Trouble at the Start of the Sawtooth Mountain Loop
Well, the beginning of this ride on the Sawtooth Mountain Loop didn’t start out real well!
I have forgotten my water, food, helmet, gloves, cameras, shoes, map, phone, sunglasses, but this was a first. I had loaded my bike into the truck the night before so we could get off to a good start. Since we were staying in an RV Park I made sure I secured the bike (using my good cable lock) to the truck the night before the ride. Not only did I pass the cable through the tie down loop in the bed, I also ran the lock through the back wheel and triangle for good security.
Well … you guessed it, when we arrived at Lake Timpanogas (a 45 minute drive from the RV park) and I went to unlock my bike and quickly discovered I had the wrong keys! The set I needed were hanging on the hook in the trailer!
We checked through all glove boxes, console boxes, door pockets, etc. but had no luck locating the other key. I thought and thought of what to do. At one point I told Cindy, “I guess we will have to drive back and get the keys.” Then I came up with another idea, “Maybe I can pry the end out with a tire iron.”
I pushed the backrest forward and lifted the back seat, opened the jack compartment, and grabbed the tire iron. I was now armed for combat!
I tried and tried to pry the end loose but the tip of the iron was too thick to fit completely into the gap. Finally, decided on brute force. I started beating on the lock with the iron. The first couple of whacks shattered the plastic case around the lock. Two more whacks and the cable broke loose from the end and we were good to go! Cindy said, “So much for your bike being secure with one of those ‘good’ locks.”
Cindy was going to stay at Timpanogas Lake to kayak, read, hike, and stitch. After bringing the kayak down to the shore I said goodbye and headed clockwise around the lake.
Sawtooth Mountain Stats
The following information was collected by my Garmin 800 Edge … taking readings every second. Click on the title of the ride to see a better map, graphs, and all the ride details.
Almost before I could get any momentum I heard a whole bunch of dogs barking as they rushed my direction. I kept riding (instead of hiding behind my bike like I usually do) when I heard their masters calling them back. Soon I passed by a cabin with several people sitting in front. I kept riding as if I didn’t see them as I wanted to get going and didn’t want to linger with the dogs (which were still barking) or get caught in a half hour conversation.
About 20 feet past the cabin I came to the trail to climb the ridge. Trail 3642, or as the sign said, the “O’Willamette Trail.” I followed Trail #3642 as it switchbacked to the top of the ridge in less than a mile.
Windy Pass Trail
At that point I came to a “T” where I could either go left or right on Trail #3643 (The Windy Pass Trail). Since the left turn onto the Windy Pass Trail had a temporary posted sign saying it was closed due to a fire I figured I would go to the right. Easy decision, right?
Trail #3643 gradually climbed and climbed up the Sawtooth Ridge. The climbing was the type I like, roller coaster style … 2 feet up … 1 foot down … 5 feet up … 3 foot down, etc. The surface of the trail was in great shape … a winding path through a bright green forest.
Cranking slowly, with my head down, I gradually began to gain elevation. All of a sudden I heard a sound that brought me out of my stupor. When I lifted my eyes from the trail I noticed two riders bombing down the trail … bombing down the roller coaster. I dismounted to let them pass but they slid to a stop right next to me.
The lead rider, a 30-ish looking young man said, “We have got two more guys coming down … I am not sure why they are so far behind.” As we sat and waited I said, “Nice bike!” I had noticed the lead rider was riding an old Stumpjumper, just like mine. He said he thought his was a year older because mine had “The Brain,” an attachment to the rear shock that was supposed to help smooth out big bumps.
Next he said they were coming from Indigo Lake, and asked where I was going. I told them I was going behind Sawtooth Mountain. “Stay alert,” the other one said. “A large tree has fallen right onto the trail junction up there. Go around the tree on the left. That will keep you on the correct trail.” He further explained. “If you go to the right you will be on the trail to Indigo Lake.”
He also recommended I climb up onto the ridge from where the trail reaches its highest point on Sawtooth Mountain. He added, “Despite the large amount of smoke in the air, the views from the ridge will be outstanding.”
Finally, I spotted two other riders bombing down toward us. When asked where they had been, the third guy down said he had hit a tree! I quickly checked him over to see if he was okay and then looked at his bike to see if he had taco’d a rim … but all looked good. He said his derailleur was now messed up and his bike would not shift correctly. As we said goodbye I told them to have fun and then said to the third guy, “No more trees!” As it turned out, these were the only people I saw my entire Sawtooth Mountain ride!
At one point I came upon a bunch of bent trees. I had only learned a few days earlier why all the trees were bent in the same fashion. The trees begin growing straight up, like normal. But if the soil slowly slides downhill the trunk of the tree begins to face horizontal. With the trunk horizontal the tip of the tree still grows straight up. After years of this phenomena the tree becomes curved.
The trail continued to gradually climb until it neared Cowhorn Mountain, where it topped out on a crest offering a smoky view to the southeast. Right as it topped out the trail made an abrupt right turn and headed down … to the south of Sawtooth Mountain. The trail kept going down until it bottomed out in a lush meadow. That was when the fun ended!
Grinding To The Top
From that meadow Trail #3643 climbed rather steeply up the south flank of Sawtooth Mountain … and I did a lot of walking. Near the top the trail passed through a field of soft, loose, deep, volcanic rock. Each rock was the size of golf ball or smaller. It was so loose that for every foot I stepped I slid back six inches.
Five minutes later and I had reached the point the rider had spoken of … the highest point of the ride. So I got off the bike and hiked up the ridge. The young man had been totally correct … the view was incredible … and would have been 10 times as good without the smoke!
As I left the ridge the trail somehow transitioned into Trail #3634 … or … when they made the map someone was dyslexic. Based on the map (and what the worker at the local bike shop had told me) I was due for a fast downhill ride right back to Timpanogas Lake. Wrong!
Logs Difficult to Climb Over
The downhill part was very steep at times and littered with down trees. At some points I was sliding down deep sandy ruts hoping I could turn or get stopped before I hit a log. This was one of those trails where I wish I had brought a chainsaw!
But more disheartening than that … I had to do about five hundred feet of very steep climbing!
With about two miles to go the downhill to Lake Timpanogas actually did begin. However, with so many trees across the trail I found it hard to get any momentum going. With about .8 miles to go my trail (# 3634) hit the trail to Indigo Lake Trail (#3649) and that’s when the riding got good. That last .8 mile was like a winding freeway … smooth, wide, and with no trees blown across my path.
When I rode over to Cindy she was stitching like crazy. She said she had kayaked, hiked, and done some reading. I was pleased to hear she had had a good day.
My day had started out pretty bad … nothing that could not be cured by a good Sawtooth Mountain bike ride and some incredible views!
Below you will find the video taken from during the Sawtooth Mountain Ride. To watch the video on a full screen click the icon in the lower right corner just to the right of the YouTube emblem.
To view all my videos please go to my YouTube channel at MountainBikeDiaries.