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Old 08-17-2008, 11:21 PM   #1
robdogg OP
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Riding the Dark Divide (epic single track high in the Washington Cascades)

Have you ever had the experience of an epic, or at least highly memorable ride that continues in your dreams that same night as your body twitches and contorts from a day of throwing around a 240lb dirt bike on a hot summer day? Thursday's ride was like that for me.. except in my dreams, it didn't work out so good because I kept flying off the high mountain cliff-side trails similar to the ones we rode that day.

but it was an epic ride in several ways.. a first for me on the Juniper and Sunrise Peak trails, a first trail ride for Dan in a couple of years, and what was probably near record temperatures for an alpine trail ride in the Cascades.. it was every bit of ninety five degrees on those mile high trails.. way too hot for this stuff

this was the first day of riding for a small group of us that hang out on the Tahuya Trail Riders group. We went up there on a scouting trip for a bigger event coming up next month, but really, none of us needed much excuse to take a couple of days off from work and ride the trails that have been hiding under snow for so long this year.

We all gathered at Blue Lake Creek campground for several days of single track, dual sport exploring, and even a 300 mile road ride through the forest that Dan hosts every year. Thursday's ride posse was led by Lighting Lan, with me, Wild Bill, Badd Andy and Dandemotoman.. oh, and John, a friend of Dan's showed up just as we were getting ready to head out on the trail so we welcomed him along.

We left the campground at 9:00 and took the 270 trail down to the junction of roads 21 and 23.. we still weren't quite sure which trails we were going to ride, but we ruled out the 263 because of unknown conditions and more to the point, the rather nasty switchback section about half way up to the Boundary trail that a few of us didn't feel like tackling; especially in this heat. So we decided on the 262 – Sunrise Peak trail which would get us near the 261 trail where the idea was to head North, ride along Juniper Ridge, then down the Toungue Mtn trail, and loop back to the campground via the 270.. but one section that worried us a bit was the extremely rutted out and silt filled, steep uphill section of the 261 trail so we thought we might have an easier go of it by taking the 261 A - a connector trail from the 262. But that turned out to not be the best choice either.. the first mile or so of the 261 A was a narrow track that went straight up the fall line for the most part.. it was a very long climb which by the time I got to the top, my radiator was boiling over from the heat, and the slow chugging climb with my big butt to carry

At the top of the climb, the trail is bisected by the top most 200ft or so of Sunrise Peak. We all stopped to rest from the climb, and stood in awe of the beauty of the surrounding peaks, as well as gaping in shock at the way the trail snaked around the edge of the peak and on down in the forest below.. while standing and taking things in, John decides to scout on ahead to see if things got easier, or worse.

After hearing him ride off, and waiting for 20 minutes or so, Bill takes off walking to see if he is OK. Another 20 minutes goes by, and now Lan takes off walking to see if John and Bill are OK. So me and Dan are sitting there, thinking this is like some low budget horror flick, where one guy goes off by himself in the woods, and then someone else goes after them, and then another, and then another, until there's just one left.. so while we were deciding which of us was going to be the last to be chopped up by an axe murder, Lan and Bill come walking back up the trail.. it seems John had a get off on some steep switchback section, and his XR250 would not start back up again.. they had pulled the plug, drained the float bowl and prayed over and cursed it, but it wouldn't kick over.. in fact, when Bill first came up on John, he was sprawled out on the ground, not from falling off his bike, but from pure exhaustion of trying to kick start his hot, tired thumper in near 90+ deg heat, on a steep mountain side trail. So we all started to head down and see if we could push, pull, levitate his bike back up the mountain when finally the bike fired to life (I think John said his battery had shorted, and after disconnecting it, the bike started, but it probably helped having it cool down for about an hour too)

So by the time we all got back up the peak, we decided we had enough of that, and didn't feel like dealing with the rest of that trail, plus the nasty section of the 294 trail we knew would kick our butts.. so we decided to ride back to the 262 trail, then South to the 261, and then South to Jumbo Peak, and exit the Dark Divide via the Boundary trail. And by the time we got to the Council Lake Campground, we were all out of water, and with the heat, and trials we had up on Sunrise Peak, we decided to scoot on back to camp via forest roads (we all had plated dirt bikes fortunately). All told, the mileage was near 60 miles and took us about eight hours to complete.

Photos from Thursday's ride

That high pointy crag is the back side of Sunrise Peak, which we get very familiar with later

Lan at the 262 trailhead

We shoulda gone straight here, but we took a right thinking it might be an easier route – ah well, I figured the A in the 261 A trail must have stood for Adventure

Looking East towards Mt Adams from the top of the 262 trail

From the high point on the 261 A trail, we stop and take in the view, while discussing the next bit of trail

Behind us to the South, was Jumbo Peak and the 261 trail.. we were trying to connect to the 261 heading North

Looking down on the trail from above.. you can see how steep the terrain is here

Looking East towards Mt St Helens (just out of view to the left) with Langille Ridge, an even harder trail over there then the one we were on

and this is what awaited us ahead..

and this what was waiting around the corner from the previous image.. you can't tell from this shot, but the mountain side drops off radically just a few inches from the trail in some sections here

and THIS was around the second corner, looking back towards the South (the way we came)

Bill riding off to rescue John

Lovely track through the thick forest

I decided to take the air bike for a ride

Bill coming back up to the peak

John coming back through the tricky section

feet down paddling is the surest way through this stuff

Bill taking a breather

heading back down from Sunrise peak

the mountain wildflowers were at their peak

This is why we do this

Finally we're on the 261 trail


this section was a blast..

this section was scary

make a mistake here, and it'll cost ya.. easily a 5-600ft drop

that's it for Thursday's ride..

I will post up Friday's and Saturday's rides a little later this week.
"ride hard, live righteously"

robdogg screwed with this post 04-18-2011 at 03:01 PM
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Old 08-18-2008, 06:37 AM   #2
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Good ride report!

Great pics, thanks for posting....I'm drooling!

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Old 08-18-2008, 08:39 AM   #3
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Very nice report Rob, Thanks, man I wish I could have been there.

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Old 08-18-2008, 09:22 AM   #4
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Awesome - some front page material there!
"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."

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Old 08-18-2008, 09:48 AM   #5
just passin' through
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Yeah Robb!
What's next? More action!
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Old 08-18-2008, 12:03 PM   #6
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Nice shots, thats my old elk hunting grounds.
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Old 08-19-2008, 07:34 AM   #7
robdogg OP
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Ep - ic
-adjective Also, ep - i - cal.
4. A long series of events: a long series of events characterized by adventures or struggle

Friday's ride was not nearly as dramatic as Thursday's, but it was every bit as epic.. which yeah, is an overused term, and it's all relative right? I know riders much more fit (and younger) then me would not have considered what we did too much of a struggle, but for me, a 49yr old rider who's only been riding trails for a few years it was definitely a struggle at times. But I never turned back, and only dropped the bike a few times and made all but a few of the many, many tight switchbacks.. which even a year ago, I would have waked around many of them.

So again we wanted to get an early start because of the heat wave that was still on - this time we rode south from the campground along the 270 trail.. which is the only quad trail in the area so it was pretty badly whooped out and beat us all up pretty good for a few miles.. but for the most part, it was a lot more fun then riding dusty forest roads.. at least it got us warmed up for what was ahead.. namely the 118 trail up to Hamilton Butte.

Thank you Lord for a nice trailside splash too cool us off

This is by far, the best part of the 270 "quad" trail

photo by Lan

Hamilton Butte is probably my favorite high mountain top vista anywhere in the world.. it's on par with places like the view atop Mt Evens in Colorado which at 14,400 feet is the highest road in America.. or the road through Estes Park, or the Banff Highway, Dead Horse Point Utah, Hells Canyon; all of which I have riden and are spectaculor.. but what is so unique about this spot is that you can see four massive conical shaped volcanos from this one spot by simply spinning around in a circle.. The butte being smack dab in the middle between Mt Rainer to the North, Mt St Helens to the West and Mt Adams to the East.. and way off down to the South, you can usually spot Mt Hood some sixty miles away.

The trail heading up to the view point is a pretty tough one.. The last bit of climb starts as a steep left hand switch back that shoots straight up the fall line.. with two possible line choices.. The right line takes you up a bare rock face, and the left line, which is not as steep, but is a worn and torn up, loose dirt rut between the rock line to the right, and a very steep downslope inches to the left. Throw in a couple of tough switchbacks, and it makes for a hard, but well earned prize

Andy negotiating one of the tough switchbacks

(photo by Lan)

Bill shows his years of mountain trail riding experience and clears the step easily

(photo by Lan)

Bill making the top of the trail up to the lookout

Followed by Lighting Lan

We hung out at the butte for a while and discussed our next destination, the Wobbly Lake trail that we could just spot some 1500 feet below us which Lan is pointing at in the image below

a few more images from atop the butte - enjoy!

breathtaking ain't it?

None of us had ridden upcoming Wobbly Lake trail, but the thought of riding to a pristine mountain lake that is only accessible by trail, on a scorching hot day - what.. you KIDDING me?. The funny thing about this little trail was that it was probably the easiest trail in the past two days of riding, but there was one spot, that several of us almost biffed it on. The trail follows a creek and is pretty wide open allowing for some higher speeds then we had been used to riding and one small up hill had a large rock right at the crest of the hill, smack dab in the middle of the trail.. if you went left of the rock the trail sloped gently down the other side, but if you took the right side of the rock, the trail dropped almost vertical and while it wasn't real high, I just barely managed to avoid going over the handle bars.. it sounded like the same thing happened to at least one other rider.. just points out the fact that even easy trails can catch you off guard if your screwing around and not riding with some measure of sanity :^)

Andy checking out the "no quads" sign at the trail head

(photo by Lan)

At the lake, it didn't take us long to spot out a nice wading area.. in fact, the entire lake was surrounded by long grass which went down several yards in to the water.. this made for a nice soft bed of water soaked grass to wade down in..

(photo by Lan)

(photo by Lan)

man that was about the most refreshing moment I've ever felt - to submerge in that cool mountain lake after several hours of hot dusty trail riding was beyond descrption. So I highly recommend the Wobbly Lake Trail if your ever in the area, even if it's a little off the path of the more popular trials.

After the cooling dip we all felt totally refreshed, and we would need that for the next part of our ride..

The 276 trail.. aka the Yozoo..

(photo by Lan)

the Yozoo is one of the gems in the trail system here.. it climbs steeply (man does it) from the valley we were in, up along a high ridge for a bit, then follows along steep slide slope trails with amazing views but it ends way too soon. This trail takes you past some mountain goat habitats and you can usually spot some on the craggy ridge high above but we didn't spot any today.

a few shots riding the mighty yozoo

(photo by Lan)

(photo by Lan)

After the Yozoo trail, we were pretty zapped out so we made a beeline for the campground via an overgrown, rocky two track.. mileage for this ride was just shy of fifty.

third day coming up
"ride hard, live righteously"

robdogg screwed with this post 08-19-2008 at 09:30 AM
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Old 08-19-2008, 01:39 PM   #8
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Holy Cow -- great write-up Rob!
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Old 08-19-2008, 02:04 PM   #9
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freakin awesome
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Old 08-19-2008, 07:07 PM   #10
Shortcut ahead!
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Great ride report, Rob.
Looks like I really missed out..

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Old 08-19-2008, 08:25 PM   #11
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That looks like some sweet singletrack!!

Can you tell me how I get a map of that trail system?

I would love to head up there and take a ride!!

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Old 08-20-2008, 07:53 AM   #12
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Saturday we split in to a couple of different groups.. Andy and Bill wanted to ride more single track, and for some crazy reason decided to try and ride UP the 294 trail which has a few sections that for 99% of us mere mortal ridders, is pretty much unridable.. and takes quite an effort to even just hump you bike over..

here's a shot of a monster rock they encountered.. right smack in the middle of a switch back.. Andy said they both attempted to ride it, but then ended up pulling the bikes up, only to find that the trail was even worse ahead.. so here they are on their way back down.. smart move boys

photo by Andy

meanwhile, the other ride group set out for a 100+ mile dual sport ride on the bigger bikes that included a bit of everything.. some fast, twisty pavement, a beautiful long dirt road that skirts the Cispus River through tunnels of Alder and Pine.. ..

(photo by Lan)

then a quick climb up Burely Mtn with giant waterbars (some 4-5ft high) to get you flying. Burley Mtn houses the only fire lookout still standing in the forest.. Burely is also a fantastic view point similar to Hamilton Butte, but is a lot easier to get to..

Cheryl cruising up Burley mtn.

(photo by Lan)

Sylvia up on the pegs - good form mom

A little steam activity in the Mt St Helens crater

the mighty husky staring down Mt Rainer

Lan picked up a hitchiker

Looking towards Mt Adams.. not the best time of day for photos, but this gives a taste of what the views are like atop Burely Mtn.

after a few minutes we all started to warm up as there was not much of a breeze today, so it was back out on the road and down to our lunch spot at Pinto Rock.. the road leading through this section was quite rutted and very dusty.. so we were all glad to find some shade and take a break

Super Sylvia and Pinto Rock

(photo by Lan)

after lunch we split up in to two groups.. the gals went back down via road, and me, Keith, Lan and Marty went off to search out a couple of "secret" trails that a local had tipped us off to. We found the first bit of trail, and it was a pretty good one.. and a potential candidate for even taking some of the larger adventure bikes on, but after a couple of miles in, we ran in to an active logging operation and try as we might, we couldn't find any way around in the thick overgrown forest.

robdogg on the husker

(photo by Lan)

So we headed back out the way we came, and rode on to try and find the next trail section off another side road a few miles further up, but we never did find it as trails tend to get covered pretty fast here, especially in areas that have been logged and have been replanted or is otherwise growing back at a furious pace.

After meeting back up with the ladies, we decided to head back to camp, but with a small detour to ride the 275-Kraus Ridge Trail.. which is one of the, if not the easiest trail in the forest here, but it's always fun.

The 275 starts with a good climb up to the ridge with a few switchbacks, then scoots along the heavily forested ridge, then back down through thick tree lined slopes, in between giant fallen logs and through meadows thick with ferns and finally back out on to the road again. A fast four and half mile romp.

Super Syl going so fast, I could hardly capture her image

Cheryl riding through the forest of ferns

By this time, we all wanted to either get food, or get cooled off, or both.. I voted for cooling off first.. so me and Keith rode up to a waterfall along side one of the forest roads that I had spotted the day before

after cooling off, we decided to go up and ride the Wobbly Lake trail before doubling back to camp and calling it a day

Wobbley Lake.. two days in a row.. I love that little spot

all told, we ended up riding about 120 miles that day which put us around 230 miles over three days.. and at least 2/3 of that was on some of the best mountain alpine trails anywhere on the planet.. less then three hours from Seattle

"ride hard, live righteously"
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Old 08-20-2008, 08:02 AM   #13
on a bright side of life
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that's a dream ride !
gorgeous landscape, easy and difficult trails, good company.
Fantastic ride you are !
Thanks so much for sharing it.
you made my day !
Vita brevis, ars longa, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile
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Old 08-20-2008, 08:13 AM   #14
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Absolutely AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes we do live in the best place on earth.
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Old 08-20-2008, 08:29 AM   #15
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