I had never heard of this place Preston called Blanchard (Google Maps insists we were actually at Chuckanut Mountain). I tried to find it on the Evergreen Trail Wiki (an outstanding resource) and came up empty. I asked Preston, and was told it's just a place he likes to ride up by Mount Vernon (a lie, it's actually much closer to Bellingham but he didn't want to scare me off with a longer drive). I should have asked how far we'd be going, or how much climbing we'd be doing. After all, I had only been on my mountain bike for longer than an hour once or twice in recent months. I was also walking quite gingerly thanks to going for a run on Thursday -- my first run in a year. Forty-eight hours later is when the true muscle soreness sets in. Way to time it perfectly, Doug. All I knew was the trails "kicked the shit out of the ones at Tokul." I like Tokul. It's my favorite local ride. And I really wanted to ride someplace new, with guys I don't usually get a chance to ride with. It was settled, agony be damned.
|Across Bellingham Bay to Anacortes and beyond...|
The climbing started at once. The grade was rideable, but my breathing was loud and instantly betrayed my lack of conditioning. My continued gasping for air would be a subject of much mockery throughout the ride, that is whenever Preston was close enough to hear it. At one point I apparently sounded like a scene from "Debbie Does Dallas." The dude, I hope. I was prepared for some hills, of course. And it's not like I forgot how to ride a bike or put on that much weight. But I wasn't ready for a 750-foot climb over the first 2.5 miles. If only this was the hardest climb of the day... but enough about hills for a moment.
|Chuckanut Mountain: 14.5 miles, 3150' elevation gain|
Preston had been talking of the hole periodically throughout the ride. As in, "Not sure if you're up for the hole." and "We should probably skip the hole." Now, to me, the hole doesn't sound like much. It sounds steep, but not very big. It was at the viewpoint where the decision to ride the hole was made.
"How far down does it go?" I asked.
"Oh, about a thousand feet," Preston replied with a smirk.
"We can't even be a thousand feet above sea level, it's gotta be less than that."
|Farmland in northwestern Washington.|
This was exactly what I needed.
Back at the viewpoint, we sat and ate some food. Me, not really thinking along the lines of preparing for an epic, or even a mini-epic as this ride has become for me, didn't bring a proper lunch. Cliff Bloks and Gu. Yum. Preston explained our options: we could descend back to the car or we can add a little loop that leads to an even better descent, but it has a bit of climbing. A bit of climbing. Apparently "a bit" means 800 feet of gain. This is where I finally, truly, ran out of gas. I seemingly had to push whenever the trail tilted up, even in the slightest. I had no energy. No strength. I'd say I bonked, but I really didn't have anything in the tank to begin with. I was bonked when I sent the email off telling him I'd come.
We eventually reached Lily Lake, or was it Lizard Lake? I forget. My mind was focused on staying upright and getting back to the car safely. Which we eventually did. We descended for nearly four miles along an exceptional stretch of singletrack, virtually free of hikers and bikers. It truly was an outstanding stretch of trail. Fun, fast, and with plenty of little hits to catch air off of. That is, if you're not like me, and struggling to even stay awake. I cruised it at a comfortably fast pace and enjoyed it the best I could, but all I kept thinking about was making a return trip later in the season when I'm actually in better shape.
There's a lot of work to be done.
Get the details on this route at my Garmin Connect page: Click here.