Rob Larsen, Jack Berry and Bob Horness joined the Under-employed – Paul Norris, Kelley Hinkle and myself – for a ride at the mountain on Friday.
Our goals were to familiarize Paul with Smith Creek in advance of Mel’s Labor Day birthday epic, to find out more about trail conditions from Ape Canyon to the north side, and to have some fun.
A quick note about Smith Creek – First, you never ride the entire loop counter-clockwise; we opted for this route only because we were not planning to attempt the absurd climb up to Windy Ridge and back across the Plains. Second, if you are the type of rider who is offended if you have to put a food down, you will need an alternate plan; Smith Creek is an adventure ride, with virtually no traffic, multiple creek crossings, and the possibility of having to scout to find the line.
We started with a 3.5 mile descent into the Smith Creek Basin on an overgrown logging road that felt like a very wide trail. You could pick up speed quickly, which made all the downed limbs and small trees tricky to deal with.
We got to the bottom and headed north. Debris was an issue in spots but overall the line was in great shape. We crossed one creek and then – at about the 7.5 mile mark – came to a large washout. Rob scouted on the east side, located the trail, and we crossed and got rolling again, passing a gorgeous waterfall.
About a mile later we crossed another creek and started to hit heavy brush. Rob and I agreed that we weren’t far from the spot where the trail turns to pumice and goes up steeply for about 4 miles toward Windy Ridge. We decided to turn around here.
The first mile on the way back was in sterling condition and running slightly downhill, allowing for maximum railing. When we reached the bottom of the road we’d come in on, Jack, Rob, Paul and I stopped for a bit to grab something to eat.
Bob and Kelley were delayed when Crash Horness snapped his chain on a short, steep climb and rolled down the hill for a ways.
When we re-connected back at the Ape Canyon Trailhead, Paul announced that we’d ridden 17.4 miles with 3,100 feet of climbing. We decided to save ourselves for a Saturday ride and broke open the coolers.
We learned that Ape Canyon is mostly clear. Greg Ogden and John Kowalski rode the entire loop on Saturday and reported only small patches of snow. However, as we had anticipated, they said that the upper end of Smith Creek is pretty overgrown. It took them eight hours to complete the entire loop.
I’m guessing the lupine will be going nuts in the next week or two, so if you have a chance to get up there, don’t pass it up.