This morning as I was collecting the yellow trademarks of a season's end from my yard, my mind led me to thoughts of summer. With each stroke of the rake, nostalgia set in for months just past. Now that summer adventures are lost to grey clouds and short days it seems fitting to recount a perfect summer ride.
We met at Jakes house at eight. o’clock July 29th. After shuffling bikes and a few rounds of coffee we were off. Not off to the mountains but off to pick up James at his shop, then to pick up beer, then to get gas. We rolled out of Portland at the brisk hour of ten. The drive cruised by in the comfort of Greg’s Toyota 4wd Van complete with custom made storage and sleeping platform (read “#adventuremobile”). After a few hours driving through southern Washington, including at least one wrong turn and great conversations, we turned onto National Forest service road 83 and were met with stunning views of the decapitated Mount St. Helens.
A short regroup in the parking lot and we set off to ride the IMBA described epic: Ape Canyon. We were first met with a winding climb through an old growth forest somehow saved from the destruction of 1980. I chose to combat the trail that day on my rigid 29er and was happy when the trail leveled out at the Plains of Abraham. After gawking at Mt Adams and grabbing handfuls of gummy bears we set off on trails as close to the summit as possible without permits.
The trail, most closely reminiscent to a lunar scape, sits on an alpine wasteland with little terrestrial life clinging between the large grains of ash and petrified magma. Although stark there is nothing but awe for a place with this much beauty.
The Plains end and open up to the Windy Ridge viewpoint. Here there is a parking lot that overlooks Spirit Lake. The lake is haunted by the ghosts of trees lost in the eruption and eternally adrift on the surface--a great place to consume our packed lunches. Tourists and an interpretive lesson from a ranger offered bait for sarcastic jests as we touted our early day accomplishments.
After a short ride up the pavement we entered Smith Creek trail. This trail sees most of its maintenance solely from the few tires that pack the sometimes hard to follow terrain. The loose ash and tight switchbacks offered all of us challenges and caused mega-shredder James to lose it head first into the trail. We stopped and collected all the pieces and off we went. We finished the ride as James pieced together exactly what went wrong (turns out he was shredding too hard). We enjoyed a couple more stops to enjoy the views, rest our legs, and cool off in glacier fed streams before we climbed back to the cars.
A conversation with a former army physiologist with a custom painted Corvette over ice cold beers in the parking lot ended a great ride.