Photo: Near the high point of this loop looking at Diamond Head.

“Why am I always carrying you? Why isn’t it ever the other way around?”

“Because I’m a person and you’re a mountain bike”

“Your point is?”

“Bikes were made by people to carry people. That’s your purpose.”

‘But I have my own concept of purpose…and of what I want.”

“No you don’t — you’re just shaped metal.”

“Then why are we having this conversation?”

The bike has me. Either this voice I’m hearing means I’m certifiably unhinged or there’s more consciousness in metal than I thought. Maybe before I commit myself to the care of a shrink, I should bend a bit to the grumbles of the bike — you know, see what happens.

“So how about a 50-50 tour? I’ll carry you most of the way uphill, you bring me back down.”

“Done.”

To make lemonade out of this sour pact, it seems sensible to hike the bike up ground that’s too steep or uneven to ride and to return via a trail that’s longer and smoother. And, when you study maps from this perspective, there are quite a few loops and traverses where this devil’s deal makes sense.

As an initiation tour, I start with a short loop near Blewett Pass. The route starts from the Tronsen Road and follows ski trails I’m familiar with from winter use. For the first mile, we ride up old dirt roads.

“I thought you were going to carry me uphill.”

“I said ‘most’ of the uphill. Your time is coming.”

Photo: The faint tread along in the wooded portions of the XC15 Trail.

Soon we’re at the XC15 Trail cutting below the east face of Diamond Head and climbing toward Windy Knob. For a few minutes we alternate who is riding whom; then it becomes apparent I should just be the mule. I tie the bike to my pack and walk.

 

Photo below: talus slopes along the eastern flanks Diamond Head.

“I like this! How do you like being on the other end?” it asks.

“Absolutely stupid.”

Photo Right: No country for old bikes…or for new bikes for that matter. Definite hike-a-bike country.

After 90 minutes of negotiating a faint trail, rocky sidehills, and undulating boulder fields, I reach a pass on the south ridge of Windy Point. From here, the route is likely to be ridable. “Time to earn your keep.”

We reverse positions and, soon, we are rolling along at a much faster clip. We intersect and follow the Table Mountain Trail, reach Haney Meadows, find the Tronsen Meadows Trail, and blast downhill toward Highway 97. Most of the time the going is good but, on anything steep, the motorized dirt bikes frequenting the area have badly rutted the trails by spinning their tires as they motor uphill through the fragile soill. “Malignant motorcycles,” I fume.

“Watch it!” the bike snaps back. “Those are my brothers.”

“Brothers or not, they can rot for creating this dust swamp and these deep ruts.”

“You can rot,” it snaps back.

“Well, how do you like rolling through this swill your brothers left behind for you?”

“It’s not the fault of machines –it’s the poor ethic of the pilots that has trashed segments of this trail.”

“Hmmm.”

Photo: A segment of trail damaged by motorized use of a trail that’s too steep for the soil conditions. Because dirt bikes are causing the damage, good form would have motorized users working together to re-build these steep, rutted areas with man-made armoring (e.g., waffle-patterned concrete blocks) that supports the usage.

We roll on with me occasionally dismounting to walk the steepest sections of trails that are too rutted to ride safely. Soon we’re off the trail and speeding rapidly down the final segment of dirt road returning to the start of the tour. The road would be boring to walk, but on a bike it’s pure entertainment as we dodge potholes, hop small water bars, and fly past a vehicle that is bumping slowly downhill. We brake to a stop in front of the car.

“We doing this kind of trip again?” the bike asks hopefully.

It’s been an inane outing – I could definitely run and probably walk this loop faster. But being limited to feet alone would have been half as much fun. I’m also thinking of other possibilities: longer routes where the downhill would be stretched over many miles, or traverses where the bike would provide efficient transportation back to the start. It seems that trips where you are part mule, part master have a place in the grab bag of bike adventures.

“I think we can negotiate something.”

Details, Details: Tronsen – Haney Meadows Loop

Distance: About 8 miles. Elevation Gain: 2,000 vertical feet

Skill: Hikers 2+. Mountain Bikers 2+ to 3-. Hikers will have talus fields to cross and will want reasonable navigation skills. Mountain bikers will be carrying the bike much of the way uphill and then have a fairly steep descent returning them to the start. Trail runners who try the loop will find that about half the route is suited to running — the rest is better-suited to fast walking so as not to not twist an ankle.

Fitness: Hikers 2, Mountain bikers 2+

Access. Drive Highway 97 toward Blewett Pass and park 0.8 miles north of the pass at the highway’s intersection with the Tronsen Road (Road 7240). Park on the east side of the highway (elevation: 3910 feet). No permit is needed.

Map:

Tronson-HaneyMdw-Loop

Trip Instructions:

  • Follow Tronsen Road uphill 0.75 miles to a split in road. The main road takes a sharp bend to the left (you’ll be descending this fork of the road at the end of the trip).A smaller road that is blocked with a berm carries on straight ahead. Take the smaller road. Note: If you’re hiking rather than biking, you may want to park here.
  • Follow the smaller road south. It climbs steadily for 0.3 miles to a fork in the road.
  • Take the right fork which drops slightly at the start and then levels off and contours. After a few hundred yards, you’ll see a blue arrow pointing left up a ski trail. Ignore the arrow and contour on flatish or downhill trending game trails out into Tronsen Meadows. The route is non-distinct here, but you want to contour due west across the upper end of the meadow without gaining or losing elevation. At the far end of the meadow, traverse on a slight climb and hit a grassed-over road that has a small trail in the road bed. This is a ski trail and there are a few trees with blue diamonds marking the way. Once on the road, follow it  0.2 miles in a NW direction until it intersects a larger road.
  • The larger road is Road 7245, but is not marked here. Turn left and go 0.45 miles. The road will climb gradually, then hit a slight downhill section. At the end of this very gradual downhill, turn right onto a winter ski trail. You’ll see markers on trees about 80 feet up the hill. There might not be a distinct tread in the ground here, but head up the grassy ski trail 0.1 mile to a marker tree with a number of signs on it (elevation 4560’). Turn left on the XC15 Haney Meadows Trail.
  • Follow this south and then east for 1.3 miles until you reach a saddle at the base of the SE ridge of Windy Knob (elevation 5,715 feet’). There is a decent tread whenever you’re in the woods, but when you enter open areas there are talus slopes to work across or up. Keep looking for blue or silver markers nailed to trees  marking the winter ski trail. If you’re doing this with a bike, you’ll be hiking most of the route between Road 7245 and this saddle.
  • At the saddle, the trail takes a sharp bend to the right, climbs for about 0.1 miles and then descends 0.1 miles until it intersects the larger Table Mountain Trail.
  • Turn left here, drop a hundred yards and then make a very short climb to another intersection. Veer right here on the XC15 Trail headed to Haney Meadows.
  • Keep going straight (and predominantly downhill) on this trail in an easterly to northeasterly direction for 0.85 miles. A few spur trails split off at sharper angles – ignore them and go straight.
  • At an intersection with the Mount Lillian Trail, turn right and drop 0.1 miles until you intersect a major dirt road (Road 9712). You’ll see the sign for the  Old Ellensburg Trail on the opposite side of the road. Turn left onto the road.
  • Follow the road 150 yards before turning left on the Tronsen Meadows Trail (Trail #1205). Follow this trail downhill in what is predominantly a northwesterly direction for 1.6 miles. Note: almost immediately you’ll intersect the Mount Lillian Trail which is not marked here. Go straight across it and from this point on there are no other intersections until the trail ends at Road 7240. The trail drops steadily and sometimes quite steeply and is a challenging descent on lightweight mountain bikes, because the surface gets rutted from motorcycles powering their way uphill.
  • At the road, turn left and head downhill. In 0.7 miles you’ll reach the second parking area  (best for hikers).If you parked back at the highway, follow the road another 0.75 miles downhill.

Permits: None needed for this trip.

Other info: Most of this route is within the Tronsen Meadows Non-Motorized winter recreation area. The trails here are seasonally closed from October 15 until June 15 to motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles, etc. This map shows other trails in the area with a seasonal closure to motorcycles

Date of report. First posted 10/05/2011.

Leave It Better than You Found It. This should be every user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, don’t ride or walk wet trails when you’re leaving ruts/footprints deeper than ¼ inch, etc…

Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or not know all the issues affecting a route. You are responsible for yourself, your actions, and your safety. If you won’t accept that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.

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