Friday, June 29, 2012


Thanks to everyone who turned out for last night's "75 Classic Rides: Washington" slideshow at REI Issaquah! Always great to catch up with old friends as well as make some new ones. I want to thank Tom Meloy also for taking me on a 3-hour ultra-cool Grand Ridge-Duthie Hill mtb ride from his Issaquah home. Here're some pics:

Tom on one of the smooth fun-as-hell berms at Duthie Hill Bike Park.

Riding across the Log Bridge on the Grand Ridge Trail. Almost lower Mullet-ish, innit? (For all you Galby riders.)

So you can get an idea of where this is in relation to I-90 and Issaquah (sorta), here's a photo of the trailhead map.

Blurry boy rides the berm.

Tom's all-carbon S-Works Epic. Nice bike or what?

Though I'd never been on Grand Ridge before, I visited the Duthie Hill Bike Park just before it opened about two years ago. Here's a story I wrote about it for The Seattle Times. Here's our route on Strava: 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Just a reminder that Thursday I'll be doing a slideshow for "75 Classic Rides: Washington: at REI Issaquah. The event is free, but registration is required. Click here to register. Hope to see you there!
Now, more Chelan Century Challenge pics:

The sun comes out near the end of Loop 1. Sorta. Tried to.

Johnny Boy Clark on the crazy-fun Winesap Avenue descent.

The final rest stop at about mile 94. Pretty much nothing tastes good by this point.

John looks a tad ill at ease ease posing with Miss Lake Chelan and her two runners up. Mark Clausen, on the other hand, appears quite comfortable.

One of several gulch climbs on Loop 1 ...

... one of which--Ivan Morse Road--just sorta petered out into dirt ...

... joined now by another Scott from Bellingham, we broke out the map and tried to figure out where we'd gone wrong. No biggie; it all worked out fine.

Mr. Pungent, a painting that caught my eye at Chelan's very cool Local Myth Pizza.

The last aid station. (Again.)

Somewhere on Loop 1.

Titanium Cowboys let loose on the streets of Chelan. (Sidewalk, actually.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012


All week, the Chelan forecast called for 70-percent chance of rain as well as thunderstorms, but luckily they held off. (Or actually, got it out of its system the night before.) The closest we got during this 107-mile, 8,600-foot climb- and pedalfest were the dark clouds seen in the above photo during Loop 1. (That's the lovely Manson orchard-vineyard-canyon loop.) Things got downright sunny later in the day as seen in some of the below phots.

Following the Titanium Cowboys back into Chelan along the stunning lake of the same name.

The Ivan Morse Road climb that snuck its way in between the Boyd Road and Upper Joe Creek climbs. Somehow a bunch of us--I mean, A BUNCH--ended up climbing this minor(ish) hillock though it wasn't on the course.

The Titanium Cowboys (Mike McQuaide, John Clark, Scott Young) after the 5-mile, 2,200-foot pointy-stick-in-the-eye called McNeil Canyon. Which comes at mile 58. This is the fourth time I've climbed it and I still can't get over how relentlessly tough it is. I love it.

Johnny Boy Clark on one of Loop 1's many fun descents.

Cary Westerbeck, a real nice guy, whom I chatted with during the Manson Loop. He told me he recently bought my book, "75 Classic Rides: Washington," which I thought rocked groovily! (I met and/or remet a lot of folks yesterday but given my hypoxic state for much of the day, I retained few to no names. Cary contacted me, reminding me of his name.)

Miss Lake Chelan and her two runner-ups. Lovely gals, all.

Johnny Boy getting extreme at the skatepark.

Our cozy lodgings at the Riverwalk Inn.

John and Seattle's Mark Clausen, with whom I rode part of last August's Shasta Summit Century, at the last aid station, about mile 90. By then, it was sunny and close to hot.

One of the many bounteous aid stations staffed by super friendly and supportive volunteers.

Titanium Cancellara using one of Chelan's unique pedestrian traffic-stopping flags whilst he crosses the street.

Some fast dude on one Loop 1's descents.

Ti Cowboys at the start. This is my second year doing the Chelan Century Challenge and I'd have to say it's without a doubt my favorite ride in the state. The terrain and scenery are incredible and the road surfaces are for the most part excellent. Traffic, especially during Loop 1, and most of Loop 2 for that matter, is pretty minimal really.

The community really supports it too. Lester Cooper and the Chelan Rotary do an excellent job. Thanks, folks, for putting on this ride!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Thanks to everyone who came to last night's slideshow for "75 Classic Rides: Washington" at REI Bellingham. I had a super time with a great group of folks. Next up: REI Issaquah at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 28. (Next week!) The event is free but registration is required. Go here to register. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Summer's officially here and as usual I want to spend the next three months doing pretty much every that it's possible to do outdoors. Including returning to Mount Rainier National Park and hiking the big giant snowfield in the sky to Camp Muir. Though very strenuous, it's not at all technical and gets you up to 10,188 feet--that's only 600 feet lower than the summit of Mount Baker!

Here's a story I wrote four years ago for The Seattle Times about my Camp Muir excursion. I've not been down there yet this year so for the latest conditions, be sure to check the information resources at the end of the story. 

Camp Muir: A quick altitude adjustment
Mount Rainier's base camp makes for a popular day-hike destination
by Mike McQuaide
(Originally published Thursday, August 28, 2008)
I’m the type who likes to get mind-blowingly high. In the mountains, I mean. And when an early-August five-day forecast predicted nothing but clear skies and pleasant temperatures, I knew where I wanted to go: Camp Muir, that base camp in the sky, tucked high in the rocks just below Mount Rainier’s airy summit.
How high? Were Camp Muir at the tippy-top of its own mountain, its location on a rocky saddle at 10,188 feet would make it the fifth-highest peak in the Washington State, just below Glacier Peak. (It’s 1,800 feet higher than Mount St. Helens.)
Around for pretty much as long as people have been climbing Mount Rainier and named for John Muir, the famed naturalist, Camp Muir is the main base camp for many of the 9,000 climbers who annually attempt to summit the mountain. It boasts stone and wood shelters for climbers and hikers, several aromatic privies, and is home to several climbing rangers who essentially live on the mountain in a cramped stone hut first built in 1916.

The rangers dispense vital information on route conditions and help climbers who get into trouble.
“We do whatever we have to do to help people out,” says ranger Kevin Hammonds.
But Camp Muir isn’t just for potential summiteers. With its stupendous views—all the way to Central Oregon on some days—and its potential to offer a non-technical, relatively safe hike to a spot almost two miles high on a true Northwest icon, Camp Muir makes for a popular day-hike destination too.
9:21 a.m.; elevation: 8,500 feet. On a midweek morning under blue skies, I’ve got the Muir Snowfield all to myself. I haven’t seen a single person; all is silent.
Except for what I could swear is the far-off sound of whooping and hollering.
Not far up the snowfield, I spot two hikers making their way down the snow in an especially smooth manner. There’s no bouncing up and down usually associated with human-powered forward motion (i.e., walking). That’s because they’re glissading—that’s the high-falutin’ term for sliding down the snow on one’s butt.
The snowfield is streaked with what look like mini half-pipes. Gouges carved out of the snow by people’s sit-upons where it’s steep enough to let them slide while sitting.

“Woo-hoo, that was fun!” says Annie Passarello from Ashford upon coming to a stop after a couple-hundred yard sit-down ride. “That just made it all worth it.”
At 3 a.m., Passarello and Brian McDonald, also from Ashford, headed out from Paradise in the dark so that they could be high on the mountain to watch the sun rise over mounts Adams, St. Helens, Hood, and beyond.
“The stars were amazing and when the sun came up, everything turned pink,” Passarello gushes. “It was gorgeous.”
It took Passarello and McDonald four hours to reach Camp Muir, which is making good time. Hiking books say to plan on six to 10 roundtrip. It’s nine miles there and back but it’s not the distance that makes it tough, but the elevation gain—4,700 feet—and that it’s all done at high elevation—5,400 to 10,000-plus feet.

6:45 a.m.; elevation: 5,420 feet. After staring dumbfounded at the early morning sun hitting Mount Rainier for what seems like 20 minutes, I set out from the Paradise parking area. I follow signs for the Skyline Trail and climb through pretty meadows bursting with magenta paintbrush, avalanche lily, and blue lupine.
In my pack, I carry lots. Though it’s already warm and sunny—60s likely warming up to 80s—I remember the words of an old salt who once told me that above 5,000 feet in the Cascades, there’s the potential for winter every single day of the year. I’d be heading up to 10,000 feet and figured the potential was probably twice as great.
“The snowfield is a place where a casual day hiker can run to trouble,” says Mike Gauthier, search and rescue coordinator for Mount Rainier National Park.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people go up there for a day hike unprepared for how quickly the weather can change.”
Last June, a Bellevue man died while hiking the Muir Snowfield when he and his party were stuck in a blizzard blasting 70-mph winds. I’m in short sleeves and lightweight pants with zip-off legs, but along with the 10 essentials, my pack includes a fleece jacket, snowboard pants, and a half dozen more PowerBars than I ever hope to consume.
After 2.3 miles and about 1,800 feet of climbing, I reach a sign pointing to Pebble Creek. Once across, I navigate a short rocky stretch and voila—I’ve reached the Muir Snowfield. Different from a glacier in that it is not a river of snow and ice slowly crawling down the side of the mountain, the snowfield is, like it sounds, a big field of snow. That tilts upward. At times, seemingly straight upward. Over the next 2.2 miles to Camp Muir, the route climbs 2,800 feet.
Across the snow, boot track and the mini half-pipes are easy to follow, and here and there, orange-flagged wands stuck in the snow point the way. Ahead of me, 14,410-foot Mount Rainier is massive and stoic: a huge pile of rock with a jumble of snow and ice spilling down its front. It looks like it could use a bib.
10:17 a.m.; elevation: 9,450 feet. Up ahead, at the far corner of the snowfield, I spot what look like boxes. It’s Camp Muir. Seeing the straight lines and squared-off edges of manmade structures way up here seems odd. Like being stranded on a deserted island only to come across a drive-thru Starbucks.
In a half-hour, I’m at Camp Muir. So are about 30 others, most of them lounging about the rocky plateau, enjoying lunch while relishing the experience of having summited in the early morning hours. Others gather their gear for the hike back down to Paradise while still others scope out a place to set up camp for the night.

Along with the privies and shelters, the camp features several tents that have been set up nearby in the snow. Just above, a line of roped-up climbers crosses the Cowlitz Glacier, passing below a huge crevasse that looks to be smiling down on them.
“That was exhausting,” says David Clark, 20, from New Hartfield, Conn. He was part of a RMI (Rainier Mountaineering Inc.) party that left Camp Muir at midnight, reached the mountain’s summit at 7 a.m., and just now returned to camp.
"Awesome, but exhausting. I’ve never been above 8,000 feet before so that was a big step up. ”
I’d expected it to be much colder up here, and that I’d be bundled up in my jacket and snowboard pants, teeth chattering as I shivered in a stiff wind at 10,000-plus feet. But the air is still, the sun is strong, and though I’m still in short sleeves I’m even a tad warm.

The glissading on the way down fixes that.
On my way back down, not far below Camp Muir, I come to the first half-pipe streaking down the snowfield. Down I go. Onto my butt in the cold, cold snow swooshing down the hill losing in a snap all that elevation I worked so hard for on the way up.
When I’m too wet and chilled to take it anymore, I hop out and hike for a bit. When I heat up, I plop back in. Then hop back out. And plop back in.
And downward I go.
Back to Paradise.

Mike McQuaide is a Bellingham freelance writer and author of "Day Hike! Central Cascades" and "Day Hike! North Cascades" (Sasquatch Books).
Rangers at Camp Muir maintain a blog that offers information on current route conditions, weather, guide services, photos and more. Go here.

For more park information and conditions, go here.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


If you enjoyed "Ride the Divide," the 2010 documentary about the 2,700-mile, Continental Divide-traversing mountain bike race, you'll probably want to check out the producers' follow-up movie, "Reveal the Path". In it, world-class mountain bikers bounce between four continents on a 36-day "vagabond bike trip" to some of the world's most beautiful spots including Scotland, Alaska, Nepal and elsewhere. (That's Switzerland, above.)  

The movie plays at Seattle's REI flagship store on Friday, June 29 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and available here. Director Mike Dion will attend the Seattle event.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Looking forward to Friday when the Titanium Cowboys and I head to Chelan (don't call it Chelanatchee!) for Saturday's Chelan Century Challenge, a day of gettin' our climb on. With 8,600 feet of climbing in its 103 miles, I vow personally to turn no pedals in anger until I am within sight of the finish line at Morse Park. Should I see a speedy paceline, I make like a third-base coach and wave it on past me, for the McNeil Canyon climb awaits--2,200 feet in 5 miles--but not 'til mile 53 or so. Until then, it's take-'er-easy time.

Also looking forward to Wednesday's Bellingham REI slideshow. Thanks to everyone who registered for the free event--it filled up! (I so wish I had charged a nickel so that I could honestly say it sold out; mentioning that the slideshow "freed out" doesn't sound that impressive.) If you haven't registered but still want to go, be aware that lots of folks sign up for stuff but never show up the night of the event, so get on the wait list by clicking here

And then there's always REI Issaquah on Thursday, June 28. I'll be doing a slideshow-signing there as well. Go here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Just a heads up that there are only four spots left for Wednesday's "75 Classic Rides: Washington" slideshow at the Bellingham REI. The event is free but registration is required; click here for more information and also to register.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Wanna give thanks to Amy Kepferle and the Cascadia Weekly for running a cover story that pimps both my new guidebook ("75 Classic Rides: Washington") and next week's slideshow at the Bellingham REI. Much, much, muchly appreciated!  

You can pick up the issue pretty much everywhere in Bellingham and Whatcom County or read it online here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Sun was up a little after 5 this a.m. and we were on the trails a little before 6. Another early morning Glenn Gervais and the Logos crew ride, always a great time. Up Cleator (on a single-speed, it ain't easy), down Double-Black Diamond (admittedly, I walked much of it), 2-Dollar and back to town. Great way to start the day!

Before heading down, Glenn takes a moment to catch 40 winks.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Just found out that registration is required to attend my free "75 Classic Rides: Washington" slideshow June 20 at Bellingham REI. Click here to register. Looks like there are only 17 spots left.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, June 09, 2012


The raindrops on the camera lens tell the story--chilly, a few sprinkles but a fun few hours on the bike nonetheless. (I opted for the 65-miler, not the century.)

Put on by the Cascade Bicycle Club, the ride started at Marymoor Park, traced the Sammamish Lake shoreline then headed for the rural hinterlands of Duvall, Carnation and the like.
About three or four short steep hills kept one honest though the fast damp descents sometimes felt a little slippery.

All in all, a typical Juneuary day on the bike!