Archive for August 17th, 2011

Kachess Ridge, WA

August 17th, 2011 by MTBBill

This past weekend, I headed out over the Snoqualmie Pass area about 70 miles east of Seattle to check out the Kachess Ridge trail.  I have passed through this area a handful of times over the years between MTB and flyfishing trips and I had eye-balled the mountains through here on every occasion.  The ride is billed as dirt road climb that seems to go on forever followed by a singletrack that you wish would go on forever.  It was time to find out first hand.

   

The first part of the ride is along a mildly undulating dirt road that heads north above the eastern shore of Kachess Lake.    The lake is quite large but its rather difficult to see the expansive view due to all the trees.    It was kinda fun keeping an eye out for the open spots in the trees here and there than offered views of the lake.  This was a good mellow six miles or so of a cruising warm up. 

The cruise fest was soon over as I turned up onto a forest road that started working its way up onto the mountain.   The grade was fairly steep in places and I was reminded that my UZZI is optimized for festivities in the downhill direction.   I would gain around 2,700 feet in just under the next five miles.  There were numerous little brooks along the climb.  I’m nearly always surprised at how loud even just a little bit of moving water can be.  I couple of times I was expecting a torrent of water ahead only to see just a little spit of water in a real hurry.

The further up the climb I went the better views kept getting and with the lake as a reference below it was easy to see how much elevation you were gaining.  I’m pretty sure I was past the halfway point when the iconic Mount Rainer starting making an appearance above the far ridgeline.  While working up the climb and stopping here and there to take some pictures, I met up with a couple local riders, Mike and Justin, working thier way up as well.   I was pretty happy to see that they were also working some long-legged bikes up the ridge as well as it gave some hints that maybe the downhill had some terrain worthy of the rigs.

We would leap frog each other a couple of times before the forest road eventually went up to a saddle on Kachess Ridge.   The photo above completely fails to capture the true beauty of the landscape.

From the saddle it was time to the leave the forest road behind and hit some singletrack.  Here is where Mike and Justin’s local knowledge came in mighty handy as the published route does not include a newer trail that is more contouring and a good bit of fun. The kind of fun you have when narrow trails test your ability to stay on line while wildflowers brush your legs on both sides.  This first bit of trail was a sweet little descent  that all too soon rejoined the main trail and turned into a tough hike-a-bike over the 1/3rd of a mile or so up to the saddle between the spires in the photo above.

Above are some of the views along the hike a bike section.   The hike-a-bike was both steep and rocky with some scree to contend with.   Some of my best epic adventures ever have included hike-a-bike bits so I tend to view them with a sense of optimism for trail goodness to come.  Then again I have had some nearly former friends threaten to eviscerate me on the side of the trail for some “new stuff” exploration gone wrong.  

For this SoCal boy, anytime a hike-a-bike across snow in mid-August is required, it automaticaly puts the ride soundly in the cool category.  

Once over the saddle, sweet trail goodness was indeed in bountiful supply.     It was good.  Real Good.   So much so that I selfishly (and unapologetically) blazed past a ton of Kodiak moments as the trail shed elevation through alpine meadows and evergreen forest goodness.  

 For you SoCal Peeps, there were sections of rocky chunky bits that conjured up thoughts of Noble Canyon  while other sections would make you think of the steep hillsides of the Santa Ana River Trail except the trail was pointed in a much more downhill direction.   Of course this trail had the awesome Pacific Northwest forested feel to it with lots of greenery.   Yeah it was good!

The final section of the trail gets pretty steep as it cashes out over 1,000 feet of elevation in a little over a mile.   There are plenty of switchbacks through this section and some of them can sneak up on you.    Additionally there are a couple of these switchbacks where you simply do not want to blow the turn due to the  exposure.   I wish I had more pictures of this section to share but the little devil on my left shoulder was whispering evil things in my ear like “EFFF Everyone Else –Ride You Fool, Ride!”.  The only thing I was able to make out over all wind noise coming from angel on right shoulder was lots of giddy giggles and “Whaaat heeeee saaaaid!”     This was not a suckie day to be on a bike!