Jeff recommended the Game Creek Loop. Jeff, the brother in law of Joe “The Rockman,” (with whom I have shared many a ride) lives in Jackson, Wyoming. He told me the order of trails he prefers for his Game Creek Loop and volunteered to take me out if I wanted to wait until he returned from Oregon. His favorite order goes like this;
- Up Game Trail to Cache Creek.
- Down Cache Creek to the Hagen Trail.
- Follow Hagen (up and down) to the Ferrins Trail.
- Climb the Ferrins to the top of the pass to meet the West Game Trail.
- Take the West Game Trail back down to the Game Creek Trail.
- Take the Game Creek Trail back to the truck.
Jeff also recommended I look at the IMBA Project site to get more info on the trails but informed me his loop would give me about a twenty one miles.
I looked on the IMBA and the Strava sites but found no one had posted a ride in the order Jeff recommended. A ride on IMBA appeared to use the same trails as Jeff’s but started in a different place. I figured where I joined the loop made little difference so I copied the GPX file onto my Garmin and sent the IMBA’s trailhead directions to my phone. At this point I felt pretty good about my next day’s ride.
Finding the trailhead was a cinch … although the setting seemed a little strange. I parked in the middle of a residential area and found no visible signs or kiosks … just a skinny path leading off through a tunnel of bushes next to a house.
As usual, I immediately fired up my Garmin (so it can dial in the satellites) and walked back to mount it on my bike. But, before I could even attach the device I read the screen which stated, “Batteries are low.”
The message caused total shock. I had checked the charge the previous night in the trailer and had read 100%. I placed the GPS on my bike and got everything else ready, but when I returned the screen was blank.
So I headed up the trail, figuring I would soon come to a sign which would tell me where I would be starting the loop. But as soon as I cleared the thick bushes my trail came to a “T” with another one. Should I go “right or left?” I was asking myself when a rider suddenly appeared on my right. I stopped him, then asked, “Do you have any idea which way I should go?”
He (his name turned out to be Jeter) said, “Probably left, since I just came from a parking lot.” Jeter then asked me where I wanted to go and I recited Jeff’s list of trails. He told me how to adjust Jeff’s loop based on the different starting point. Jeter then informed me I needed to ride to the top of the Snow King Pass, and I could follow him, since he was going to try some new trail (Skyline Ridge) which also began at the pass.
Jeter set a torrid pace up the mountain. My lungs were burning less than a minute after Jeter started, which caused me to ask myself a few ridiculous questions. “Could there be a forest fire in the area? Did ‘Global Warming’ suddenly get kicked up a notch? Was Jeter sucking up all the available air and leaving little behind a vacuum for me?”
But then I thought of some more obvious explanations:
- My body was not accustomed to the high elevation (6,237 feet at the start of the ride).
- I had not mountain biked in almost three weeks (unless following my two year old grandson’s Strider around various campgrounds can be classified as mountain biking!)
- I had been eating way too many goodies since leaving home on this vacation
At one point we stopped in the middle of a ski run and I managed to take a few photos between gasps.
Jeter said something like, “If you are the one from San Diego why am I the one breathing so hard.” I responded with something like, “I am not sure anyone could be sucking gas like I am.”
From there on Jeter insisted I lead. I told him something like, “You have been kicking my butt all the way up this hill and besides, you know which trails to take.” But he insisted I go first, saying he would catch up to me when I was resting.
We continued to climb as we worked our way east on Snow King Mountain. I stopped when I got to the junction of Ferrins and Hagen Trails. Jeter said we would be going up Ferrins and that so many people go the other way the trail was often referred to as “Hagens Highway.”
Just as we were discussing this matter two rather athletic and attractive women (Kim and Josie) appeared from behind us. Just as they began to speak to Jeter a fellow with a ZZ Top beard came down Ferrins from the pass. Jeter and the ladies all knew this fellow and began to ask him a few questions (the ladies later told me this bearded fellow was a world class kayaker named Olaf).
While the locals were speaking of old times I happened to glance down at my phone and was shocked. The Strava report on my phone said I had only biked 1.4 miles and my time was 6 minutes. I noticed the Auto Pause feature was on so I stopped the recording and restarted it.
Olaf didn’t stay long as he took Hagens Highway. I followed the women up Ferrins with Jeter right behind.
After a few swichbacks I passed Kim, who said she was not feeling great. I also passed Josie, only because she was waiting for Kim.
When I reached the pass I felt a whole lot better. I think I had finally started to adjust to the environment and the task at hand. I took a photo of the trail I would take if I wanted to reach the very top of Snow King Mountain.
I was not happy to see my Strava was paused again, saying I had been riding for eight minutes and covering less than two miles. I stopped the recording and started over hoping that would solve the problem.
Josie was the first to join me … not even breathing hard. Kim arrived a minute or two later, laughing about her state of conditioning in between deep breaths.
While we waited for Jeter I learned a lot from the women. They told me Jeter was a jeweler in town (JC Jewelers) and shared some other information about themselves. They asked me where else I was going to ride and made some recommendations.
After about ten minutes of pleasant conversation we finally decided Jeter must have turned around. We described Jeter to the next rider to appear and this fellow said he had not passed a single person on the climb.
I felt bad for I had not waited for Jeter at different points along the ascent, yet I thought he would have surely caught up with Kim at her pace.
*Note – I did get a hold of Jeter by going to his jewelry store. He said he had mechanical problems part way up the hill. He also sent me the photo above upon my request. By the way, if you visit Jackson you might try visiting JC Jewelers. They have created some pretty amazing things.
The women decided to take the new Skyline Ridge Trail while I would take West Game. We said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways.
The West Game Trail switchbacked down into a canyon with low shrubs which turned to knee high flowers, kind of reminiscent of the 401 Trail in Crested Butte, CO.
Next the West Game Trail took me through a burned section of forest, down a steep hill of low shrubbery, and eventually into a mass of waist high flowers. The beautiful flowers clutched at my pedals, shins, and thighs as the trail was only wide enough for my tires.
Near the bottom of the gorge the West Game Trail circled me around a small pond.
I could only ride a little while before having to stop and take another photo of the flowers.
Eventually I coasted across a wood bridge and spotted the Game Creek Trail sign, which marked the end or the West Game Creek Trail. I had just crossed Game Creek!
I chose this spot to take off my pack and eat on of my Sweet & Salty Nut bars … washed down by a little Scratch. As I consumed my few calories I thought about animals. Shouldn’t I be seeing some animals on all these “Game” Trails?
While I was disappointed by not spotting some wild animals, I was not one bit upset by the beauty and design of the Game Creek Trail. Winding gradually through a virtual greenhouse the trail gained almost eight hundred feet of elevation while hugging Game Creek. And I thought the vegetation on the West Game Trail was incredible!
I don’t think I could purchase a bouquet with more variety and beauty than what Mother Nature was showed me along this trail!
The Game Creek Trail tops out at 7,681 feet. From the summit I flew down almost five hundred feet of elevation to reach Cache Creek and the Cache Creek Trail. I knew I was supposed to head down the creek to the left. But when I looked right I noticed a skinny little singletrack snaking up the grassy slope with a sign reading, “Wilderness Boundary 2 Miles.”
Of course I had to check out the trail. That is why I mountain bike … to explore!
I am not sure I have ever biked in an area with so much thick grass. I wondered why I did not see some of those wild animals chomping on the stuff!
About a half mile up the grass lined trail I came across a sign saying, “4 Miles.” Four miles from what? As I thought about the situation. I figured miles 1,2, and 3 must lead up Cache Creek from the town of Jackson … some kind of training program?
I had to cross a couple of side creeks before I reached the Wilderness Boundary. One had a sign, bridge, and a most unusual name … “Noker Mine Draw.” And nailed to an adjacent tree was a sign telling me I was at the 4.6 mile mark.
Once I reached the Wilderness Boundary I sped my way back down to the Cache Creek bridge and ate my apple.
After mixing up another bottle of Scratch I shot down the trail.
I do not have many photos for the last part of this ride. The Cache Creek Trail is so smooth and straight no one would ever think of stopping just to take a photo, or for any other reason for that matter!
After about a mile and a half of pure bliss I crossed over Cache Creek to join the Hagen Trail. As Jeter had explained, I could either take the Put Put Trail or the Hagen at that point … he recommended the Hagen.
I did come across a most unusual sign while riding the Hagen Trail along Cache Creek (see left). I had no idea what the steep section might look like so I went on to investigate. After clonking down a staircase of about 16 water bar logs I suddenly knew what the sign meant!
Finding my way back to the tuck was a nightmare. My Strava tracking was screwed up so I couldn’t follow that . I had no Garmin to follow since the batteries were dead. There are dozens of trails crossing the ski slopes but had trouble finding the one Jeter had taken me on. I knew I could always ride into town and easily find the truck, but what challenge would that be? So, eventually I managed to navigate the old fashioned way … by trial and error … and ended at the truck.
During most visits I take many more photos than I can place on a page. To view every image I captured … 39 photos in all, please visit my Photo Gallery Site.
If you zoom in on the Strava Post below you will notice most of the trails curve … yet Strava represented these trails with a straight line. Therefore, I do believe my ride was quite a bit longer than the number posted on Strava.
I have solve the Auto Pause situation. The problem did not lay within the Strava app but with my phone settings. Somehow my Power Saving Mode got turned on. So each time I stopped, Strava went into Auto Pause and the Power Saving Mode would then shut down the GPS chip to save energy. Strava would then fail to get a message from the GPS that I was once again on the move.
I am glad only the Game Creek Trail post got messed up. Too bad my Garmin could not be used as a substitute!