DAY ONE ON a borrowed, full-suspension mountain bike. The trail, packed smooth and hard, zips along beneath my tires. I haven't even corkscrewed down the first descent—the raison d'괲e for these full boingers—and I'm already sold. I need a new bike. Yikes! Where does a mountain bike author dredge up $3,500 when he spent his book advance eight months ago? In my head, I write and rewrite the lies that will fill up my next VISA application. My editor, I'm sure, would prefer I spend my time writing the book that was due months ago.
Instead I'm out on a pleasure ride on a borrowed bike with fraud on my mind. From behind, my friend says, "It's borrowed, so ride it like you stole it." I pedal faster. As the trail roller-coasters through the forest, the bicycle's disc brakes grip a bit too tight, not unlike the trigger of a self-launching catapult. It's not good to feel like an inanimate object this early in the ride. A few splattering, cartwheeling endoes down the trail, maybe.
After a short rise, the trail descends and runs along a little creek. There's a perfect blind to the right of the trail, and I imagine pulling out my slingshot and firing pine cones at other trail users. Ssaazap! They all expect mountain bikers to act 8 years old, and today on this borrowed boinger I'm game to stretch my slingshot and shoot right into their expectations.
My editor's ready to kill me; the wankers at VISA don't want me dead just yet, but soon; meanwhile, the other folks on the trail joylessly scheme ways to ban mountain bikers, and I can't keep the grin off my face. I'm ready to load the catapult: bike grease, spit, trail splatter, and sweat, just roll me in pine needles and launch me over the castle wall. I'll let the suspension suck up the hit. Ride it like you stole it, after all. It's another great day for mountain biking on these trails perched on the high eastern slopes of the Cascades. And the trail along North Fork Taneum Creek is one of the best.
You'll find this trail out near Cle Elum, just over 100 miles from Seattle, making it within striking distance for a day trip. With so many other trails nearby and plentiful camping opportunities, the Taneum area also makes for a good weekend camp out. The other trails add the potential to create longer, more difficult loops, full of creek crossings and elevation gain. Just don't be put off by the first three miles of the ride, a relatively difficult dirt-road climb. After the climb, it's all fun.
North Fork Taneum Creek Trail
Overall rating: 3 wheels (out of 5)
Ride: 14.2 miles out and back on singletrack
Duration: 2 to 4 hours
Travel: Seattle—105 miles
Elevation: constantly rolling trail with a few steep hills; 740-foot gain
Skill level: intermediate
Season: spring, summer, fall
Maps: Green Trails: Cle Elum, Easton
Users: bicyclists, motorcyclists, equestrians, hikers
More info: Wenatchee National Forest, Cle Elum District, 509-674-4411
From Seattle, take Interstate 90 eastbound past Cle Elum to Exit 93. Zero out your odometer at the end of the exit ramp and turn left. At .3 mile, turn right on Thorp Prairie Rd. At 3.9 miles, turn right on W Taneum Rd and cross over Interstate 90. At 4.1 miles, turn right, continuing on W Taneum Rd. Stay on the main road, which becomes Forest Rd 33, to Ice Water Creek Campground on the left at 13 miles. Park at the campground.
From the junction of FR 33 and the entrance to Ice Water Creek Campground, take Trail 1377, which begins across FR 33 from the campground. The trail climbs a short but steep grade on a loose tread. At .8 mile, the trail crosses an old road. At 1.7 miles, reach a jeep trail and bear right. When the old road forks, 1.8 miles, stay to the right, following the signs toward North Fork Trail 1377. The trail, sometimes wide, sometimes narrow, climbs steadily. Reach a fork at 2.5 miles and turn left on North Fork Trail 1377. From here the trail is quite steep to the 3.1-mile point where it crosses a dirt road.
After the road crossing, Trail 1377 weaves through the woods, dropping and winding. Watch your speed because it's easy to get going too fast. The trail drops to the creek, climbs away from it, then zips back down again. Finally, after a lot of roller-coaster fun, the trail crosses the creek at 7.1 miles. Turn around here and retrace your pedal strokes back to Ice Water Creek Campground at 14.2 miles.
To shorten this out and back and avoid the first three difficult miles, drive up FR 33, staying to the right at both forks, to the North Fork Taneum Creek Trailhead. To increase the distance, cross North Fork Taneum Creek at the 7.1-mile mark and continue out Trail 1377. The trail follows the creek about 8 more miles, getting progressively more technical before it becomes really steep just past Taneum Shelter.
Nearby camping: Ice Water Campground, also lots of dispersed camping
Nearest food, drink, services: Cle Elum
Other nearby rides: Fishhook Flats, Lookout Mountain, Taneum Ridge*
John Zilly is the author of eight mountain bike guidebooks, including Kissing the Trail: Greater Seattle Mountain Bike Adventures (Adventure Press) and Mountain Bike! Southwest Washington (Sasquatch Books). He will be presenting his newest slide show at the REI in Redmond Town Center 6/7 at 7pm.