The 2nd weekend of August for the last 7yrs a group of us make it a St Helens Weekend. This years trip would be a hot one with temps in the 90’s.
Leading up to the trip I found that the Eagle Cliff Campground were under new ownership, let’s give them a another look. The owners that took over in 2007 left the entire group with a bad experience that we swore to never return. It appears the campground changed hands again in 2010 and they have been busy making improvements, we played phone tag only to find they were booked for the weekend. Bummer…… contacted a few other campgrounds and found they were all booked. We would find out later there was a Fishing Tournament the same weekend. Finally after checking with several campgrounds found that Cougar RV Campground had room for our group with showers.
Friday afternoon quickly packed the truck and hit the road picking up Ken on the way. Traffic through JBLM and Chehalis was very slow going with 40 minute delays….. A few miles from Cougar made my last text message then we were out of cell range for the next two days. A little after 5PM we arrived at the campground and appeared they were completely full….. We met with the owner who showed us to spots the group could setup at. We picked the flatter area away from the rest of the campground.
We had some shade and the temps not too bad maybe Saturday won’t be too bad.
We all made some dinner then chatted around the fire before calling it a night.
Woke up bright and early on Saturday and still no sign of two other riders we were expecting to be joining us. Made some breakfast loaded up bikes and passengers into few vehicles then drove to the trailhead. By 10AM we were rolling and no sign of the other two riders, guess they would either catch on the way or not coming. 10AM and it was already hot and getting hotter and feeling good.
Enjoyed the rolling trail with partial views of St Helens. I think my pack was heavier than the bike with 100 oz of water and two bottles of Gatorade, food, etc
Mountain Photo Ops
We regrouped a few times on the way up the group riding strong…..as for me my day started out fantastic then I began hitting a wall to the point I could not put out much of an effort
Even when you are suffering it is hard to not enjoy the views
Reached the top in time to catch the group coming up. Out of the trees and into the oven
The flat area in the center is where we regrouped for a bit before continuing on. The section of trail here seems to get narrower each year, might need a reroute in a few more years.
Watch it here narrow, loose and a long ways down
Great views along the way
This trail never gets old and the views are always amazing even after 7yrs
Group working our way to Plains of Abraham
These sections have improved a great deal over the years to the point you can actually ride through them.
The flowers were out in force this trip
Some hikers had setup camp here, you can see their tents to the left. I bet the sunset and sunrise from this point is impressive. In past years we have come to this point with no water then coming back a few hours later and it is a roaring. This trip there was water and later on it was even higher.
Taking in the views and having a snack before pushing on
Normally at this section I begin shifting up gears and barreling down the trail. Today I am really struggling to keep those tires rolling.
Lots of hikers and fellow Mountain Bikers on the trail. Even came across a guy riding what looked like a commuter with street tires and panniers.
The section leading to this point is always fast and fun, struggling or not I really enjoyed it. Then pushed on for two climbs until the point were we only had two miles to our turn around point. Feeling sluggish and overheated figured I better start working my way back before I begin to feel worse. Made sure the last rider knew I was turning around and then they pushed on.
For the rest of the group there are a few more sections like this.
Before arriving at the Lunch spot. It has not changed in 7rs and fantastic views all around
Then push on towards windy ridge to the stairs and ride back the way we came. The group would begin rolling in about a half hour after I arrived back to the cars. The heat taking a toll on a few others too. Back to camp to clean up and relax before kicking off dinner. Since getting back to the cars I began downing lots of water hoping that it is either cooler or I bounce back for Sundays ride.
18 Miles, 2600' elevation gain and 13 twinkies expended
Photo Credit: Brian Holsclaw, Ken Miller, Erik Alston, Milt Kageyama