Sunday, July 7, 2013

Lost Lake-Primrose Trail--Running and Biking It!

A couple years ago when we backpacked Johnson Pass, Aurora got it in her head that she wanted to run it--23 miles!  Last summer was too busy, but we decided this summer we would make it happen.  My motherly prudence told me we ought to try something a little shorter first, so I thought the Lost Lake/Primrose Trail near Seward would be perfect:  I'd backpacked it last year and the trail was in good condition and it was only 15 miles (14.8 to be exact).  Ha.  Well, it was quite the ride.  Here's the story.

We started by dropping Douglas and Aurora off at the southern end, the Lost Lake Trail, which begins nearly in Seward.  I'm not sure why we decided to do it south to north, but it ended up being a very good thing for Douglas, though not so good for Denver and I, as you will soon read about.  Douglas was the one loaded up:  food, water, extra clothes, gear for the bike.  It seemed like an epic to make sure we had everything.  The night before we'd each packed a ziplock bag with our food of choice:  granola/energy bars, dried fruit, nuts, apples, fruit smoothie, summer sausage/cheese/crackers.  The Camelback was filled with water with a couple water bottles to supplement it.  The bike pump was attached.  Everything was checked, double checked, and after a quick picture to commemorate the event, away they went.

Denver and I promptly hopped in the car and drove to their ending place, which was to be our starting spot.  We were going to bike up the north end, or the Primrose Trail (for some reason the trail names change at the halfway point so it is the Lost Lake Trail on the southern 7.3 miles and the Primrose Trail for the northern 7.5 miles) and meet them.

When backpacking last summer on the section we were going to bike, I recalled the trail being smooth and easy, with only a few steep spots up near the top before breaking out of the trees.  I must have only recalled the first 20 minutes of hiking, which was delightfully smooth.  Soon enough, though, the trail got rocky with large roots protruding across the trail.  It didn't take us long to let our egos take the back seat and we just hopped off our bikes when an intimidating hill loomed ahead of us:  uphill, criss-crossed by roots and pocked by rocks.

One of the sections of trail, nearing the top where we broke out of the trees.

We've biked a little bit this summer, but not heavy duty backcountry trails.  Plus we'd just gotten off a month of fairly sedentary vacation, so we were not in shape.  Nor were we mentally prepared for the rough ride.  We just kept getting off our bikes and walking up or around the unbikeable sections.  We took frequent breaks, sometimes just standing by our bikes gasping, other times plopped down in the moss along the trail.  At one point we stopped and checked out an old cabin along the trail.  We skipped the trail turnoff to the waterfall, marked by a 3-rock cairn, not wanting to take a break quite that long.

An old cabin along the Primrose Trail.
We decided that our goal was to get above treeline.  Just minutes after we broke out of the trees, Aurora came running at us from the south, and then Douglas came over the rise, biking through the misting rain.  Aurora was in fine shape--not tired and very happy.  Douglas was tired.  Apparently nearly the entire trail from the beginning to the point where they met us was uphill besides a few small downhills (some that had to be walked down!).  I think he was too tired to chew me out for underestimating how far uphill it was.  Aurora was ahead of him the whole way, besides the times he made her push the bike!  It was a long 1800 foot climb for him, though it was smoother for him than it had been for us and he'd rarely had to get off.

The first patch of snow we come across in the summer is always cause for a snowball or two!
We all took a break and Denver and I had our lunch (read:  more substantial snack).  Then we turned around and headed back the way we'd come.  Aurora took off, her running pace being far faster than our biking pace even downhill.  In the first 10 minutes we were off our bikes quite a few times, walking down slick, muddy rocks, over patches of snow and dropoffs below tree roots.  Aurora patiently would wait up for us every so often.  We hardly had to pedal the whole way down it seemed (think--1800 feet in 5 1/2 miles), but we had to brake nearly constantly the whole way down too.

Even with controlling our speed it was a wild ride.  I fell off my pedals a number of times while standing on them going over the big roots (very grateful I am a female--hitting that middle bar is not comfortable either way!).  My 29" tires, which are great for going over things, are not as great at maneuvering around rocks and such, so it was a bit gnarly.  We all made it down in one piece, though as we found out later, our bikes did sustain some damage.  Our bike mechanic shook his head when he heard of our adventure and said, "That is one trail that is faster to run than bike!

So Douglas and Aurora did the whole thing in just over 4 hours including breaks, and Denver and I did about 11 miles (5 1/2 out, 5 1/2 back) in just under 4 hours.  It adventure!  I don't have any inclination to do that again, but this blog entry will be my memory-jogger in case I ever do consider it!

I will say that when you're mountain biking a trail like this your complete attention is on the trail at all times so we had no time to look around and enjoy the scenery.  It was fast, intense and engaging, but we gave up some of the appreciation of the area by doing it that way.  I think that I would not want to do a trail like this only mountain biking.  I would want to hike it too in order to actually feel it and see it as opposed to just traverse its length.  And next time I hike a trail I'll notice the trail in terms of it's bikeability.  I totally did not notice those roots and rocks when I backpacked this trail just one year ago.  If I had, we might not have biked it!

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