Me, dropping down Pickham Trail from the Ridge above Asotin Creek. Photo courtesy Scott McMurtrey.
The plan was simple enough. I would ride a bike, while two friends ran. We would travel to the gate that blocks the Asotin Creek Trail parking lot, park there and head on our way. When we arrived above Lewiston, the hills looked clean enough, so we decided to go for the loop.
On arrival, the two runners became four. The plan was simple enough: leave the car, head up Lick Creek along Lickfork road to Sourdough Gulch, then climb up to the ridge line by using the jeep trail that Google amusingly calls a road on their maps. Once we reach the ridge, we’d travel west along the top until we reach the second of two Pinkham trails. From there, we just have to drop down the far side of the ridge to Asotin Creek, then take Asotin Creek Trail back to the car. Nice, simple 21 mile loop.
The ride started well enough—it’s hard to go wrong on a road. But the fire road was severely rutted and water logged. The ruts eventually went away, but the waterlogged trail never did. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m used to very slick conditions in mud; this wasn’t. The best description I would have is “gooey”. Every pedal stroke took terrible amounts of energy. By the time I got to the meadow at the top, I was completely worn out. So of course, that’s the perfect time to ride into headwinds.
I was ready to just give up and turn around more than once. But I was alone—the runners were far faster and lighter than I and they disappeared. I couldn’t turn around without letting them know. Fortunately, Buzz waited for me at the ridge, so I let him know that I was planning on dropping down the first of the Pinkham trails, not the second. I’m glad I did, for I did not see him again for quite a while.
The picture above is me descending down the beginning of that first Pinkham trail. Scott, along with Spencer and Alan, had forged ahead and Buzz had run along to follow. When I reached the intersection, confronted with a very steep trail, I quit. I remember saying to myself “I’m fucking done with this climbing shit.” Knowing that I had already told Buzz my plans, I dropped in. The first 200 yards are so are a narrow, but relatively shallow and smooth trail. I had noticed movement on the ridge line behind me as I was dropping down, and just before the first switchback where the trail gets more rocky and steeper, Eddy (the border collie cross in the picture above) caught me. Buzz did so shortly after that as I bravely, but briskly jogged my bike further down trail. The rest caught me just before we hit the trees.
It turns out that the second Pinkham trail is still under snow; after post-holing for a half mile, the lead runners turned back, met Buzz, and the whole group caught me just after I dropped in. Fortunate timing.
Pinkham is a very steep, very fast, but mostly ridable descent with the standard hazards (boulders, trees, encroaching plant life). It’s actually quite a lot of fun, even as it tears your legs up as you rush down. Later in the year, I would want to do a thorough tick check post-ride, but in early March it’s still pretty safe. And at the bottom is Asotin Creek. While I don’t often ride it, it’s a great location, with good scenery and interesting wildlife. The trail is gentle as it parallels the creek, so the ride up isn’t overly demanding, but the ride down isn’t a free lunch. Still, I had little trouble keeping up with at least Scott, even when I had to stop to cross trees he simply leaped over.
Every little hill ached. I was tired. I was angry with myself for not being able to ride it out.
But in the end, I logged 16 miles of activities, at least 10 of which was on the bike. Aside from some cuts and a pair of soaked socks, I returned home safe. Not a bad outing, though I’ll probably go back to my previous stance of “no high elevation rides before April”. The soggy ground made what could have been an amazingly good ride into something that was merely OK (and downright scary when I was alone on a chilly, windy, swampy ridge).
Of course, if I had the legs to power through it, the ground conditions wouldn’t have mattered. Next time will be better.