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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bike-hike combo at Monte Cristo -- let's make more of these!

My family and I drove our pickup camper to the end of the Monte Cristo road back in the early 70s, "because it was there." That's what roads do, they make you want to drive them. I don't remember much of the journey, other than how the road was pretty nasty and narrow in places and it was tough when you met another vehicle going the other way. It seemed to attract a lot of others in cars, though, as I recall, many of whom didn't venture far beyond their cars.
Today, the Monte Cristo road is washed out so badly at the 1 mile mark from floods years ago, it was decided it would be silly to consider rebuilding it, and it's gated back where it branches off the Mountain Loop Highway at Barlow Pass now, where there's a parking area. When I first noticed that, I was thinking how I couldn't get up there anymore, with that closed road. Then I had and idea -- ride a bike to my favorite hike!

Now I love taking my mountain bike up there, riding the first easy mile, carrying my bike over the river ford, then biking up the old road to the end at the old mining town, locking my bike to a tree and hiking up to Glacier Basin.

On the way back out, I look forward to the ride down from the road end almost as much as I look forward to the spectacular scenery throughout the whole trip! Great fun, highly recommended, and quite popular. Be nice if some of the other rickety old roads around here, built for extraction of minerals and timber, were closed permanently below the big washouts and converted to bike-to-the-trailhead destinations. The Suiattle and Whitechuck would be ideal!

The advantages of this, over rebuilding the road, are numerous:
-Far less public expense
-Far less environmental impact
-Fewer vehicle miles driven = less oil consumed, less carbon emitted, more healthy population

And I'll tell ya -- when I get too old for strenuous hikes, I'm going to hope there are more places like this to stroll alongside a beautiful river with views of high peaks. Old roads are great for less able hikers, especially after a few years of "greening up" so they look a little more natural.
So before you complain about a "lack of access" with your car to the end of every road in the mountains, think about getting there a different way, a way that might do you, and the world, some good!

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