Rediscovering the Cascade Mountains
Sometimes we forget how much there is to discover close to home. Last week, we headed for a short trip to the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River. It was a cloudy afternoon—not a perfect day by any means. But it’s always great to get out, and it’s good to explore options for future trips. So we hopped into the car and drove to North Bend.
At first, Jan suggested an out-and-back along the river. He told me of a smooth gravel road with some ups and downs, but nothing too challenging. There would be a waterfall, and then a nice stretch along the river with a view of the high mountains. A nice little outing for an afternoon. I had never been there, and I was looking forward to exploring. This would be fun!
We ate lunch at the trailhead, overlooking the rushing waters of the Middle Fork. Then we headed up the gravel road. The road seemed a bit bumpier than what I like to ride. And the rough surface made the hill seem steeper. I struggled to climb up the first hill, even in my smallest gear. This wasn’t what I expected, but that’s all part of exploring!
We climbed up, rode down the other side, and soon realized that this road had not seen any maintenance in a long while. It wouldn’t get any smoother. I realized that we wouldn’t get to the places we wanted to visit, and back, before dark. Jan also said that the road was a lot rougher than it had been when he last came here. This wasn’t the fun road he remembered.
We stopped and looked around. It was amazing to be in the deep forest. The trees were entirely covered with moss. It was a cloudy day, so we could feel the humidity that has shaped this landscape. I really wanted to ride and explore more, just not on this road today.
I ask Jan: “When we drove here, we passed many small roads. Is there another road we can explore?” He suggests the CCC Trail, where he just rode a few days ago on the way to Lake Bessemer. However, he warns me that the trail is single-track. “Why didn’t you tell me about this trail earlier?” I ask, “I definitely want to go exploring, so that sounds perfect. Let’s go!”
We turn around and roll down the hill back to the car. Five minutes later, we park at another trailhead. There are so many trails here—there’s much more to discover! Today we don’t have much time left, so let’s just go on a trail that we know will be fun. Jan tells me there are many creeks that come down the mountain and run across the trail. Let’s ride to the first creek crossing and see what we find!
The climb up Bessemer Road is a little steep, but the gravel is much smoother than the road we were on before. (It’s hard to tell in the photos, but very noticeable when you ride!) The road is wide enough that I can look around. When I look back, I see a huge mountain behind. We are in the Cascades!
We traverse a narrow bridge built for logging trucks. The boards that used to cover it have disintegrated, and we walk across.
Flowers bloom along the road. I don’t know which flowers are native and which don’t belong here, but I enjoy them all the same.
We reach the turn-off for the trail. A sign says that bikes are OK, but no motorized traffic can go here. That’s perfect! There is a new bridge across the creek. It’s an entryway into the mountains.
Let’s just explore! The single-track is wide enough and clear, so we can ride easily. It undulates a bit, but never so much that it becomes a struggle. It’s definitely a trail where you don’t need a mountain bike—gravel and all-road bikes work fine. Single-track has a different feel from gravel. On single-track, you become one with the bike. It is fun.
We pass a few small creeks. Sometimes, we ride through the water, but many crossings are too steep and rocky for that.
Pushing my bike over the rocks is fun. It gives me time to look around. At this point, the sun comes out, and individual rays of sunlight pierce the dense canopy of the forest. It’s enchanting.
Then it’s time to turn around. I’m more confident now. I am getting a feel for the trail and how my bike reacts. It’s a lot of fun.
On the way back to the car, we ride on a small trail that overlooks the river. It’s magic to see the high mountains. It feels so far away from the city! We’ve only ridden for a little over an hour, but this was a wonderful little outing. The single-track of the CCC Trail continues all the way to Mount Si. I can’t wait to come back for more!
Every trail and gravel road has a different feel and character. They traverse different landscapes. Some areas are wetter, with a dense, moss-covered forest. Some are drier, with a more open landscape. The flowers and plants change with the seasons. It’s fun to explore them.