On the periphery of the Cascade Mountain Wilderness a three-part harmony of trails winds through craggy dense metarocks that were once an ocean bottom. Thrust beneath North America, these rocks were squished and dehydrated before rising up again to heights greater than their origin. At 130 million-years of age these rocks are the oldest in the Pacific Northwest. Sharp and jagged, this subset of slopes is collectively known as: The Ingalls.

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Mountain bike rides come in stages: strenuous climbs punctuated by quick descents. It’s not surprising then that this is also the new enduro-racing format gaining traction across the mountain biking world. Requiring racers to pay the vertical price for the speedy downhill creates a more shared experience of “real” mountain biking. There are now many of these races a rider can enter sprouting up around the country. Along this line, there are many more places to experience these stages albeit minus the entourage of racers, entry fees and well marked courses.

On the periphery of the Cascade Mountain Wilderness a three-part harmony of trails winds through craggy dense metarocks that were once an ocean bottom. Thrust beneath North America, these rocks were squished and dehydrated before rising up again to heights greater than their origin. At 130 million-years of age these rocks are the oldest in the Pacific Northwest. Sharp and jagged, this subset of slopes is collectively known as: The Ingalls.

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Home of the first northwest wolf pack in recent history, The Ingalls is a secret place. Quiet and unspoiled by early settlers and later tourists, it is a fitting namesake of Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Little House on the Prairie. But if those stories paint a picture of rolling hills with amber waves of grain, then another Ingalls might better represent this place. Like that of the first acting governor of the Washington territory, Isaac Ingalls Stevens, who secured over 10 treaties with tribes including the Yakama, Blackfeet, Flathead Salish, Pend d’Oreille, Kootenai, Nez Perce, Walla Walla and Cayuse to the east and the Nisqually, Puyallup, Steilacoom, Squaxin, and other tribes on the coast. A befitting name for a place where tribal chiefs could still gather. Whichever way coined, The Ingalls is a truly wild remnant of past history.

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To run with the wolves, an ensemble of trails link the valleys and peaks of this region. Some scale up, others down, but a single melody covers the entire ascending score. A standard northwest piece composed of some pedaling, more pushing, along with added stabs of occasional carrying. Basically all purely painful, call it: Lament of Ascent. The declining scale is where the stages of this ride are distinguished. Defined by three prominent descents, call them: X, Y and Z, the first stage X, is in it’s own right broken by three distinct zones.

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Beginning with The Burn, the trail is fast and raging. So much so that it burns your brakes (in stark contrast to the lush and green forest you speed through). At the break of slope the mid-section, The 7-Streams, is a series of crashing creek crossings with swoops of up/down trail that allow hydroplaning momentum. Ending with Cow Paddy Flats. This rolly-polly section requires a smidgen of pedaling to keep speed, and as the name implies, it provides plenty of little green-brown obstacles to dodge. Perhaps Little House on the Prairie does apply. Settling at the bottom, take some time to ready for the pending 4,000 vertical ascent [insert approriate lamentation song as described above *here*].

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Atop the world appreciate the backwards views of the famous Alpine Lakes Wilderness where there is 150,000 tourist visits a year just on the other side of that granite wall. Revel in the solitude of this forgotten lonely land; a peaceful coup counted with the chiefs of old.

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Dropping in makes an astronaut envy. Completely void of vegetation, this fresh moonscape is smooth and loose. Gravity takes effect quickly though where the remaining trail is quite possibly the fastest pinball machine ever devised. Tires bounce between bermed edges like a metal ball off a rubber stopper, only to be pinned through countless boulders. Navigating each clear path the bike ricochets down the trail while you cling to the bars like a Plinko chip. Bottom; rest.

Last climb. Usually late by now and most likely out of water this last stretch is humbling to say the least, again [insert lament *here*]. At the top of this third and final descent, Z, the sun sets casting golden hues across Cascade’s tallest. Racing the falling sun as if wolves are nipping at your heals this last trail is an off camber side-hill that is forced fun. Enjoyable only in a survival sense in which a persistent fear of toppling off the edge of the universe follows each turn of your wheel.

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Stages X, Y, and Z complete. Some toil, more elation, all triumph. No podium. No little house, treaties signed or other great deeds done. But yet another stage in life experience gained in the oldest northwest hills where the wolves still run wild.

By | 2015-05-14T16:34:38+00:00 October 8th, 2013|Sports & Outdoors|