16 November 2015
Duthie Hill Park, King County Parks & Recreation, Issaquah Alps
10.6 miles, 130 ft. climb to 550 ft. maximum elevation
Work hard, play harder. This is a mantra I have always seemed to live by, even without realizing what it meant. Today, it means everything and more to me.
In my past life, I used to just work hard – the kind of arbitrary work that involved 100 hour weeks, sleeping on a plane and living in a hotel, if I wasn’t in the office staring at a spreadsheet. I would do this every week until I physically couldn’t anymore, at which point I would spend my limited personal time collapsed in my studio-sized apartment mindlessly vegging out to television while I ate takeout from neighborhood restaurants. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anywhere to go or people to see. I just didn’t have any bit of me left for the outside world because my mental resources were fully depleted. I was constantly on edge, mainly because I had no physical outlet for my stress. I didn’t get to play at all. I WAS MISERABLE.
Now that you have a little perspective into my history, let’s move on to my life today. Well, let’s just move on to what I literally got to do today.
I got to play…really hard! After months of gaining confidence on my mountain bike at Grand Ridge Trail, I decided to step it up and check out Duthie Hill Park. Built and maintained by the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, this world-class mountain biking park is minutes from my neighborhood. In fact, if I actually wanted to, I could ride to it from Grand Ridge Trail itself. It’s that close, and these mountain bike and railroad grade trails are all connected throughout the area.
Filled with trails for all levels of ability and interest, Duthie Hill Park is the ideal mountain biking playground. Even my Little Hiking Buddy enjoyed the pump tracks on her balance bike when I took her there this past summer. That was our only visit, with me spending the majority of our time watching her squeal in delight each time she rolled down the hills. Today was my turn – and first time – to have fun riding these famous trails.
While Duthie Hill Park is wildly popular during most weekends, I was the only one in the parking lot when I arrived. Of course, it was also 35F degrees this Monday morning, with a forecast for severe weather later in the day. The weekend warriors were back to the grind of the work week. I took this as an opportunity to try trails and practice skills I otherwise wouldn’t have had the guts to do around more experienced bikers. After all, mountain biking is not a city sport, and I was not an outdoor type until VERY recently.
The entrance to Duthie Hill Park takes you through a warm up trail of minor rocks and roots throughout level terrain as you ride almost street-side. Once you get past the gated driveway of a private residence, you have the option to turn right heading down to Grand Ridge Trail or left going up a moderately inclined gravel road to the park’s Central Clearing. This main area is filled with pump tracks and practice jumps, mainly geared for the novice to intermediate mountain bikers, as well as opens the way to all the trailheads.
Recognizing how long it took me to get used to the nuances of Grand Ridge Trail, I decided to start off on the “easier” Boot Camp XC Trail. It was a beautifully maintained trail filled with flowy turns, while offering many opportunities throughout the ride to build technical skills on ladders and climbs. I loved warming up on this 1.5 mile trail so much that I rode it three times, once as my first and another as my last of the morning. Since I was the only rider around, I practiced on a few of the pump tracks, ladders and jumps in between the longer cross-country trails. (I do have to make sure I can keep up with LHB when she returns with me to Duthie Hill in the spring.)
After a few turns on different tracks, I started to feel comfortable enough to venture into the “more difficult” Step It Up and Movin’ On XC Trails, as well as head into Ryan’s Eternal Flow from the “easier” Honeybadger Trail. These trails were both challenging and fun, as they were filled with tighter switchbacks and steeper climbs, along with options to take increasingly more technical ladders. Of course, I rode a lot slower on these trails than I did on Boot Camp, but still came away with a few bruises (okay, one HUGE bruise on my quadricep!). No pain, no gain!
The greatest part of Duthie Hill Park is that the trails are all intertwined. Novice riders can safely see expert bikers launch off steep ladders and pull amazing tricks out of thin air. In addition to the cross country trails, the park features a free-ride trail section for those more interested in working on tricks. Luckily, I did get to view one of these experts in action as he repeatedly hiked his bike up to the elevated platform of Semper Dirticus, a black diamond free-ride trail, to catch air from over 10 feet above ground.
I had so much fun today playing in the mud with my Diamondback Lux mountain bike! Three hours of pure adrenaline rush and utter physical exhaustion. After that much playing, I was ready to tackle the daily stresses of my busy life. Looking back, I still can’t believe what I was willing to attempt and what I was able to do! I plan to be back VERY soon to try it all over again – it’s a good thing we live just minutes from Duthie Hill Park.