Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Mountain Biking and the Birkie Trifecta

He did it!  Jim Slyfield completed the Birkebeiner trifecta of a long classic ski tour this winter, a long trail run this spring, and a long mountain bike ride last weekend.  What a great way to celebrate both his birthday and his lust for the outdoors!  I would have loved to join the mountain bikers, but I have neither the bike nor the skilz for such an adventure, so lucky for me -- and for you -- David Evans and his son Logan joined Jim on the bike trip and David sent us the loveliest report, beautifully written and full of heartfelt appreciation for the wonderland we live in.  Thanks, David!  And thanks to Elizabeth for the photos and to Jim for the follow-up commentary after David's report.

First, from the Norwegian Birkebeiner's mountain bike web page, delightfully rendered into English by our helpful friends at Google Translate:
"Throw you out in it! Start with halvbirken, get some friends and have a focus at first and foremost compete with yourself. It's a kjempeprestasjon just to implement." 
Then, David's report:

Musings on the “Locavore Birken,” an August 26 mountain biking exploration of the Pass

Kongsbergers justifiably take pride in their cabin and fine trail system, yet our winter association with nearly all things KSC can blind us to the potential offerings of activities enjoyed in other climes.  
So when Jim Slyfield threw down the mountain bike challenge of the summer season on August 26, Logan and David Evans (your humble author) knew it was time to get to know some of the roads and trails less traveled by in the Pass area, as suggested by Jim.
Thin jackets insulated us from the early morning cool as Elizabeth Bailey, Jim, Logan and I began our mountain biking expedition, belying the 85 degree weather to come later.  While skiing the Berg or Viking loops or Amabilis can be great fun, it takes a day’s mountain bike tour to help appreciate how our club’s trails are merely bit players in a much larger, and wonderfully varied, web of unpaved roads, hiking trails, reclaimed train tracks and single-track paths in and around the Snoqualmie Pass area. 
After a quick start through the Viking/Berg system and tricky two-step to and through the DOT staging pen at Exit 62, we soon found ourselves just down the road from Kongsberger’s famous ski turnaround on the main road, about to head up USF 4823.
Not every mountain biker likes to begin a long day of cycling with a 1.5 hour climb, particularly not if you’re 12, so by the top I was having to put my best daddy voice on while explaining to Logan that things would undoubtedly get better soon, which they did in a split second as he zipped out of view once we pedaled past the saddle at Resort Creek Pond.  
By the bottom, having reached 40 mph, skidded by an uphill-bound and surely surprised car hogging his inside lane, and left a trio of more cautious adults in his wake, Logan was again smiling and re-energized for the ride ahead.  We took the frontage road back along I-90 to the Gold Creek trailhead, doubled back under that cement ribbon connecting Seattle with Boston and points in between, and were soon at the Hyak Sno-Park, donning jackets, affixing lights, and otherwise willing our bodies to prepare for the impending sensory deprivation just ahead. 
Yet nothing quite prepares you for the abruptness of absolute outer-space-like cold darkness preceded just by a stunningly blue August day.  For Logan and me, it was our first time in the straight-as-an-arrow Hyak tunnel, which announced itself, even around the bend when still out of sight, with a blast of cold, damp, body-numbing air. Within seconds, with pupils dilating, goose bumps rising, endorphins surging, and the dawning realization that the lights we’d hastily slapped on handlebars and helmets weren’t quite what we had hoped for, we continued to bike pell-mell, trying to keep up with that lifeline of your leading cyclist-with-working-light, at times narrowly avoiding sundry other cyclists, hikers and even one dog sled team, all in various guises of camouflage thanks to the enveloping, unnerving total darkness. Thankfully, almost imperceptibly at first, a pinprick of a light source began to show itself far off in the distance, underscoring the masterful Euclidian surveying of 1912 during the tunnel’s first year of construction. 
At the tunnel’s eastern Rockdale entrance, we had a decision to make: head back through the tunnel and cut the ride short, or continue on down the former track’s gradient, cross over I-90 via the Lake Annette trail and Exit 47, and head back up to the Pass via what I learned from Jim was the Old Snoqualmie Wagon Trail, now more commonly referred to as the Denny Creek road, which loosely parallels the separated sections of the highway on the Pass’s western approach.  Skiers being famous gluttons for punishment, we of course decided to extend the fun.  “Biking” on the Lake Annette hiking trail proved a superlative moment for Logan, who hardly got off his bike as he jumped and jived his way down the many roots and rocks along the way, deftly avoiding batches of surprised hikers he came upon.  The adults to his rear allowed gravity to play out in a more measured manner, which means we hardly dared get on our bikes, which gave the younger generation more rest time and bragging rights. 
Before moving to Vermont, Dave Lindahl had introduced me to the lovely Denny Creek road and its immaculately paved surface, dearth of drivers, and fairly constant, and some would say relentless, gradient, all by way of roller skiing into skate fitness on autumn weekends.  And while I’d r-skied it many times with him, I’d never biked it.  It turns out that this gem of a road is as fun to climb on two bigger wheels as it is on four smaller ones, delivering you to the Alpental Road and its neighboring I-90 underpass and, soon, to the highest point of the Pass, which is always good news to a pack of tired cyclists.  In short order, we were zipping down the gradient of the frontage road, hopping back on the John Wayne Trail, and this time heading eastward, which is to say cabin-ward, along the long southern flank of the Keechelus reservoir, pedaling over a section in August we’d more commonly poled in January.  In short order, reservoir behind us, Jim had us on the very fun single track Yakima River Connector Trail from Stampede Pass to the backside of the Cabin Creek parking lots, and then back at the cabin. 
It had been six hours since we’d left the cabin; tired, dehydrated and absolutely famished, we stumbled into the pleasing coolness of our lovely ski cabin, amazed by the hugely varied figure-eight tour we’d just completed and inspired by some newly discovered treasures in our beloved Pass area.  Whether alpine or Nordic, we’d always thought of the Pass largely in terms of skiing, but today, with tired, tanned legs and arms and dusty bikes to prove it, we had come to acknowledge a few of the other athletic garlands of the Snoqualmie Pass region, and we knew we’d be back for more. 

And Jim's follow-up comments:
We had a good time!   
Overall, +62KM, with at least 2,400’ of climbing. The climb from Kamp Kachess/X62 to Resort Creek Pond is 1,000’ of vertical.  
The tunnel is a lot of fun.  I’m glad I used my 500-lumen ‘commuter’ bike light. Watch out for the dogs, walkers, kids, and other cyclists. The cool damp air was most welcome after we’d had enough sun.  Elizabeth was smart and went back through the tunnel, rather than going down to Asahel Curtis with us. (And climbing almost 1,400’ back up the old Snoqualmie Wagon Road.) She also took some pictures.   
 Logan is the man on the bike—especially on the down hills.He said he got off his bike only 3 times on the way down the Annette Lake Trail.  I might have gotten on mine 3 times…    
Hydration and electrolytes are very important!  My legs were starting to cramp the last 20 minutes.  Even though I was drinking a lot of water. Ate throughout the ride, so I was ok for energy.  When I got back to the cabin, I drank about a quart of Nuun.   Legs were better after that.    
I’d hardly recovered, when Keith, Frank, Tim, Rob, and Suzanne arrived with a second trailer load of fire wood that Don Brooks provided.  Hint: Needs splitting and stacking.  Can you, gentle reader, out-do an 80 year old in “Log-PT”?    
Elizabeth went out and dug up a bucket full of noxious weeds from the Stadium Area.  There are more out there with your name on them.   
After that, a hot scrubby shower was most welcome.   Jeff, Joy, and Jeff’s mom’s dog, Chloe, joined us after their hike up Mt Snoqualmie.   My mom and dad, along with Jeff, Joy, and Keith, joined us for dinner in the cabin.   (And Chloe.)  
Would anyone be interested in a spring MTB trip like this?  Or as Elizabeth has suggested, the JWT from Kittitas to the Columbia River?

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