Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Columbia Plateau Trail - Martin Rd trailhead and beyond

I'm not an extreme biker, but I've been mulling over the idea of riding the Columbia Plateau Trail all the way to Pasco. So on New Year's Day I hauled my bike out to the Martin Road Trailhead (about 8 miles from Sprague) to give it a looksy. What the hey - it's January! Thought I'd have to wait til spring, but decided I better take advantage of the time off from work, mild temps in the mid 30's and lack of snow on the ground.

Last summer I rode from Cheney to Amber Lake, and when I started out on Sunday I wasn't sure if I was going to continue on at Amber Lake or go to Martin Rd trailhead.  But since I was mostly interested in what the unimproved trail was like past Martin Rd, I found my way there. It was surprisingly easy to find - there's about a thousand signs pointing the way from the freeway, through Sprague, and to Williams Lake Rd which the Martin Rd trailhead is off of.

 Crazy Guy on a Bike  rode the trail on a Surly Pugsley, and that seems to be the recommended bike type, but I wanted to see how a 29er would do.

It was tough!

This is the gate across from the parking area. No services for the next 100 miles. Luckily, my wife packed me some trail mix, beef jerky and lots of water.

Just past the first gate. The trail surface was all over the map - sometimes the rock was more compacted along where the rails used to lie, sometimes it was along the edge. Occasionally there was a dirt path along the side as above to provide relief.
I'd barely gone a mile when I came across this feller. This is not a good sign! But I kept riding.
 The first few miles were tough, but after awhile I got a rhythm going. The difficult part was the searching back and forth for the best part of the trail to ride on, looking for the most compacted sections. Often I tooled along at 7-9 miles, and there was an easy section where I was able to go 12 mph with ease. I might have had an easier time of it if I had let some more air out of my tires, but once I got out there I discovered I didn't pack a patch kit or extra tube. I was worried I'd get a pinch flat if I did let some air out. I did bring a pump, but what good is that going to do by itself? Obviously, I didn't plan this trip very well.

A little scenery - occasionally I'd remember to look up from the trail.

Yikes! A little overgrown section, freely fertilized by cows. But easy to ride on.
Further on up the trail. I went a ways past this gate - I had to see what was beyond the next cut out. 
It took me 1 1/2 hours to go 10 miles, and finally forced myself to turn around after about 11 miles. I was starting to think I could keep on going to Washtucna, but knew I didn't have time to go much further. The ride back was brutal - the wind was against me and it felt uphill. One minute I was thinking I could maybe actually do this whole trail, or at least to Washtucna, the next I was crawling along at 5 mph hoping I'd make it back before nightfall!

That's all for now; I'll post some random photos tomorrow. Coincidentally, Pat of the 26IinchSlicks blog was out there last weekend also. Check out his report.


  1. Way to slog your way through the rough stuff. If I keep reading about this kind of riding my wife will be upset about the money I'd need to spend on another bike. :-)

  2. Scott, that's pretty crazy that we were probably the only two people to use that section of the trail last weekend. I almost went out on the same day as you - how wild would that have been to bump into each other.

    Like you, I was really stoked on the way out - I could have easily kept going, except that I knew my dog's pads were getting pretty beat up on the ballast. I was right - she's limping around pretty good today. But the return trip was a different story, as the weather changed and like you, I felt like I was going uphill. And then the flat. I was glad to get back to the trailhead. It's pretty untamed country and made me highly aware of my vulnerability.

    All in all I thought it was a great experience and I'm letting it ruminate a while to see what inspiration emerges for some further adventure on some or all of this awesome trail.

    Thanks for the crazy guy link - hadn't seen that.