Devils Gulch, what a name, what could possibly go wrong?
I don’t want to draw you in to any speculation so I will be honest from the start, nothing went wrong. It was actually a pretty great ride.
The drive from Vancouver, BC is fairly easy, it takes around 4 hours and there are plenty of places to stop for supplies, a break or a hike. Wenatchee has all the services you require for an overnight stay, the camp ground, Wenatchee Confluence is very close to town and is clean and quiet.
On the morning of the ride I packed all my gear up and drove back from Wenatchee towards Leavenworth, I knew the trail was going to be in the back country but the trail head seemed more remote than I had in mind, on the way in I had a disconcerting feel as I passed all of the trashed caravans/trailers/cars and parked the truck in an empty state park parking lot.
The trail system here is used by motorbikes so some of the trails can be rutted out, I was hoping not to see too many motorbikes out there. As the Devils Gulch trail head was closed, note: always check the US Forest Service for the latest conditions, the ride had to start from the Sand Creek trail head. The ride started with a climb past Red Hill, and after the initial ascent there were some spectacular viewpoints and some smooth descending with enough speed to flow through the corners. I was descending in blissful ignorance, then all of a sudden out of the corner of my eye I saw something bounce off of the trail ahead of me. I slammed on my brakes, trying to stop quickly without skidding. As I turned my head to the right I saw that black bear looking back at me, he had bolted maybe 50 meters up the slope and was probably more inquisitive than anything. As we both stood there looking eye to eye I started to make some noise and he bounded up the hill out of sight. I was only about 3km into the ride and did not want to turn back, needless to say I made a lot of noise for the rest of the ride and was a little anxious. At 5km I came across the Devils Gulch trailhead, here I could head back down the forest service road and avoid anymore bears but what fun would that be?
I carried on up Devils Gulch keeping in mind that I had read about a washout of the creek from the 2012 and thought that may cause me some issues, in the end the only challenge was finding the trail on the other side of the largest washout, the smaller parts of trail damage had been worn in by other trail users and natural erosion. As the climb continued, the sun continued its ascent in the sky, I hadn’t really considered the 30+ degree temperatures as its been a little wet recently but I had plenty of water with me. When I met the intersection of the trails I briefly considered heading back down then carried on with my original plan to ride up to the top. Eventually the uphill ride, heat and my lack of eating caught up to me and I had to push through some sections as my hamstrings were feeling so tight, this is not an easy climb!
The upper trail head was further along the fire track than I had imagined but a few sweeping corners later and I had forgotten about most of the climb. The top section covered some harder rock, the remains of some ancient volcanic activity. Unfortunately it wasn’t too long before I was back to the intersection of the trails, carrying straight through the intersection and all of a sudden I had to pedal again, the trail works its way up onto the ridge with some great views over the steep edge. To the left was the deeper valley where I had ridden up Devils Gulch, to the right was a less steep slope with tree stumps and other debris, it was best to stick to the narrow single track. The pitch of the trail allowed me to pick up quite a bit of speed. After a long stretch of undulating singletrack things got a little steeper and more sandy, there was evidence of motorbike tracks, some rutted out sections possibly from rainfall and in general it was an area that appeared to have had more visitors. For the first time today I saw another trail user, his motorbike was going up the switchbacks as I was coming down.
The last section of trail led me out to Devils Gulch trailhead, here I decided to avoid the Sand Creek route along with the bear and head down the forest service road. By the time I got back to my truck I was totally out of water, energy and any desire to ride anywhere else. All in all a good day, I would recommend this ride to anyone who enjoys a long, non-technical uphill pedal followed by some not overly technical but potentially fast downhill, as always its best to go with someone else so you can ride faster!