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  1. #1
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    Ride Report - Mt Saint Helens (Ape Canyon / Plains of Abraham)

    A ride report from our recent trip up to Mt. Saint Helens for a tour of Ape Canyon and The Plains --such an amazing place! If you live in the area and haven't done it, it's a must do!

    Wheels & Water: Mt. Saint Helens, WA - Ape Canyon / Plains of Abraham (7.20.13)

    -Nate

  2. #2
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    Ride Report - Mt Saint Helens (Ape Canyon / Plains of Abraham)

    Great ride report and pictures. I really need to get down there and do this ride. Which bike would you recommend, enduro 29er or hardtail xc bike for down there?

  3. #3
    That Waters Guy
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    That was a really great ride report, thanks Nate!

    As far as enduro 29er or hardtail xc bike, either is fine. But I'd bring the 9er unless I hated climbing on it.
    Rolland

  4. #4
    I didn't do it
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    Another great Mt St Helens RR, thanks for posting. I will say my biggest complaint with that ride are those flies. I've never seen such aggressive little beasts anywhere else!

  5. #5
    FM
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    Top notch ride report.....
    and 5 extra chilis for filing your garmin connect route under "Recumbent Cycling"!!

    Ride Report - Mt Saint Helens (Ape Canyon / Plains of Abraham)-500004737-03-01.jpg

  6. #6
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    Nate Dogg- thanks a ton for writing that up! On the list!

  7. #7
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    GREAT review!! Awesome pics! Thanks for sharing.

    Where do you get the "map" that you used?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jagtech360 View Post
    GREAT review!! Awesome pics! Thanks for sharing.

    Where do you get the "map" that you used?
    Thanks! The map book I was using was this one:
    Amazon.com: Mountain Bike! Southwest Washington: A Guide to Trails and Adventure (9781570611377): John Zilly: Books

    If you're looking for just a map, this is a great one, here:
    Hood River, Oregon Mountain Biking Map & Guide | Adventure Maps

    Hope this helps!
    Nate

  9. #9
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    Thanks Nate Dogg!! Looking to do this ride soon and want to get an idea of where to go ahead of time.

  10. #10
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    Saturday morning I dropped in from the top and went down Smith Creek, Up the ape canyon trail doing this ride as a loop.

    Thunderstorms the night before made trail conditions prime and cloud cover in the valley helped keep the temp down all day. I did a great road loop the night before and between the two rides I was all smiles



  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by yo EDDY View Post
    Saturday morning I dropped in from the top and went down Smith Creek, Up the ape canyon trail doing this ride as a loop.

    Thunderstorms the night before made trail conditions prime and cloud cover in the valley helped keep the temp down all day. I did a great road loop the night before and between the two rides I was all smiles


    Yo Eddy!

    Is this the preferred route? I'm up for a challenge and a climb but the rest of the group may not be..... any advise? Also, where is the "top" you referred to? TH near windy Ridge viewpoint?

    Thanks!

  12. #12
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    If you want to make this a loop rather than an out and back, yes, i'd say it's about the only option. Typically though I like to park at the bottom and climb first, then descend back to the car. Simply based on where I wanted to road bike, and live in Olympia, I chose to park at the top.

    I parked right at the smith creek trail head off of 99 right before getting to windy ridge. The total ride was about 28miles and was what I would call fairly tough. If you have a diverse amount of fitness in your group, and out and back up ape canyon would maybe be a better choice as the weak could turn back whenever than wanted.

  13. #13
    Justin Vander Pol
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jagtech360 View Post
    Yo Eddy!
    Is this the preferred route? I'm up for a challenge and a climb but the rest of the group may not be..... any advise? Also, where is the "top" you referred to? TH near windy Ridge viewpoint?
    Thanks!
    For your first time and if you're unsure about the entire group, I'd do an out-and-back from the Ape Canyon trail head to Windy Ridge. I probably wouldn't go down the stairs at the end, it doesn't get you much unless you want to visit the visitor center. This is the classic that most people do, and great bang for the buck.

  14. #14
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    Thanks for the input guys!!!

    So the decent back down Smith then the climb back up to FR83 across on Lava Canyon trail is pretty rough?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jagtech360 View Post
    Thanks for the input guys!!!

    So the decent back down Smith then the climb back up to FR83 across on Lava Canyon trail is pretty rough?
    Smith Creek drops down over 2000 feet real quick on super loose, pumice/sand nearly the whole way. Then you have several miles of river side trail which is very rolly, up and down, techy in spots, with a fair number of hike a bikes up and down. I was way more tired at the bottom of smith creek trail at FS 83 than I figured I would be.

    Also, the trail map shows a cut over trail 184 which is currently closed to biking so you are forced to ride the FS 83 road up and over to the Ape Canyon trailhead.

    Again, if you have ranging fitness types in your group, I'd go with starting at Ape Canyon trailhead and do it as an out and back.

  16. #16
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    Road riding from Smith to Ape can be avoided

    Quote Originally Posted by yo EDDY View Post
    Smith Creek drops down over 2000 feet real quick on super loose, pumice/sand nearly the whole way. Then you have several miles of river side trail which is very rolly, up and down, techy in spots, with a fair number of hike a bikes up and down. I was way more tired at the bottom of smith creek trail at FS 83 than I figured I would be.

    Also, the trail map shows a cut over trail 184 which is currently closed to biking so you are forced to ride the FS 83 road up and over to the Ape Canyon trailhead.

    Again, if you have ranging fitness types in your group, I'd go with starting at Ape Canyon trailhead and do it as an out and back.
    Great advice for the most part. I wouldn't expect Lava Canyon trail 184 (where you intersect with the bridge) to ever be open to bikes, and if it were, would likely not be fun.

    However, you don't need to ride up a road to get from bottom of Smith to Ape . Take a moment and study the map at http://trails.evergreenmtb.org/w/upl...-Epic-map1.JPG

  17. #17
    FM
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    Couple of us rode the Smith Creek loop yesterday with the "shortcut" trail- 23.5 miles.
    The "shortcut" (looked like a road>trail conversion) was easy to find.

    Not awesome getting heckled by fresh & clean riders yesterday as we pushed up sections of Ape Canyon climb. Like Yo Eddy said... You've already done 4k' up & down by the time you get to the bottom of ape canyon, with more to come.

    Another route note- not too much rideable trail between windy ridge and the top of smith creek. It's worth doing for the views of spirit lake, but don't expect to ride much of it. It's only 1.3 miles though.

    Great day though! Really crazy scenery.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by kenobonn View Post
    Great advice for the most part. I wouldn't expect Lava Canyon trail 184 (where you intersect with the bridge) to ever be open to bikes, and if it were, would likely not be fun.

    However, you don't need to ride up a road to get from bottom of Smith to Ape . Take a moment and study the map at http://trails.evergreenmtb.org/w/upl...-Epic-map1.JPG
    Thanks for the map!! It's a little different than the one I found:

    Abraham Trail 216D, Ape Canyon Trail 234, Loowit Trail 216, Smith Creek Trail 225, Willow Springs Trail 207 Mountain Biking and Hiking Topo Map

  19. #19
    FM
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    _DSC6092 by emailsucks98, on Flickr


    _DSC6101 by emailsucks98, on Flickr
    Last edited by FM; 08-18-2013 at 05:38 PM.

  20. #20
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    Wow, those are awesome shots, FM! I gotta get out there on the Ape Canyon/Plains of Abe trail this summer!

  21. #21
    Making fat cool since '71
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    So stoked! Going up for a loooong weekend, this weekend. Plains/Ape is our "warmup" for the weekend. Thanks for the stoke and write up Nate!

    Brock...
    Are the wheels roundish? Ride it.

    Disciples Of Dirt, come ride with us.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by ImaKlyde View Post
    So stoked! Going up for a loooong weekend, this weekend. Plains/Ape is our "warmup" for the weekend. Thanks for the stoke and write up Nate!

    Brock...
    For sure, glad to do it!
    Have fun up north!

  23. #23
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    Has anyone ridden Ape Canyon/Plains of Abe since the big snow a week or so ago? I suspect that the trail is fine, since it is mainly less than 4500' and in the Mission Ridge area of Wenatchee Mountains up to 5800' is pretty clear. I'm looking to go on Thursday.

    Thanks for any recent info you can share.

  24. #24
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    It was awesome. I would hate to do it in July or August when it is hot!

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by DRSpalding View Post
    It was awesome. I would hate to do it in July or August when it is hot!
    That was the ONE ride this year I just couldn't make the time to tick off my list. Really hoped to finally hit it, oh well, there's always next year.
    Tarekith.com

    '12 RM Slayer70, i9 Torch, Flow EX, XT Brakes, 5050 s3.

  26. #26
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    For me at least, I think it was the hardest 20 miler I have ever done. I think it is the fact that you start off with a Tiger-sized uphill, all single track and have to do many ups and downs on loose cobble pumice stones. Some of the trail is a total PITA and simple, easy slopes become gut-wrenching.

    That said, on a nice day, I can't think of a better place to be riding. WOW.

    Weird, I have *two* pictures and the text doesn't show any now after trying to clean up having the two there.

    Edit: Eh, just go here for the full sized versions of 100+ photos of our ride.

    https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resi...M81WyKXWm5Ur5E
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Ride Report - Mt Saint Helens (Ape Canyon / Plains of Abraham)-plains-abraham-panorama-2048x302-.jpg  

    Ride Report - Mt Saint Helens (Ape Canyon / Plains of Abraham)-plains-abraham-panorama-4096x605-.jpg  


  27. #27
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    Thanks for the heads up, maybe is the weather holds out I can still make it this week or next. Fingers crossed.
    Tarekith.com

    '12 RM Slayer70, i9 Torch, Flow EX, XT Brakes, 5050 s3.

  28. #28
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    Grand Finale for 2013?

    Last week seemed like it might be the last chance to ride Mt. Saint Helens this year. So with snow looming in the forecast for the weekend, last Wednesday I dropped everything and made a long day trip down from Seattle, where we had just arrived in the RV.

    My predawn departure rewarded me with a striking sunrise image driving past 14,409-foot Mt. Rainier:



    A nice windy road led up to the Windy Ridge trailhead. Er, is that "windy" or "windy"?



    Whichever, it was hella fun to drive, with ZERO traffic for mile after twisty mile, interrupted only by the occasional patch of black ice (beware of shade!):



    From the deserted trailhead, an epic stairway led up to an overlook, but that wasn't my destination today:



    Presumably the overlook presented an even grander view of Spirit Lake than the one below, which was good enough for me:



    My ride started with a couple miles of gentle doubletrack. It was an interesting feeling heading off into this surreal environment alone in 30-something degree temps. Makes one feel downright small and vulnerable:



    Soon enough, a crumbly singletrack peeled off and headed sharply up a dramatic, narrow ridgeline:



    Otherworldly landforms were everywhere:



    A glance back at the ridgeline singletrack, with craggy peaks beyond:



    I knew there were supposed to be some views of Mt. Adams from this ride, but I didn't appreciate just how dramatic they were until I was actually here:



    One of many stubbly blowdowns left from the 1980 eruption:



    Deep and steep chasm:



    Ibis and Adams:



    Ibis and Helens:



    Panorama of the Plains of Abraham. Nothing too special about the trail itself, but the scenery was simply off-the-charts:



    A geologist's feast of random rocky spewage presented occasional technical challenges along the way:



    More Adams, now looking a little soft on top:



    This mildly-sketchy traverse was made extra-sketchy today by several icy patches. I readily admit to walking a bit across here, and carefully, at that:



    The trail eventually left the bizarre moonscape and transitioned into a buff benchcut through the forest. This lovely descent carried on for about 4 miles:



    Most folks start their ride at the lower Ape Canyon trailhead, so they can finish with the long descent. But I now had to turn around and climb back up if I wanted to get home:



    Happily, the climb was mellow enough to generally just chug up with few interruptions. Except of course for the several dramatic viewpoints I had blown by on the way down, such as this enormous river of rocks:



    Frozen leaves provided an oddly crunchy riding surface near the top:



    Nature carved quite a huge notch here, with Adams beyond:



    Worked my way back across the Plains and savored a few more weird and wild views:



    Oversized volcanic driftwood:



    This soft pumice benchcut held my full attention. Felt kind of like riding on a foot-wide swath of marshmallows:



    Squidgy surfaces plus suddenly gusty afternoon crosswinds called for a fairly conservative descent rate, but the ridgeline was still more fun going down than up:



    Unique cable-tied ground ladder section was mostly hike-a-bike both up and down:



    Over 30 years after the blast, Spirit Lake's water is now clear and beautiful again:



    It is still about half covered with logs though, which apparently all drift from side to side with the prevailing winds:



    Pointy-topped Mount Hood made a brief appearance in the far distance at the end:



    And Adams now sported on a huge, soft cloudy cap:



    The longer, gnarlier loop ride option incorporating the Smith Creek trail would have to wait until "next time", but I stopped to check out its trailhead on my way down:



    As much fun as the riding was, I must say the driving was almost as good:



    Was enjoying the unimpeded driving so much that I decided to take the long way home, going around the east side of Rainier and making for a circumnavigation. Along with some nice views, I encountered about half a dozen other cars during this stretch however. Darn, such traffic!



    I've been wanting to do this ride for many years now, and I'm super happy the weather cooperated and let me squeeze this one in, despite us arriving in the PNW so late in the season.

    The relatively modest stats of about 21 miles and 3700 feet of climbing don't come close to representing the overall awesomeness of this ride.

    Highly recommended!

    (PS: A big "thanks!" to the earlier posters for all the encouraging and inspiring reports too)
    "Rollin' on 20s and 27.5s" ride reports and more at WWW.DEBCAR.COM : Debbie and Carey's RV Travel Website

  29. #29
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    Wow, that was probably the best TR I've ever seen, amazing. Now I'm REALLY bummed I didn't make that ride this year. But super excited for next summer.
    Tarekith.com

    '12 RM Slayer70, i9 Torch, Flow EX, XT Brakes, 5050 s3.

  30. #30
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    National Geographic!

  31. #31
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    GREAT write up and pics!! Applause!

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