Sunday, January 14, 2007

The pursuit of fresh tracks

My ride started in the late morning around 8:30am. When I arrived my car was the only one in the parking area and I had the hill all to myself. After putting on the appropriate clothing for a good long hike and ride in the snow, I was on my way up the hill. After a close look at the tracks in the snow going up the first section of the hill I could tell that I was the first person to bring his bike to the Woodlot since the snow started falling earlier in the week.

Even though the snow was quite deep (12+ inches) it was perfect to hike in. It was very light and dry. The first part of the hike up wasn't bad at all however when I reached the first flatter section of the climb where it is usually an easy pedal I was not able to pedal at all because the snow was so deep. At that point I prepared myself mentally for a long arduous push.

I was pleasantly surprised once I reached the intersection of the skidder roads. There had been an excavator and trucks on the road to clear the fallen trees on the road so there was a nice compact ribbon of snow for me to pedal up on. This ribbon of snow was my friend all the way to Quick Hit where it looks like the work on the road stopped and there were only a few sets of footprints in the snow from there. In the clear cut just past Quick hit the opening in the forest affords you a beautiful view of Mount Baker on a clear day. I paused for a minute to snap a photo before I continued on.

Mount Baker in the snow.

So onward and upward I went into the forest following the tracks of what looked like 2 hikers and a dog. Once I was at the corner where you can turn off to Snakes and Ladder the tracks veered off and the hikers must have taken that route. From that point mine were the only human tracks on the skidder path up. Even in the trees there was a good 10-12 inches of snow but the conditions of the snow were ideal for the climb. It was by no means an easy climb and I earned every inch of vertical on this fine day.

Looking back at my fresh tracks climbing the hill.

It is amazing the number of animal foot prints you see can see in the snow if you look carefully enough. There were tracks from deer, coyotes, rabbits and mice running all over the trail. and fortunately for me I did not see any bear or cougar tracks.

My trusty steed.

At the top of my climb (the top of Upper Toadstool) I paused to snap a shot of my bike perched on a mound of snow. I must say that my Heckler has surprised from the day I bought it. It had easily been the funnest everyday bike I have ever ridden. Every time I ride it I have an absolute blast and it has made it very hard for me to ride any of my other bikes.

So down Toadstool I went kicking up the fluffy white stuff, grabbing a handful of rear brake and drifting through the corners. I just love the snow. The signature feature of Upper Toadstool is the long log-ride about mid way down the trail. I was able to ride up the ramp and along about 10 feet of the log before the laws of physics that govern traction took over and I just slipped off the log completely. I then chose to ride the squid line around the log which is actually quite fun. A few turns later there is a 4 foot drop to tranny that is wicked in the dry or wet but I had never had the pleasure of trying it in the snow. So I figured no better time than now and nailed it smooth as silk. Nothing big, but so much fun in the snow. Very soon after this drop is the end of Upper Toadstool and the beginning of Lower Toadstool. Once on the trail I was soon stopped by a fallen tree which I had to removed from the trail before I could continue. Lower Toadstool is a fun, flowy all natural rip that has seen some recent work by Greg and Denise. The lower section that was a real eye sore has been re-routed with quick switchbacks that flow well and add a bit of fun in the fern lined rain forest. From what I could tell, I was the first person to ride this newly build bridge.

A new built bridge on Lower Toadstool.

Fresh tracks across a bridge are something sacred so I really hope nobody takes offence to me riding this sweet new addition to the trail. A few more turns on the trail and I was on my way over to Hoots. It had been some time since I last rode Hoots but it is a trail that I have liked since my first time at The Woodlot. In the clearcut section I had one of those WTF just happened moments. I was scooting along at a good pace and suddenly I am flying over my bars into the snow head first. I look back and I can see a branch that is now peeking out of the snow that had broke off a tree in the windstorms and landed across the trail. Then snow fell on the branch camouflaging it from my view. I had zero warning about its location but face full of snow is always good for a laugh.

The rest of Hoots was wicked. I did stop twice to cut out some fallen trees on the trail, but the trail was as fun as ever.

Once at the bottom it was a nice easy pedal up to Shotgun and as aways it was a fun rip. I did notice that a VERY large tree had fallen next to the trail and its 10 foot root ball may force a little work to be performed on the trail. Once at the parking area I loaded up my bike and drove home thoroughly exhausted.

I have completely understand why back country skiers and snowboarders are always in the pursuit of fresh tracks in the snow. There really isn't any other feeling quite like it.

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