From the Got Singetrack! Archives Erik A » Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:12 pm
Every August for the last five years I have made the trek to St Helen's. Normally I plan a weekend trip the first weekend in August this year I was just returning from Sun Valley. August was quickly running out and no time for a weekend trip. Over a great dinner and dessert at the Rainier in Enumclaw after the ride at Crystal. We got to talking over where we should ride the following weekend. We came up with a few choices and by the end of the week we settled on St Helens as a day trip. Glad I am not the only one crazy enough to get up a 6am and drive 3 1/2 hrs to Ape Canyon trail head then drive back the same day. Actually my daughters 5th grade class is too we drove out to St Helens in May as a day trip too. The weather for Sunday called for high 60's to mid 70's for temps perfect, not too hot or cold.
Got up at early o'clock and boy is it dark now in the mornings. Met my fellow carpoolers, loaded up our gear in the truck and off we went. The excitement of the upcoming ride made the drive go by quickly. Before you knew it we had arrived at the trail head finding that St Helens and most of the area was covered in fog. Hmmm no views today, no biggie this is a fun trail and not being able to see all that far will add a Han’s Rey riding the Cliffs of Moher feel to the ride.....
When we pulled in Derek was already waiting for us and Tim, Dave and David arrived soon after. David had to change his pedals on his bike. On their way down the bike came off the car at 65mph a little skinned up, but only a broken pedal. They picked up pedals at walmart on the way. Amazing that is one tough bike.
Walt and John took off to get a head start then Rony, Derek and myself took off, the others would catch us on along the way I am sure. As I am riding I recall specific sections of the trail and remember my first ride where I’d walk parts of the first climb. Today we just pedal non stop and continue on. Along the way we pass Walt and John jumps on to the train. Derek leads the way and eventually pedals away the group leaving Rony, John and myself.
We continue to pedal along stopping to give tips on how to ride up loose switchbacks, take photos. Then regroup near the 3 mile park were David has caught up to us with a backpack full of camera gear and continues on. Tim and Dave show up soon after then we all continue on.
After a lot more riding than I remember we finally reach the first view point. Normally you have a great view of the Valley and St Helen's. Today we just have the fog that is blowing in and out quickly. One minute you can't see far down the trail and the other you can see several trails over.
Views or no views this is just a hands down a fun trail to ride.
Short regroup and as we were getting ready to pedal away looked back there was Walt. It did not feel like we had really stopped that much on the way up. Glad to see Walt riding strong again.
Hey where are the warm temps. Glad I was wearing my long sleeve Got Singletrack! Jersey and rain jacket, I had actually packed two jackets before leaving he parking lot just in case it was DARN cold up top. It actually looks colder than it really was, but did have that winter feel to it with a very slight breeze.
The terrain is a little deceiving it looks like a climb, but really the trail points down a bit and you can just fly. The little climbs in the middle are not bad at all then you come to a really loose switch back and a loose climb back out.
After a little hike a bike section you're back on your bike and riding along views like this.
When we reached our normal spot to each lunch. There was still no view of St Helen's, but this view isn't half bad either.
A bit more trail to ride then time to turn around and head back the way we came.
Can you see Walt out on the trail.....?
Waiting on the group to come by
As we were on the last section of Plains of Abraham before heading down Ape Canyon we ran across a few other Mountain Bikers. Other than that we had the trail to ourselves guess the weather chased many away as we normally come across a lot more traffic on the trails.
Ape Canyon starts rolling downhill for a while and just when you having fun. It kicks up again with a semi short climb then another quick ride down and with a longer climb. Then the trail heads down for the next four miles with a few short sprint climbs towards the end.
As I was getting close to the bottom the sun was coming out and you could now see this much of St Helen's.
If it wasn't such a long drive I've love to come here more often. These are some of my favorite trails in Washington and wish more were built this way. Gradual climbs that don't kill ya and have variety with a few ups and downs thrown in along the way.
If you have not taken your bike on Ape Canyon, Plains of Abraham and Windy Ridge there is still time. The trails are in great shape and views or no views it is a fun trail to ride. The drive back was great too I was expecting to hit stop and go traffic and never had to drop below the posted speed limit.
Ride time 5hrs with an Elevation Gain of 2994 an estimated 18 Twinkies expended.