Snow Mountain Biking—Green Mountain Bike Ride—Baker National Forest

By Scott Bringe

Today is the first sunny winter day in weeks! And I’m chomping to go.

I’m heading out on a 4-hour mountain bike ride up the nearest mountain, called “Green Mountain.” (I guess they ran out of the interesting names when they got to this mountain...either that or this was the first one they named so they had to come up with something other than the obvious for all the remaining green mountains in northwestern Washington!)

The temp is 50°F at the base of the mountain and it steadily chills as I gain elevation, but I’m still sweating like a butcher the whole way up. After 90 minutes of huffing and puffing I’m well past the snow line but I keep on going. It’s a little tricky pedaling in the snow, especially in the fresh jeep tracks someone left which alternate icy and rutted. Finally the tire tracks end where the last guy turned around. The unbroken snow on Forest Road 41 is about 3” deep here and I can’t plow through it much further, at least on the uphills which this route is made of mostly.

But I’m having so much fun that I get off the bike and push it uphill another 1/2 hour until the snow is over my ankles. I can’t feel my toes anymore so I have to stop.

The view at this point is outstanding. I can see Lake Stevens 15 miles away and of course the sea-blue ribbon of the Puget Sound beyond that. The snowcapped Olympic mountains 50 miles to the west fill in a postcard perfect frame.

I spy an acre sized clearing just ahead in the warm shelter of a cliff. I’m dripping in sweat but my toes are frozen so I want to sit down and take my boots off and thaw out. The sun is reflecting so brightly up from the snow that I have to squint while I decide what to do. Everything is covered in white so I use my boots to mash down a circle of packed snow 6 ft in diameter. I take off my shirt and shoes and lay directly on the snow. It’s painful at first but after 5 minutes I get used to it.

I lay here in the sun about 20 minutes until my body cools down and my feet warm up. As I relax with my eyes closed, I listen to the forest melting. Snow is crackling off of the cedars in various sized chunks and landing with poofs and splats onto the forest floor sounding like a rain shower of eggs! Little rivulets of ice water trickle over and through the woods. An occasional breeze whisks powder off the spruce trees sending a flurry of recycled snowflakes that didn’t make it to the ground on their first try onto my bare gut, giving me goose bumps.

I’m nearly asleep and I know I’m going to have a hard time getting motivated when it comes time to leave. My skin is numb wherever it touches the snow, but somehow I don’t care.

Behind me is a near vertical dirt cliff facing squarely into the full force of the melting sunshine. Boulders that had once tumbled down are strewn along the base of the escarpment and around me. Every few minutes while I lay here, a handful of rocks comes rolling down the cliff to a swooshing stop in the snow just behind my head. I think some mischievous critters must be moving around up top, causing the mini landslides, but then I catch what is happening in the corner of my eye. The sun and wind conspire to push ice off the tree branches hanging over the cliff’s edge and occasionally a slushy bomb hits a rock that is ready to roll and cause a commotion.

It’s a magical moment until I imagine a boulder coming to rest on top of me, then instantly I find the energy to sit up and get dressed!

Pedaling back downhill through the fresh powder snow is a blast! The only problem is that the snow keeps piling up under my brakes and I have a nerve wracking time coming to a stop a few times. Ice clogs my chain and gears too, but I don’t need to use them too much on the nearly steady grade down the mountain.

It took 3 hours to pedal and push to the top of the mountain but I’ll be back down in under 30 minutes at breakneck speeds! I try and stay out of the tire ruts altogether preferring to plow through the snow in the middle of the lane because it slows me down slightly and responds to my tires better than the icy tracks threatening on either side. My eyes are watering so bad from the wind chill that I can barely see and snowy mud keeps flinging up from my tires and into my eyes. I should have worn glasses.

I reach my car covered in mud splatter head to toe, front and back and my hands and feet are frozen solid. I drive with my hands on the heater vents but I can’t feel my feet again until I get home and take a shower. It feels like someone is pinching my toes in a vice as they tingle back to life from the deep freeze of Green Mountain!

But I’ll do it again, next sunny day.


About Scott Bringe:
Scott was the first person to write a trail book specifically for mountain bikers in San Diego. He started printing and binding in his living room and selling directly to bike shops. Then Scott wrote several editions of the
Mountain Bike Guide, San Diego Region after Sunbelt Publishing picked him up. For the last 10 years Scott has been writing/illustrating owners’ manuals for Fender Musical Instruments. Scott's degree is in photojournalism.

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