Archive for the ‘touring’ Category.

Coeur d' Alene National Forest

(photos just in case you don’t have flash)
John, Larry, and I all wanted to get in a good ride this summer, but didn’t have a week to dedicate to something like our 2007 Gifford Pinchot tour. We decided that a long weekend ride would be a good idea. We always make John come west, so this time we headed east and picked the CdA National Forest as our target. John invited Pat along too, bringing the group size to 4.
Way back in March or April we got a personal guarantee of good weather from John with our mid-June riding date. Last week it became obvious that this wasn’t going to happen and that rain was likely. The rain changed our parking location from being the corner of the forest to one of the central campgrounds. That made our first evening’s ride to our campsite much shorter.

On Friday morning we woke up to light rain, but as we ate lunch it began to clear and dry out. When I told John that we’d be ending the day about 5 miles from the car again he asked about just ditching the camping gear and turning it into a slightly longer day ride. That seemed like a good idea, so we rode back to the car, ditched gear,and started the loop.

We started near Huckleberry Campground right in the middle of the CdA National Forest. Pat really liked how Spyglass Peak looked on the map,so we concentrated on that part of the original route. The highlight there was a short but steep climb (seen on the map above between miles 25 and 30) followed by a long ridgeline descent.

Getting to Spyglass Peak meant riding to Magee first. The route to Magee is over an easy saddle (Leiberg Saddle) followed by a really nice descent through Tepee Creek and the meadows along it. This creek runs through a narrow valley with a wide meadow that must flood every year. The road is above the meadow and creek, giving you very nice views into the area below. It really reminded me of areas of Yellowstone National Park,only this valley wasn’t overrun with tourists.

We reached Magee around lunch time. Magee consists of 4 historic buildings and a backcountry airport where a ranger office used to be. We enjoyed a nice lunch there before heading uphill towards Spyglass Peak. The climb up towards Spyglass was almost perfect and a marvel of good surveying. It was steep,but not too steep (around 9% grade). The gradient was consistent and the road conditions were excellent. We saw a few moose on the way up. At the top we got to a ridgeline with good views in all directions.

The descent down the ridgeline was fun. The descent was a much lighter grade and just felt like it went on forever (if you look on the map above it looks like we were descending for about 20 miles before the next major climb). Once in a while there would be a half mile climb or so to get some more altitude. Since we were riding along the ridgeline we’d get views to the east, then cross over and get some views to the west. The weather was dynamic up there with areas of rain, sun, and sometimes both at once. The roads were a little damp (good for keeping the dust down) and had no washboard. It really made for some fun riding.

CdA National Forest is a maze. Every few miles we’d come to a N-way intersection and have to figure out our next turn. At Stull Saddle we ran into one thing that really threw us off. Pat looked at his paper map and said “we want to take 812 back to Leiberg Creek”. I looked at my GPS and said “I drew out this red line that we should follow”. It looked like the line might also follow 812, so we trusted Pat’s map and headed down 812. A mile or so down I kept slowing down and looking at the GPS and John asked me what was wrong. We weren’t on the red line, but I decided to trust the map more than the line.

We knew that we made a wrong turn when we got to a sign that said “Magee, 3 miles”. Oops! We turned uphill and did the climb up to Leiberg saddle again. There we found 260 which connected back to Stull Saddle. On the descent down from Leiberg Saddle we found the other 812. That mistake cost us 10+ miles, but they were enjoyable. If you go to the CdA National Forest I’d bring a GPS and the forest map, and still give yourself a little time to get lost.

The road back to our campsite seemed a lot longer on the way out than the way in. We made it back to our car and the camp area around 7pm, 10 hours or so after we left. A good long day on the road: roughly 65 miles and somewhere between 7,500 feet and 11,000 feet of climbing depending on which mapping software you trust. I think the 7,500 number is probably about right.

Saturday morning on the drive out we took some other very minor roads and saw more areas which are ripe for exploring. I really get the impression that you could park somewhere central and setup a base camp and find a new excellent loop every day for a week without duplicating much scenery. That would all be while staying on the labeled roads and ignoring the dozens of unmarked side roads and singletrack that we saw on our route. We made future plans to do exactly that. John and Pat are very lucky to have all of this great riding only a bit over an hour away.

Appendix A: Water Filters
This what water filtering looked like for us in 2007:

Roughly 3 minutes of annoying pumping for every 1 liter of water that you want.

This is what it looks like now:

30 seconds of going by the river to fill a bladder full of water. 5 minutes of waiting for gravity to do it’s work and filter 4 liters of water for you, during which time you can eat lunch, chat, or just enjoy the sun. It is a huge improvement. We brought along MSR and Platypus gravity water filters. Both use the same filter cartridge and technology. The MSR one has a nicer “dirty water” bladder, but doesn’t come with a “clean water” bladder (so it is $20 more expensive once you buy one of those). Either option is great.

Appendix B: CdA vs Gifford Pinchot

Gifford Pinchot has better scenery. We didn’t see anything like this, this, or this in CdA. The volcanic backdrop of Gifford Pinchot just adds more dynamic scenery to the picture.

Gifford Pinchot has more pavement.

CdA has more roads. It is a real maze in there, and you can pretty easily build loop routes of almost any length that you’d want. Our route had more out and back than we planned due to taking the “wrong” 812.

CdA seemed to have more wildlife. We saw many moose, a coyote, a few deers, and tons of birds.

Both are great and neither had much traffic.

Appendix C: Making a fender with campground materials

  • Reverse the dummy bolts in the rack mounting bosses on your seatstays so that they stick out a little bit.
  • Tie sticks to those bolts and the seattube.
  • Cut a few holes in a tyvek envelope (I brought this as a saddle cover), freeze dried food bag, or other trash and tie it to the sticks.

Appendix D: We need a name…

This isn’t touring, because we didn’t carry our gear. It isn’t mountain biking because the terrain wasn’t that technical and we went more miles. I guess some people call it “Adventure Cycling”, but to me that is the name of a magazine about bicycle touring. This is my favorite style of riding, and there isn’t a name for it.

Appendex E: Other links

Fort Ebey Overnight Tour

Andre, Andrew, and I celebrated the first weekend of spring with an overnight trip to Fort Ebey State Park on Whidbey Island. Last year the three of us also broke in the camping season with a one nighter bike camping trip together, and hopefully that is a tradition that we keep up. Andre came up with scenic and winding route that headed up Whidbey Island with lots of time to explore Fort Casey and to play on the trails at Fort Ebey. On the way back we made a b-line for the ferry and took the highway the whole way. That was expedient and about half as many miles, but the riding wasn’t as nice.

The weather during the day was mostly great, although the temperature seemed to be going through some wild swings. I recently purchased a pair of Ibex arm warmers which got a lot of use. I also tried out a new bivy (loaning Andrew my normal hammock) and found that it worked well. I was plenty warm (maybe too warm?) and comfortable. It didn’t get too cold at night (I never even used the jacket that I brought along), but there was heavy wind for a few hours in the middle of the night. That seems to hit the bluff, blow up into our camp, and make some crazy noises in the tree canopy. Andre and I were pretty well protected behind a thick tree, but Andrew was hanging in a hammock and got blown around a bit. We had to fight that same wind during much of the ride back to the ferry in the morning.

This was my first camping trip on my new bike, Gifford. It handled
nicely when loaded. The plush Grand Bois Hetre tires work nicely on
pavement and on the Fort Ebey singletrack. I sort of wish I had set
the bosses for the lowrider rack slightly higher, it is nice to have a
bit more ground clearance than you get with the stock Tubus Tara
setup. The low bottom bracket was noticeable on thesingletrack,but I could have flipped the eccentric to raise it about 10mm if I planned to spend more time offroad.

I was really impressed with Fort Ebey. The camp sites were great. I wouldn’t mind returning there again,perhaps with a regular mountain bike and time to explore all of the trails. We only touched a small part of them.

Thankfully Andre took lots of great photos, because I took few of them. Hover over them for a caption and to see who actually took them, but just assume most are from Andre.

map GPX my photos Andre’s photos

Paying at the Ferry. Photo by Andre.

Gifford and I, loaded with basic camping gear.  Photo by Andre.

Andrew.  Photo by Andre.

Andre.  The grimace isn't normal, but it is the one photo that I took of him riding.  Photo by Alex.

Playing on Fort Casey.  Photo by Alex.

Playing in Fort Casey.  Photo by Andre.

Fort Casey Lighthouse.  Andrew reported that the lighthouse room was hot.  Photo by Alex.

A trail between Fort Casey and Fort Ebey.  Photo by Andre.

At the Coupeville Red Apple I bought 3 items, Andrew bought about 5, and Andre bought about 20.  Guess who was hungry!  Andre treated us all to ice cream!  Photo by Andre.

Kettle's Trail heading into Fort Ebey.  Photo by Andre.

This was our view from the bluff at Fort Ebey.  No wonder the group camp is called

Paraglider over Fort Ebey near dusk.  Photo by Alex.

Sunset over the bluff.  Photo by Alex.

We camped in this clearing.  It was a great size for a couple of bivys, a tarp, and a hammock.  We setup after dark and struck before light, so we don't have photos of the actual camp.  Photo by Alex.

Heading out for the ride home.  Photo by Alex.