I admit that I am binging a bit on the North Lake Whatcom area. Although there are wonders to be found there, what make this area binge worthy for me is the tremendous workout it offers straight out of the box. From the upper parking lot there seems to be nothing but steep uphill for the first few miles, in fact the parking lot itself even slopes uphill a bit. I’ve hiked up and down this section several times and recently ridden down this section on a Wickersham Loop ride, but I don’t often ride (push) up this section.
This Sunday morning I had my sights set on getting to the local high point, what some seem to think is Stewart Mountain. Keeping in mind the potential for some future rides, I also wanted to do a little sightseeing and exploration. I’m thinking of loops that go over to Acme or might follow one of the ridgelines north so that I could return along Y Road & North Lake Boulevard. I did run into a problem with the scouting, and that problem was that I was in the clouds for darn near the whole ride. If you check out the Relive link below, you will see that I tracked a bit east before returning to the summit road because there was nothing to be seen but fog. As far as where Stewart Mountain is or if it is the high point, I don’t know what to think. I read in some places that Stewart Mountain is a little shy of 3000 feet high and a little north of where I rode. I also see a map that shows Stewart Mtn Trail leads you right up to where I was riding and the peak there is just over 3000 feet? Maybe Stewart Mountain has multiple peaks? So I don’t really know what you call the place I went, but there was nowhere higher to go except maybe to climb a tree, but they were small, so I called 3074 feet good enough.
My ride had me pedaling out of the upper parking area of the North Lake Whatcom Park by way of the road rather than the newish Chanterelle Trail. I took the road rather than trail thinking that I just wanted to get the workout/elevation out of the way quick so I could get on with the exploration stuff. After some pushing I changed my mind and joined the Chanterelle Trail at one of its multiple road crossings. I was pleasantly surprised with how easy going the wide open trail was compared to the rocky road, but watch for nettles! I rode all the way to the Chanterelle Overlook before returning to the road for the rest of my ride. I continued on up what is the Wickersham Truck Trail and just after going around a major pipe gate, I crossed the powerline at the rusty shot up car.
I went on exploring to the east on this mostly flat section of road. I also got bored of looking at clouds/fog, so I backtracked and took the road directly up to the local high point which may or may not be Stewart Mountain. It gets exceedingly steep in this area so I did more walking on this stretch. I walked past several bunnies, a few deer and a couple of pair of boxer shorts. You know where to look next time you can’t find your underwear. After finishing the workout part of my ride by reaching the top, I decided that a scouting trip north would be pointless in the thick fog so I just turned around and started my descent. Down past the undies, down past the deer and bunnies. Down, down, down, slowing only enough to ward off the cold headaches or to not ride past my abilities and faceplant the road. Beware, there is enough downhill here to really give your brakes a workout. The rear brakes on my Burley have not been the same since I came down this a few weeks ago. The more upscale discs & pads on my Stumpjumper handled it all effortlessly with no post-ride repercussions.
Approaching the end of the downhill, I realized that I hadn’t seen a soul the whole time I was up there, so I decided to tryout the lower portion of Chanterelle Trail. The lower half-mile or so is designated multi-use which allows both ascending & descending bikes, while the upper portion of the trail only allows ascending/climbing bikes. The lower trail, like the upper trail, is really nice, like bunny trail nice, but this portion of the trail is also where I ran into all the people. I think I passed at least 10, maybe 12, who were hiking up. I went slow, was super courteous, even dismounting a few times to pass, but still felt as if I was imposing on their solitude. Legal as it may be, next time I will be skipping this downhill portion of the Chanterelle Trail. Chanterelle Trail looks to be a very a nice hiking trail and if it were up to me, I’d close the lower section to downhill biking just like the upper sections. The relatively small amount of downhill trail just doesn’t seem to stack up well against any potential ill will towards cyclists from frightened hikers.
Great things about this ride are the great workout and the easy ride back down after reaching the top. However, much of the ride is in the open so if the day is clear you might consider sunscreen and plenty of water. You may also want to pre-ride check your brakes, you will need them to be in tip-top shape.