Thunderbird Lake Trails … Clear Lake Trailhead
I had studied the map of the Thunderbird Lake Trails, taken a photo of the map, used my Trailforks and MTB Project apps, and I still got lost. More than once!
I started the system doing the Green Trail, then turned onto the Yellow … just like I had planned. I had wanted to start with the easy trails (Yellow and Green) and then move to the more difficult Blue and Gold Trails. After all, my goal for the day was to ride every bit of every trail in the Thunderbird Lake Trail system.
I was cruising along and working up a light sweat when I came upon a sign saying I was on the Blue Trail. When had I left the Yellow?
Anyway, I continued on the Blue Trail, expecting a little more difficulty. But in less than a quarter mile I came to a sign saying I was now on the Plaid Trail! The “Plaid Trail?” Who had ever named a trail Plaid? And how did my Blue disappear or mutate into Plaid?” When I looked at my location on Trialforks I found no Plaid Trail. Actually, what I found was I was not on any trail according to the app!
The Plaid Trail wound me all over through a thick forest close to Highway 9, the road I had used to arrive at the Thunderbird Lake Trails. I could hear vehicles passing just a few feet to the southeast but could never see one due to the dense foliage.
When the Plaid Trail veered away from the highway toward the west it morphed back to the Blue Trail! I had really liked the Plaid so I walked back and forth to see if I had missed a turnoff for Plaid. But, no such luck! I figured the Plaid had ended just as it had begun … transitioning with the Blue.
So I decided to just stay on the Blue Trail even though I had no idea if I had already done that portion. What a confusing mess of trails!
The Gold Trail
But a few moments later I came to a turn off for the Gold Trail. The Gold Trail, the one rated a black diamond by MTB Project app, was the trail I had been looking forward to riding.
However, less than three tenth miles later I was lost. The trail split and headed two completely different directions. Both were well traveled. Neither had a sign. I tried the right, but turned around after a hundred yards when my Trailforks app told me I was off track. I started on the other track and soon came to a big structure built with timbers and two by sixes. After parking my bike I walked to the front, back, and top to take a few photos.
Finally I got my bike and rode up the ramp and looked down. The front ramp plunged while making a sudden right turn. I sat there wondering how my tires would grip the 2×6 slats. “I have never biked down such a steep wooden ramp,” I told myself. “The slats are not wet, so they will probably grip pretty well.”
My next thought was, “If they don’t grip well I could slide off the left, drop a good six feet, and most likely break some part of my body.” Tacked onto that thought I mused, “Do I want to break something a thousand miles from home? Especially when I am most likely the only person out here?” After a minute of cogitating I removed my bike from the top and parked it against a tree at the base.
Just Do IT?
Just then I saw somebody in a red shirt coming my way on the Gold Loop. I ran to the bottom of the ramp with my camera and waited for him to ride the ramp. He had to do the loop behind the structure but soon rode up onto and down the ramp … and continued on the trail.
He had made it look so easy I ran up the hill, grabbed my bike, and rode up to the top. As I started down I tried my brakes. After realizing the wood gave me great grip I let go and flew to the bottom and sped across the clearing. I was both happy and mad. Happy that I had overcame my fear, mad that I had been worrying over nothing!
Rod … My Guide
The guy in red was waiting for me just around the turn. We introduced ourselves. “Rod” proceeded to lead me over all kinds of twists and turns the Gold Trail had to offer. We dropped down to the side of the lake and climbed back onto the hillside, only to do that all again.
While near the lake I stopped and looked across to see if I could see our campsite on the opposite shore. By zooming in on my photos I think I could barely see our travel trailer.
While riding I learned Rod was the vice president of an organization which helped teenage women in trouble. He proudly pointed out their work was successful without government funds. “We do a lot of fundraisers,” he said. “I am in charge of setting up all those events.”
We plummeted down more wood ramps and navigated several rock obstacles. Rod warned me about some upcoming spots he thought tricky, and set a pace a little faster than I found comfortable. He waited for me at the top of each hill if I was sucking gas, which I was most of the time. I thanked him for pushing me. I needed a little conditioning for I had not done much on the rides so far on our trip.
Rod had disappeared when I rounded a turn and found myself facing a teeter totter. I had never even tried riding one of those things, much less one that stood as tall as me. I figured I had done the ramp … why not try the teeter totter too? I took off and hit the boards perfectly centered, but way too fast! I suddenly found myself the uphill side and moving toward the end. The problem? I was going to reach the far end before it even started down … about six feet off the ground.
I hit my brakes and waited. All of a sudden my end of the ramp began to plummet … fast! As the board dropped I hung my butt over my rear wheel like when descending a steep drop. Right when the board hit the ground I released my brakes. In a flash I found myself sitting on the ground at the base of the board, still holding my handle bars, with my bike standing on its rear wheel in front of me.
Quite sure my act appeared quite comical, I looked around to see if anyone had witnessed the stupid stunt. Nobody. Whew. I had to laugh.
At one point Rod was waiting next to one of his buddies … a skinny, green one. I think I ran over at least four snakes on this ride, but not this little guy!
After about eleven miles of winding around on the Gold Trail Rod said he needed to be going (he had to set up for an event). He said he would have to take the shortcut back. He explained how I should finish my ride … even walking me up to the next junction to point out where I needed to go.
Using Rod’s directions along with the Trailforks app I managed to escape from the Thunderbird Lake Trails. I had never been so confused in my life. I am so grateful to Rod for being my guide and riding buddy.
The Thunderbird Lake Trails were a lot of fun … especially the Gold Trail.
During most visits I take many more photos than I can place on a page. To view every image I captured … 48 photos in all, please visit my Photo Gallery Site.
The following link can give you all the stats for the Thunderbird Lake Trails … just click on the box below.
Would you like to try the Thunderbird Lake Trails? You can copy my GPX file from the Garmin Link below.