BikeWalk….or, How I took my bike for a walk
November 3rd. A ‘perfect’ day for riding the trails of falls colors here in Spokane.
Perfect? Define perfect.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t “perfect”…in fact it was down right TERRIBLE! But fun all the same!
So I decided to try an new route for riding the fall colors and headed out to the Iller Creek trail head off of Dishman Mica road out in the Spokane Valley area. Now I had hiked this area with my family and friends this past summer and always thought it would be a great (challenging) area to ride it.
I had mapped out the area with Google Earth and had a pretty good idea of where and how I wanted to go so I headed out there and was on the trail by 9:30ish AM. (Kinda late but wanted to wait for the rain storm to pass by us…bad decision). I wanted to get to the top of Tower Mountain so I could ride the ridge. There are two bowl like areas that have a nice ridge trail and you can look over into the Palouse Valley on one side and the Spokane Valley on the other.
I parked short of the hiking trail head and choose this trail to start:
The area around the trail looked promising but the weather…not so much. Although at the start it was just overcast and cool, but not cold.
As I started up trail, I had gone about 100 yards when I completely ran out of breath! It was a little steep but I am certainly not in the shape I used to be in, so I got off and walked until I had recovered a bit then hopped back on…and rode about…… 10 more yards. Ugh..THIS was going to be a long tough ride!
As I hopped off and on my bike for the next 30 minutes the weather was starting to turn from nice fall weather to wet and slick…not something you want on a steep mud trail, but at this point it wasn’t as steep as it was going to get.
I continued with the off and on again routine of my bike to the point it was silly. I’d ride for about 20 yards, hop off and walk for 10, then hop back on and ride for 10. Finally I gave in and just decided to give the bike a rest and let it walk along side me….HA! So up and up I went walking the bike. As I traveled the trail it zig-zagged up the hill and the rut in the middle became deeper and deeper. Pretty soon my right arm felt like I had it raised to ask a question. The rut had become so deep that my bike towered over me as it rolled along on the smooth part of the trail that was about 16″ above the rut.
During one of my many rest stops I felt like someone was watching me and sure enough there was a buck with tiny horns watching me from above the brush.
Can you see him? You might have to click on the photo to enlarge it, but right in the center is the small buck.
At some point the trial had turned extremely slippery and each step was a challenge and the rain and really started to come down. I was looking for an intersecting trail that I could take that would get me off this ridiculous one that was climbing straight up the hillside! Even if it wasn’t raining, and I wasn’t riding a bike, I’m not 100% sure I could have climbed up this way without needing some hand holds it was that steep! Also, the rut was starting to fill up with water and the more I climbed up the more the water flowed over my trail shoes.
I finally spotted some animal trails off to the right and I climbed out of the rut and headed north on the deer trail. It soon petered out and I found another trail and bush-whacked my way a little further but I wasn’t really getting closer to where I was headed. So I headed back to the ‘rut’ and tried again to climb but it was just too wet and slippery and way too steep. So I took another deer trail off to my left, which was South, and found the going a little easier. Although that wasn’t to be the case for very long.
As I continued my bush-whacking…oh, by the way, I CLEARLY understand that term now, because that’s exactly what I had to do! As I continued on the “trail” (HA!) I had to push my way through bushes and yank my bike through, climb over dead trees, all the while scaring up deer who were at one time, hunkered down to wait out the storm. (Sorry guys). What a bike ride! HaHaHa!!
This picture really doesn’t capture the ‘moment’. I had just struggled through a clump of bushes and hauled myself and the bike over the logs you see there and was completely out of breath…and laughing! Just laughing at how absurd this was. Here I was trying to make it to the top so I could ride the ridge and having to haul my bike through bushes while they were doing their best to yank off my rain poncho! I laughed so hard! I just had to get a picture of it. But of course it doesn’t show how hard the rain was coming down and how the wind was blowing and how cold my hands were and impossible it is to get a ‘smart’ phone to work when everything you own is soaking wet! It was a miracle that I even got this picture!
I continued to struggled upwards to the top. Around 11:15 my wife called and wanted to know my eta as she was heading out and I needed to be home. I told her I hadn’t even made it to the top yet and as far as ‘riding’ goes, I really hadn’t done any! I said I would continue on and if it doesn’t look good I’ll turn around and head back down. (yeah right..that’s assuming I could find a trail that I could ride!)
Finally the bushes started to thin a bit and I could just make out the ark of the hill near the top and I thought I could see some power lines. As I got nearer, yes indeed, I saw power lines! Yahoo! Certainly there will be a trail there and it will be clear. WRONG! Just more bushes and while there was a trail, it was heading down, not the direction I needed.
As I pressed up further up the hill the wind started to really pick up and the rain was pelting my face. I finally took off my glasses as I wasn’t able to see a thing there was so much water. It had become so steep I was having to side steep up, then haul my bike upwards, take another side step up, and repeat. But it seemed the horizon was clear of trees and I knew I was about to break out of this mess.
Finally a tower came into view and then a building and a dirt road!! Whew, what a relief. After almost two hours I was finally able to ride more than a few yards. But the wind was blowing very hard and visibility was about 25 yards as the clouds and fog were covering the top.
My poncho was just about useless as it had gotten torn up while climbing through all the brush, plus it was blowing all over the place and all I could hear was it flapping in the wind.
I stopped under a tree and tried to get my phone to work so I could see exactly where I was and figure out the quickest way down. But with all the water and everything I owned being wet it just would accept my finger touches. I would touch on one thing and something else would launch. I would try and get back to the home screen and email would come up…it was so strange. I wasn’t even able to make a phone call, although I’m not sure who I would have called. I guess someone who could have popped up a Google map might have been helpful.
So I was standing just down hill from the large tower on Tower Mtn. and I kept taking one trail after another trying to figure out which one would be the best. But visibility was nil and and all the small trails I started out on didn’t give me a good feeling. Like, no..this isn’t right. This is a mistake. So then I went back to the small tower thinking I could take the service road down but when I got there the road had been blocked off and it was obvious that it hadn’t been used in quite some time. So I didn’t think that was a good choice, so I went back to the largest tower and decided to take that service road down even though I could tell it was not going to take me in the right direction. I was afraid I would be taken down the other side of the mountain and then I would have a heck of a time getting back to my car. But I needed to make a decision as I was starting to get cold since none of my ‘water proof’ gear was water proof any longer and I was drenched to the bone.
I took the service road down from the largest tower and quickly learned I had little to no brakes. GIVE ME A BREAK! Seriously..I need a brake. HA! As I was heading down the dirt road it quickly became steep and my speed picked up to a point where I was very uncomfortable and I had my brakes squeezed as tight as possible but I was still picking up speed. I finally swung my right leg over to my left side and used my foot to slow my decent. It was actually kind of fun. It’s like when you were a kid and you would ride up to your group of friends, and just to be cool you’d swing your leg over and just glide up to them then hop off. The bad thing was, I had to stay that way for so long my left leg was starting to get tired and my back was starting to really complain!
I finally made it down to a paved road and I stopped in front of a house hoping that perhaps if someone saw me they would ask if I needed help. I mean come on…wouldn’t you? If you saw someone with a torn up poncho blowing allover the place and snot running out of their nose and being blown all over the place, wouldn’t you come out and help? 😉
Again I tried to use my phone but nothing was dry enough to let me wipe off the phone or my hands, so I put it way, looked longingly at the house and rode on.
Finally I came to a major intersection, Palouse and Jamieson but I was cold and confused and didn’t know where I was. Even though the sign said the Palouse, in my mind I still had myself on Dishman Mica and thought if I turned left I’d hit a gas station and that red coffee shop. But the truth was I had come down the other side of the mountain and was south of Moran Prairie area but I couldn’t ‘picture it’.
I was shivering and cold and really couldn’t think straight so I tried to use the phone again and this time I was able to make a phone call and called my wife who told me where I was.
After starting off in the wrong direction I got myself turned around and headed back into Spokane past Moran Prairie school and down 57th to home. Whew.
A long day, with very little riding, but fun.
Oh…yes…I’m going to get those brakes fixed right away!
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