Monday, October 4, 2010

Chelan bike trip

I know this blog states it is about biking in and around Sandpoint.  I just got back from a biking trip (fits criteria) to Chelan (does not fit criteria).  Ultimately, I'm the final judge of content and your a captive audience, so here we go...

Me and 10 other bikers went to Chelan this last Friday for the weekend.  I was invited on this trip which was made up mostly of roadies who wanted to go over and do the Chelan Century Challenge (more info here).  Me being the dirt head I am, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to check off a mountain bike ride that has been on my bucket list for a while.  And yes, I do mingle with roadies and I do own a road bike as well...actually a really nice one.

We all settled into camp, along the Columbia River, Friday afternoon and rose early Saturday to tackle our own biking adventures.  The roadies planned to do 2 of the 3 CCC loops Saturday and the last, and most strenuous on Sunday.  I left camp before the roadies were even suited up on my way to the Devil's Backbone Trail and the anticipation was almost more than I could bear.

The Devil's Backbone (Trail #1448) is a high elevation, ridge-top ride that connects the Entiat and Chelan Ranger Districts.  It is rocky, rugged and well, as the tourist pamphlet states, "This ride is not for the faint of heart."  The view of the ridge resembles a dinosaur's back...slim, jagged and full contours.  It is very open, both because not much grows that high but also because of a fire that ripped through that area some 15 years earlier.  This ridge top ride is 11 miles from end to end with several options along the way.  I choose to ride from the Handy Spring end out to the Pot Peak Trail and back down to 25 Mile Creek Campground.

about to start solo, too much for Shadow
Jane and Shadow shuttled me 2/3 of the way to the trail head.  The road was narrow, rocky and had lots of exposure.  All features that Jane was less than thrilled to drive back down.  So, I jumped out and rode the rest of the way.  The trail head sits at 6,500 ft, that's like starting on a ride at the top of Schweitzer.  And it starts right off climbing to close to 7k.  Most of the trail stays within a 6,500-7,200 ft altitude.  The first few miles of the trail were great and offered amazing views.  I could definitely feel the thin air, at least that's what I'm gonna blame.  There were also fires off in the distance with smoke filling the valleys.
I met up with 4 guys from Seattle doing the same route.  We decided to ride together.  They were all sporting pads and riding downhill bikes.  Although I felt my Stumpjumper would be more than capable, I felt a little under prepared.  Three of them had done the trail several times before and one made a comment that "my Stumpjumper should be a fun bike for the day."  Although I was feeling a sarcastic tone, it was nice to have company.

Approximately 4 miles in, things started to get real interesting.  The trail wound out onto a side cut in the mountain.  The tread of the trail was no more than 18" with a shear rock wall on the up hill side and a drop off on the other, where I won't even venture to guess its depth.  Let's just say that there was NO margin for error and wrecking was NOT an option.  My downhill riding partners bombed down the trail with little regard.  I kept it slow, stayed focused on the tread and yes, I did walk a bit too.  The trail popped back onto the ridge and then out the other side for some more exposed and heart pumping goat like trail.  When we got to the other side I was tense and exhausted.  It felt like the last mile was more like ten!

looking back this pic doesn't really do it justice
After all the exposure and rock came more rock as we scaled a shale slope up to the next peak.  It was mid day now and the sun was relentless, as shade was no where to be found.


Back on the ridge was more good riding.  At 7 miles we hit the intersection for Pot Peak.  My riding buddies were way to excited.  As they sat on logs and drank 24 ouncers from their pack and packed their pipe (to their credit it is called Pot Peak) in preparation for the descent, I couldn't help but think of getting off the ridge.  So, I thanked them for the ride and headed downhill, solo once again.

Pot Peak is an amazing 10 mile descent!  There are a couple of small climbs, but for the most part it is a 4,300 foot descent with banked turns and serpent like twisting single-track.  Better yet, the trail descended back into the trees and I started to feel more at home.  At least if I wrecked there would be something to catch me.  As I weaved back and forth the ridge became a distant memory.  Often technical and rocky, the trail was all ridable.  Many of the switchbacks and wash-out prone areas featured cinder blocks to armour in the trail.  They were a joy to ride on as they provided a steady surface to turn on and braking was responsive since there was no skidding.
how'd they get those way up there?
When I got to the end of the Pot Peak Trail I had a permanent grin.  I didn't want it to end.  I could ride that trail forever!  But Jane was waiting.  I jumped on the road and head to the park.  In the end: 28 miles, 2,500 of climbing, 5,500 of descending.  This was an "epic" ride and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a big adventure.

Saturday night we gathered around the fire, drank some brews and exchanged stories of our day.  The roadies also had a good ride and felt a satisfied depletion.  The bed was a welcome relief that night and I arose to sourdough pancakes and bacon compliments of Brad and Carol.  It was good fuel.  I packed up and went to ride Echo Ridge, the local ski resort.  This recap will be short.  It was lame.  Most of the so called "trails" were really old roads.  There are lots of them, but they lacked interest and challenge...especially after the previous days adventure.  Not a destination ride, but a good filler.

lots of biking signs, very progressive community
We all ended early afternoon, grabbed some authentic Mexican burritos and hit the road back to Sandpoint.  I had a great weekend and can't wait to go back, there is ONE more in the area that is on the bucket list!   

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