As we all know, I'm not a morning person. Last Sunday was a typical morning for me: I slept in, saw that it was raining, and immediately decided that it was going to be a horrible day. Around 9:30 I thought I might as well check the forecast, discovering that it was supposed to be quite nice in the afternoon. I figured I'd get some chores done and head out for a short afternoon ride. Around noon I realized I should take advantage of the good weather and get out for a longer ride.
It was a bit late to look for adventure buddies or a car shuttle, but, regardless, by 2 PM I was at the trailhead with 40 km of singletrack followed by a 50 km return on the road ahead of me. I always struggle with getting intimidated by long rides; with the prospect of bears, bad weather, and sunset this was no exception.
The first bit of the ride through forests and meadows was flat, mellow, and fast. Looking back northwest towards the trailhead:
The trail crosses several beautiful glacial streams as it slowly gains elevation towards the Pass. Bench Creek:
Endless deserted singletrack:
I didn't enjoy the first part of the ride as much as I should have, largely because I was convinced that I would probably be mauled by a bear, get lost, or collapse from exhaustion before the day was over.
But, when I got out of the trees and close to the top of the pass I got stoked. Looking south over Johnson Pass towards Moose Pass:
I made it to Bench Lake in good time, having only encountered two people so far. I'd only encounter two more people on the trail - hunters who I almost hit when I came around a corner a bit quickly.
Johnson Lake and the highpoint of the ride:
After Johnson Lake the next 9 km of trail were heavily overgrown, reminding me of the land before time:
Then it was off to the races for an incredible 30 minute descent towards Upper Trail Lake. The south side of the pass is much less technical, but it's fast and flows well.
All too soon I was along the edge of Upper Trail Lake and pedaling out the final kms to the south trailhead. I made it to the south trailhead by 5:30 - leaving three hours to complete the 50 km road ride before sunset. Looking back from the lake:
After a 15 minute power-dinner I was on the road with the BBC playing in my ears. I have to admit the first part of the road got to me - I was intimidated and tired. But, the mile markers started to fly by. Looking back towards Summit Lake:
Before I knew it I was into familiar terrain, looking up at some of my favorite winter memories. TT43, one of the raddest faces we've ever skied, looking ready for winter:
By 8:15, with one sore butt, I was back at the car. Although really not that big of a ride, I haven't been on my bike for more than an hour and a half since the beginning of June. A lot of factors came together to make this a real adventure!
If I were to do this again, I'd do a car shuttle between the north and south parking lots. This is the awesome kind of ride that anyone can enjoy: the climb is mellow and it has short technical sections connected by miles of flowy and solitary singletrack. Make sure to ride this early or late in the season when it's not so overgrown. This was definitely a "Top 10" adventure.