Monday, September 21st, 2015
Adventure Biking in the North Cascades – The Canyon Ridge Trail

I’ll have to admit, I was a little scared when my bud, Chris Mellick, first invited me to go ride The Canyon Ridge Trail. I knew that it was just outside of Glacier, WA, up near the Damfino Lakes/Excelsior Ridge area. We’ve have had some time tough times together in the saddle and out there in the elements.  We have even raced together as TEAM RRAD in the Kulshan Quest Adventure Race, in Bellingham, back in July (Finish time: 11 hrs 44 min).

You see, I trust Chris with my life. I knew he wouldn’t steer me wrong and that it would be one heck of a ride! Just show me where to GO…

CanyonRidgeClimb

It wasn’t just the two of us, this time. He also invited along a couple of BADA** women to join us- Barbara Karabin and Whitney Anderson.

Above is Barbara, President of Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition, riding up Canyon Creek Road.  Mellick is excellent (and known for) pointing out sights of interest (without pause) and sharing insightful stories along the way. Below is Whitney with Trailhead Athletics & Transition Bikes in pink head to toe. All smiles. 😉

CanyonRidgeStart

Let’s be clear, the only reason I was able to take pictures of my friend’s faces throughout the day, was that I’d ask for a head start. These folks are NW Tough! Not Ford Tough- Northwest Tough.

Don’t let the smiles fool you, this was serious business. We climbed Canyon Creek Road for 7 miles, with a break for me to acclimate to the elevation, before we were at the Damfino Lakes Trailhead, where we ate a quick snack, took a group selfie and hit the single track. GO! UP!

CanyonRidgeTRAILHEADDamfino

Then we started going UP. Uh-Oh. Let the Hike-A-Bike begin! The blur is a reflection of how clear you are thinking when you’re in Go Go Go mode. I really took this shot to get the WMBC logo in the same frame with WMBC President Barbara! She and the organization are doing great work for building mountain biking trails in Whatcom County. It was great to get to ride and hear about their plans for the future!

CanyonRidgeWMBC

The views were incredible on our bluebird day. As we looked out over where we were about to explore, we individually and collectively drew a sense of awe and appreciation into our lungs.

The Panoramic Views were incredible once we reached the meadow. Yes, we stop and “smell the roses” on our way. It’s the ONLY WAY.

CanyonRidgePanoramic1

Mellick couldn’t help himself but to dig in the dirt a bit before we caught up to him at a small section of a landslide. Understand, he is a local professional trailbuilder, ride leader and artistic landscaper. When you’re out riding with him, it’s usually on a trail that he’s built or had a literal hand in making.  .

As we wait for his guidance, he points out the next ridge that we will soon climb in the distance. This was to be the easy part of the day.

CanyonRidgeMellickWork

With some more climbing- some rideable and some not- we got higher and higher up on the successive ridges. Winding our way out and around, views of distant peaks in the North Cascades seemed touchable.

CanyonRidgeMeadow

We had a long day ahead of us and I was beginning to cramp in my thighs and hammys. The “I’m cramping and need to STOP!” that I eeked out in a meek voice was one of the hardest things I have had to say, for 3 reasons.

My 3 Agonizing Reasons:
#1- I was in pain, and it’s hard to shout without whimpering, when your legs are busy screaming at you.

#2- The possibility that my body wasn’t prepared for this and I was about to enter HE-double toothpicks!

#3- We were OUT THERE. There is only one option- Make it back before dark! (yes, I had lights but didn’t need to test them)

Our CRAMP Camp break lasted for 15 minutes. This was just long enough for me to get needed water, my favorite GO-GO juice and food fueling my machine. I also took the time to roll around on the ground and moan and do some stretching to get it all good to go.

Then, we were back at it. UP we went.

CanyonRidgeMeadowClimb

We’d stop for a some quick shots and breathe in each vista. SHOTS?! Yes, pictures- although Tequila would have helped the pain, it certainly wouldn’t help navigating the trail.

In the panoramic photo below, look in the upper left hand corner to see our pack leading the way UP. This perspective was taken from the same location as photo above.

CanyonRidgePanoramic2

The trail would occasionally “flatten out” before it goes UP again. We plateaued out and there was even standing water left behind from a recent rainstorm.

CanyonRidgeWhitneyTrailhead

It’s hard not to have a good time when you feel like a kid on a bike. Riding through puddles is always a favorite for young and old alike.

CanyonRidgeBarbarapuddle

I’m not going to tell you how hard “CANyou? Ridge Trail” is, because I don’t want to think about it. It’s a SLOG. With your bike. UP. And more UP.

Hey NOW. The Up and Up- sounds like a great name for a downtown bar!

Back on track: Mellick soon started saying with more frequency, “We’re about to go UP the Hill Climb”. I didn’t take a picture of it, because it’s scary steep! It was time to focus and “get ‘er done!”

So, moving right along. We climbed UP the last face with our bikes- using our brakes as we rolled them uphill, step-by-step. The RIDGE was at the top of the Hill, and we were there. After topping out, we gently (only time I’ll use that word) rolled up the crest of the ridge and settled on a nice spot for lunch.

Below, Mellick expounds on the benefits of eating an avocado while the backdrop of the Canadian Border Peaks and the city of Abbotsford, British Columbia beckons for more adventure.

CanyonRidgeMellickLunch

No, I’m not a Foot Model, yet! BTW.

Lunch was delightful with spectacular views, polite conversation and delicious & nutritious food! We laughed at how much fun we were having and the ‘fun’ that we still had ahead. Then, we were back on it- with Whitney leading the way to start a nice descent for the next leg of the journey.

CanyonRidgeNorth

We did stop and check in before we let it run wild. Below, Barbara gives a nice smile (is there any other kind?) with the peak of Komo Kulshan (aka Mt. Baker) protruding in the background.

The bluebird day certainly helped morale!

CanyonRidgeBarbaraWMBC

The downhill was a HOOT. Then guess what we did! Yes, that’s right, we went back UP.

Take Your Bike for a Hike Day is what this ride could and should be called! I jumped ahead to see if I could get some good shots of the SuperSTARS riding. I didn’t get far before I decided to stop at this water obstacle. There was no clear way to go.

CanyonRidgePuddle

Then we heard an “Oh, what do we have here!” as Mellick exclaimed with joy! “These are Lion’s Mane Mushrooms” He went on to explain the nutritional benefits and how this fungus is brain food. He’s not making this stuff up folks, it comes from our Nutritionist friend “S.MAX” as well as lots of other helpful hints on fueling the machine for riding/racing or just plain living. Our favorite “S.MAX Food Fact” is that Peppers have more electrolytes than Gatorade! Below Chris gets his knife ready to cut the bounty off the nurse log.

CanyonRidgeMellickMane

The Lion’s Mane is a beautiful creature! Here it is close UP:

CanyonRidgeLionsMane

Once we saw the first bunch, we didn’t have to go far to find more. It was like we struck GOLD! I could imagine “Mellick the Miner” searching for gold back in the day around here in the Lone Jack Mine, which was pretty near us- as the Raven flies.

CanyonRidgeLionsManeBounty

To give you a sense of how big the Mane was, Chris was kind enough to pose with one of the smaller ones.

CanyonRidgeLionMellick

We took what we needed- most of it to bring home to S.MAX, since Mellick doesn’t even like to eat mushrooms! She was supposed to be on this ride with us (yes, we missed you) but went mushroom hunting (by bike) instead.

Packs loaded and the sun starting to dip in the sky, we make our final climb UP and over the last section. We triumphantly reached the other end of the trail and took the customary photo at the southern Canyon Ridge Trailhead. The smiles were genuine- showing both pride in a job well done and happy to be with a trusting/competent bunch.

Adventures like this make lasting friendships (or at least two new friends on facebook 😉 ) Thank you Chris, Barbara & Whitney!

CanyonRidgeFinish

On the descent, we stopped one last time to admire the view of Komo Kulshan in the distance, blow some fireweed fluff into the air and get instructions on what was to come next from Chris.

CanyonRidgeMountainMan

We’re going DOWN. ALL the way.

We had an 8 mile descent on the gravel road = Rippin’ FAST Fun!!!

Good luck if you choose this mission.

If you need a guide, get in touch with Chris at RRAD  or with me if you have questions. I am always willing to give you my opinion, but not advice.

This is an EXPERT ONLY adventure.

Todd Elsworth
360-739-8458
Todd@RecreationNorthwest.org

 

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About the Author:

As the co-Executive Director of Recreation Northwest and the founder of the Bellingham Traverse, Todd promotes outdoor recreation and brings people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. He enjoys biking, hiking, paddling, skiing and will try anything twice. Get connected at RecreationNorthwest.org.