4500 Miles Later

ttora4runner

Expedition Leader
For the past couple of years around the August/September timeframe I'll take time off from work for around 2 weeks to travel around. Most of my time is spent traveling to various Western States to hike and mountain bike and this year I was hoping to make it up to Denali National Park to drive the road though the park but for the 2nd year I didn't win the road lottery. I still could've went and just taken the tour bus but where's the fun in that so I'll try again next again next year.

So the plan for this trip was to visit some other areas that I've been meaning to get to on other trips but for one reason or another I didn't make it though it was mainly because they were always the final stops on my previous trips and I was just burnt out and cancelled visiting them. This year I was going to prioritize them and make them the first stops on this trip. However, before leaving for the trip two of the areas that I had planned to visit were closed down due to wildfires in the areas and alternate plans were made (one more alternate would be made during the trip). For this trip I planned to travel up to NW Wyoming to drive Morrison Jeep trail then head up to Bozeman, Montana to mountain bike Bangtail Divide trail then over to the south, south-east corner of Mt. St Helens to mountain bike the Ape Canyon to Plains of Abraham trip, followed by driving up the coast of Washington to Olympic National Park then down to California to visit my sister and visit the ghost town of Bodie and finally over to Moab for a little mountain biking for heading home.

Saturday drive from Colorado Springs to Island Lake Campground.

Views north of Cody Wyoming.




Island Lake Campground - I was little concerned here since it was raining when I arrived and I wasn't too keen on setting up my tent in the rain so I either sat in the cab of my truck or inside the camper shell waiting for the weather to pass. Thankfully, it cleared up so I could setup my tent and get some rest.
 

ttora4runner

Expedition Leader
I've been wanting to hit up Morrison Jeep Trail for a couple of years now but things just seemed to getting in the way so Sunday morning I headed out under the cloud cover.

I had thought of running the entire trail starting at switchbacks but I ultimately decided to just drive the upper portion of the trail (which why I camped where I did) and then check out Fantan and Sawtooth Lakes thought I never did make it all the way back to Sawtooth Lake.

Got an early morning start since I didn't really run into any traffic on the trail (which I didn't till I started back and it was just a Jeep) but figured I wouldn't have much since the area just seemed a little dead.

Starting out a slightly muddy trail from the storm the previous night.








One of the muddy spots on the trail.














 

ttora4runner

Expedition Leader
This was the hardest spot I encountered on the trail (at least for me) a some what slick, washed out rocky section of the trail (I walked this before driving up to try and find a good line). From what I can tell after looking at some more videos on Youtube when I returned I found a video from a few months prior on this section that showed this area in better condition. I'm guessing recent storms washed it out a little more. The lower and middle part of this section didn't give me too much trouble but the upper section with some large rocks gave me a bit of trouble but I got though it.



About the middle of this section.






Called it quits around this point.


The trail continuing on.


Heading back down.


Coming back down the trouble spot. Needless, to say I thought I had a good line picked to make this descent but my truck more slid off a rock and I more or less did a belly flop on to a rock putting a descent dent in the skid plate right in front of the oil pan drain plug (I'm glad I put a RCI steel skid plate on before I left the stock plate and probably my oil pan would've been toast after looking at where I hit).




Clouds clearing up and sun coming out.








Back at the trailhead.
 

ttora4runner

Expedition Leader
Had to stop at the Top of the World Store (got fuel and checked out the store).


Fantan and Sawtooth Lakes area after lunch.




Fantan Lake - fairly easy trail to get back and a few areas to camp around the lake.


Heading back Sawtooth Lake, Morrision Jeep trail is somewhere at the base of the mountains in the background.












I went about 3/4's of the way back to Sawtooth Lake (one of the first lakes you see off of Morrison) but I was a little beat from driving Morrison so I decided to head back to camp to relax and hiking around one of the lakes.


I don't know why I waited so long to check out this area it was great. I really want to head back now to this area and do some more camping, hiking and try my luck at fishing in the various lakes.
 

ttora4runner

Expedition Leader
Day 3 - Bangtail Divide, a smoky ride and feeling like I had asthma and those dang switchbacks.

The one thing I've noticed as of late whenever I'm camping I normally end of going to bed earlier than normal since its just myself and this trip was no exception so around 800 pm I hit the hay as I had planned an early morning start so I could drive up to Bozeman, Montana and ride Bangtail Divide trail before if got to hot outside. Around 400 am I headed out to make the roughly three and half hour drive to the trail head and with it being a Monday I wasn't to worried about a bunch of traffic on the trail.

I was right there were a few vehicles at the trail head from people either hiking or mountain biking though I would only run into a couple coming down the switchbacks at the start then an older lady who smoked me mountain biking.

After eating a quick breakfast and changing clothes I headed out on the 25 mile loop. Now according to MTBR you can either ride the switchbacks at the beginning or the end depending on which trailhead you started from with the most common being riding them at the beginning so I opted to get them out of the way so I had a downhill ride at the end since I knew I would be beat.



View going up the switchbacks.


Not quite at the top of switchbacks yet - dang. At this point I had started wheezing due to climb and the smoke in the air from the wildfires. I had figured this would happened so a short break was in order to catch my breath.




View from the top of the swtichbacks and another break to grab a snack and to catch my breath again. At this point an older lady had passed me and we played a game of cat and mouse for a ways on the trail but towards the last 9 miles or so the mouse got away from the cat.


The trail is somewhere along the ridgeline to the right of the photo.


Biked from that area I think.




The point at which the mouse got away from the cat - can you spot the mouse on the trail?


So at the start of the final section of the trail I opted out of riding it since I was still having some issues breathing properly and my legs where feeling a bit like jell-o (granted I did a 18 mile ride here in Colorado a few weeks prior and felt the same) and opted to take the forest service road back. I'm not complaining though as I had blast riding the couple of miles downhill on a gravel road back to the main road the final couple of miles back to the trailhead. Once at the turn off back to my vehicle I ended doing a hike a bike 3/4 of the way as I was spent from the ride but still keeping the grin on my face.



Once back at my truck I grab some lunch and laid on the tail gate to relax for a bit before loading my bike back up and making the drive over to the KOA in Missoula for the night and for a hot shower and flush toilets.
 
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ttora4runner

Expedition Leader
Day 4 - Iron Creek Campground and Burley Overlook, a smoky drive and a somewhat concerning day.

When I was planning this trip my original intent was to drive the Lolo-Nez Perce trail since I opted out of driving it on last years trip (should've done it) so I was going to drive it this year. However, due to wildfires in the area that trail and surrounding area was shut down so I was left with making other plans. So I started coming with other ideas/areas to visit. I ultimately decided to mountain bike Ape Canyon trail to the Plains of Abraham on one day and since it was about a 8 hour drive from Missoula I made plans to grab a campground at Iron Creek and to check out Burely Overlook which was in the area.

While at the KOA in Missoula I kept an eye on the fire activities/map to see if any of my plans were going to change over the next few days and from what I could tell I should be fine even though a fire had started in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest outside of Naches, Washington. Just outside of Naches a road sign had been posted up that the National Forest was closed and as I drove along hwy 12 I noticed that the forest service had posted vehicles at each of the FS roads and campgrounds to keep people out. I started to wonder if this was going to effect where I was going even though I was in a different national forest, so I started running though other options as I drove.

Thankfully, where I would be staying the night wasn't effected outside of fire bans but that wasn't anything new.

After arriving at the campground I set up my tent (wasn't completely dried out) and few odds and ends then head back out to Burely Overlook.

If you stay in loop A take a hike to one of the other loops to use the restroom or going down a trail and use it. Loop A outhouses where the things nightmares are made of since they hadn't been updated yet.



Heading up to the overlook.


Almost to the top.


The overlook - minimal parking near the overlook. Overlook is in somewhat disarray, would be interesting to stay at though.








A smokey Mt Rainer


A smokey Mt Rainer and Mt Adams






After exploring around the overlook and surrounding area it was back to camp for dinner and a walk around the campground.
 
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ttora4runner

Expedition Leader
Day 5 - Ape Canyon Mtb Trail, a somewhat barren wasteland.

I came across Ape Canyon trail somewhat by accident while researching trails local to Colorado and references to IMBA Epic trails and doing some reading though the website I figured this would be a good trial especially since I was already planning to ride the Bangtail Divide trail which was another IMBA Epic trail. Plus, it was on the south / south east side of Mt. St Helens and area I've never been to.

After a somewhat early morning to beat the start of road construction on NFD 25 I was at the trailhead approximately 2 hours later to start an approx 20 mile ride.



Trail map at the start, I would wind up somewhere around Windy Ridge. Another biker I ran into was planning to ride the same trail but return via the Smith Creek which adds another 13 miles to the ride.


Mt St Helens on the way up the trial.










View of the trail.




Mountain goat.








I didn't ride out this way.


Windy Ridge road in the background.






This is where I stop and turned around. The trail on the right goes to the Windy Ridge Trailhead.




The trip up I only ran into the other biker at the start then two hikers, one of which we both scared each other coming though the trees. The way back down I ran into a few other hikers and bikers. The trail for some reason to me just seemed kind of surreal maybe because I was riding on a semi activity volcano or maybe because of the desolation I felt riding though the Plains of Abraham. Whatever, it was if I'm ever in the area again with my mountain bike I want to ride it again.

Following the ride and a much need lunch break I headed into one of the small towns to grab gas before heading to my campground for the night. Needless, to say the campground I made reservations at just didn't feel right to me and I opted to head elsewhere and just eat the cost of the reservation fee. Had I thought about it I wouldn't just headed back up to where I was just at to a forest service campground or just a remote site but instead I just headed into Woodland, Washington and grab a hotel room. It also gave me a good chance to look under my truck to see what damage Morrison Jeep trail did to the undercarriage (see my comment in my first on the damage it did).

One final thought on this day hwy 503 was a pretty drive but a very winding and your under tree cover for a good portion of the drive between between Swift Forest Camp and Cougar.
 
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ttora4runner

Expedition Leader
Day 6 - Mt St Helens and a drive up the west Coast of the Olympic peninsula.

This day was mostly uneventful since I was planning to take my time and wonder my way up the NW coast of Washington along Hwy 101 to Port Angeles stopping at some of beaches along. Being currently from Colorado seeing the ocean is a real treat for me.

First stop along the way was a quick side trip to the North side of Mt. Saint Helens - which is somewhere in those clouds.


Elk herd. It took me a minute or two of observation before I could see them all.


Mt Saint Helens though the clouds.




View from one of observation points up at the visitor center.


Coldwater Lake


Somewhere around Montesano, Washington the skies opened up and I would be in and out of the rain events till just outside Port Angeles, which didn't my spirits.

Heading up Hwy 101 the first side stop was to see the view from beach 3 since the side road parking for beaches 1 and 2 was full.


A short trail down to observation takes you beach 4.






Normally, don't post photos of myself but hey why not.


The final beach side visit was Rudy beach my favorite out of the 3 I visited this day.










After exploring the beach a little more I was off to the KOA in Port Angeles for the next 3 nights before heading to the fire ridden state of California.
 
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ttora4runner

Expedition Leader
Day 7 - Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge and playing in the clouds.

Visiting Olympic National Park has been on my radar for a few years but due to it being towards the end of trips I've back out but this year I planned to visit towards the middle of my trip. After a somewhat early rise I made the drive up to the parking lot at Hurricane Ridge to beat the crowds to hike a couple of trails in the area.

Those blue skies would soon be covered in fog.




Mt. Angeles my goal to summit this morning.




The fog started to roll in about mid-way on the trail.


Up at the saddle/ridge around.


Mt. Angeles is on the left.


Canada in the background.


Before leaving for the trip I had researched the route needed to get up to Mt. Angeles or so I thought but I couldn't quite find the trail that lead up to it and didn't feel it wise to try and find it in the fog (I though I found it at one point but it looked like the trail was blocked off)

So after enjoying a bit of solitude up the ridgeline it was back down to my truck to grab some lunch before heading out to Hurricane Ridge. Between the time I arrived at the visitor center and by the time I got back to my truck the parking lot had fill up quite a bit but not all the way and more people were on the trails. After lunch I opted to hike to the trail for Hurricane Ridge since I felt it kind of silly to drive a mile or two to get there and I didn't mind adding in a few more miles. The trail for Hurricane Ridge is paved the entire way making it accessible for more people but towards the end it becomes steeper.

Hurricane Ridge in the fog.




Mt Angeles rising about the fog.




This little guy and a few friends where running around at one of the vistas at the top of the ridge and at one point it ran up the leg of someone standing cause the group to burst out laughing.


Final view before heading back.


I had thought about making the drive out to Obstruction Point to check it out when I got back to my truck but I decided against it and just headed back to camp for the night.
 
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ttora4runner

Expedition Leader
Day 8 - Olympic National Park, 2nd beach and playing in the fog.

I didn't really care too much this day as to what time I was getting up since I had just planned to spend a part of the day on one of the beaches along the west coast of Washington doing some exploring and enjoying the ocean. My boss had make the recommendation that I visit 2nd Beach since he enjoyed visiting it with his family when he lived in Washington. So that is were I was headed for the day.











Did some star fish spotting in some of the pools.




The fog would role in and out while walking along the beach making for some interesting scenery.




Almost missed spotting this little guy.






A family coming out of the fog.




After spending a couple of hours exploring beach and taking it all in while I could I headed back to Port Angeles to relax for the rest of the day since I had a long drive ahead the next day to California.

View from one of piers in town that I explored a little bit. I had forgotten how massive cargo ships are.
 
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ttora4runner

Expedition Leader
Day 9 - A drive though the wasteland of northern California and a cancelled hike.

This day was probably the least enjoyable portion of the trip. The drive along Interstate 5 from Washington to California just seemed to drag on, maybe it was speed limit, maybe it was the landscape being filled with smoke mid-way though Oregon and into California, maybe it was the fact that my eyes started started to burn and the heavy smell of smoke filled my nose when I got of my truck in Grants Pass, Oregon from the wildfires, maybe it was the utter amazement at the wasteland it felt like when I drove though the northern part of California and seeing it then compared to when I was there a just a couple of years or maybe it was just the combination of all it. Nevertheless, I was glad to arrive at my sisters place in central California to spend the next two nights.

Day 10 - Well there goes that hike. What's next?

The following day sometime it the afternoon I received an email notification that my campground reservations at Rock Creek Lake Campground had been cancelled due to California closing all of the national forest for the next few weeks due to fire activity. Well that threw a wrench into the works since I was planning to either hike or mountain bike to the summit of White Mountain outside of Bishops, California a two days from now and explore some of the 4x4 trails in the area. So I started throwing other ideas around as to what to do in which I wouldn't make a decision till the following night.
 
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ttora4runner

Expedition Leader
Day 11 - Bodie Ghost Town and a hotel.

I want to say for about 10+ years making a visit to the historic ghost town of Bodie has been on my list of places to visit but like normal I never found the change to do so.

Since I had already planned to be in the area hike White Mountain (which didn't happened see above post) a visit to Bodie only seemed logical. After saying my goodbyes to my sister and her family I was headed back out. The drive over to towards the mountains was still filled with smoke but not as bad as the previous day. Once I started making the ascent into the mountain the smoke let up and the blue sky's reappeared though if you looked north you could still see the haze and plumbs of smokes from the fires in that area. Lets just say the blue skys where a welcome relief.

While traversing the mountain I made a quick stop at Sonora Pass to take in the and found more trails to explore in the area (another time like normal).




Once over the pass and out of the mountains I filled up gas in Bridgeport, California and made a pitstop before heading to Bodie. I had blue skies for the remainder of the day but like before if you looked north you could see the smoke.

Almost to Bodie. I was a little excited to start exploring the town at this point with a big grin on my face, something about exploring these areas I just really enjoy.


The plaques at main parking lot.




















 
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ttora4runner

Expedition Leader
Bodie continued.









Old schoolhouse






I really wanted to explore the old mill site but its off limits unless your on the guided tour and that tour wouldn't start for a few more hours if it even did.




Old bank.




Old firehouse. I was a little surprised to see that the town had working fire hydrants at one point but from I gathered they where all that reliable.




Parting short of Bodie.


A quick side exploration up a dirt road out of Bodie.


Having my fill for the day I headed to a motel in Bishops, California since my previous campground reservations had been cancelled. Staying in a motel gave me a chance to try and figure out plans for the balance of my trip and in the end I decided to head to Moab on my way back to California to do some mountain biking then make plans again from there.

I won't name the hotel that I stayed in but lets just say sleeping on the ground would've been more comfortable that the bed but then the refrigerator and heater that would continually kick off and on throughout the night. Needless, to say I was a little tired the next day.
 
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ttora4runner

Expedition Leader
Day 12 - Moab Utah and trying to figure out what's next.

One of the alternate plans I was thinking of was heading back to Great Basin National Park and hike up to Wheeler Peak since I didn't do so on a previous trip a number of years ago but the weather forecast wasn't favorable for when I would be in the area and the area still had a lite haze from smoke drifting over from California.

The drive over to Moab was uneventfully though it started raining midway though Utah and I was grateful that I opted to get a covered tent site at the Moab RV park. That night I was looking at multiple different options but weather and distances again played into my discussion to just head for home.

Day 13 - View from Slickrock Trail on my last day of the trip.


Afterwards it was a 7 hour drive back to Colorado Springs and to my own warm bed.
 
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