Monday, August 27th, 2018
Galbraith Mountain New Expert Mountain Bike Trails Open – Mohawk and Spacewolf
Todd Elsworth

If you’re looking for BIG Action on mountain bikes – head up to two of the new challenging trails on Galbraith Mountain – just on the outskirts of Bellingham. Mohawk and Spacewolf offer experienced riders two difficult and very different experiences: Flow and Steep respectively.

Both are listed as Black Diamond runs on Trailforks– a platform that provides riders with an overview of trails, photos, videos, reports, comments, a 3D Tour, Leaderboard, Ridelogs and Stats. This awesome crowd-sourced database is a resource hosted by our friends at Pinkbike.com.

I had to get out and see what all the hullaballoo buzzing around town about these trails was all about. So, I got a couple friends together- Chris Mellick, old school mountain biker, trailbuilder and all around great guy and Matthew Kowitz, my summer intern at Recreation Northwest and local shredder- to see for ourselves. Matthew also was kind enough to share his written perspective with us all. His trail descriptions are quoted in italics below.

We serendipitously also had local adventure photographer Brandon Sawaya, Brandon Sawaya.com, join us to help tell the story for your wondering eyes.

MOHAWK

Mohawk could be nicknamed MO Huck- the trail is a wide flowy, jumping bonanza. “Mohawk is a fresh WMBC build in July of 2018 featuring numerous gap jumps, hip jumps and other goodness. Props to Spencer Baldwin & Andy Grant for this trail design and build & Bill Hawk for the the vision” – Trailforks. Here’s the trail profile:

Chris and I were happy to watch Matt rip down the trail and huck himself into the air. Here he is, showing us how it’s done, with Brandon crouched in the shadows, camera poised, getting the shot.

Brando is the pro with the camera. Here’s the outcome of two people that know what they’re doing.

If you’re not in the know with the lingo:

What’s a Flow Trail? “Flow Trails take mountain bikers on a terrain-induced roller coaster experience, with little pedaling and braking necessary. This style of trail typically contains features like banked turns, rolling terrain, various types of jumps, and consistent and predictable surfaces. Conspicuously absent are abrupt corners or unforeseen obstacles.” According to IMBA – International Mountain Biking Association.

Matthew on MOHAWK
Mohawk, the big bad wolf of Galbraith jump trails, opened earlier this summer. Starting from the lookout near Evolution that furnishes Bellingham Bay and Mt. Baker views, Mohawk starts small. A few rollers and low speed jumps prepare the rider for the chaos that is to ensue. Due in part to master craftsmanship, Mohawk isn’t particularly technical, though bike-handling skills are an absolute must to safely survey the trail. Fast corners and deep berms lead into lofty takeoffs, and steep landings.

After the entrance, most of the hits on Mohawk are in no way small, and push the rider to advance their limits and jumping techniques. The straight sections of trail contain lengthy tabletops, and several of the corners challenge the rider with hip-jumps, forcing a somewhat sideways landing. The trail’s steepest right-hand corner leads into a step-up with a generously sized optional takeoff on the right. Mohawk’s final features are perhaps its most challenging, where the trail widens and splits into several choices ranging from relatively easy, to fully commanding.”

It’s not all about the jumps, though. The routing of the trail from top to bottom is truly genius, utilizing Galbraith’s natural contours to its advantage, while creating a refreshing gateway from the top of Tower Road to Road 4000’s western section which is home to Mullet and Happy Hour.

I fell in love with Mohawk immediately for several reasons. It provides another rewarding South Side jumpline, as a more committed alternative to Unemployment Line or Evolution, Mohawk pushes even the best riders to practice their form. The builders of Mohawk incorporated all of mountain biking’s newest favorite features: a trusty sharkfin gap, offset mounds for ultimate sideways brap (read: skid) sessions (see Brandon Semeuk’s Raw 100 v3 for optimal technique), and a set of in-n-out berms you have to ride to understand. Apart from the day we shot the pictures to go along with this piece, I don’t think I’ve gone for a Mohawk lap without taking a second trip down, I love this trail.” Matthew Kowitz

SPACEWOLF

Spacewolf  is named after the trailbuilder’s dog. John “JC” Canfield is also a local outdoor recreation manufacturer with his brand High Above. Check out the Freehub Magazine review of his High Above Cascadia Hip Pack.

Below is the trail profile “a steep and sometimes loose trail filled with a nearly blind rock drop and a large rock roll that has consequences to the right side in the form of a 8-10′ vertical drop.” Trailforks

Follow the map to get to the top. You’ll be rewarded with sweeping eastern views looking at Mount Baker and the Twin Sisters. You’ll see a “Safety Break” bench to prepare for your descent. You’ll also notice the custom sign, confirming you’re headed in the right direction…DOWN!

This is one of my favorite kind of trails to ride! Steep and technical. Point and shoot!  There’s no other choice. One main feature of Spacewolf is the big rock ride that drops off to the right with a 20′ drop. So, don’t go that way!

Matthew helped sussing out the best line for Chris and I before we dropped in.

While we were getting ready to risk it all, Brandon was waiting below to capture the moment. Yes, we were out having fun, BTW!

With our wits about us and Brando in place, we went for it.

Matthew followed, showing us how to round out at the end and carry his speed into the corner.

Next up, or should I say DOWN, was Chris leading the charge through the steep trees.

As we moved down the hill Brandon’s perspective gives a better sense of the pitch of the trail.

I even got to get in on the action. Hang on and point it!

Matthew knows what’s up and came with the appropriate eye ware.

As we made our way DOWN the trail, we found a sunny spot that made for some great shots. This was my perspective of a work in progress:

It’s all a matter of perspective. This is Brandon’s take on it:

Spacewolf takes dedication. You have to be on it! This is not for beginners. If you qualify, go up and check it out for yourself.

Matthew on SPACEWOLF
Opened during Summer of 2017, Spacewolf is one of Galbraith’s most unique trails, and also one of the least traveled on the mountain. Starting from a picturesque viewpoint on Galbraith Mountain’s southeast side, the trail immediately dives down one of the finger-like ridges that riddle Galbraith’s eastern zone. When introducing friends to the trail, my most common beta is simple: “Don’t fall to the right.” Advice like this may seem trivial, however, a majority of the upper trail follows the ridgeline so closely that the rider is often peeking past their handlebars at a drop upwards of 25 feet.

The trail itself is narrow, very narrow, and steep to boot. As the rider negotiates the upper trail’s precarious turns and rutted, choppy root sections, they are soon met with a host of technical features.

Spacewolf’s flagship feature, in my opinion, is one of the most satisfying on the mountain. The rider approaches a large rock face, with a cramped spine-like entrance move, which grants passage to a long rock-ride, followed by a hard right-hand turn off the boulder.

After the rock, the trail acts as a dividing line between old, gorgeous trees the south, and a more recently planted harvest to the north. In this section, the rider goes essentially in a straight line, cruising down a choppy steep section in which the soil tends to be pretty loose, skidding their way past roots and stumps. Better hope your brakes are on their A-game here.

The end section of the trail is recognizable by a split-cedar bridge, tight technical turns, and finally, a short-but-punchy climb back to the road. A relatively short pedal up Road 4000, and the rider finds themselves near the top of Keystone, and the bottom of Wonderland.” Matthew Kowitz  @m.kowitz

For more insights on Bellingham outdoor adventures see the full list of Todd’s articles, or our biking page.

 


Special thanks to Matthew for sharing his new school perspective on the trails. And to Brandon, for the incredible  photography. You can follow Brandon Sawaya @brandonsawaya  and see more of his work at PacificVim

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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.