St. Helen's North Campout Aug 8/9/10
The most epic riding in the state and only 3 hours away.
Best part is we should be riding straight from camp or less than 15 minutes of driving for 2 days and possibly all 3 depending on your ride choice on Sunday. Out and backs, loops, lollipops, and point to point are all possible variations. Thanks be to the Legend for exploring the spirit of these trails back in the day.
Peter Sherrill will be leading shorter and less aggressive rides and I'll be directing the more robust approach.
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ttt - see links above. I know some including me are too lazy to click, or maybe you just want to be titillated by cool ride descriptions.
Day #1 on Friday will be an out and back on Boundary Trail #1. There is a swimming lake just 1 mile in from the start (and end) of this ride, and it goes deep into the Forest and over the mountains surrounding St. Helen's but in a different direction than most people have ever explored. It is an out and back ride which means people can all proceed at their own pace and turn around when they wish. The fast group will have a vague goal of reaching Craggy Peak. If desired a loop could be made back to camp by climbing Strawberry Mt. It will have beautiful views and good forest riding. This trail is supposed to be very rideable, but I've only been on the first 3 miles so I can't promise you a Rose Garden.
Day #2 will be variations on Goat Mt. If you haven't ridden this one before then I envy you because its heavenly. Two potential swimming lakes, big climbs and big descents and wide open views of St. Helen's make this a divine destination in fact I'm almost worried about revealing this gem to you unwashed masses. We will probably do down Green River Trail, up to Vanson Peak, over to Goat Peak and then either turn around for miles and miles of downhill, or put a lump in our throat and blow it all up in one 30 minute descent down Goat mt straight to camp.. Peter Sherrill will most likely lead a slower, less ambitious group and take you as far as Vanson peak or whatever the group decides. This ride starts and ends at camp no matter how you tackle it so it doesn't get much better than that ! Also if there is interest I am willing to lead a ride on the Tumwater Mt Lollipop of Woe or some variation which will cover much of the same ground but add more vert and take us into the Shire and the Hobbit forest.
Day #3 Juniper Ridge*- The mother of all WA epic rides. If you have been dying to ride the most awesome ride in Washington you could even drive down Sunday morning it should be less than 3 hours without traffic.
Juniper oh Juniper - Triple volcanic peak views, wild strawberries, gnarly climbs and even gnarlier descents through true Alpine'esque mountain terrain and the fastest, rowdiest, longest downhills in the state - even better than Angels' Staircase after Horsehead pass. Note that because of the point to point nature of the ride we will actually get about 1500ft of free vertical. What will you tell your grandchildren when they ask you if you ever rode Juniper Ridge ?
If this doesn't appeal to you then other options are Plains/Ape/Smith, or Blueberry Mt, or Strawberry Mt., or do an out and back from the Tongue Mt end of Juniper - Peter Sherrill will lead a less ambitious ride and all options can be considered. There is no shortage of riding in this area.
Less ambitious, pshaw I say. How about for the more sane? Whatever.
The rides we have planned for this weekend of bliss are truly amazing!
Friday's options will be just an appetizer for what lies ahead...I have to leave it at that because I haven't ridden the Boundary Trail yet, but it's an Out and Back with lakes and such.
Saturday is the main course for me. Goat Mtn is the best ride I've done in the 5 years I've lived in Washington. Steep climb, no shame in pushing up part of it, we all will have to, followed by amazing views of the blast zone (we ride in and out of it), amazing wildflowers, 2 good swimming lakes, and an amazing downhill descent through old, and I mean old, growth forest on trail that is very similar to the Palisades trail off Highway 410...very, very tasty.
Sunday and Juniper Ridge...now this is probably the most difficult ride I've done in WA. 3 climbs that require mere mortals to hike a bike up...very hard. But you are rewarded with amazing views, and then there is the, what is it Preston, zillion mile descent. OK just kidding, but it felt that way. I think it is 8 miles or so of fast, very fast, downhill zooming. Yes, worth the pain, or at least you can say you did it and if you're lucky Preston will belt out a verse or two of some famous mountain song. I, however, have something else in mind. If we can get through a section of private forest, which might be closed due to fire hazard, I plan on doing a loop into the Tumwater Mt Lollipop of Woe or some variation which will cover much of the same ground but add more vert and take us into the Shire and the Hobbit forest. Only we start at Goat Creek and should have an incredible ride w/o too much pain. Please consider this so I don't have to suffer through Juniper again...even if it means missing "The Hills are Alive".
Either way, the weekend will be fun. Consider taking the weekend off and join us. Info is on the Evergreen calendar page.
>Steep climb, no shame in pushing up part of it, we all will have to
Who is this we, kemosabe ?
Oh excuse me....us mortals push some of it.
Apologies ! Just trying to challenge myself...One must believe before they can achieve and all that.
Going up Goat isn't even necessarily the route - we'll see what the group wants to do.
Oh I want to do this so much... I may try to reschedule my weekend plans!
One more TTT - we're supposed to have a Super Moon this weekend and we'll be in an ideal location to check it out. Weather looks good.
Trying to talk the wife into it
'12 RM Slayer70, i9 Torch, Flow EX, XT Brakes, 5050 s3.
E P I C !
If this was still 2004 I might write a lovely story of our trials and tribulations and victories, lengthy scenery descriptions, and a rich mix of character narratives, back stories, and humorous incidents. But we're past that now so I'll just give you the trail descriptions and hope that someday you too can experience this area.
Boundary trail #1 - its not like we don't know about this trail but it still flies way under the radar. It is so long overall that maybe its just hard to grasp.The section going east from Norway Pass back to the road is very nice and contains a lake, but also some fairly uneventful miles so we started at Bear Meadow. I would probably recommend starting at the lower trailhead, but we started at the Bear Meadow lookout which adds a mile of uphill (or downhill, depending on your perspective). This trail was eminently rideable, and was very much up and down with no crushing climbs. I used to scoff at dropper posts, but I wore mine out with all the up and down. You know what that means, its equal fun in both directions. It stays in the forest most of the way with not a lot of dramatic views, but your first destination is Badger Lake. A small little lake, but one section is deep enough for a solid swim, and its surrounded by a nice grotto of grass and rocks, very pleasant. If you push on a few more miles, the trail gets a bit rougher and a bit moto as it opens up into dramatic rock formations until you crest out with a view of Juniper Ridge, Adams, Hood, and Rainier. You'll know when you get there, and it isn't worth going too much further unless you plan on doing something grand. You can reach Craggy peak which is very Craggy, but it would be a serious challenge to climb this thing and you really can't get on top of it. I had travelled to Craggy Peak from the opposite directions many times, so it was nice to tie it all together. Depending on your ruote and commitment, you can see both of these "destinations" by just riding from Elk Pass on road 99 between windy ridge and Ape Canyon. This would create a pretty easy ride for some very high quality mountain riding. We spent about 6 hours riding out and back from Bear Meadow at a leisurely pace with a lot of swimming.
Goat Mt. - I have often rated the Goat mt. climb as one of the top 5 in Washington despite it being pretty short (30-40 minutes). It starts by pummelling you with some pumicey/sandy climbs to beat you down before it firms up and heads into the woods, where while not very tech-y, it just keeps throwing steep pitches at you with almost no recovery. But its over quickly enough and puts you out on an amazing ridgeline with a great crater view and the giant Green River valley beneath you. Then you descend to Deadman's lake, very pleasant and warm. From there the normal route is medium climb and zippy descent to Vanson Lake, also nice but not quite as perfect.
Since its been a decade since the last time, I and an amazing crew of the Davis family Robinson, "Jordache" Jordan, and David Stewart (nickname needed here) tackled the Tumwater Mt. Loop of Woe (tm). This trail starts with some fairly gently foresty ridge riding/climbing before the trail disappears into some OLD forest. STicks and deadfall cover what remains of the trail, constant blowdowns that are mostly rideable, and the general atmosphere make it feel really, really backcountry, like no one has been back there in seasons. I saw no tracks of any kind on most of this route. There was a lot of climbing back here too, but not crushers for the most part, just steady eddy but with a lot of uphill blowdown obstacles. It does top out at one point with some nice mountain views, but the real prize is before the final descent when it opens up into a meadow that is an old lake bed. Its a beautiful grotto, but I probably over sold it before the ride and I mis-calculated our breaks so we weren't ready to stop and grok very long by the time we got there. Then its a wild descent into "the hole" through twisty smooth track routed through green ground cover clover, creeks running down giant glacier boulders and super fast unpopulated single track. And now, the climb - following a raucous mountain creek through at least a dozen water fall interpretations, verdant green dripping forest and giant old growth trees combined with massive dead fall, this is a beautiful yet struggling climb. And it goes on, and on, and on...and on...and then when its finally over and you see the daylight above the trees, it goes on some more. As Jordan came up the final pitch to Vanson peak, I belted out customized lyrics from John Denver's Calypso, and he said it was the sweetest song he had ever heard. That ought to tell you something.
then it was our turn for Peter "Slop" Sherrill and Glenn "the ceo" Glover's favorite downhill ripping down from Vanson peak. Amazing !!
And then the miracle that is Green River trail - I avoided this trail for years because I was told it was "pumicey horse chunder" but it turns out that is only the last mile to camp. The rest of it is the most amazing river trail ever - it is completely fast, smooth, swoopy and fun - on the way UP the river !! I rode down it last year, and I also backtracked on it this year to find some people, and it was stunning - its just as fun up or down the river, and just as fast ! I could ride that trail all day. We were out there about 10 hours but we swam in two lakes, ate lunches, took breaks, no rush. I told them that they survived, nay, thrived, on the ride that even Ironman Igor said "I'm not sure I would do that loop again".
Sunday - too beaten down to consider Juniper Ridge, instead we avoided driving and went west on Boundary #1 from Norway pass. We headed back to the lakes trail after finding there was no longer a "no bikes" sign. This was an old gem of mine that I found many years ago um, hiking around and stuff. Probably not the best choice for a tired crew, as it has a lot of exposure and a crap ton of offs and pushes. In fact some may remember I almost fell off a cliff and died there one year. But it remains one of the most beautiful rides I've ever done, with amazing Helen's regrowth textures of rock and brush, and 5 count them 5 lakes. I do not recommend this ride to any people except the most adventurous and hearty of souls. Its probably the only ride I've ever done where I was wishing I had flats. You dont' have to go back to the lakes though, you can also continue on to Coldwater lake which would also be a nice ride. Or even just ride the 3 miles to bear Pass for an AMAZING view of Spirit Lake and the crater. We didn't go as far as we might have but still spent about 6 hours including 2 swims.
So if you get out to Helen's sometime, check it out.
also, some people tried Strawberry Ridge from the south and it was do able but not recommended, very brushy and not maintained. I don't know what its like after the middle drop down down to Ryan's lake but probably the same.
Weather was absolutely perfect, and we didn't spend more than 20 minutes in a car all weekend, and swam in Badger, Vanson, Ghost, Meta, and Deadman's lake.
One last thing forgot to mention - all hail to Len "the Legend" Francies, aka the original Slogfather, for being the pioneer on this area back in 2002.
Thanks Preston for the ride reports, and putting all of this together. It was a great weekend, and got me on the Boundary Trail, which I've always wanted to ride. Goat Mt. / Green River has always been one of my favorite loops. Most excellent!
Thanks for the 2014 update.
Couple of us local Mountain Bike Mutts have been enjoying the loop since 1994-back then I rode a rigid Klein Adroit with cantilever brakes !
Time and technology has not diminished the raw beauty of Goat /Goat/Green.
We'll been heading up in about a month-always good to know in advance how tread is on Tumwater section because it is a long way out of the Hole once you've committed....
Only thing we have found more 'sporting' is entire Boundary Trail from Council Lake to Coldwater Lake. You might think about for future project. The following is past write-up by Jim from Castle Rock.
If anyone tells you they’ve cleaned every hill and obstacle on the Boundary Trail between Adams and St. Helens, they’re full of ****. This 50+-mile mountain biking trek is an epic on steroids, far more difficult than any ride I have previously attempted.
We started at Council Lake near Mount Adams on Tuesday morning and finished at Coldwater Lake north of Mount St. Helens on Wednesday afternoon. In between, we followed the Boundary Trail through the Dark Divide, one of the largest and wildest undeveloped areas in the West. The route takes riders over Snag, Craggy, Badger and St. Helens peaks; Shark and Hat rocks; Mount Margaret; Table Mountain; Strawberry and Langill ridges; Yellowjacket, Norway and Bear passes.
The ride team and I were poster children for AARP. My partners included outdoor extremist Brian Mahon, 49; former U.S. Cycling Team member John Platt, 50; and my incredibly fit brother, Dave, 52.
As Mahon described it, the plan was simple – “First, we’ll go up; then we’ll go down.”
There was no need to write it on a recipe card. The scenario soon became obvious. Start at 3,500 feet. Ride up to 4,700 feet. Ride down to 3,300 feet. Climb back to 5,500 feet. Repeat. Ad infinitum. John and Dave came up with a mantra – “It could be worse – but not much.”
I’ve been on 30- to 50-mile rides before. But those rides didn’t include these miles. In a 1995 book titled 50 Choice Single-Tracks, author and rider Michael Orendurff described the Boundary Trail as “a CAT tour – Constant Anaerobic Threshold.”
Orendurff rated the trails in his book as Easy, Intermediate, Advanced, or Absurd. He tabbed the Boundary Trail as “triple-plus” Absurd. “The surface is all the worst of everything you could imagine -,” Orendurff wrote, “sharp rocks, big boulders, scree fields, washouts, blowdown, unrideable up- and downhills, snow late into the summer . . . complete hysteria.”
Under “trail conditions,” Orendurff warned riders to expect steep climbs or descents, narrow trail, loose rocks, and roots or large rocks “Almost Always.” Risk of falling off a cliff qualified only as “Often.”
The stretch between Council Lake and Norway Pass features 11 climbs of 700 feet or more, all above 4000 feet. Some of the ascents are so steep and rutted by motorcycle traffic that they are ridiculously unrideable. I pushed my bike so much I started referring to it as “a walker.”
Orendurff failed to mention that there is virtually no water source during a brutal 10-mile stretch from Hat Rock to Badger Lake. We started the day with more than 100 ounces each and that wasn’t enough. I started to cramp up about four miles from the lake, and John was running on empty. We were fortunate the temperature was in the 60s.
We filtered water at Badger and staggered on to Elk Pass, where our support crew provided fuel and fluid. We gutted out the last 10 miles of the day from Elk Pass to Bear Meadows and then on to the trailhead at Norway Pass on the eastern edge of the blast zone where we spent the night.
No two trail guides listed the same mileage for various legs of the ride. We calculated the first day at 35+ miles – please note that these felt like nautical miles – with 12,000-15,000 feet of climbing.
It was very tough to roll out of bed on Wednesday morning.
There was ice on the picnic tables when we left the parking lot at 8:00, but none of us wore heavy clothing. We knew that exposure was ahead and that we would be plenty warm once we started climbing.
We hit Norway Pass and cranked on up to Bear Pass. From there, we ran into several large snowfields. We worked our way up and down through the Mount Margaret backcountry. It was challenging, but nothing like the agony we’d experienced in the Dark Divide. We passed Mount Margaret and the Dome, before descending near St. Helens Lake and pedaling up to the intersection with South Coldwater Trail 230A. The last six miles to the parking lot were all downhill, but I wasn’t thinking about speed. I was just hanging onto my bike.
When we reached the trailhead, we popped a Black Butte Porter and posed for photos before diving into lunch and storytelling. It had taken us six-and-a-half hours to cover the final 16 to 20 miles from Norway Pass to the South Coldwater Trailhead.
Incredibly, we did not have any physical or mechanical breakdowns. And it’s a good thing. On the first day, we left before 6:00 a.m. and reached Norway Pass after 6:00 p.m. We didn’t see a single person during that time.
My therapist and I will be discussing the Boundary Trail for some time, although I suppose it wasn’t all bad. I got to see some of the most spectacular terrain imaginable, came away with incredible photos, and, even at 55, was able to survive the ride. That said, I have no plans to do it again.
I’m probably too whacked out to rationally estimate how much climbing we did during the entire ride, but I’d put the quad-popping, two-day total at 15,000 to 20,000 feet.s
If you decide this is something you really want to do, be prepared. Orendurff recommends allowing three days for the ride, as well as a support vehicle to meet you at Elk Pass and Norway Pass. Also, no one is giving bonus points for riding obstacles. A broken bike part or body part will ruin the ride for everybody. There is no cell phone reception, so proceed with caution.
“Excellent physical condition, flawless equipment and sound planning are mandatory,” Orendurff said.
A little luck wouldn’t hurt either.
Postscript: I posted a review of the Boundary Trail ride on MTBR in 2006 and have received several inquiries from people who think it would be “a rad ride.” One rider insisted that he and his buddies would need only one day to complete the entire trip. I’ve asked for follow-up a few times but, amazingly, I have heard nothing back.
As I said above, part of it is luck. In 2008, the snowpack would have made the trail impossible to traverse in many places. Also, no matter how much you train, if someone in your group has a severe physical or mechanical problem, you are screwed because there is no easy way to get out of the Dark Divide.
The final six miles of single-track weren’t open when Michael Orendurff took on the Boundary Trail in the mid-’90s. So, to the best of my knowledge, we’re the only ones who have completed the entire thing.
Not taking anything away from the effort required to ride the whole thing, but I've ridden Council Lake to Dark Meadows, and Bear Pass to Craggy Peak, and found it all very rideable. Yeah plenty of climbing and ups and downs, but good terrain for the most part and not too many anaerobic pitches. The section from Dark Meadows to Craggy is probably pretty tough though, if its anything like the Dark Meadows trail in from the road anyway. I've also ridden the Craggy Peak/Wright Meadow trail which should be similar and found it nice. So I wouldn't want this to scare anyone away from it. ON the contrary I found it to be pretty good tread for the most part. Dark Meadows to Craggy definitely has the potential to be pretty moto and I'll agree that would be toughest section, especially on a point to point epic. I'll put that section on the list. And yeah if its hot I wouldn't want to set off with less than 130oz of water
For clarification-thanks for NOT riding bikes on the Lakes trail 211c to Shovel,Panhandle and the other Mt Margaret upper lakes.( I am confident you left bikes at junction of trail 211c and Boundary trail #1 and where 'no bikes' sign has disappeared and hiked in for swim !)
The only trails open to bikes on 'north side' Mt St Hooli are Boundary trail #1 from norway pass to St Helens Lake junction then down 230a trail.
Lake trail #211 is open from boat launch at Coldwater lake to head of lake but CLOSED to bikes heading up 211 trail to Mt Margaret Lakes.
Friends of Coldwater,Mountain Bike Mutts and other bike groups (including Evergreen?) have worked with the Forest Service to open 230 trail also in the past 2 years, joining 230A trail neat Tractor Junction.
We bikers have worked hard to gain acceptance and would hate to lose access....
Here's link from Forest Service regarding 211c-
My intent is not to scare anyone from epic trails-We have ridden all the trails segments you've listed and enjoyed them. Jim's account captures what is felt like to eat the whole enchilada ! Let us know your take on the Boundary trail from Yellow Jacket Pass down to Elk Pass when you've ridden it.
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