Paul Andrews

Today’s Ride: Black Diamond/Lake Sawyer

In Mountain Bike Trail Reviews, Mountain Biking, Today's Ride on February 21, 2009 at 10:15 pm

It was a gorgeous day and the tail end of a fantastic sunny week in the soggy Northwest, so I made the trek for a second time in 4 days to Black Diamond. It’s funny and ironic, but “black diamond” in this case refers to coal, which was mined heavily in this area’s past — not to the “black diamond” rating of ski and mountain biking trails. Black Diamond, Washington, which the trails border, is a former quaint and authentic coal town that is being turned into just another faceless suburban nightmare of strip malls and row houses. Alas.

At the main trailhead there’s even an artifact from the past age.

There's even coal inside!

There's even coal inside!

This network of trails, which I’ve described as a serious case of varicose veins, is fun to ride and more of a workout than you’d think, given that it’s virtually completely flat. Around and around you go, in true duodenal fashion, with bridges, ladders, teeters and jumps at various points along the way. One cool thing is that most structures are close to the parking sites, so you can don the pads at the beginning or end of the ride and then go back and dress up for cross-country for the rest. There’s more than 55 miles of trail out here, and most of it is just fun flat stuff not requiring much in the way of protection.

I rode around a bit on some of the structures, most of which are in dire need of upkeep. They tend to get more attention in the summer, but the trails today were as dry as you’re going to find them. Still, some of the stunts have gone to seed, and the remaining ones could use a day or two of maintenance.

I went across to the north side of the road and explored a bit. I actually like riding there more. You can’t get as lost and even though the trails are even more convoluted than on the lake side, they’re also more interesting. Time just seems to disappear and you rock ‘n roll around deep in the woods (well, maybe not so deep…you can pretty much always hear traffic and see breakouts. But it seems isolated and that’s what counts).

Black Diamond is a great all-year hangout for mountain biking, and until heavy rains come it serves as one of the better regional destinations during winter. Bob “Turtle” Hollander leads enormously popular club rides, and how could a ride with someone named Turtle be anything but extreme fun?

The Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance rates it one of the Seattle area’s Top 10 rides and has a great rundown with map and directions. Maps used to be available at Black Diamond Bike and Backcountry, just a stone’s throw east on Highway 169 (the next mall down), but our friend Jim Hendricks apparently isn’t in the mood any more. It’s questionable how much a map would help in this hairball, though, since there are no trail signs. You just have to learn the network…or ride with the Turtle!

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