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Friday July 5, 2013

For this mountain bike trip, we started from Wenatchee, WA and drove south on Hwy 97 (Blewett Hwy) for about 45 minutes.  We turned onto Iron Creek Road #9714, located south of Swauk Pass and the old Blewett Pass Road #9715.  The trailhead for Iron Cr/Bear Cr Trail #1351 is at the end of Iron Creek Road.

Our final destination for the day was the 6000 ft pass between Earl Peak and Navaho Peak, where you are treated to views of the Stuart Range.

Elisa & Eric at the 6000 ft pass.  (Mt Stuart & the Stuart Range)

Elisa & Eric at the 6000 ft pass. (Stuart Range)

TRIP SEGMENTS:  (This trip is an “out & back”)

  1. Iron Creek portion of Iron Cr/Bear Cr Trail #1351, to the junction with Teanaway Ridge Trail #1364 (1.8 miles)
  2. Bear Creek portion of Iron Cr/Bear Cr Trail, to Stafford Creek Road #9713 (3.5 miles)
  3. Stafford Creek Rd to Stafford Creek Trail #1359 (about 1 mile)
  4. Stafford Creek Trail to the junction with Standup Creek Trail #1369 (4.8 miles)
  5. Continue on Stafford Cr Trail to the pass (1.2 miles)
  6. Reverse order back to the car (~12.3 miles)

——————————————–

SEGMENT 1 – Iron Creek portion of Iron Cr/Bear Cr Trail

From the trailhead, at 8:00 AM, we were surprised to notice that it was only about 33 degrees Fahrenheit.  But, I was able to start out in just my short-sleeved shirt because it warmed up fast.

The 1.8 mile Iron Creek portion of the Iron Cr/Bear Cr Trail is an easy climb on smooth ground.  It starts at 3800 ft and ends at 4400 ft.  For the most part, the trail hugs a somewhat steep sidehill.  In one place you definitely don’t want to fall off the side.  The trail is wide, so you’d have to really screw up big to get into trouble.

Elisa on Iron Creek/Bear Creek Trail #1351

Elisa climbs Iron Creek/Bear Creek Trail

Eric approaches the junction with Teanaway Ridge Trail.

Eric approaches the junction with Teanaway Ridge Trail.

Flora

Flora

SEGMENT 2 – Bear Creek portion of Iron Cr/Bear Cr Trail, to Stafford Creek Rd

From the 4400 ft saddle, the Bear Creek portion of Iron Cr/Bear Cr Trail is all downhill.  The first half mile is pretty steep, but rideable.  I counted about 9 little creek crossings as we screamed the rest of the way down to the Stafford Creek Rd, at 3200 ft.  This was 1200 ft of grinnin’ good fun!

Bear Creek and Bear Creek Trail

Bear Creek and Bear Creek Trail

Elisa at the Trailhead for Bear Cr/Iron Cr Trail, on Stafford Creek Rd

Elisa at the Trailhead for Bear Cr/Iron Cr Trail, on Stafford Creek Rd

SEGMENT 3 – Stafford Creek Rd to Stafford Creek Trail #1359 (about 1 mile)

This is a short section of road connecting the 2 trailheads.  It’s a descent of about 100 ft in a little under a mile.

Eric at the trailhead for Stafford Creek

Eric at the trailhead for Stafford Creek

SEGMENT 4 – Stafford Creek Trail to the junction with Standup Creek Trail #1369

The Stafford Creek Trail starts at 3100 ft.  The trail surface is quite varied as it parallels Stafford Creek.  First, it’s nice and smooth.  Later…it’s not so nice and rocky.  It’s a real mixed bag of riding and pushing.  In general, the higher up, the rockier it gets.  This section of trail is 4.8 miles long and ends at 5000 ft near a wide meadow/camp.

Elisa on the smooth section of Stafford Creek Trail

Elisa on the smooth section of Stafford Creek Trail

Who put all these rocks in the trail?!

Who put all these rocks in the trail?!

Scarlet Gilia

Scarlet Gilia

Navaho Peak (7223 ft)

Navaho Peak (7223 ft) 

near Earl Peak

near Earl Peak

Meadow/Camp near 5000 ft

Meadow/Camp near 5000 ft

Jeffrey's Shooting Star

Jeffrey’s Shooting Star

SEGMENT 5 – Continue on Stafford Cr Trail to the pass

Another 1000 ft is gained in 1.2 miles to culminate at a 6000 ft pass.  We were glad to get a break from pushing and get back to pedaling!  The desolate Serpentinite landscape seemed out of place, and the surface was hard and gritty.

The views at the top were worth the effort to get there.  Mt Stuart (9415 ft) is the 7th highest peak in WA.

Eric climbing the Serpentinite landscape

Eric climbing the Serpentinite landscape

Just below the 6000 ft pass, looking past wildflowers in the foreground, to the Serpentinite landscape, and over to the Earl Peak ridge.

Just below the 6000 ft pass– looking past wildflowers (foreground), Serpentinite landscape (middle), over to the Earl Peak ridge (far).

Stuart Range

Stuart Range

SEGMENT 6 – Reverse order back to the car

Elisa descends the Serpentinite landscape

Elisa descends the Serpentinite landscape

Fortunately, we were able to ride down much of the rocky terrain that we had to push our bikes up.  Yay!

On very loose rock, you can’t go too slow or else every rock will try to throw you.  There’s a very fine ‘sweet spot.’  It’s actually kind of fun…in a weird, slightly out-of-control way!

Elisa descending on loose rock

Elisa descends on loose rock

Of course, the real fun began once we got below the upper rockier slopes and back onto the smooth trail.  This is what it’s all about!

Elisa descends smooth trail

Elisa descends smooth trail

Eric got a flat tire partway down the Stafford Creek Trail.  While he fixed the flat, I had the opportunity to watch a butterfly go from one Tiger Lily to the next.

Butterfly on Tiger Lily

Butterfly on Tiger Lily

Once we descended Stafford Creek Trail, we had a pleasant climb back up to Teanaway Ridge.  Before getting to the top, we had to get off our bikes one more time, to walk the ~1/2 mile extra steep section that I mentioned earlier.  A shot of caffeine helped get me through the last push with extra energy to spare!

Here’s the Iron Creek Valley.  Almost back to the car…

Iron Creek Valley from Iron Cr/Bear Cr Trail

Iron Creek Valley from Iron Cr/Bear Cr Trail

Eric descends the Iron Creek portion of the Iron Cr/Bear Cr Trail, at the "don't fall" section.

Eric descends the Iron Creek portion of the Iron Cr/Bear Cr Trail, at the “don’t fall” section.

Iron Cr/Bear Cr Trail cuts across that slope ahead

The Iron Cr/Bear Cr Trail cuts horizontally across that slope ahead. Can you see it?

Would I repeat this trip?
YES!

————————————

TRIP STATS:  (Using the Bike Tracks App for iPhone)

  • Total Distance = 24.1 miles
  • Total Vertical = 10,543 ft (climb 5321 ft, descend 5223 ft)
  • Elevation = 6003 ft highest, 2938 ft lowest
  • Time = 9 hr, 22 min (start 8:00 AM, finish 5:20 PM)
  • Eric had to change his flat rear tire at 2:45 PM during the descent.

MAPS USED:

  • Green Trails Mount Stuart, WA – No. 209
  • Green Trails Liberty, WA – No. 210

Canyon Creek & Damfino Lakes – Mountain Biking – September 29, 2012

Canyon Ridge Trail (#689) was our intended mountain bike ride for the day.  Eric had been wanting to check it out because it’s the only trail in the Mt. Baker Ranger District open to mountain bikes.  This trail is just a “stone’s throw” from Canada, immediately north of Mt Baker, in Washington State.

On our Green Trails map (#13, Mt Baker), Canyon Ridge is a dotted line trail, which can be code for “bushwhack.”  As such, I started the day with an attitude of adventure, thinking that any “good” riding would be a “bonus.”

Little did we know that our adventure would start sooner rather than later.  Right at the highway, the Canyon Creek Road (#31) was CLOSED.  What?!

We found out from the ranger at the Glacier Public Service Center that the road had actually been closed for 2 years because of a partial road washout.  (That shows you how often we frequent the Mt Baker highway!)  When we got home, I found this page on the Forest Service website, showing the list of road conditions.

Instead of going elsewhere, we decided to ride up the road to see what was up there.  As I have done before, I called this a “Gratitude Saturday.”  To me, that means I’m open to how the day will unfold, instead of trying to make it live up to preconceived plans.  It also means that I feel particularly content and appreciative of the “little” things.  On this day, I loved just being on my bike, with my husband, in the mountains, under the trees, next to the creeks, and among the critters.  Bliss 🙂

Canyon Creek Road (#31) leaves the Mt Baker Highway 542 at about 900 ft elevation.  It terminates at 4200 ft elevation.  The trailhead for Canyon Ridge Trail (#689) and Damfino Lakes Trail (#625) is located at road’s end.

We ended up biking the entire 15 mile road…a workout!  About the first third was paved.  The middle section alternated between pavement and gravel.  The final third was gravel.  By the time we got to the trailhead, we decided that the destination for the day would be Damfino Lakes rather than Canyon Ridge.

The short, 0.8 mile trail to Damfino Lakes (#625) was in surprisingly decent shape for being essentially cut off from the majority of civilization.  (Although we did see motorcycle traffic that day).  The trail climbed 400 ft.  The lakes were small, but beautiful.

In these pictures, you will see some of the “little” things that I photographed during the day, with gratitude:

  • Grey-blue glacial water flowing in the N. Fork Nooksack River
  • Peek-a-boo views of the Canyon Creek Valley
  • Fields of fireweed in a clearcut (I just had to imagine how intense the color must have been when it was all blooming)
  • Old logging signage from the 1950’s
  • Canyon Creek as it parallels the road
  • Bridges, flowers, mountains, valleys, patches of snow
  • Damfino Lakes
  • Glimpses of Mt Baker

[Click on an image to enlarge and view in a photo gallery]

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