We've been doing this fall ride the past couple of years up in to the Cascades east of Seattle looking for radical colors, nice roads, a hearty meal, and a few off road challenges or two. This year we got all that and more. The route I had planned out was admittedly a bit ambitious. It was a 230 miler with about 20% of paved roads, 15% trail and/or 4x4 roads, and the rest fairly tame, but remote and lovely unpaved forest road. We had been watching the weather reports and they were forecasting mostly clouds and cool temps, but the rain was not scheduled to arrive till the evening which was good enough for the seven of us that showed up. I had told folks that this was not a ride for first timers and that it would be a long day, and that the route was not set in stone.. partly because I had not ridden every single mile of it (I had ridden most though) and also I feel one always has to leave room for when the exploration bug comes up.. as it did on this one. I also hate going on group rides where the ride leader doesn't prepare ya for what's in store. We actually had a couple of fairly new riders; but that was fine with me, as I enjoy this hobby so much, that I love it when folks show up with guarded enthusiasm but with a plan to stretch themselves a bit. Heading east from North Bend, we traveled along the Interstate for a few miles and as usual we got off and rode Tinkham Rd and Denny Creek just get warmed up a bit.. I was actually planning to bypass these roads and just haul up to Snoqualmie Pass but it was a bit cool, and riding at slower speeds (some of us anyway) through the woods on gravel kept us from turning to popsicles before hitting the really fun stuff. We soon got to the pass, and on to the first fun ride of the day... NOTE: my little still camera takes pretty crappy shots (at least compared to my Nikon D70) so please excuse the blurred and overexposed images to follow.. hopefully some of the other riders will post some better ones Stopping for a briefing of the upcoming section; which includes a pretty gnarly hill so I just wanted to prepare folks.. (we had John on the Transalp, Jerry on his KLR 650, Red Ralph on his KLR 650, Paul on his KLR 250, Brent on his 650L, Gabriele on his KTM 950 SE, and me on my 950 Adventure) I was first up the big hill so I could walk back down and assist others through the rough section if need be. Red Ralph was close behind me the whole way.. Red stayed up at the top on camera duty, and then Paul came scooting up next. Paul, riding the smallest bike had no problem scaling the big hill.. those big rocks are challenging on any size bike though John was next but he stalled it and it took a few of us to give John a hand with the big Transalp.. Those bikes don't seem that big; compared to say my 950 or a BMW GS, but they are bigger and heavier then they look. John said it was the toughest hill he ever attempted.. but he did well. A gallery gathered at the top to view the carnage Gabriele chucking huge rocks out the rear of the 950 From this point, we rode the rest of FR 115 down to FR 54, and then had a roadside pow-wow about whether we wanted to go on to our next destination directly, or try and find a way across the Yakima River between FR 54 and Cabin Creek Rd. There are a bunch of fun roads down in this area which is a major powerline corridor between the East and the West sides of the state. The problem is the Yakima River flows through.. and while you can get around it to the North by jumping on the Interstate, or head south, then east via forest roads - we saw no adventure in either of those options, so we decided to try and see if we could ford the river. We were actually able to ride right down to the river and after scouting the spot we knew we could get through a couple of the smaller channels but the main channel was about 3-4 feet deep and moving pretty fast. Seeing as the weather was pretty chilly, and it was likely at least one of us would be taking a dip if we attempted to cross it, none of us wanted to take a chance.. hypothermia is no fun. So we did the quickie route up and over the Interstate, and when we got around to the east side of the river, we found exactly where the road came through and other then the four foot deep crossing through fast running water, it would have been a cinch. I'll definitely be up for doing the crossing next summer when the water is lower and the weather is hotter. I took no more pictures until we reached our lunch spot.. the town of Roslyn. Yep, the place where Northern Exposure was filmed After a hearty lunch of jalapeño Swiss cheese burgers, about half the group decided they needed to get back.. it was after all around 3:00 and we were a good two hours ride via highway from home.. and the forecast was calling for rain on the west side.. but four of us decided to stick it out. I had not ridden too much in the mountains above Cle Elum and the Teanaway area, so Gabriele was our guide from this point. When talking over this route, Gab gave us a couple of options.. one that was pretty safe for the bigger bikes, and an optional ride that included what he called ATV trails and go see this huge "rock" that Gabriele kept telling us about. Since the remaining riders were pretty experienced, we decided to ride the optional route.. I mean, we all had knobby tires and they're just ATV trails right? But first, some s'planing. To me, an ATV trail is one that is A. wide enough that an ATV can (and does) get through B. doesn't have crazy steep hills, the reason being an ATV is pretty easy to loop on steep hill climbs C. doesn't have large root or rock "steps" as the short wheel base quads tend to high center easily and while many quad trails are quite torn up, they all tend to be fairly easy - even on the big 950 These trails however had some very steep sections, a few hair raising narrow side hill traverses, and to top it off, the soil was fine talcum like dirt that made getting a purchase on a 500lb bike a bit dicey. Jerry puckering up from what he has just seen around the corner.. a sharp right turn to an extremely steep, very loose down hill with no run out room at the bottom Catching our breath.. at this point I'm thinking I would love to come back and ride these trails on my 450 Another steep, very silty loose trail section.. it starts out plenty wide and shallow, but gets narrow down there with a sharp right turn and then narrows even further to just a foot or so between the hillside, and a very steep drop downslope to the left. Astounding beauty along the way! And finally, we all made it through to our destination.. with no worse the wear This was an amazing huge chunk of granite; with a fairly flat top that was probably the size of 3-4 football fields. While the ride coming down was quite the work out, the beauty and uniqueness of this place really made it worth it. It's hard to describe how big this rock was, but here's a 360 degree quick video <object width="425" height="350"> <param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/FP7Gx4jKLzo"> </param> <embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/FP7Gx4jKLzo" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="425" height="350"> </embed> </object> Some more photos of us playing around on the "rock" After riding down off the rock, we had a couple of steep loose sections to go before hitting road again. I think Jerry was pretty relieved; I know I was.. in the background is the trail we just rode down. We all made it fine over some pretty tricky stuff.. and Jerry after riding through all that - drops his bike while attempting a simple u-turn on a realatively smooth road.. Way to go Jerry 8^) (I think we're all getting a bit tired at this point though) It's about five and now really starting to get dark to the West, which happens to be our way home, so I impress upon Gabriele that we need to find the quickest route home. We knew the trail we took coming down to the rock would be one way.. shoot, it was hard enough coming down those hills, no way I was prepared to take the big twin back out the same way again. So we began to try and find our way back.. but the first road we wanted to take dead ended, so we looped south a bit to the West Fork Teanaway River road. A nice fall day on the Teanaway river Now to put the A in Adventure... It was at this point that we had an encounter with some local hunters. I was in the lead riding down the road when I spotted two guys with rifles (one had a shotgun) coming towards us. As soon as I saw them walking along the road, I slowed way down.. making sure to make eye contact before proceeding.. While I've never hunted, I have lots of friends that have and I've encountered lots and lots of hunters when riding in the woods; and while many of them tend to be a bit tense because of our presence, most seem to tolerate us. However the one that was in front of me looked pretty agitated and he was making hand signals - I couldn't tell whether he was telling me to stop, turn around, or what.. but I could tell he was yelling something although what, I couldn't quite make out so I approached rather slowly, ready to punch up all 98 of the big KTM's horsepower if need be. As soon as I got with in ear shot I realized he was ranting at us for being on a road that was designated off limits to motorized vehicles. At first, I was quite puzzled and had the begining pangs of fear of being shot and eaten by a lunatic. But then I began pleading ignorance (I truely was at this point) and tried explaining that this was a forest service road and that we were all on street legal bikes, and roads, when opened, are perfectly legal to ride on but then I soon realized that he was right. We had ridden down in to an area that was in fact closed to motorized vehicles. I more or less apologized and the other guys were trying to chat him up with small talk (that sure is a BIG gun you have there mister) but whenever he insisted that we were on a closed road, I made it clear to him, that I was not going to be turning around (I'd sooner face a load of buckshot then riding back up those nasty hills we rode down earlier) and told him there was a road up ahead that went to the North and would quickly get us back on legal roads (and more importantly, out of range). Soon a car showed up coming from the opposite direction - as there are private land owners in the area that have keys for the gates, so we took that as our exit cue figuring they wouldn't shoot us with witnesses.. I must admit that I am probably exaggerating the danger a bit, but when your in one of those situations, things just tend to feel exaggerated upon recalling them. We soon found the road heading North, which would get us back on an easier track to head West towards home. Jerry's checking out a flock of wild turkey's that crossed the road just in front of us. I think he had a flashlight or a wrench in his hand and was hoping to get close enough to bag one.. but no such luck Some pretty country this time of year The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, except for one boulder filled river crossing and a couple of short, but steep banks some of the biggest whoops I have ever seen.. that first one is about five feet tall and the second and third are even bigger till next year!