The day started early, 6 am, considering I raced at the Duthie Dash the day before. After a quick bowl of rice and eggs it was off to the Mercer Island Park and Ride to meet up with Jim Wood. From there it was the long 2+ hour drive to the Sandy Creek Trailhead. I slept part of the way, ever aware that Jims rear rotor of his bike was inches from the back of my head.
Of course when we got there we had to wait for the rest of the group to show up. Alex Wilson and his friend Dustin were coming in a separate car from the north side of Seattle . Once we were all kitted up and GPS signals were acquired we were off.
Before we even left the house James B. was telling me if it was muddy he was going to ride the road up. He had been there a few weeks before and got caught by a squall and it made descending almost impossible. The slick mud reared its ugly head before we even got to the base of the Red Hill Trail #1223. I was determined not to ride the road. Fear of Cascade Cream Puff flashbacks drove me to push on. I was not about to spend hours on a boring, long, viewless fire road. Not again!
To make matters worse Jim and Dustin both had the absolute worst tire selection possible for the conditions we were to face. My tires were in the middle, while Jams and Alex were well off in their selections. It quickly became a chorus of us calling out slick spots, steep climbs, or wet descents to each other. It was clear we had the makings of what one would call a Classic Epic within the first few miles.
After some hair raising descents and turns for those without traction we faced our next foe at the junction of Devils Gulch and Trail #1221, mosquitoes! We hadnt stopped more than 30 seconds and we were overrun by the blood thirsty devils. Those who acted fast enough got some food down before we all agreed to get the hell out of there. Since the soil looked to be getting drier we opted to climb up Devils Gulch. The conditions were somewhat better but we still dealt with lots of mud and extremely challenging conditions as we ascended.
Chains sucked, rotors rubbed, gears churned, muscled burned and wills were tested as we climbed. Alex managed to get a small cut that produced large amounts of blood making him look tougher than he was. Okay, maybe he is. He lost the ability to climb in his granny due to chain suck and rode the whole way up in a 32×28. STUD. Alex wasnt alone in his quest as a strong man. Jim was having chain suck as well and he lost 1 of 2 front chain rings since he was trying out his new 2×9 system. Jim would climb over half of Devils Gulch in his 39×34! As for me, well I was in my 32×34 and was on the verge of cracking for the last two miles. Jim, James and I climbed the last mile and half together. I told them at the top if they had gone around me I would have blown like a neutron bomb and go instantly backwards to Dustin who was bringing up the rear. I was feeling the Duthie Dash for sure. Later I would find out that my HR never went over 168 and averaged 140 for the 3.5 hours of ride time. To say the least I was toast before we started.
We had a quick lunch at the top junction of the Mission Ridge and Devils Gulch trails. There were barely any bugs up at that elevation. The chill we were getting in our muscles was enough to make us move on though Im sure everyone would have stayed put longer if they werent cold.
As anyone whos ridden down Mission Ridge knows there is always another up hill, or so it seems. Myself, I was quoted on the ride saying, Dont quote me on this but I think this is the last up hill. I was off by at least 3-4 small burners. As we descended I went from the back of the group to the front. I did my dandiest to drop James on the later part of the descent but he held on. The miles of riding in BC have paid off.
There was no chance of us running into anyone coming up the mountain. I made
sure of that. Between a on again off again rubbing rear rotor and the oh so delightful sound of a sticking Mavic freewheel body I made sure anyone and anything heard us coming. I even spooked an owl out of his perch. Despite our combined issues we all made it down in one piece. Most had tales of a near miss at some point in the descent. Dustin who was last down had just cleared the bridge into the Mission Ridge parking lot when the two guys we met when starting our descent came blasting across the bridge after their descent of Devils Gulch.
We rode the washed out Road 7100 back to the Sandy Creek TH. I worried the half dozen plus dogs at the homestead would case us but I only saw one. Everyone took a quick bath in the creek, warms beers were drank and it was off to Rustys for burgers, fries and milk shakes. After that it’s a blur since exhaustion took over for me. I woke up when we hit I-90.
See the Review section for trail conditions.
Get out there!