Fat Bike Diaries #2

MILE 12

After getting all spun out on that case of Gravity Bullseye Monster I got in Fat Bike Diaries #1, I had a compulsion to take the bike to the desert, I dunno, maybe kinda like a Jim Morrison thing but without the drugs… well mostly.

So I drove out to an area near Wanapum marked as “dunes” on the map. I parked at a wide pull off and rode down a dirt road, breaking off at an old, sandy motorcycle scar which led in the direction of the dunes.

The stretch of sand was stitched together with sage and tumbleweed, but had some open runs to ride. The sun was setting on the diminutive dunes, casting mystically purple shadows.

This is exactly why I wanted to visit the desert!

Near the edge of the wind blown sands, I began to follow a set of tracks. It could have been a spirit animal or something, but was probably just a normal deer.

The tracks wove gently between the clumps of grass and shrub and continued down into a draw, the golden grains splashed pink with dwindling sunrays.

I feel like maybe I should have followed the footprints, but I didn’t. Maybe I was getting a little antsy; the sound of motorcycles vaguely in the distance was kind of giving me a Mad Max meets Deliverance vibe, I’ll admit.

The desert man… Jim knew something man, Jim knew… man!

MILE 19

That night I camped at Frenchman Coulee. During the evening I was surprised to see a tall, basalt spire inexplicably illuminated against the night sky.

Oh, it’s people night climbing, not some gigantic horrifying apparition coming to kill me!

Back to sleep.

First thing in the morning I drove back to George to grab a cup of coffee and something deep fried for breakfast.

Jo-jo’s: The Breakfast of champions

From there I drove out to the Quincy Lakes recreation area. The morning was a little chilly, and the parking lot was completely deserted… my steering wheel was greasy with JoJo juice.

The sunrise over Quincy Lake was warming. The sun rays felt good on my face as I tossed pebbles onto the thin ice covering the shallows.

I’d seen a mine symbol on my map just above Judith Pool, so I took a northwest course toward “H” Lake following paths of various quality to make my way.

The mine was a shallow hole cut into some very fractured and unstable material. I saw a few odd bluish specks of mineral, but had no idea what they were mining here.

From the mine I went a little further along the path to an overlook of Judith Pool and the Ancient Lakes.

On the way back I followed a different path, which turned out to be a much more direct route to the main Quincy Lakes Road.

When I got to the Dusty Lake Trail I decided I needed to do some more exploring so I carried my bike down the steep trail and was able to ride to a good overlook of El Lago Dusty.

From there trails wound through the dry grass leading me around the various lakes and ponds. Trails became faint or non existent in places only to reappear in others.

Glad I got my quantum physics badge back in the scouts!

Aiming myself in the direction of the road eventually got me there, which led back to the parking lot, which was still empty.

I took a minute to reflect on what everybody else was missing out on. Then was saddened when I realized all the great stuff I might be missing out on…

Welp, back to Shree’s Truck Stop at George for more coffee and deep fried wedges of startchy delight! Least I won’t miss out on cardiovascular disease.

MILE 29.6

The sun was high by the time I had returned to Frenchman Coulee.

I rode out towards a big sand dune south of the road leading down to the boat launch.

The sandy trail was a good test for the 4″ tires, and they did well! I had no trouble reaching the dunes on the massive tread.

The big dune is piled against a basalt cliff like the bridge of a nose. From just about where the nostril tops would be it fans out widely. It really bears no semblance to a face, or a nose at all, however.

A pair of trail runners appeared upon the enormous sandy pile shortly after my arrival. One of the two made a Rocky-esque ascent of the tallest part of the gritty behemoth, at the top, she even raised her fists in triumph.

I waved and smiled and whispered to myself through my teeth “gawdammit, I was gonna do that!

The guy looked over toward me and totally didn’t yell “Yeah?! Well you snooze, you lose bike boy!” but it would have been really funny if he did.

They stretched and checked all their watches, and phones and sandy plugs, and merrily ambled off into the horizon. Now it was MY turn to climb the granular golem! It’s steeper than it looks!

From the dune I noticed a faint trail leading up to a narrow notch that led onto the cliffs. I followed it up, carrying the bike part of the way. At the top I continued eastward.

A faint trail was traceable, though often obscured by dried overgrowth. When I finally lost the trail, I contoured the hills, continuing east.

The bike does surprisingly well across the dried grassland of the plateau! Like riding an alloy mule!

I found my way to an ATV road, which literally ended in a lake. Across the water I could see the other side of the road. Oh yeah, ford it!? That didn’t always work out so good on the Oregon Trail if I remember correctly!

I rode the alloy mule around the pond instead, and happened upon a much newer looking road, which I followed. Didn’t take long to see it was heading in my direction.

The road ended up popping out at the top of the Frenchman Coulee road, from which point I triumphantly coasted down to the wide bench which overlooks the waterfall.

A trail winds narrowly along the cliffs down to the falls, it’s uneven and rocky, with a nasty plunge if you really screwed the pooch. I enjoyed having the extra wide tires on this thin track!

At the falls I took time for climbing around and taking pictures. I even discovered a riding lawn mower lodged between some rocks and the cascading waters. Maybe best not to top off the water bottle here.

From there a sandy trail led away into the sage. The grainy grade gives way to a rough and rocky surface in lockstep with the descent of the roadway above.

This rocky old jeep trail eventually gets close enough to the Coulee road that I was able to hop off, preferring the sun baked asphalt.

The car was parked only a short, smooth ride away.

While it was only 6.5mi, I gotta say, it felt like a lot more in the best way.

Now the call of hot truck stop coffee was taking me back to George before the long haul back to Sea Town. Better grab some Jo Jo’s while I’m at it. They are kind of a local delicacy…

Still here? I’ll be damned. Welp, might as well hunker down then and read Fat Bike Diaries #3

Mt.Teneriffe 4788′

Kamikaze Falls in the alpenglow
Kamikaze Falls in the alpenglow

I’ve been up Mt.Teneriffe many times, with many people. It’s been a favorite of mine since I first trudged up it’s steep slopes, if not for the views and the challenge of getting to the top, then certainly for the lack of crowds.

I hadn’t been here in a couple years though, and was surprised this time around to see that some pretty significant changes have been made, namely a new trail to the summit.

Right this way...
Right this way…

While those in the know have for years known that an alternate to the Kamikaze route existed, slogging up old logging roads and faint boot paths between Mt.Si and Teneriffe, as of late summer 2014 the WA DNR turned it into an official trail.

How about that?

Great right!? A steady moderate grade on a nice even surface as compared to the stiff hike and light scrambling it used to take to get to the top, I’ll bite!

Hell, I can even loop it with ease now, and I do love a good loop.

Well all is not as it seems, for what the new trail offers in easy grade, it doles out distance in spades.

The new trail is 7 miles to Teneriffe summit! Yowza! That’s compared to the steeper old path which is only a couple miles from trailhead to mountaintop.

Well lets throw on some boots and see what this thing has to offer…

The Teneriffe trailhead is little more than a dirt turn out a little ways further down the road from the much more popular Mt.Si trailhead. While the Mt.Si trailhead is tantamount to a Wal*Mart parking lot, the Teneriffe trailhead really can’t hold more than a dozen vehicles at best.

Thems a lot of trees
Thems a lot of trees

There are “No Parking” signs along the road and I understand that the neighbors WILL call the towing company.

During peak season, the strategy here is to get in early, or get lucky, oh and a Discover Pass is required to park.

The trail begins uneventfully enough down a DNR road passing through young forest, most likely logged in the early 80s. The road comes to a fork that until very recently wasn’t marked.

You’d just have to know which way to go, but now there is a shiny new sign directing hikers to bear right to “Teneriffe Falls”.

The left fork as of this writing is still unmarked, this is the “new” trail between Mt.Si and Mt.Teneriffe.

THE “NEW” TRAIL

Heading left, the trail continues along the DNR road passing little rivulets cascading down the mountainside before climbing up into denser forest.

Nice wide trail
Nice wide trail

The grade is mostly modest but long. However it does travel through pleasant forest and every so often slight views will open up in thinner stands of trees which breaks up the monotony a bit.

When I was passing through, the forest was alive with the songs of black-capped chickadees and Varied Thrush, which made me wonder why in the hell anyone wears headphones while they hike, I mean really!

Lots of green
Lots of green

Just about then a trailrunner jogged by with headphones on, eh, to each their own I guess. Which reminds me, I imagine this would be a great trail for trailrunning as the grade is mostly very even and the path is broad.

Ahem…. So after about four miles or so of long switchbacks the grade relents a bit and the views start to be revealed.

Teneriffe Summit
Teneriffe Summit

A fork will appear in the road around this time. As of this writing it is marked with a blue ribbon, but really it’d be impossible to miss whether or not that shred of plastic was dangling there.

Going left will result in arriving at Mt.Si in a half hour or less, while going right is approximately another three miles to Mt.Teneriffe. Alright, come on, my legs are aching too, lets keep going….

The Haystack
The Haystack

Thankfully the grade remains mostly light and/or level for awhile giving you a chance to recuperate. The views here really start to open up as well, including an interesting view of “The Haystack” jutting forth from the conifers, seemingly eyeballing you like an immense and hungry Golem.

Up along the top
Up along the top

The tread seems to go on forever until finally reaching a viewpoint to points northward, the first views of such available thus far.

Take a minute to rest up because the trail begins to climb from here yet again.

The switchbacks begin immediately through the upland forest, and you can’t help but feel like you are really getting close now. Then you gain the ridge and start up! Yes, finally, almost there….er, or not. Nope, instead we find ourselves atop the high point more or less northwest of the Teneriffe summit.

Even my legs are aching good now.

Next the trail winds about along a very steep, forested drop off and eventually begins to climb again.

Out of the trees for a bit
Out of the trees for a bit

This has got to be it… I think I see blue between the trees, yes it’s sky alright! Phew!

The trail breaks out of the woods and dumps you out about mid-point on the Teneriffe summit block. If you have any gas left a light scramble will take you the rest of the way up. You did it!

The summit is a nice perch offering great views in all directions.

WARNING: In snowy conditions Mt.Teneriffe can have a nasty cornice on top, if it gives way, or you slip, it’s a long ways down to your certain doom.

When it’s time to head down you can either go back the way you came for a 14-mile roundtrip, or cut down the mileage but increase the difficulty by heading down the old trail.

THE OLD TRAIL (KAMIKAZE FALLS)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So beginning from the fork in the DNR road this time we bear right in the direction indicated by the nice, new and shiny Teneriffe Falls sign.

The road ambles along, crosses an ephemeral creek and starts gently climbing, becoming more and more of a trail the higher you get.

Small views begin to open up as you climb above the treetops before the road comes to something of an end marked with a sign. A boot path continues on along the road, but ignore it and head up onto the open talus above you.

High terrain along old trail
High terrain along old trail

After a few switchbacks the well built trail really starts to climb, and the T/A truck stop at the exit 34 really starts to become a fixture of your southern views. Try to look beyond it.

The trail continues to switchback up and up through conifer forest and talus with occasional views opening up along the way. This is a decent workout for most people, but every step is worth it when you finally reach Kamikaze Falls (Teneriffe Falls).

I first knew this place as Kamikaze Falls, I don’t know what the history behind the name is, except maybe that Kamikaze is said to mean “Divine Wind” in Japanese, and usually a divine wind does seem to issue forth from the falls.

Mt.Rainier looms
Mt.Rainier looms

Maybe it’s being changed because of Kamikaze’s WWII connotations, or maybe it was Teneriffe Falls this whole time, hell, I dunno. A rose by any other name I guess…

This is a great destination in itself.

During the summer you can indulge in a cooling shower beneath it’s cascading waters, or marvel at ice formations during winter cold snaps. Kamikaze Falls is incredibly photogenic destination any time of year.

With low mileage, open views and a beautiful waterfall at the end, Kamikaze Falls is a great goal for someone in kind of the low-middle range of hiking endurance looking for a new challenge and a huge reward.

Summit block winter 2011
Summit block winter 2011

At this point if you feel like trudging up to Teneriffe Summit be warned, the rest of this hike isn’t for the timid or out of shape. It’s steep, relentless and often nothing more than a faint boot path.

Look for a trail on your right, it’s a lot more well marked these days so you ought not to have trouble finding it.

The trail basically takes off like a rocket here, gaining the ridge in little time.

Get used to this grade, it’s the norm from here on out.

The route mostly follows the ridge spine, only deviating here and there. Occasionally light scrambling may be necessary up rock outcrops.

On the ascent!
On the ascent!

Most of the way you will find the trail is big on gain, but short on views. However that all changes rather suddenly as you break out of the trees. On a clear day the views are fantastic! Rainier dominates the south while the burgeoning Puget Sound mega-sprawl stretches along beneath the Olympics to the west.

Trail shot "Old Trail"
Trail shot “Old Trail”

Here you will find yourself on even steeper terrain, up mountain meadows and patches of trees before coming out near the bottom of the summit block.

During winter months it is advisable to bring some form of traction aid along with you, such as micro spikes or poles (or both!) it can be treacherous around here.

Takin' in the views!
Takin’ in the views!

The final climb is little more than a light scramble when snow free and offers ample room for all you summit apes to enjoy a picnic surrounded by 360° of the kind of stuff some people can only dream about.

Now that you are familiar with the Teneriffe trails, from here the world is your oyster, well, if you still have some gas in the tank.

Old trail-trail shot
Old trail-trail shot

Make it a loop, take a stroll to Mt.Si or come back the way you came!

As always, leave only footprints and take only pictures, oh take and any garbage you might find along the way too. Not to get preachy but just because orange peels and banana wrappers are “biodegradable” doesn’t mean they should just be tossed on the ground. If you can’t pack it out, don’t pack it in.

Happy Trails, Harry Biped

Badass old man sighted in his natural habitat
Badass old man sighted in his natural habitat