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North West US MTB Roadtrip 2010. Part 1. BC – Washington – Oregon

It was the summer of 2010, I was back in a warm and slightly humid Vancouver with another couple of months left of my leave of absence. After returning from hiking in Spain and biking in Europe I had settled into a new apartment and was looking for ways to spend money. A new truck and a new mountain bike – a few thousand bucks dropped on a pretty sweet Banshee Pyre, my first full suspension mountain bike. At this price I had better enjoy biking as much as I had enjoyed it in the Swiss Alps.

Living in North Vancouver its tough to not know someone who is a keen mountain biker and I was soon introduced to the riding club NSRide. It really helps to have some guidance on the trails as it avoids pushing up the downhill trails and riding down the uphill trails – not sure if that makes sense, certain trails flow better in one direction and not many maps will point you in the correct direction. Anyway, a week or two in the beginner group before I jumped up to intermediate, by mid July I was riding with the advanced XC group. I was not technically skilled but effort wise I managed to keep up albeit with the odd cut or bruise here and there.

One of my friends who had persuaded me to ride the Passportes Du Soleil had mentioned that he was available late August, together with another friend who was living in Whistler we decided on a road trip! Lets get together with a map and head out to some random places and ride! I had no idea where to ride, what trails were suitable or wether I would be able to handle riding with these guys. I got a map out and plotted a route based on half day drives with time in between for some fun. The initial itinerary: –

Day 1 – Leave Vancouver and stay near Mount Baker.
Day 2 – Hike around the national park and drive to Yakima.
Day 3 – Ride in Oregon (La Grande)
Day 4 – Ketchum, Idaho
Day 5 – Ketchum
Day 6 – Salt Lake City/Provo
Day 7 – Moab
Day 8 – Moab
Day 9 – Grand Canyon
Day 10 – Las Vegas
Day 11 – Mammoth
Day 12 – San Francisco
Day 13 – Crater Lake
Day 14 – Vancouver

I was pretty sure something was going to change along the way! After grabbing MattY from the airport we hung around North Vancouver for a couple days, just hiking around and swimming in creeks. We also had to figure out a way to secure the bikes in the truck, its best not to have >$15K of gear stolen. A couple of drilled holes later and we had a secure connection point for a padlock, four years later it is still there and working well. Soon it was time to hit the road, MattY, MattT and I set about getting the truck loaded up with the bikes, supplies and anything else we could think of. The truck has a full size truckbed which is nice for allowing plenty of non-essential items, the downside is the cab size – especially when MattT is about 6 foot tall.

Leaving early in the morning we set off towards Starbucks, caffeine first then we carried on across the border, down the I5 and through the west coast rainforest towards Mount Rainier. Summers around here are fairly reliable, warm with the ocassional rainy day, our forecast for the next couple of weeks was dry and warm, then hotter and hotter until we turn back from Las Vegas. For the first night we stayed in Mount Rainier National Park at the White River Campground sitting just below the glacier. Before hitting the sack we had plenty of time to explore so hiked a short trail, Glacier Basin Trail, giving us some spectacular views of the creek and the glacier.

A somewhat early rise into the early morning light, I had asked the other guys if I should wake them early in the morning. The answer last night was YES! The answer this morning was not quite a grumble and a couple of swear words, after discussing how we all felt about sleep and getting up I will lay off being as pushy as I am normally 🙂 Caffeine always seems to help these situations so, after our quick meal of oatmeal and cranberries we drove up to the visitor centre, it was definitely worth the trip – I really need to spend time exploring this park in the future it has some amazing scenery. A quick browse in the visitor centre, a chat with a couple of backpackers who had spent a few weeks in the park (the beards tell their own story) and then we hit the road. As we descended from the higher elevation the air warmed, the sun shone and we made good time through the switchbacks and out the east side of the park, we are now cruising on towards Yakima, Washington.

I like to be somewhat prepared so before we left I grabbed a few books from the library, mountain bike guides, hiking guides, print outs of maps and various other items to try and assist us with our trip. When reading mountain bike guides it can be really difficult to figure out which trails are fun and easy to access/navigate. I am the least experienced rider so I am happy with smooth, flowing single track. The area we decided to hit today was perched outside of Yakima overlooking a vast valley, great views but the heat today is pretty oppressive, hitting the high 30’s with high humidity. The trails we rode turned out to be more of a network of criss crossing, rocky, sandy, slightly red dirt. All good practice for me but maybe a little too easy for the other two. Worth a passing stop to loosen up before we move on to the bigger and better trails. Next time I think I will try out the full Cowiche Canyon Trail.

As we drove up into the Blue Mountains the sunset was spectacular, so we had to stop for a few hundred photos. It was a nice surprise to find that Emigrant State Park has cabins! I know we are only a couple of nights in but the thought of a comfy bed is too appealing, plus it allows us to settle in fairly quickly without setting up tents and the night had set in by the time we had arrived. After tripping over the fire pit a couple of times we managed to setup and eat, I also noticed my GPS was non-functional so no GPS tracks for this entire trip! As we ate our food and our S’mores dessert we discussed a simple plan for the next day, get up, pack up, head into La Grande and eat at a diner before hitting the bike shop for information on trails and to purchase a few parts to fix up a slightly dodgy looking gear cable. Heading into the cabin was like being back in the hostels in Spain 🙂

La Grande has a student population who apparently like to hang out at the diner, it was busy and the food was good, both in value and quality. A quick look around the town before browsing in the bike shop, the mechanics shared some trail information with us and invited us for a ride in a couple of days. We should be in Idaho soon so we had to turn them down. We loaded the truck with bodies and headed off in some random direction, it was a fair drive towards Cove and the maps we had were not too much help. We turned up the non-descript forest service road and drove through the ruts for a few miles, MattT bounced up and down in the rear part of the cab as the dust flew around the truck. As the dust settled we all jumped out of the truck and grabbed our waterproof gear, the rain was not too heavy so it should help keep the dust down on the trails. Lodge Pole trail  had a nice damp feel to the dirt, the trail was smooth with moderate inclines and while it didn’t have many viewpoints it was too misty to see much anyways. We rode the trail as an out and back point to point, I will post a link for more trail information.

After the ride we filled up with gas and rinsed the dirt off of the bikes before heading for our next destination. A late stop in Boise for a diner dinner with one eye on the bikes before we found our KOA and a nice teepee to spend the night. The plan was to hit Ketchum early in the morning, I didn’t have too much information about the area but Sun Peaks seemed to be a destination riding area. Im still apprehensive as my riding experience is next to nothing, lets just hope Sun Peaks has some suitable trails.

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