Tree Farming in the Great Northwest

The weather for most of this past week has been “Bi-Polar” here in the great northwest.  It would be cold, raining and breezy and the next thing you know the sun would come out and the temperature would shoot up pretty much into the comfortable range.  Wednesday ended up being a rainless day and I managed to grab some late afternoon miles at the Armstrong Tract of the Pilchuck Tree Farm north of Arlington. 

The Pilchuck Tree Farm is a some hugh chunk of private land that is used for logging.  The company/land owners have allowed trails and public recreation on their land for over 20 years.  Of course patches of trail are going to go away from time to time as various segments gets logged over the years.  Despite the obvious bummage of this, the up side is the place is ever changing. 

One thing is for sure there is a bunch of miles out here.  I got in about 18 miles of rolling and mostly buff singletrack during my afternoon visit and I know I missed a bunch of stuff.  I had a very rudimentary map that was rather large scale which meant I was basically on my own.  I love solo riding like this as the miles seem longer and I feel more in tune with my surroundings as you have to paint your own mental map of where you are at and how you are going to get back at some point.

I was digging the rolling terrain and the aburpt transitions as you go from the unattractive barreneque clearcuts into lush forest. While the trails were for the most part buff there were some sections that were rooty with plenty of logs across the trail.  I got a really good skills workout in from the logs alone. 

There were more trail junctions in this area than I can count.  For the first part of the ride I took whatever option looked to go away from the trailhead.   When the remainder of the day dictated it was time to turn back, I took every turn that I thought would delay my return.  I did loops, backtracks and generally confused myself.  This was one of my adventures were I actually used my GPS for something other than a simple data logger.

I ended up back at the trailhead with some daylight left, so I decided to check out what was supposed to be a somewhat short loop nearby.  This loop was indeed short but it also ended up going through a low lying area that became more than a bit of a mucky mess.  Getting through this area took much longer than I thought it would and the waning daylight inside the moss covered forest looked somewhere between surreal and spooky.   By the time I got back to the trailhead, I could officially classify my day as extremely “efficient”.  I doubt I had more than one minute of daylight left.     Just the way I like it 🙂 

A romp through Anacortes singletrack goodness

Yesterday, I ventured north of Seattle to the town of Anacortes, where tales of miles single track goodness seemed to abound.   My first order of business upon rolling into the sound-side town of Anacortes was to pickup a set of maps from a local bike shop.  For $10 I got three great maps of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands. That was all I needed to get to the trailhead at Cranberry Lake.  


The weather forecast gave a 50% chance of showers with the temps in the low 50s.   It certainly looked like I was going to get wet today.   A few days ago someone said something interesting that stuck in my head.  “There is no bad weather, only bad gear.”  With that in my head, I packed up my gear and hit the trail.  Right from the trailhead I was on some cool single tracks that were combinations of loamy buff with some rocks and roots here and there.

Riding in an evergreen forest is just awesome.   Believe it or not these are multi-use trails.  Yes these twisty and flowing singletracks are open to hikers, equestrians and bicycles.   These are community trails and most of them are within the city limits of Anacortes.    The land managers and agencies of San Diego County could learn a lot from this place. 

Did I mention these trails rule?   The Anacortes Community Forest Lands has about 50 miles of interconnected trails with over 41 miles of those trails being single tracks. 

Got Beaver?  

Got Bald Eagle?

As the day went on the weather turned for the better and the sun even popped out.  I found myself openly giggling while I cruised and twisted through the forest.   On several occasions I could not help but to stop, grab a spot on a log and just take it all in.   I am one lucky bastard to get to ride stuff like this on a business trip. One thing is for certain, I am going back here at least once more on this trip as I have only scratched the surface of this trail system.

Japanese Gulch

By the end of the workday on Wednesday, I was dog tired. However, the sun was out and the weatherman was calling for rain and general crappiness on Thursday. I can rest when it is raining so I headed out to Japanese Gulch in Mukilteo. Lucky for me my hotel is in Mukilteo and the trailhead is just a few miles away.  I could have ridden the streets to the trailhead but not knowing where the trails would take me, I decided to drive to the trailhead and start from a known location. The trailhead also happens to be at the bottom of the trail system which could make for a quicker return should I start running out of daylight.

What a score this place turned out to be. There is a railroad track, that goes up the middle of the gulch and and on either side are steep wooded hillsides. There are trails on both sides of the gulch that loosely follow the top, bottom and part-way up the hillsides. 

The trails are almost exclusively singletrack with really nice flow.  There are also plenty of undulations in the trails so wither you are going up or down the gulch you will get to do some grunting as well as some grinning.   It is just a matter of the ratios between the two depending which direction you are going. 

 I started out climbing up the southside of the gulch on one of the hillside trails.   There were quite a few grunting sections as well as some tight turns.    It was all good by me as I was digging the loamy soil as well as the greenery.     Even though the flora has not broken out of winter mode yet, it was still pretty.  I had lots of oppurtunites to take it all in as there were numerous intersections were it was purdent to look around before moving on.

 I avoiding descending too much as I made my way up the gulch.  There are several trails that short cut between the high trails and the low trails.  It was on these short cut trails were I saw the remenants of a few hucker projects.   None of them showed much recent use and mother nature was working hard to reclaim them.

 When I got to the top of the gulch I cruised along a few trails before I popped out into an open area and HOLY CRAP I could see my hotel. Sweeeeeeeet!   Now I could drop into the gulch from almost right out my front door.   With this most killer info locked in my head I started back down on the other side of the gulch.

There were just as many twists, turns an general flowy goodness on this side of the gulch.   My daylight was starting to dwindle so I spent less time exploring and more time heading down.  I passed a couple of bailout trails were I could have dropped down to the railroad tracks and zipped right down the trailhead.   Even with the threat of darkness rising, I was not in enough of a hurry to pass up singletrack.   I ended up bobing, weaving and undulating my way back down to the trailhead on proper singletracks and arrived back at the car in the twilight.  An afternoon well spent in my book.

 The general consenus is that San Diego weather guessers have it pretty easy.  Sunny with temps in the mid-60s to mid-70s will be correct 75% of the year so we don’t attract the best and brightest weather folks.  It must be the same in Seattle except the standard prediction is going to be cool and gloomy with a good chance of rain.   So was the predications for Seattle on Thursday.   First thing in morning it was indeed cool and gloomy.   By lunchtime however, the weather turned pretty good with sunshine and brisk but not cold temps.  AKA Great!   I knew what I would be doing after work.

Within 15 minutes of getting back to the hotel room, I was out the door and on the bike.  A few minutes later and I am on my freshly found trail from the day before and headed back into Japanese Gulch.  Since I had rushed through the north side of the gulch the day before, I explored my way down the gulch this time.   At intersections I would often take all the turns figure out were they went and doubleback to try the other directions.   It was a good time for sure.

Once I made my way to the bottom of the gulch I started climbing up the other side, but this time I took different trails than the day before.  I was digging the quality singletrack out here and the amount of it.  I has missed some good chunks of stuff the day before.   

By the time I made it to the top of the gulch again my daylight was waning.   I did not have enough light for another run down the gulch so I cruised back to the hotel.    With the exception of a few built up stunts, my 6.6 is way more bike than is needed out here.  So I pay a little extra on the climbs, good trails are good trails and these goodies are rightout my front door.  This will not be my last ride here.

Seattle Area – Surprises On Day Once

So yesterday, I left SoCal bound to Seattle for a few weeks of work and if I got lucky, a little bit of play.  Of course there is a mountain bike involved.   I decided that the 6.6 would make this trip with me.  It is the first time I have flown with this bike and I was a little surprised when I went to put it into my handy dandy bike box.  It did not fit!   Being a long wheelbased bike both the bottom of the fork and back of the rear triangle were pushed against the ends of the box and flaring it out a little.  This was not the way I wantws to travel with this thing.  After many permutations, I finally had to take the fork out of the frame and lay it next to the down tube.  

After this the rest of the box packing when smooth.  Now there was absolutely no way to keep this bike and box under 50 pounds and avoid the overweight charge.   So I put a bunch of other stuff in there as well to get my money’s worth.

The flight went as planned and I was surprised to see awesome weather in Seattle.  Sunny and in the upper 60s, low 70s.  Freaking killer.    From the airport I went right to the job site, and did all my start day stuff: Check-in with folks, chase down equipment that was shipped here, smooze and talk up with the folks I will be working with the for the next three weeks, yada yada yada….   Several times when I was walking between buildings I was thinking this is too awesome of a day in Seattle to be working.  Surprising enough, before I knew it all of the stuff I needed to do and pretty much everything I could get done that day, was done.  

I get back to my hotel and looking out the window I could not help but think, man the sun is mighty high in the sky for this time of day.  Then it dawned on me,  the further north you are in summer the longer the days are.   Cool, I might just have enough time to squeak in a ride.   So off I went to whip the bike back together.  Before long, the big was built back up and I was rolling away from the hotel towards a perspective trail I had got some e411 on a few months back.

Well what do you know, there was a trail after all and I was surprised that it was not at all bad.  While on the short side, it was still dirt.  Dirt that I had not planned on being on today.   After riding this trail, I decided to poke around the various neighborhood streets. 

I was once again surprised when I managed to find a few neighborhood trails that meandered through the woods between the various streets and neighborhoods.  It was nothing you would want to drive but it was an incredible spring day full of sunshine, blooming flowers, green woods and I was on singletrack.   What a killer surprise.

When I got back to the hotel room there was still some daylight left in the day.  I was once again surprised when it did not get dark until around eight.   You gotta love the northern lattitudes heading into summer.  This was a mighty fine start to this trip.

Tiger Mountain, WA

Okay, I need to learn to pay attention to the fine print in trail reviews and guidebooks.   Work was done early yesterday and I was heading east with bike, gear and good weather all around.   The destination was Tiger Mountain State Park about 30 miles outside of Seattle near the town of Issaquah.   The plan was to get in about a 3 or so mile dirt road climb and then start hitting up some singletrack.   I got to the trailhead, suited up and started peddling my rather portly rent-a-piggy up the mountain.   Just like me this bike could stand to go on a diet.    It was all good as I need the excercise.  I was not to far up the road when I passed the Northwest Timber Trail on my right that I was planning on coming out on at the end of the ride.  To my non-engrish reading surprise, there was a barricade and a sign saying it is closed from October 15th – April 15th.  WTF?  So I pull out my guidebook I had stashed in my pack and actually starting reading those pesky little details (you know the section that does not include stuff like turn here/there, this is cool, that is cool.)  Yep right there in the guidebook it tells me that all the bitching singletrack I was looking forward to was CLOSED.    What to do now?   So I read around and find out there is dirt road loop I can do up there that will get me a good heaping of excercise, some scenery and a tiny bit of singletrack.   So I was off up the mountain on Plan B.   

The dirt road climb up Tiger Mountain had some steep sections but  overall it was not too bad as there were spots where you got a reprive from the climbing.   There was plenty of forest all around but there were a few spots were distant views could be seen.    

Mount Rainer was the dominant landscape feature, and I could not help but stare at it whenever it was in view.   There was nothing wrong with the weather today that is for sure.   The view of Rainer reminds me a great deal of Mount Fuji in Japan the way it just towers over the surrounding landscape.

The rest of the ride included some bombfest fireroading and as well as some steep up and downs.   There was not just cool stuff to see off in the distance.   There were lots of small streams crossing under the roads that were quite pretty.

I used up the better part of the day up in my loop out here.   It is ashame I don’t have any pictures I can show you of the Preston Railroad Trail, the Northwest Lumber Trail and the Fat Hand Trail which are touted as really killer singletracks.    Oh well, I’m going to be back at some point when they are open.  For now my time is Seattle is over so,

Sayonara Seattle