Paul Andrews

Posts Tagged ‘Mountain Biking’

NorCal trails drying out, just not fast enough

In Mountain Bike Trail Reviews, Mountain Biking on February 10, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Clogged derailleur notwithstanding, the Firebird performed

Rains have abated at last and a touch of spring seems to be in the air, albeit on the cool side. (Allergies are acting up.)

At Arastradero, which I use as a benchmark indicator, it is still sloppy in parts. The ground is just too saturated on certain switchbacks and shaded sections. It sucks…figuratively and, in the case of a rear wheel trying to ride through, literally.

Even the fully exposed northern section of the park has “issues.”

Hello mudder, hello fodder...

I will say this: The Pivot Firebird is a mudder! I rode through some mucky sections in low gear that felt like climbing Alpe d’Huez, just churning to stay upright. But the Bird did not flinch or waver. The Nevis held their own as well — surprisingly, since they’re not known as a mud tire.

Before you flame, I was riding only open trails, and the damage was from horses, not mtbs.

Closed to all users! Except heron and coyotes

I did see a couple of huge majestic heron, quite unwary, meandering about the open fields. And a coyote sauntered past, barely giving me a glance. The sun was out, it was quiet and calm, and despite the mud it was a great riding day.

Weekend outlook is for more sun!

That said, I’m staying on pavement for another couple of days at least. Sunshine is supposed to hit full bore by weekend and we’ll give it another go then. Stay tuned!

Tiger Mountain trail closed for year

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, Tiger Mountain, Trail Access on September 9, 2009 at 7:07 am

They’re back logging again on Tiger Mountain, which this time means that the Northwest Timber Trail is closed for the year.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. The logging was not supposed to start till after Oct. 15, the beginning of the trail’s seasonal closure (till April 15). But with the economy improving and price of lumber expected to rise, the timber folks wanted to roll early, so we’re shut down six weeks too soon.

Bummer.

On the bright side, the hope is that the early start will mean an early end, and NWTT will reopen on schedule April 15th. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

A more pressing concern is that the logging will just seriously trash the trail for years to come. We reported earlier how crews installed a culvert emptying right onto the trail. With acres of logging consuming the trail over this winter, we have little hope that the NWTT we’ve grown to know and love will survive in anything close to its former self.

It needs to be reasserted that yes, we understand, Tiger Mountain is a “working forest,” raising funds for the state’s schoolchildren. That part we don’t mind.

But with miles of trails unavailable to mountain bikers on Tiger, we renew our plea for authorities — when closing one trail to bikes — to open another.

Last week’s closure marks the fourth year in a row that a section of Tiger trail open to mountain bikers has been shut down, with no counterbalancing trail opened up.

Opening Tiger Mountain Trail, a barely used southern exposure hiking trail that is hands down more suitable to biking than hiking, would give mountain bikers a nice alternative while a significant chunk of biking trail is closed.

Bike Intelligencer also resoundingly supports efforts to build new bike trails on Tiger. We dream of the day when you can ride a full singletrack loop without ever touching fire road.

For more background, see the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance chronology.

Communing with the Whistling Pigs: Interlude in Entiat

In Mountain Bike Trail Reviews, Mountain Biking, Today's Ride, Videos on September 7, 2009 at 7:52 am

Before the weekend’s rains hit, Jim Lyon and I took a day to do some classic high-country mountain biking, the kind everyone did before Whistler, North Shore and Galby changed the mountain-bike scene. We must have run across a dozen marmots (whistling pigs) in the meadows, waddling languidly around and engaging in their high-pitched, eerie conversation. Seven thousand feet up the ridge, the peaks were majestic, the wildflowers were soothing, the meadows were contemplative and everything was oh so quiet. It was a different riding experience than you get at the parks, resulting in a different mountain biking video than you usually see. (For full screen mode, click on permalink.)

Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance: Issues and bikes get full airing at Duthie

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, Obama Bikes, Trail Access, Videos on September 2, 2009 at 11:26 am
Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance members gather at Duthie HIll clearing

Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance members gather at Duthie HIll clearing

The good, the bad and the better all got plenty of air time last night at perhaps the biggest communal gathering ever of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance at Duthie Hill, which by the way is coming along nicely as a miniature Whistler mountain bike park in the Issaquah highlands.

Upwards of 100 folks turned out to ride the loops, the logs and the structures, then talk about where Evergreen is headed as an organization. Aiming for greater professionalism and an advocacy seat at the table of recreational parks, forest and urban planning in the Puget Sound region, Evergreen found itself being second-guessed by longtime members used to a less formalized and more social agenda. Yesterday’s “Town Hall” was an attempt to clear the air a bit and set goals for the alliance’s future direction.

After opening remarks by Jon Kennedy, program and communications director, and Jennifer Lesher, president, the gathering broke “World Cafe” style into groups of seven to 10 persons for discussion. Each group had a leader with a broadsheet to document what the alliance is doing right, what it’s doing wrong, and how it could improve.

Jon Kennedy and Jennifer Lesher welcoming everyone

Jon Kennedy and Jennifer Lesher welcoming everyone

Although barbecues wafted tantalizing scents across the park clearing, no eating was allowed until the rap sessions closed some 30 to 45 minutes later.

My group, which included a former board member and some well-known veterans from Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club days (the Alliance’s previous name), came up with a host of talking points, including the under I-5 Colonnade skillz park, the save-Kettle Crest movement, communication gaps, fiduciary question-marks, fundraising opportunities, volunteerism and Jon Kennedy’s broken chain. Yes, it’s true. Kennedy snapped his big-hit bike’s chain right before he was headed for a monster huck off one of the new structures…but that’s another story (he did get it fixed in time to throw down some cool moves on the freeride section, see video. Note: Jon, who’s pretty stylin’ on the extreme stuff, later did the full run, I just didn’t catch it on the iPhone. Further note: Click here to see full-screen of video).

Basically our group put in a pitch for more balance. There’s a sense the Alliance may be weighted toward in-close, bike park style development at the expense of wilderness and high-country access (Justin’s presentation referenced below may help mitigate this one). There’s a sense established members avoid posting on the ride calendar (“maybe rides have gotten too popular,” one of our group said), and that newcomers or slower riders feel somewhat intimidated to sign up for rides that are posted. There’s also the feeling volunteers could be used far better, and that mechanisms need to be set up for better use of members’ talents and interests.

On the kudos side, the Alliance’s reputation-building, media visibility, agency outreach and Web site got props for making a mark in the region (some people felt the Web site could be more welcoming to newcomers).

We were supposed to re-gather in plenary to go over the main themes, but it was getting dark and people’s stomachs were growling and if the leadership had made us talk any more another theme would have arisen along the lines of cannibalism, so we’ll have to wait for further reports back.

Kennedy did circulate a detailed action plan for the Alliance, outlining advocacy, planning and fundraising goals. And Justin Vander Pol added an inspiring update on the South Fork Snoqualmie project above I-90 that will create classic high-country singletrack with spectacular panoramic views an hour’s drive from Seattle. Work has commenced on the project, which has funding and agency commitment for completion.

All this, and the food was a cut above as well (thanks to whoever thought to bring veggie burgers for us non-carnivores). More to come, but for now the word is to get on out to Duthie and see what’s transpiring at the hands of Mike Westra and the gang.

Tiger Mountain update: Trails in primo condition

In Mountain Biking, Tiger Mountain on July 20, 2009 at 1:58 am
Trifecta: Sunshine, Tiger and Trails

Trifecta: Sunshine, Tiger and Trails

You won’t see Tiger’s trails like this for a long time. They’re in primo condition, better than they will be two weeks from now. How can I say that so assuredly? Because if it rains, they’ll be wet. If it doesn’t rain, they’ll be on their way to getting pitted out from constant use.

There’s a trickle of water in three places, the usual creeklets, on Preston Railroad Grade. Apart from that, everything is bone dry. We’ve had a marvelous run of weather that has put the trails into a tacky rippable state you have to go back three or four years to duplicate.

The irony of course is that this time of year, most mountain bikers head for the high country. Whistler, NorthShore, interior B.C., Leavenworth, Winthrop and other points eastward. So Tiger gets its least seasonal use during the heart of the season.

Still, it remains my favorite ride in Seattle environs. Weekday evenings you can’t beat it, with the light staying longer this time of year. That’s why a number of us are working toward the day we can achieve wider access to Tiger trails.

Daily Roundup: Stinkers deodorized, A biking inspiration, Downieville results

In Bicycle advocacy, Daily Roundup, Mountain Biking on July 18, 2009 at 12:12 am

Kudos to Cyclelicio.us for picking up on this: In Colorado, of all places (mountain and road biking both are hugely popular there), Jefferson County commissioners have some cloth-eared notion of banning bikes on any and all county roads.

Richard asks we help spread the word and nip this stinker in the bud. Here’s some key links.

Bicycle Colorado Action Alert

News story

Richard’s “slightly more incendiary take

BikePortland reports on the Vancouver Columbian‘s editorial calling a bike license fee a “stinker.”

Seattle Times: Inspirational story about cyclist who came back from the near-dead. Now I want to check out his book:

“Nearly a decade of work went into compiling information for and writing “The Taneum and Manastash Trail Systems: Mountain Biking in Kittitas County, Washington,” a guidebook to area mountain biking trails. When he teamed up with Ben Sainsbury who created a Web site with three-dimensional maps of trails across the country – the result was one of the most comprehensive and ambitious projects of its kind.”

Mountain Bike Action has all the mountain-bike action from Downieville last weekend.

And have a great this weekend! Which can only mean one thing: Get out ‘n RIDE!!!

California State Park closures hit mountain bikers hard

In Mountain Biking, Trail Access on June 12, 2009 at 8:20 am
Whooping it up in Nisene Marks

Whooping it up in Nisene Marks

Wow, these hurt. Some of California’s best close-in mountain biking venues, its State Parks, are under threat of being closed by September due to the state’s onerous budget cuts. On the list:

Mount Tam. It’s hard to believe that this spot, the renowned birthplace of mountain biking and scene of literally thousands of hikers, strollers and riders each weekend, could be gated. But there it is.

Testing skillz in Wilder

Testing skillz in Wilder

China Camp. Eeshhh. Another favorite retreat for mountain bikers just north of San Rafael. Between Tam and China Camp you’ve basically shut down the primary winter routes close to San Francisco.

Samuel B. Taylor. The recent move to add Marin’s first new mountain bike trail in years in Samuel Taylor got a lot of attention. Now they’re planning to shut the whole park!

On top of Tam, where mountain biking was born

On top of Tam, where mountain biking was born

Ford Ord Dunes. Not sure, but isn’t this the site of the annual Sea Otter Classic, the opening U.S. season event? If not the park itself, at least its environs. And lots of folks ride Fort Ord during the four-day bike festival each April.

Henry Coe. Good lord. What can you say — Coe is a mountain biking destination trip for Bay Area riders all over.

Wilder Ranch and Nisene Marks, both in Santa Cruz, both full of prime mountain bike trails. Both are conduits to some of the best riding in the Bay Area as well — Wilder links seaside with UC Santa Cruz, which has abundant technical and freeride trails, while Nisene Marks does the same with Soquel Demonstration Forest along the summit of the Santa Cruz range.

To put the closures in perspective, it’s unclear whether riding would be banned or simply unsupported. If the latter is the case (as has been said), mountain bikers will still be able to ride their favorite haunts. After all, if there’s no money to keep the parks open, there’s hardly budget to police them. Still, you hate to see any public open space go to seed, which is undoubtedly what will happen with no money for maintenance and improvements.

(Thanks to Tom Stienstra and the SF Chronicle for the full list.)

Miller Peak: Half a peak is better than none

In Mountain Bike Trail Reviews, Mountain Biking on June 11, 2009 at 9:15 pm
Flyin' down the ridge

Flyin' down the ridge

As of Sunday, Miller Peak’s fabled loop was still under snow along the ridge. After being advised by a motorcyclist whose helmet read “Motos for Christ” that there was no clearance for the entire loop (he seemed trustworthy), we decided to do an out and back on Iron Creek. The “out” isn’t too bad, requiring some hike-a-bike, but the back is a total hoot, with jumps and whoops and swoopy downhill sections that leave you ready to go back and do it all over again all day long.

There’s quite a few creek crossings, none requiring even a feet-wetting, but otherwise the trail is in fantastic shape. We ran into a spot of rain but otherwise conditions excelled and we ripped coming back. OAB is not a bad way to do Miller, whose problematic south side (steep, loose, hardpan that is a nasty hike up but a switchbacky, speedless all-too-quick descent) continues to prompt season-long FAWOMFTs every year. That’s Frequently Argued Wastes of My Fucking Time.

Just view it!

Just view it!

That reason alone, and the fact that Miller Peak itself is a barren piece of nothingness with only a so-so view, keeps me in pursuit of alternatives most of the season. In this case it’s one of the earlier routes open, and worth the trip just for that rippin’ ride back.

Miller’s getting some grime time on MTBR.com too.

Tiger Mountain trail reopens for the season

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, Tiger Mountain on June 11, 2009 at 9:08 am
Not the scenic lunch spot, but at least trail is open

Not the scenic lunch spot, but at least trail is open

The good news is, Tiger Mountain’s primary mountain biking loop is open again. The DNR reopened Northwest Timber Trail earlier than expected (the first time that’s been done in recent years) this past weekend for the duration of the season.

The bad news is, Northwest Timber Trail is in serious jeopardy. A huge swath has been cut near its upper terminus for a road that Ys just below the trail. Above the trail enough hillside has been cleared that erosion and debris are certain to hammer the trail over the winter.

As it is, the trail is expected to be closed next summer for logging. There’s no word on alternatives yet, but we hope the closure can be used to justify access in other parts of Tiger. There are 80 miles of trail open to hikers, just 8 open to mountain bikers. And a good chunk of the latter will be gone with the closure of Northwest Timber Trail.

Umm...is this a good place for a culvert?

Umm...is this a good place for a culvert?

Bikes can ride over the road now. But a culvert was installed right above the trail just north of the new road, giving an idea of what is to come. You put a waterfall above a trail, you get a washout.

Let’s be clear about the issues here. Tiger Mountain is a working forest subject to logging. Closures are inevitable. Trail damage is a given.

But: For that very reason, arguments about environmental harm and use conflicts on Tiger are bogus. I like to joke that the only thing more devastating to a forest than logging is a mountain bike. The truth is, bikes cause mere specks of ecological impact compared to forest operations.

Aside from Poo Poo Point trail on the north side off I-90, hikers barely use Tiger trails. We have nothing against hiking use on any trails. But to exclude bikes when trails sit mostly empty is unfair and unjustified.

We support the work of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance to work with the DNR and other user groups to open additional trails to mountain bike access at the very least on a provisional basis so that the myths of mountain bike impacts can be dispelled in a diverse user environment.

Welcome to hell — here’s your accordion

In Mountain Bike Trail Reviews, Mountain Biking on June 11, 2009 at 6:49 am
Road washout below

Road washout below

You see the strangest things mountain biking. We were taking a breather at the Crossroads, where the Devils Gulch and Mission Ridge trails intersect near the top, when a young couple pushing K-Mart specials came striding down the DG side.

He was in front, she behind. Both were pushing their bikes … down the trail. Neither had helmets. They said nothing. They looked mutually glum.

“The best part of the trail, and they’re not even riding,” Jim observed.

“That’s the end of that relationship,” I said.

Mud, sweat and gears

Mud, sweat and gears

For their opening weekend of the season, the trails were busy with mountain bikers. There were signs of fresh snow melt — big puddles and some stretches of running creek on the trail, as well as swollen crossings. And the access road is washed completely out (a jersey barrier is installed) just past the infamous ever-expanding junkyard. You can park outside the barrier as long as you don’t block an adjacent driveway. You can also turn right at the junkyard for the Red Hill lot.

“I can never pass here without strains of the Deliverance theme song resonating in my ears,” Jim observed.

The good part about the trail conditions is that the motos are still in abeyance. The only evidence of their handiwork at all is on lower Mission Ridge, where they seem to be taking their frustrations out on the switchbacks. The Forest Service needs to get up there and issue a few tickets for intentional trail damage.

You could ride it — fully submerged!

You could ride it — fully submerged!

As for the rest, I’ve never ridden the trails in such good condition. Tacky, loamy in sections, not pitted out with rubble as usual down below and sand mixed with powder above. We did the standard figure 8, climbing DG and descending in a blast down MR. It wasn’t even hot — the day was mostly overcast and cool.

View from Mission Ridge

View from Mission Ridge

In town we’d been told that Tronsen Ridge above was under snow, and looking out from MR it appeared that might still be the case. But with continued dry and sunny weather, Tronsen may well be open by this weekend. There’s a ride posted on the EMBA board; perhaps Igor & crew can report back.

The title line is from a Gary Larson cartoon, where Beelzebub is welcoming a new initiate at the gates of Purgatory. Back in Leavenworth we marveled at a Fauxvarian (Jim’s term) oompah band regaling morbidly obese tourists on the downtown greenway. The band was in dire need of a tuba but incorporated the requisite accordions playing the same twelve bars over and over.

Out of sheer perversity, Jim and I usually eat at the leading Mexican restaurant in Leavenworth, where everyone is greeted in pidgin Spanish and the menu features German beers. Cultural diversity — you just don’t expect it on Highway 2 in eastern Washington. But with a high entertainment factor and some very good ice cream shops and microbrews, Leavenworth in the summertime beats eternal damnation — as long as it isn’t too hot out.

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