MTB in the Seattle Area
Tiger Mountain Trails outside of Seattle area, Washington (and Ten Hours Of Tiger Event comments)
When the mountain bike starts to whimper from neglect, audible all the way up from its forsaken corner of the basement, it looks like it's time to better heed its moan and cry. Often this means that I duly contact friend D, ring leader of a nefarious group that rides Tiger Mountain every Thursday night. They treat the exercise like a weekly training run, sometimes even "training" on the Tapeworm Trail by Renton, too. Train, train, train - they train! I don't know what they're training for, but I'm sometimes happy to join in.
Anyway, as part of the regimen, draughts of beer are a consistent part of the equation - and almost never missed afterward. Such perseverance is why it's called training, I believe. So it is that that a few emails can quickly find me back onto the "CC:" list of the training email that is sent every week among the faithful, providing the necessary head's-up in its weekly ritual of postings. They often play out as dares, attempts to get a large group to assemble in the parking lot at Tiger Mountain. As far as RECEIVING the emails, a greater mystery looms largely and separately: no one is sure exactly how to elevate oneself onto the "To:" section beyond the "CC:" section's mere purgatorial wilderness. My guess is that it involves beer and D's whim, but such grand riddles of life are often best left unexplored, even if we do the opposite every time the beer gets pouring as D slyly deftly sidesteps all queries. "Who? Me?" he smiles. It's good to be king!
Such details aside, Tiger Mountain's offerings are primarily four stretches of singletrack, each connected by logging roads and one relatively new (a drop from the top). Other logging roads head away from these, and sometimes people head out on them as well. Unfortunately, they are never heard from again. But that's how it goes. (Writing of which, I once had a fully grown mountain lion block my path on the logging road that connects the two most popular trails. WTF? On Tiger Mountain, I ask? Why not on Cougar Mountain, the next peak over, instead? In any event, this surprise meeting had a way of bringing things into focus real quick-like. Apparently lazy and dumbfounded, both the lion and myself, I just did what came naturally: nothing. Or, rather, I waited until the beast was bored enough of my foolish presence and walked away. Then I pedaled like a madman through the spot it just abandoned.)
Pesky critters notwithstanding, these Thursday rides generally consist of the 3+ mile climb up the main logging road, a 3-mile descent on the Preston Trail utilizing several switchbacks, a 2.3-mile traversal of flattish logging road, then a final 3-mile stretch of generally descending and slowly winding singletrack on the Northwest Trail (true dat, not the most original name). From there it's but a short jog on the initial logging road in reverse to attain the parking lot. Sometimes the Iverson/Fat Hand Trail is added on the front end, to make things interesting. Same goes now with adding the East Tiger Mountain Summit Trail, also on the front end (but likely after Iverson if both are to be added). Further training generally ensues at a pub on the way back to Seattle.
The most noteworthy trait of Tiger, meanwhile, is that it's the closest good trail system to Seattle that actually has a climb in it. And this is true even if it seems like every year the trail changes a bit, too - not in route, but in grade of difficulty (always easier). Generally this means that the trail is in more manageable riding shape with each succeeding year, mainly due to improved redirection of the surface water flow. This greatly helps with erosion, but it also effectively dumbs the trail down on a consistent basis. You can't have it all, I guess, although to be fair Mother Nature's doings almost always serve to heighten the difficulty before being "fixed" away.
Better drainage means that Tiger has become a bit less of a water challenge, too. The bogs of old that would swallow your entire bike - leaving your head above the puddle in which you found yourself crouched in after a spill - are long gone. And the infamous exposed (and slippery!) roots section at the top of the Preston is only getting easier annually as alternate ruts are increasingly offered. Perhaps it's getting better to some - like those who have suffered enough. But in my book it's gotten worse: Where's the challenge?
Over several years - though not of late - Team D has held an event on the mountain called Ten Hours of Tiger. The original theory was that this event would close out the trail season on the last day the trails are open for the year (typically October 15th). But that's always been a dicey proposition, mainly since this also officially falls into the rainy season (whose commencement date is annually subject to endless debate). What said event consists of, however, is simple: riding the above loop (using the Preston and Northwest Trails) in combination with the third trail (Iverson) to add several miles to the overall loop. One is expected (HAH!) to roll for 10 hours straight (looping as necessary) and, oh yes, there's a hitch: Participants are expected to drink a beer in between each lap. Before is recommended, after is expected, too. Simple.
To date, no one (amazingly) has ridden Ten Hours for ten hours, but the beer stop has ALWAYS been strictly adhered to. Some goals are more important than others, apparently. There is, furthermore, a points system of arcane and devilish means too complex for mankind to divine. It's used to tally the beer, lap, and time points necessary to determine a winner - who must drink fromthe chalice that is a cheap trophy with a rim made of a discard section of chain links (great for cutting lips and increasing challenges). Possible adjustments are continually under debate for being Czech (or German or Aussie, because they have an innate capacity to consume beer like water).
On one year, beer drinking actually was THE defining aspect of the "race" as M (a Czech, not by coincidence) kicked back to drain beer after beer on his way to claiming victory. A poor sap was actually out completing his fourth lap to M's three, but that would do him no good.
Besides the impossibility of winning, the thing for most of mortals, there CAN be rewards for the "lessers" among us as well: On the last year in which I participated, I won something or other for having the bloodiest gushing wound. This perhaps best speaks to the heart of the event. I think I actually came in second place that time around, mostly account on being one of the few to roll a third lap and drink a particularly excessive amount of beer, but that's worth approximately zilch. The moral to the story is that one has to always train more. At about one six-pack at a time.
Otherwise Tiger is just one regular "training" session after another, sometimes pretty easy if I've being accumulating miles done on my roadie... and sometimes it's only about trying to outrun the mozzies, which start to happen in the summer toward dusk.
Eventually the forces gather at our flotilla of cars to next make our way back to our secondary training facility on Mercer Island, the Roanoke Pub. We strictly adhere to the traditional follow-up procedure which completes the circuit. Burp - training can be so taxing!
Here's an example of a typical "training" run:
I decide to have another go at Tiger with Team D for their Thursday Night Tiger Ride. The intent is to do the standard loop, naturally followed by pitchers of beer. I haven't paid attention to the usual flurry of emails in the days preceding this (and every) ride, but no matter: Surely someone will be there. My friend M is up for it, too, even while under an any-hour-now baby watch with his wife. The signs are good, in other words. We just GOTTA ride! Being practical, too, we schedule an early departure to deny Seattle traffic the right to delay us - even if in that effort we're misled (by ourselves). Traffic Jam. No surprise, actually.
Finally freed of the bonds of congestion, M, the light and glory of the Czech Republic and pride of the slavic nation (who should know that I do take royalties, plus bribes), failingly attempts to teach me the finer points of "efficient, not agressive" Czech driving. He deems this the practical means to somehow make our way around the many stalled cars that likely have the same purpose in mind (i.e. motion). M's suggested maneuveres are purportedly to maximize distance for minimized time in urban high density situations. "I see" I say, as I double-check the number of airbags and seatbelts in my immediate vicinity. That's because I know his phrasing is really just code for these other, better-known words: "Go for it!" By THAT I mean go for it at all times, and to the utmost extent possible without collision (or maybe with, I dunno!). At least not head-on, anyway. Being an American driver, though, apparently I'm not up to the task. We somehow survive as I take a more relaxed approach to moving along, much to M's consternation.
We do make it up to Tiger, of course, and there we meet all of two others in our riding group. J's there, but no hubby D, plus there's a newbie, P (who's known as a "bleeder" in Team D's parlance, for obvious first-timer reasons). With the waning sunlight we don't wait more than a few minutes to get going. M and I get rolling first up the 3+ mile climb to the Preston Trail entrance, soon humbled as some guy with hammered calves passes us up at the get-go. Unacceptable!, M avers, quickly taking this bait after having been so recently forced to live under my martial law within the confines of my car. He's soon flying by him and out of sight on his way up the hill. Then it's my turn and I, too, decide to have a little pride. I catch and irretrievably pass the miscreant at the mile+ mark or so. Probably taking a year off of my life, I next kick it in gear to assure there will not be the triple-sized humiliation of being repassed. This is a risky gamble - but I'm SUCH a risk-taker!
The downside of all these theatrics is that I'm about ready to pass out at the top. There I again meet M, who's been waiting for me. I have pushed myself a bit too much, I tell him, even though I felt strong on the climb. It may actually be one of my best ascents at Tiger ever. But for the meantime I have to sit down for a few minutes and catch my breath after such a stunningly quick change in altitude: the record books people will have to wait for autographs. So it is with some humidity if no humility in the air that we wait for J and P to show up some five minutes later. I take a sick comfort in seeing that J is in the same condition I am but, with steam rising all around me as my own body's heat drops, it's time to do the ride.
The "glory" part is uneventful, to be frank - a normal Tiger ride. The Preston's three miles of downhill are followed by the cruise along the almost entirely flat connector logging road, then we lope through the Northwest Trail to finish up. Cha-ching, nothing doing. Punch the card, hammer the nail.
Well, I should say that it's been a "normal ride" outside of the failing light which causes me to be particularly tentative. More than anything I'm having difficulty with the light, which adds to my questions concerning my eyesight of late. Perhaps it's getting time for glasses, finally. All I know is that I'm sure not going to wipe out on some unseen branch, rock, or hole. At least I escape Bleeder status: There's nary a scratch on my skin, if not a wounded pride in creeping down the trail like a chicken much more than usual.
Meeting up again in the parking lot, it looks like the traditional pub training is to be put off. We're not even sure if we haven't been locked into the park - it being after 8 p.m. and all. We aren't, fortunately, so I drive M and myself home. Eventually taking note of the importance of following training's dictates, however, we ultimately do decide to stop for a beer (well, two actually) - GUINNESS!!! Which makes it a complete training session, after all.
Take I-90 east from Seattle to Exit 25. Turn right after the off ramp onto HWY 18 (toward Auburn). Go several miles until topping out after a minute climbing the steep hill. Exit to the main parking lot to the right at the summit of the hill. The climb to Preston begins through the rightmost logging road of the two you see right after exiting the highway. Going up the left logging road (almost always open for cars) leads you shortly to the upper lot. All trails are accessible from both lots.
Tapeworm Trails near Renton, Washington
28 June 2007 (1-1/4 hours on trail), one of a zillion times
Summer in the Pacific Northwest! It's so TEENY! Short-lived! And... here my bikes are growing dusty and rusty from neglect. Oops. Task #1, it seems then, is to actually ride one of them again - like today! So I opt for pulling out the mountain bike after about zero off-road riding in China or Viet Nam, places I have recently returned from. All the yin of road riding done prior to that trip now begs the yang of dirt.
My first post-decision victim - other than myself - will be Tapeworm Trail, along with his brothers in the vicinity (known as Parasite, Crop Circles, Mr. DNA, and the Mystery Section). Everyone just calls the area Tapeworm, however, a mud and dust gem notorious for a couple of things. One is its distinct advantage of being very close to Seattle - 20 minutes by car. The other thing is its one-after-another technical drill (with no downhill). You can make it as challenging as you dare.
For some time now I've used Tapeworm to build up my skill set, which I believe it's adequately accomplished. I almost feel at times like I owe the trail something back, like during the one summer which saw me with a machete in hand each week when I returned from Federal Way to Seattle via Renton after trumpet lessons. I'd go out for up to an hour whacking especially at the blackberry vines on Crop Circles, sometimes attacking those on the main Tapeworm trail as well. That's because the vines usually get so bad every summer that people abandon the Crop Circles Trail somewhere between July and August as things get literally a little too bloody honest. It's particularly the tail end of the trail that makes itself off-limits for any but the most foolhardy and blood-lusty when the blackberry vines have overgrown themselves to a deadly strangle-and-puncture extent. I've ridden it in such a state numerous times; Each time I call myself an idiot as the blood flows.
But Tapeworm is always a great little nugget of a challenge, like a time trial of sorts. Sure, the trails have steadily gotten easier over the years as they widen from use, so pats on the back should be measured and brief. Shortcuts around the most difficult features have slowly become the main path as the originally challenging line falls into disuse. Other areas get maintained to the point of "improvement", which has a way of producing a dumbing-down effect that some applaud while others (such as I) deplore. It's okay to get muddy and fall! It's mountain biking!
Anyway, on this day I only manage a slightly abbreviated edition. I merely eke out the usual DNA-abbreviated CropCircle-Tapeworm-Parasite run that takes an hour or so. I don't even check out the latest (and ever-under-change) status of the Mystery Section, where boardwalks sometimes navigate through the canopy for the hardcore riders. Those come and go as the police come in and go take them down at times. Yes, anarchy rules at Tapeworm's use of utility company land not particularly claimed by anyone... except those occasionally kind people like me who sport machetes.
The latest changes since my last trip through the Tapeworm jungle? Some low-elevation boardwalks have replaced some older worn sections of the same, plus there's a handful of new ones and some freshly place logs. How about that? How nice to see a little more challenge creep back into the area! This makes for a quick-n-refreshed spin to get the saddle properly warmed up again. I have some pathetic toe taps here and there, yes - shameful badges of dishonor, each - but some good moves are made, too. Fortuitously, and rarely for Tapeworm when Crop Circles is part of the mix, there is no blood. Huh.
From I-405 South:
Exit 4 (Renton - Enumclaw).
Exit onto Sunset Boulevard and follow it to Bronson Way North (2nd stoplight)
Turn right onto Bronson Way and keep scooting over to the left-hand lane a new left lane will be created just before Mills Avenue South.
Move into this new left lane, this is the lane that turns onto Mills Avenue South.
Turn left onto Mills Avenue South (immediately before Bronson Auto Service) Mills Ave. S is a skinny little road right after a bridge.
Turn right at the point where Bronson Way goes from a 2-way to a 1-way street.
Continue on Mills Avenue South past the fire department until you cross RR tracks, then take a left onto South 3rd Street.
***Go up the hill (15% grade approaching the overpass) over I-405 to Renton Avenue South.
Turn right on Renton Ave. S.
Go uphill on a narrow residential street to South 7th Street.
Turn left on 7th Street to the stop sign on top of the hill.
Turn right on Beacon Way S.
Turn right at the parking lot.
ALTERNATIVE (BETTER) DIRECTIONS: take I-5 south from Seattle past King County Airport/Boeing Field and take the exit for Route 900. This'll take you SE into Renton. Continue straight through downtown, then, when the road bends left, immediately hang a right over the train tracks and continue up and over the freeway (I-405) and continue straight up the hill. (see "***Go up the hill" now in the above instructions)
St. Edwards Park MTB near Juanita/Kirkland, Washington
On one occasion, this ride starts with a whimpering plea. Friend M calls up on a dreary Seattle day, wanting a go at Tiger Mountain since its trails will only be open for a little while longer. Looking out the window, however, doesn't look promising - but I recognize a call for help when I hear one. It just isn't the typical M voice, but a plaintive and hollowed facsimile thereof instead. Ah, the joys of starting a family!
Nevertheless, my wandering mind talks to itself: Hmm, a steady drizzle looks certain in the city... which likely means something worse in the mountains. I waver back and forth. But... but... BUT we are mountain bikers, damnit! So I agree.
Of course I now feel like a real hero and all, particularly when I pluck M from his modest apartment now newly filled with a brand spanking new baby and a temporarily visiting mother-in-law to boot. I sympathize greatly with his plight, or I did at least for the short while it took to put down the phone anyway. But now visions of freezing my ass off on top of Tiger Mountain are flooding my brain. The weather's been getting worse over the interim between the hour or two that passes between the call and the pickup, now turning those second thinks into thirds with helpings of fourths.
This won't be a fun ride no-how! Wet plus cold! Yuck. Resigned, we temporarily renegotiate a small walkabout as compensation in Seattle's large Discovery Park. But this won't exactly provide an escape, either, nor even a calorie burn... nor will it shake out any cooped-up jitters, M insists. So this new status quo don't last long, either, as a fateful third and final call from M discusses riding options again with a quieter voice than I have ever heard M employ. We agree on a mountain bike ride after all - at St. Edward's Park.
Now, St. Edward's sometimes gets a bad rap for being a rather tepid affair mountain-bike-wise, and that fact can't be disputed. There is no climb of an epic nature, there's not even a sub-epic pretention worth mentioning. In fact, my previous experiences with St. Edwards have only been of a charitable nature to get new riders into the sport. It just doesn't have that "destination" feel to it, like there is much there to explore. But, as of my LAST ride there - with M, not by coincidence - this logic has ultimately proven faulty. It turns out that, au contraire, M's found a larger trail system just next door to St. Edward's. Yes, since that "momentous" ride, St. Edwards can finally be seen as more than just a starting point. Leave it to M to scope out some new trails: Enter... the Big Finn.
Somehow I hadn't noticed that there is this larger park - the Big Finn - that's just across the street from St. Edward's entrance. Being someone who takes pride in map reading, this oversight is more than a bit surprising. How could I not notice the adjacent (huge) green blob on the map? A park with many times the number of trails of St. Edward's! It isn't like it's a new park or anything, either - how have I missed it? Sigh - of such things are the mysteries of life formed.
This hopeful portent, however, doesn't solve our slight issue with the sky above. By the time I pick up M, for instance, the misty drizzle has turned more steady. This, in turn, become a light rain by the time we draw close to St. Edward's. The ground is thoroughly wet - we're in for a good, old-fashioned mudder. But this we disregard: By the time one gets into the car, and the bikes are loaded, a commitment to the task at hand is a foregone conclusion. So it is that we're shortly gearing up alone in the parking lot, getting sopping wet even before our butts have even been put to saddles.
Then... surprise! The trail conditions are good! Granted, we're quickly coated in mud sure enough, but the traction - crucially - is more than adequate. No sideways slip-slopping, no puddles swallowing tires (yet!). Unbelievable! There's nothing but grippy - albeit sopping wet - track! To boot, the temperature is actually kind of warm - maybe even in the low 60s. This has all the feel of a NW classic, a refreshing, misty, cool forest run. We also find ourselves doubly lucky: The thick woods we're moving through is keeping us from getting drenched from above by the increasing rain. Our rapid progress below is keeping us plenty warm in spite of our growing mudpack. Ah! Nothing but nose to rock and mud, a negotiation with the contours of many trails. Sweet heaven!
Here it's worth stating that, on mountain bike trails, I have a habit of being directionally bereft. I'm quite content to just follow along. The plus side of this is the pure enjoyment found in riding without thinking of anything but the motion of the bike and its balance. The down side... is when the other person gets lost. In the rain. In the mud. So it is that, although I'm thoroughly enjoying the ride, when we start passing some landmarks for the 3rd and 4th times I have a sneaking suspicion that something is up. M is not one for repeating trails (as neither am I). When we eventually jag up a short and steep climb for the 4th time, I wheeze into submission and pull to a stop to catch my breath. Hey - wait a sec, M!
Things have been going SO well. But whatever energy stores I have need replenishing, or rest. As I suck air for a few minutes, M returns to where I am and admits the obvious - yep, we're lost. Such allowances don't come readily from M, but this is an instance where the facts won't import tragedy - so perhaps that eases the confession. Fortunately, there are limits to lost-dom in a place like the Big Finn. After all, it IS a park that is trapped by an arterial road on one side and Lake Washington on the other.
We end up circling around for another 20-30 minutes, not making progress in our reconnoitering, instead growing our list of repeated - and failed - trails. That's progress, of a sort. Finally we bump into the lone other rider in the woods crazy enough to put up with the wet. He becomes our salvation, indicating a better idea of how to return to St. Edwards. Escape is subsequently soon at hand; It isn't long after that we're peeling off our mud-encrusted clothes for a clothes change at the car. Finally we have nothing but the requisite post-beerage on our minds. Well, that and a jet hose to blast away the buckets of mud draped over our bikes.
The moral to the story is obvious. Summer's officially over, but mountain biking never ends. Welcome to FallSpring, Seattle's other season.
DIRECTIONS: From Seattle, take SR-522/Lake City Way NE. Turn right onto 68th Ave NE, then continue onto Juanita Dr NE. Turn right onto St Edward State Park Road.
Middle Fork Snoqualmie near Snoqualmie, Washington
Here's a trail I haven't heard of, but apparently with some reason. For only three years the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Trail will be newly opened to bikers, a pending review of sorts. During each briefly permitted (summer) season, riders are allowed to use the trail on odd days only, a proposition that might be continued should the trail open "permanently" to bikers.
Sounds good enough to me when my friend M throws out the idea for a fine Friday's ride. Rain is forecast, supposedly turning heavy, but hey - this is the Pacific Northwest: if you can't put up with the rain outside, you aren't going to see the outside world very much. Besides, the temps are still in the 60s, this is a new trail to try, and there's a kicker: I have someone to ride with on a weekday - amazing!
We get out the door a bit late, only heading up toward the trail at all of 10 a.m. for a "morning" ride. The skies meanwhile grow in gray darkness. Hmmm. No matter, though: When we get to the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Trailhead, the rain is still holding off. I check out the cool little wood-arch bridge over the river as M swaps his tires out on his bike, then we're off.
Per the website (http://bbtc.org/wiki/index.php?title=Trail:Middle_Fork_Snoqualmie_River), we think we'll be heading fourteen miles up a logging/access road, then fourteen more back on single-track trail. After eleven of those first fourteen miles, a generally easy ascent, the rain actually does begin... and then it picks rather UP at that. We cross a new christened bridge (one which would directly take you to Goldmeyer Hotsprings), then sit to chew some lunch before hitting the trail. We ponder taking on an extra three miles up and three miles down to make the full trail (the anticipated fourteen and fourteen), but I for one am mentally already making the descent. This turns out to be a smart call - mainly because I'm guessing that those last six miles might even be steeper than the already challenging track we're soon encountering.
But first we have to get slightly lost, naturally. The rivers and streams in this area have a way of converging and diverging every season, so the multiple trails we find on the other side of the bridge are a bit confusing. M is ready to dart off one way without much ado, but I quickly stop him to suggest another way that seems more obvious to me. We take my route, soon enough we finding very pronounced trail markers. But those quickly lead us over massive trees to cross the river, making it my turn to feel unsure as M confidently hits the trail beyond. M has that scary self-confidence that often reminds me of another friend of mine, K, who always says he knows where we are - prior to a few more hours of trying to find our way back. Well, no turning back now.
In the process we seem to be doing a lot of ascending for a descent, I'm soon thinking as well. Granted, in those eleven miles we supposedly only climbed 500 feet, but we are now slowly and steadily ascending as we follow the river to our right along the access road. Hmm. Next we quickly lose sign of the river and really start going up. I don't feel comfortable with this, either, but the trail looks well-used and, well, M is quickly disappearing ahead. No time to think too much. Admittedly, thinking is not always what the MTB experience is about, anyway.
Now the ascending is generally nothing untoward, even if bridge after slippery bridge makes for some careful treading. M does an "insta-spill" at one point; I have my share of quick dismounts, too, including from a bridge and into the brush to its side - a close call. We "woot" away as we successfully make our way through little rocky sections, both finding ourselves challenged enough to walk our bikes periodically to save our skins. Well, me certainly more than M: This is my first MTB ride in 4-5 months; I'm definitely not up to my usual level of daring, pathetic as that might even be. It is not for nothing that both of us cluck like chickens loudly on each bridge we walk our bikes over. Granted, some of these boulder/stream traverses would have be heinous even under the best of conditions.
Whatever - we both love the ride. And that's in spite of the fact that the rain eventually begins to pour for a bit, too. But with the shelter of the trees we aren't worried about what is coming from above. It's the slippery bridges, roots, and rocks below our treads that have our undivided attention. So we make our way up and down, until eventually M sees a couple of markers he recognizes from skiing the area in the wintertime (when accessing the hot springs). That reassures me somewhat, but I don't feel overly confident until we start to steadily descend and the river once more appear to our right. I'm simple like dat.
Halfway back along the single-track, we see the unmistakable midpoint bridge. It's right before the trail turns into a beautiful stretch of winding pine needle paths. This is awesome stuff to ride on, so we pick up our pace. We keep encountering bridges, of course, but now we also start running into a number of gradual staircases of dirt that sport log step reinforcements, both up and down. These steps are a hair longer than our bikes in length, so they make for some moderate challenges at times when climbing them.
Eventually this glorious pine needle section eases up, though, and we finally find ourselves slogging back through the more humid and wet sections near the level at which we started. Plenty of rocks kept us engaged, but at least the rain stops. M has brought a camera, so that makes for small pitstops. There are indeed no shortage of river views spectacularly topped by granite boulder, or the occasional views of majestic cliffs far above on either side of the river.
By the time we get to the original arching bridge I spy near the car, we feel we've put in a pretty good ride. We're a muddy mess, but that's a badge of honor in the MTB world. For our mishaps we have also come out relatively unscathed. I in particular have managed some lucky dismounts where I leapt off of my bike into outer space - only to somehow land on my feet. Lucky, skilled, both, whatever. An excellent ride is had, and we'll certainly both be up to try this one again. In drier conditions, too, the extra six miles will definitely be added.
A side note: Goldmeyer Hot Springs is worth a trip unto itself. I've been there only once before, camping one night slightly below them. There are a few hot pools of different temperatures, each in a natural setting of granite boulders. Another pool is cold, great for that necessary and shocking change of pace; the highest pool retreats behind a low rock wall into the dark of a cave. There is a little house with a live-in volunteer "guardian" who collects the fee and care-takes the place; about 20 people are allowed as a maximum on any given night. I've heard that often one might find oneself alone and enjoying this incredible natural retreat looking through old growth forest up at the stars. Highly recommended.
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