Bellingham, Washington! I went to Bellingham back in February to visit friends and test ride a Transition Smuggler, the bike I ended up buying. I’ve been loving riding my Smuggler all over the Sierra, and I was excited to bring it back “home” to ride on the terrain that it was designed for.
While there is a lot of seemingly awesome riding in the Bellingham area, Greyson and I decided to keep it easy and head back to the trails at Galbraith that we had ridden in February. Hopefully, with less taking the wrong trail, backtracking and bonking. Galbraith is an amazing trail network located in the city of Bellingham, just a quick pedal from downtown. The trails of Galbraith have something for everyone – flowy single track, long climbs, wooden features, jumps, drops and more on the sticky, perfect Bellingham dirt. There are more than 50 miles of singletrack on 3,000 acres of privately owned land. Galbraith trails are built and maintained by the Whatcom Mountain Bike Club (WMBC), who have more than 30 years of stewardship on the property. They also have the Joyriders, a women’s ride club that I follow jealously on Instagram.
I had such an amazing time riding at Galbraith that I didn’t stop to take pictures, even of the gorgeous views of the Olympics and Bellingham Bay, so apologies for the text heavy post. We started at the trailhead on Birch Street, the Galbraith Mountain Bike Park North Entrance, heading up Miranda to the Ridge Trail. When we did this trail in February, we missed the correct entrance and ended up pushing our bikes up a steep, punishing slope (a huge reason that I think I bonked) to join with the Ridge Trail. This time we figured out that we needed to go left up some tight switchbacks, and our hunch was confirmed by a very friendly woman at the trailhead with her dog.
After climbing up for ~1.4 miles and ~500 feet, we were back at a familiar trail marker with a detailed map at a nexus of several trails, including Family Fun Center, Upper Bob’s and Cedar Dust. We rode Family Fun Center, a ~0.25 mile trail that’s mostly downhill (with a short climb at the end) until it intersected a fire road. We remembered from February that turning left on the fire road would bring us to an intersection with SST, a Galbraith classic.
We stopped on the fire road to gear up for the downhill. I probably didn’t need to, but I had just gotten some new, lighter weight kneepads before this trip (SixSixOne Recon, highly recommended, review coming soon). I also had had so much trouble with watering eyes on the Alpine Trail that I wanted to put on goggles to see if that would help. After I was geared up, we hit the trail. I had so much fun on SST this time! At this point in February, I was completely bonked and my confidence was so shattered that I ended up walking so much of this trail, despite it being entirely rideable for me. This time I rode everything, and I rode it well. I could tell this is exactly the type of trail my bike is made for. The twenty-nine inch wheels rolled over all the rooty and rocky drops and the geometry was perfect for the downhills and the short, steep uphills I encountered.
After SST, we rode Backdoor to the road crossing, carried our bikes cyclocross style up a couple of flights of steps and we were back on Miranda for some tight switchbacks on the way down. We ended up the at the trailhead with huge smiles on our faces, and ready for a beer! I had so much more fun riding at Galbraith this time around. Last time, I was on an unfamiliar bike, out of bike shape and not nutritionally prepared. I’ve also improved my riding a fair amount this summer.
If you’re looking for a short (<4 miles), intermediate loop, this is a really fun one. I got a lot of bang for my buck (aka a lot of fun downhill for the climb) and it showcases the kind of riding Galbraith is known for, with well built trails, a little bit of unpredictability with rooty drops and narrow trees, nice views and great dirt. P.S. Don’t forget to stop by Aslan Brewing Company for a beer after your ride!
Trails Ridden: Miranda, Ridge Trail, Family Fun Center, Lower SST, and Backdoor
Location: Bellingham, Washington via Birch St
Mileage: 3.7 miles
Elevation gain: ~750 feet
I just got back from an amazing road trip, mountain biking, camping, kayaking and beer drinking across Oregon and Washington. I had a great time at all of our stops, both those I’ve visited before and those that were new to me. I’ll be recapping our whole trip over the next couple weeks. Our first stop was Oakridge, Oregon.
Oakridge, Oregon is a small town nestled in the heart of the Cascades and parallels the Willamette River, about an hour east of Eugene on Highway 58. Oakridge had been a busy logging town, but since the down turn in the logging industry, it had struggled, with many businesses closing and families moving away. Oakridge is a beautiful place, with trails for hiking, camping spots along Salmon Creek, rafting and fishing opportunities on local rivers and streams, and, more recently, trails for mountain biking. Oakridge has become a popular destination for mountain bikers – only 2.5 hours from Portland and a “quick” ~7 hours from the Bay Area and Tahoe. (Greyson and I stopped by the local brewery for dinner and literally everyone eating on the patio was visiting from California.)
Mountain biking and other outdoor adventures are helping to bring some much needed money and business to Oakridge. However, it’s a much more complicated story than “mountain biking saves dying logging town!” – check out this interesting article from NPR:
For decades after World War II, the small town of Oakridge in the southern Cascade mountains of Oregon was a booming lumber town. But by the early 1990s, the lumber industry had collapsed, and Oakridge has struggled ever since, losing families and businesses. Now, residents like Randy Dreiling are trying to reinvent the place as a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Dreiling owns Oregon Adventures, which offers mountain bike tours. Some 350 miles of trails have earned Oakridge the self-proclaimed title of “Mountain Biking Capital of the Northwest. Mountain biking is just a piece of the pie. It’s not the end all be all, but it’s what we got. And it’s been good to us,” he says. “Anybody that’s being honest to themselves can see the amount of people mountain biking is bringing to town — more and more every year.”
Greyson found us an awesome campsite, Salmon Creek Falls Campground, about five miles outside of town. We snagged one of the last few first-come, first-serve campsites and set up the tent. This campground has some amazing spots right along the river, but I’m guessing you have to get there early on a weekday to get one of them.
While there are a ton of trails in the Oakridge area, mostly built and maintained by GOATS (Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards), we had decided to shuttle the Alpine Trail, booking a shuttle with Oregon Adventures, a local shuttle and tour company. They describe the Alpine Trail as
Oh glorious Alpine! Known as the Crown Jewel, this is one wicked trail. A combination of every pleasure known to mountain biking, you can’t not love Alpine.
I pre-booked the shuttle for 8:45 am the next day, so we decided to head in from our campsite for an early dinner and to scope out where we’d be meeting up. We (surprise, surprise) ended up at the only brewery in town, the Brewers Union Local 180. The brewery only has cask ale (or as they claim, the only “real ale” in Oregon) which undergoes a secondary fermentation in a wooden cask. These ales are much less carbonated that a typical IPA (it reminded me of a beer on nitro), and both of the ones we tried were tasty. This was by far the most popular restaurant in town, filled with tourists and locals alike. It was a long wait for food and beer, but both were worth it. We even met a group of people we’d be riding the shuttle with (and the Oregon Adventures owner!) at the brewery that night.
We met bright and early at the Oregon Adventures parking lot to drop off bikes with the shuttle van, and carpool to the bottom of the trail, a few miles from headquarters. We reconvened with the ten or so other riders, loaded into the shuttle and were off on the ~30 minute ride. The shuttle driver was very helpful, pointing out road crossings and landmarks that we’d use on the ride back, and soon arrived at our destination. While shuttling the Alpine Trail means a mostly downhill ride, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any climbing. In fact, you start off the trail with a ~350 foot climb that feels steeper than it actually is on cold legs.
After less than a mile of climbing, you come to a flat, grassy field with a narrow trail cut out and beautiful views. I remember commenting to Greyson about how it was hard to ride in such a narrow trail, and that I kept bumping my wheel on the edges. Little did I know that this was just a preview of the majority of the trail width to come!
The day was cool and cloudy, which was nice but I had a real problem with my sunglasses fogging up for most of the day! After the meadow, we rode into the trees and the first of the many downhills. At this point, we stopped to put on kneepads. This was the first of many stops – we definitely did not break any speed records on this trail. One of the coolest things about this trail was that it had some of everything – awesomely sticky Oregon dirt, miles of fast, flowy sections, rocky and rooty drops, long climbs, steep exposure, loose rocky sections, epic views and closed in forest canopies.
I’m used to the wider trails of the Sierra, so the narrow, more overgrown trails took some getting used to, and I definitely walked some sections of narrow trail that had steep exposure. Luckily, the Alpine Trail seemed to be about 85% fun flow on good dirt, with a smaller percentage of steep climbs, loose rocks, and only a few sections that I needed to walk.
According to my Garmin, we climbed about 1,224 feet over the 13.8 miles (the shuttle cut off some climbing and mileage from the full, official Alpine Trail.) The trail was very well marked and easy to follow. We got a little confused at about 12.5 miles in, where there was a junction. The MTB Project app told us to go right to stay on the Alpine Trail, but we were pretty sure we needed to go left to get back to our car. One of the things our shuttle driver told us at the beginning was “when in doubt, go left.” We went left and followed an obviously newer trail (I think called A.T.A.C., but I’m not 100% sure) that did bring us back to our cars.
We quickly loaded up and headed straight for pizza and beer. The pizza wasn’t amazing, but we were hungry so that didn’t matter all too much. After buying some cans of local beer, we went back to the campsite and spent some time lounging in my birthday ENO hammock for national hammock day.
Salmon Creek Falls campground is next to (no surprise) a creek and a small waterfall. Just upstream from the waterfall was a great, but cold swimming hole. We tentatively waded in, and, once my feet and legs were numb, the water felt great!
We stayed two nights in Oakridge and I wish we could have stayed longer to explore more trails! The town was beautiful, the people were friendly, the beer was good and the mountain biking was phenomenal. That’s all I can really ask in a destination. I loved camping at Salmon Creek Falls, and there are a number of motels in downtown Oakridge. The Alpine Trail was worth traveling for, and it’s a trail I’d love to do again with a little more confidence now that I know what it’s like.
Location: Oakridge, Oregon (shuttle with Oregon Adventures)
Mileage: 13.8 miles
Elevation gain: ~1,200 feet
I went to college in (what I consider) the best college town in the US – Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.
It’s nestled between the North Cascades and the Puget Sound and between Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s got easy access to skiing, mountain biking, paddling, hiking, climbing, local beer, live music, art, theater – really something for everyone. Luckily, I have a few friends who have made Bellingham their permanent home, so I have friends to stay with when I go visit.
Flights were cheap, so Greyson and I headed up after work on Thursday for a long weekend jam-packed with activities. Here are just a sampling of the fun things we did.
We got in late on Thursday night, so we headed straight to meet Stacey, Jodi and Beth at the Beaver Inn. The Beave (as we called it in college) is a true dive bar. The drinks are cheap & strong, there’s free popcorn, and don’t bother trying to make friends with Don, the locally-famous bartender.
One of the things I really wanted to do while in Bellingham was to test ride a Transition Smuggler. I’m in the market for a 29-er trail bike, and the Smuggler is on my short list. (More on that in a later post!) It’s hard to find Transition demos down in California, but their headquarters is located in Bellingham! They offer bike demos for a $20 donation that goes to Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition for trail building and maintenance.
Greyson and I got set up and headed to a trail on Galbraith Mountain recommended by the awesome people at Transition. We started from the Birch Street trailhead in a light rain, where we tried out our new Smith goggles.
I’m so not used to riding in mud and roots and it took me awhile to get my riding legs under me. There are a bunch of social trails, and we ended up climbing up the wrong one! There was a section that was so steep – maxed out at 46% grade! We did eventually make it to where we wanted to be.
I wore myself out on the climb and bonked a little – I ended up walking more than I should have until I forced down a granola bar. When my blood sugar stabilized I had a blast riding the down SST. The Galbraith Mountain trails are super fun and well built. I really wished I had gotten into mountain biking while I was still living in Bellingham. Oh well, guess I’ll just have to come back to visit a lot.
After biking, Greyson and I met back up with the group for dinner at On Rice. We gorged ourselves on delicious Thai food, and headed to Bellingham Circus Guild to see one of my favorite local musicians, Jason Webley, perform. We didn’t quite know what to expect when we walked in, but I told Greyson that he had to experience the weird parts of Bellingham, as well as the outdoorsy adventure parts. Jason Webley was as awesome as always, playing fun songs on his accordion and guitar. I’d never heard of the headliner, Andru Bemis, before, but he was really talented and I enjoyed his set as well. The other acts…well, as Greyson put it, “That was more Portlandia than Portland.” There might have been a tiny piano, a Huck Finn themed aerial performance, and some truly un-fathomable interpretive dance. We ended our night with a stop at Mallard’s Ice Cream, where I had an amazing scoop of chocolate lavender. Stay tuned for part two!
Have you ever been to Bellingham? How amazing is it, right?