I’ve been riding Tiger Mountain almost as long as I’ve been riding mountain bikes, which extends back to 1991. It always fascinates me to see how the mountain changes, with new wrinkles at every turn. I’ve been gone in California for three months, so today when the sun came out it was time to hit Tiger and see what was new.
The east summit parking lot off Highway 18 was remarkably dry, as was the lower dirt road climb toward Preston Railroad Grade. Right at the entrance a sign warned of trouble:
It wasn’t till about two-thirds up that I started running into what I expected: snow.
At the trailhead, more snow. But the road was still quite passable. It was freshly wet, an indication that today’s sun was doing its work. As little as two days ago I think it probably was snowed over.
But a peek up Preston Railroad Grade trail indicated that the woods canopy, combined with the dry weather, had left the trail in perfect condition, carpeted by a cushy layer of needles. The trail is closed this time of year, but tracks indicated heavy poaching — by hikers.
I slogged on via the fire road. At the top, where it levels off, the going got pretty slippery. Snow was not entirely melted in places. And once I headed down the back side, I ran into a sheen of slickered snowmelt atop packed ice. Soon the road was covered.
As I trekked around the fire roads on Tiger I poked into various trails. Without exception they were dry and inviting. It’s too bad they can’t be opened, especially the southern-exposed ones like Tiger Middle Trail and Tiger Mountain Trail. (Those are open to hikers, and I explored them by foot extensively. There were a couple of major blowdowns but only one that actually fully blocked the TMT.)
I’m a Tiger diehard and have long lobbied the Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club, now the Evergreen Mountain Biking Alliance, to work with forest agents to open additional trails to mountain biking. Now that Colonnade is finished perhaps club leaders can turn to trail advocacy. The time is right, as many trails are going unused or underused due to the aging population of hard-core hikers. The Obama generation doesn’t give a hoot about sharing mountain bikes on hiking trails.
Bottom line: Tiger is surprisingly rideable, at least till Sunday’s predicted rains. What a strange winter it’s been so far, and if last year was a precursor we’re in for even weirder times in April.