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Fall Into Winter

Jan 22, 2015
by Colin Meagher  
Composite image of the Fall Into Winter article
  Composite image of the Fall Into Winter article.

Every year for the past decade, I've traveled the globe covering the World Cup. And every time I've returned home, the very first place I go to get my ride back on is the trails off Washington State's Highway 410 on the fringe of Mount Rainier National Park. There's only a handful of trails there, but there's just something about the place that keeps bringing me back. Maybe it's the dirt: it seems as if it's always good. Maybe it's the views: being one valley away from a massive, snow capped mountain always makes for views that scream out "epic". And maybe it's knowing every nook and cranny of those trails: discovery is awesome, but there's definitely a thrill to be had shredding a trail at full gas and knowing how to shake it the whole way down. 3200 vertical feet of descending per lap doesn't suck, either.

For the past few years I've been lucky to share the trails here for a long weekend of shuttling with friends. Sharing these trails seems to make them that much better; the stoke factor at the end of the day is always high: the tales of crashing, the high speed drifts, the cameraderie... it seems as if everyone feeds off that buzz 'round the campfire. Well, they feed off of that, as well as the beer and whatever bottle of the good stuff is being passed around. The next morning always comes too soon.

Can we start riding already
  Can we start riding already?

The center of it all Mt Rainier.
  The center of it all: Mt Rainier.

Kim Russell rolling the crest of Dalles Ridge through the changing colors of the season.
  Kim Russell rolling Dalles Ridge through the changing colors of the high country.

Nikki Hollatz leading out Dave Goode and Jenny Konway on the Dalles Ridge trail heading for Deep Creek and 3200 vertical feet of goodness.
  Nikki Hollatz leading out Dave Goode and Jenny Konway on the Dalles Ridge trail, heading for Deep Creek and 3200 vertical feet of goodness.

Jenny Konway dropping into Deep Creek with Mt Raininer in the back ground.
  Jenny Konway dropping into Deep Creek at the end of a perfect day.

410... campfires... good friends... they all go together so well.
  Shuttling... Campfires... Good friends... They all go together so well.

With the return of the mists the leaves start changing... it s always a slow process watching the gold creep over the green and then the leaves dropping to cover the trails.
  With the return of the mists, the leaves start changing. It's always a slow process, watching the gold creep over the green, and the leaves dropping to hide the trails.

Gui Nelessen loading up for another lap down in the 410 zone.
  Up at first light and loading up for another lap. It's not always about shuttles down in the 410 zone; plenty of times I've pedaled every inch of the way. But the ready shuttle access does make it damn easy to forego the sweat equity in favor of some hedonistic shuttling days. Particularly when there's a big crew wanting to get in as much brown pow as possible before the snow closes everything down.

Gui Nelessen climbing Fawn Ridge on the way to Sun Top.
  Gui Nelessen cruising over the crest of Fawn Ridge after ascending to the top of Sun Top Trail. Even with a shuttle this one definitely requires pedaling. There's a stiff, 500 vertical foot singletrack climb for the first mile after the shuttle drops you off. From there, the trail undulates along Fawn Ridge with a few more stiff climbs before cascading all the way back down to the camp area.

Dave Goode getting into the meat and potatoes of Sun Top with Gui Nelessen and Kim Russell in tow.
  Dave Goode getting into the meat and potatoes of Sun Top with Gui Nelessen and Kim Russell in tow. One lap on Suntop first thing in the morning after a long night around the campfire was enough for everyone. After that it was back to the north side of the valley to shred Palisades Trail.

The overlook on Palidades Trail in 410. This descent like all the rest drops all the way back down into the valley below. Our camp was set on the fringe of the old airstrip nestled in the center of the valley.
  The overlook on Palidades Trail. Nobody can resist pulling over and gazing out over the valley.

Jill Kintner boosting into the roots on Palisades Trail.
  Jill Kintner boosting into the roots on Palisades Trail.

David Goode and Kim Russell riding the trail atop the Palisade of rock cliffs that gives Palisades it s name.
  David Goode and Kim Russell riding the trail atop the "palisade" of rock cliffs that gives Palisades its name.

The Palisades Trail has a bit of everything stunning views sniper lines to schralp and an undulating brown ribbon splitting the moss before the final drop down to the Highway 410. Jill Kintner chasing fun not seconds as she rides that magic ribbon.
  The Palisades Trail has a bit of everything: stunning views, exposure, sniper lines to schralp, and an undulating brown ribbon splitting the moss before the final drop down to Highway 410. Jill Kintner chasing fun, not seconds, as she rides that magic ribbon.

Riding 410's not always a group affair or a shuttle frenzy. Even after that hedonistic shuttle weekend, I want more. Sometimes it's just a solo mission, taking in the loam, the sweat, the views. Other times it's just me and one or two others out there, making an escape to a place where the madcap world takes a back seat to adventure. Or it's squeezing in a late afternoon ride at the last minute--one of those ones where you better bring a light just in case your adventure runs overtime. Or just savoring a day out on the trails because, hey, why not?

Mount Rainier is the dominant feature on the horizon of every ride on 410... It s simply impossible to ignore. Jenny Konway cruising towards Corral Pass with Nikki Hollatz and Kim Russell.
  Mount Rainier is the dominant feature on the horizon of every ride on 410... It's simply impossible to ignore. Jenny Konway, Nikki Hollatz, and Kim Russell on cruise control.

Kintner in the green and the gold.
  Jill Kintner dancing in the green and the gold.

Keith Rollins getting some of the green and the gold at the end of another epic day.
  There's something about the last light of the day and knowing that you'll be racing the imminent darkness all the way to the valley floor...Keith Rollins rolling the "no flats" dice with a lot of trail still to go before grabbing a cold one.

The last golden days of fall inevitably succumb to the beauty of the gray the fall mist and rain. There s something so seductive about watching the ghosts drifting between the trees wreathing the tops of the ancient douglas firs... and then there s the return of the velcro dirt. The fall riding is definitely where it s at down here.
  The last golden days of fall inevitably succumb to the beauty of the gray: the fog and the rain. There's nothing like ripping down a perfectly laid trail and watching the "ghosts" drifting between the trees on the trail ahead, and wreathing the tops of the ancient douglas firs that line this zone... and then there's the return of the velcro dirt. The fall riding is definitely where it's at in the PNW.

Jameson Florence enjoying some of the last of the high country goodness before it gets buried in a coating of white for the winter. A mere two degrees colder and these wouldn t have been drops of water beading up on these needles but snowflakes.
  A mere two degrees colder and these drops of water beading up on the trees would have been ice crystals. Jameson Florence enjoying some of the last of the high country goodness before it goes under the white.

Jill Kintner taking time away from chasing seconds between the tape to shred the duff on Ranger Creek Trail.
  Jill Kintner shredding the duff on Ranger Creek Trail.

Velcro dirt defined....
  Velcro dirt defined.

Jameson Florence getting ready to pinball down to Ranger Creek from Noble Nob.
  Jameson getting ready to pinball down Deep Creek.

Deep Creek shred....
  Deep Creek shred...

Jenny Konway skating across a root and rock laced line.
  Jenny Konway skating across a root and rock laced line.

Fall into winter... I already can t wait for spring.
  Tread lightly.

Nearly everyone I know who spends time on these trails, from top flight pros to regular joes, will session 410 whenever they can until the snow flies. And some will keep after it right up until the point that the trails submerge into the white. I was lucky to have good friends to tap for multiple sessions in the 410 zone this past fall, right up until the point that Jameson Florence and I got chased down Ranger Creek with the snow coming down at over an inch an hour (2.5cm+). As we pedaled along Dalles Ridge to drop Ranger Creek, we literally watched the trail just disappear.

The first snowflake of the season....
  Inevitably the snow comes.

Jenny Konway and Jameson Florence ridge top through a skif of sleet... how many more rides are left before the snow shuts it all down
  Jenny Konway and Jameson Florence rolling ridge top, looking for one last set of tracks on Deep Creek.

Almost gone... but not quite.
  Almost gone... but not quite.

Tucking into a pair of Shimano s winter shoes--just the ticket for milking the last of the high country
  Buckle up to giddyup.

Laying tracks with the snow coming in slowly...
  Last tracks?

Jameson taking the ridge out to drop into Ranger Creek for one last ride of the season... even if the snow wasn t going to close this trail down it gets the brunt of the winter storms meaning snapped tree tops littering the trail.
  Staring into the teeth of the coming winter means...

Last tracks...
  ...Fall into Winter.

MENTIONS @jk33 @meagerdude @CascadiaDirtCup

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  • 76 1
 "Chasing fun, not seconds" A quote that reminds me why I started riding in the first place. 2015 riding goal established.

Super rad story! More articles, pictures & write-ups like this please.
  • 11 0
 its like car guys say: "Smiles per gallon" Smile
have a nice year man
  • 19 0
 Agreed, "chasing fun, not seconds" is going on my top tube.
  • 8 4
 yeah, so many people seem to have forgotten bikings about having fun, and not always about breaking records every outing, I blame strava for alot of it
  • 1 0
 Excellent Photo Epic! Nice shots Colin - You have me drooling for dirt!
  • 7 23
flag Seawild66 (Jan 22, 2015 at 18:54) (Below Threshold)
 Just say NO! to shuttling to 4**. And wet even! Just look at those horrid tire marks. Earn your turns you lazy bums! And stop destroying these great trails! Ugh.. Go shuttle some where else please, or go to whistler or Crystal and ride a lift, if your too big of a soft fat wussy to ride up hill. Really, it's not that bad of a climb, my girl friend does it and enjoys it.

The best part is, you won't have to feel the shame of being like such a total panty waste on the down.

Your all a bunch of trail destroying T-Bags. Nice photos though. Except that one.
  • 4 1
 @Seawild66 your girlfriend likes shuttling. Everyday she be shuttling. If you know what I'm saying. And wet even!

Moneys made to spend, women are made to love, trails made to be ridden.

Mountain biking is like crack, you gotta have it, regardless of the consequences.

You should be a Jill Kintner fan, she barely touches the trail it seems. Always in the air.

How do you feel about horses?
  • 3 3
 @ outsmith Everyone knows how I feel about horses, I love them as animals, they are amazing & their graceful power is a stunning thing to behold. However, oftentimes (most always) I loath the ones who ride them upon our sacred trails, with a shameful obliviousness of the carnage they leave in their wake.

That said.. if I could ride a horse like the "Man from Snowy River", I wouldn't be here on PB. I probably wouldn't even bother to know how to use a computer. But then, I wouldn't be bothered to ride a horse like that on any trail we know of.

Thanks for the tip on JK. And yes, the ladies like to shuttle, thank god.
  • 2 1
 Horses asses on horses asses. Hey fellas, Seawild66 is alright, he is just passionate, but he does have a sense of humor.
  • 22 2
 Thanks to PB for remembering the 1% of us who don't give a fig about racing or "who's who?" in the bike industry. I know that sounds like hater talk. It's not. I spend enough time during the week playing "beat the clock" and living the corporate hack lifestyle. MTB remains the last remnant of my counter-culture lifestyle.

I've been riding seriously since I picked up my first real MTB bike (a Pro-Flex 856). Never entered a race. Never even considered it. Can't even recall if I've ever seen one on TV. If racing's your thing, more power to ya, but all I live for is the next time I can get lost on my bike deep in the PNW.
  • 12 0
 What a beautiful sport we have
  • 12 1
 Now that was just lovely, stunning colours and photography, great job!
  • 5 1
 I love Washington. Very happy to call it home. As far as I am concerned we have everything BC has as far as terrain. What I wish we had was more places like Stevens pass. It's fun, but it isn't Whistler. Duthie is a fantastic year round bike park. There are unlimited trails everywhere. My favorite place to ride is out in the Okanagan area. I found some snowmobile/ATV trails that run all the way from the top of the mountain to the bottom. Road nearby, shuttle to the top. Can't complain.
  • 2 5
 No, Washington does not have everything BC has as far as Terrain, not even close.. Have you spent more than a moment up there? Ridiculous assertion. And there are not unlimited trails everywhere in Washington. An even sadder assertion.
  • 1 1
 Seawild66, agree with you on this one. But your comment about 4** trails getting trashed by shuttling doesnt make sense. Shuttling makes trails better! Ruts, roots, berms, the more the better. If you are concerned about erosion, let's talk about that drainage, dams and natural glacial flour turbidity in the river below... I hear ya about cutting switch backs though, that's poor form. And I pedal more than I shuttle, but there is a time and place.....
  • 1 0
 Biocoug1, you should get up to BC more. Not just Whistler, Shore and Squampton, either. There are elementary schools in BC that have school yard trails comparable to Duthie.
  • 2 0
 I am not saying Washington is better in any way. I said I love my home and am proud of it. I am saying we have similar terrain which is 100% true geographically. Forest riding, we got that everywhere on west side. Big mountain riding out in the Columbia basin and Okanangan. Tell me where BC has different terrain that Washington doesn't have? Its not about trails that are pre built by Evergreen. You know how many trails there are out there beyond what Evergreen Mountain Biking have listed? You just have to get an idea about a place and go look around. There are trails all over the place. I rode some big mountain terrain out near Concunelly last summer from top to bottom. Mashed ATV trails all the way down. It was amazing, rough but amazing. It is not Utah of course, but enough to hurt you if you mess up. (BTW, I know we are lucky to have the support of Evergreen MTB alliance)

BC is amazing and produces some of the best riders on the planet. I am definitely not knocking BC at all, in fact I love that place. I'm simply saying I don't have to leave my home state to ride similar terrain. There are not unlimited trails here? Have you looked around? I could ride 365 days a year and not ride the same trail twice, that is a fact.
  • 3 0
 Show me that place in Washington that is ANYTHING (even 10%), geographically like the Squamptons, and I'll give you; my bike, my best-friends girlfriend, my car, my laminated poster of Alessandra Ambrosio and my guitar. Actually, I'll keep the bike and that poster.... you can have the rest.
  • 6 0
 Awesome photos and colours !
How is the riding in N.W Washington ? Is B.C really better?
  • 8 1
 Less guns & more weed.
  • 4 0
 Are you sure? It is legal in Washington and Oregon.
  • 4 0
 @Zede : BC is just magic... aucune comparaison possible...
  • 5 0
 The beer is more expensive in BC
  • 5 1
 Yes, that's because there's alcohol in it :-P

Haha, just kidding, I would give my left nut to live in Washington or BC!
  • 2 0
 Better food in Washington.
  • 3 0
 More babes in BC...
  • 3 0
 Yeah but most are Aussies
  • 1 0
  • 3 0
 My uncle lived in Seattle,we went to visit him back in 74, and ended driving up to Vancover and then down to Mexico and back. As a 9 year old the place i loved most of all was here, not the Grand Canyon, Vegas or any of the other touristy places. I was overawed by it's beauty, camping out in the Parks was amazing. Fuck,i want to go back so much. PNW i love you !
  • 1 0
 And i live here, aint i lucky
  • 1 0
 Come visit! (Just avoid the winter if you can help it).
  • 3 1
 Actually NW or Washington state in general are better for groomed singletrack than BC they have big well er at least some state/park funding for trail maintenance + they have prisoner work gangs in the state park wilderness areas cutting sail-ale with scissors no bull
  • 5 0
 BC and Washington are big spaces to levy such a judgement on. Also, "better" is a difficult claim to support in such a subjective activity. Let's just say that many trails in BC and Washington are amazing. My community has a seasonal trail crew built into our minicipal taxes.
  • 2 0
 Washington and Oregon have gems. B.C. has treasure chests full of gems and booty.
  • 5 0
 Amazing collection of photos Colin. I absolutely love my backyard!
  • 6 3
 Yeah, those places are pretty good. It rains pretty much nonstop though. You guys should really do more stories about Moab, Sedona, CO and SoCal.
  • 6 2
 Actually, rock hammer, it's pretty much rain free from end of June to about mid Sept. That doesn't mean that the trails are snow free, though, or cleared of blowdowns. And this year we were able to session them unusually late into the season. Almost to Thanksgiving.
  • 12 0
 No, it rains! Don't go to Washington... it's horrible. It's about time to take a page out of the skiing Baker book and tell everyone how terrible it is.
  • 7 0
 Too much rain makes for some soggy taquitos.
  • 2 0
 I hear that riding in Cali is always awesome. Even when it's 90 degrees out, its not that bad because you have the sea breeze to cool off and you can always just jump in the ocean and drink some beers around a beach fire pit.
  • 2 1
 It rains so much it's not even worth going out for a ride. I've taken up water skiing.
  • 2 0
 You're gonna spoil the secret!
  • 4 0
 @rockhammer: I see what you did there... ;-)
  • 4 0
 Kick-ass article. Love these photo essays. This one is up there with the best of em!
  • 3 0
 Photo Epics: It's what the people want. Well done Pinkbike and to all the riders and photographers that made this possible, showing the joy of riding!
  • 1 0
 Washington sucks go to BC or Cali......I live half an hour from the 410 corridor and ride these epic's every weekend. Was probably there the same weekend Colin was when the snow started falling or the next weekend when we rode up to the shelter, hit some snow and charged back down and did the last part of palisades in the dark with no lights.....awesome. Love to do Suntop then down Skookum Flats back to SHUTTLE vehicle. SHUTTLE SHUTTLE SHUTTLE SHUTTLE oops I said the S word sorry SW66. If you ever get a chance to bring your bike to Washington you must ride these trails , if you do you will never forget them and want to ride them every chance you get.
  • 1 0
 Love seeing Deep Creek get some love in these pictures. One of my favorite trails! Great job! Can't wait to get back up there.
  • 4 0
 Love Ranger Creek!
  • 3 0
 Rode that trail a few times in the 90's and this just peeked my interest again. I can only imagine how much better it will be this round with a bike that actually works. I rode a Ritchey hardtail with a POS 60mm RST elastomer fork... The dream of the 90's. I remember it locking up at the top because it was so cold.
  • 2 0
 This makes me want to go ride. Beautiful pics and write up! Can't wait for Saturday in Shredona!
  • 3 0
 Great photos, shows what mountain biking is all about for me.
  • 2 0
 Couldn't agree more.
  • 3 0
 So many PODs here. amazing scenary
  • 2 0
 I rode right past through the palisades overlooks without stopping last summer. It is possible.
  • 2 0
 The Rock Razors out back in those conditions is an inspiration! I love a finesse tire choice!
  • 1 0
 Thanks! I'm actually constantly amazed by how much fun that tire is in all conditions!
  • 1 0
 I'm considering running RR's front and rear in the dryer seasons. On either wide 25 mm internal or extra wide carbon 35mm rims. Thoughts?
  • 1 0
 I've never run one on the front. I don't think I'd like it. I brake pretty hard with my front tire. My rear is mounted to an old, like 7 season old WTB laserdisc that I'm running the stans tubeless kit in. I haven't a clue how wide the rim is, but it's not all that wide compared to some of the stuff guys are running now, or even to the stans flow on the front of my bike. Try it, I think you'll be surprised how much grip it has!
  • 2 0
 Beautiful and so far from Texas.... Some day I would love to visit this beautiful state with my Yeti!
  • 1 0
 Very cool to see the united states' fastest dh world cup racer Jill Kintner, in a lot of the shots. the 410 zone is world class riding. great captures colin!
  • 3 0
 That was incredible
  • 1 0
 Thx for posting! Nice story, cool photo epic. Ranger Creek is definitely on my list!
  • 3 0
 Do it. Well worth the trip to Crystal Mountain area, but beware there is snow there late into the summer. A call to the local ranger (super helpful folks) will give you insight on the nature of the trails.
  • 1 0
 Home sweet home!! Awesome images, reminds me just why we I spend so much time and money to get in the hills.
  • 1 0
 Awesome zone for sure, would be fun to ride it with you some time when the angry dwarf is left at home.
  • 1 0
 I'm moving to Lacey in 2 months, and I cannot wait to get out on trails like these.
  • 1 0
 I'm about to cry just because this place seems to be so beautiful and so far away in the same moment.
  • 2 0
  • 1 0
 It looks f-ing awesome, that's why you keep going back!
  • 2 1
 Definitely want to ride in the US even more after this!
  • 1 0
 How do U guys ride in the snow?? Is so cold, my hands were so froze up
  • 2 0
 No glove, no love!
Did you try gloves?
I wear regular XC gloves in the snow. With winter gloves I get sweaty hands when climbing even in the cold and then my hands do freeze on the downs.
  • 1 0
 I was using gloves. What one do u use??
  • 1 0
 Specialized XC because they were cheap. And I'm kind of a minimalist. You have to work through that first bit of bitterness. You have to get your core temp up and it will work its way to your limbs. I used to give up early and was like "this sucks!". Now though, I just push through it and soon enough it's good to go like a sunny summer day.

Where are you from and riding?
  • 1 0
 I'm from Brazil, but now I'm living in Washington D.C. Is not soo cold, but for a Brazilian... Definitely sometimes.
  • 1 0
 Another winner, Colin. I missed out on this area last year in a big way!
  • 1 0
 Awesome write up with amazing pictures! Nice work man!
  • 1 0
 Killer story Colin! Love your shots.
  • 1 0
 Excellent work! Awesome motivation!
  • 1 0
 Nice work.
  • 2 1
 Home sweet home
  • 1 1
 Washington's a bag stay in Cali.
  • 1 0
 Loved this. Thanks.
  • 1 0

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