Mountain Biking Washington's John MacDonald Park

You may have noticed the lack of blog posts over the last couple weeks. This is because I’ve been out of town! There were supposed to be updates from the road, but keyboard time was severely limited. Which is probably a good thing.

I spent the last week and a half exploring the Seattle and Olympic Peninsula, visiting with family and friends. I got to experience the craziness of downtown Seattle, where there are more restaurants and other things to see in a city block than in all of Carson City. To counteract the sensory overload of the big city, we camped on a remote beach in the rain forest, a place that receives 140 inches of rain per year, but where it didn’t rain a drop on us while we visited. We stayed a couple nights in Forks, the town where the Twilight vampire movies were filmed, and where every store was converted into a souvenir shop of sorts, and where gangs of visiting women scoured the town in search of a connection with their imaginary parasitic heartthrobs.

Tolt River - John MacDonald Park
Crossing the Tolt River

I also got to do some mountain biking! My friend Brian just moved into the Kirkland area, and we got to go out and explore some new trails together. We rode in John MacDonald Park above the Tolt River, a collection of singletrack trails in deep, dark woods. It was such a treat to get to ride something all new. Thick ferns lined the trails. The dirt was full of organic matter, almost like riding in packed coffee grounds. There were several log crossings, and some were hidden in the first leaves of Autumn. Everything was damp, moss covered, and slippery.

Tolt River - John MacDonald Park
The Loaner Bike

Tolt River - John MacDonald Park
I wonder where this one goes?

I didn’t bring a bike with me, so I had to use Brian’s loaner bike, a 19lb Niner single speed with carbon fiber forks and handle bars, and a lightweight American Classic wheelset. Not too shabby! I was thankful for the light weight, because Brian still had his Michigan gearing setup on the bike, a very tall 34×16! The gearing made the hill climb up to the trails a bit brutal, and some of the tight sections were a bit tricky. Getting that front wheel up over stuff was not a problem though with that carbon fork.

Tolt River - John MacDonald Park
Slippery Log Skinny

Tolt River - John MacDonald Park
Leaves covering the trail

This was Brian’s first time on the trail too. He read the ride description and knew how to get up to the trails, but once we found them, it was all random exploration. Numerous trails branched off the main roads, and the skinny trails in the woods split into multiple trails as well. Having no real idea where any of them went, it was fun to just pick a path and see where it led.

Tolt River - John MacDonald Park
Bikes at the Overlook

At first we tried hard to keep our bearings, always mindful of how far away we were and which direction we were headed. After a while though, we just started having too much fun and let the trails take us to wherever they were going. Once we stopped to try and figure out a direction using the setting sun. This was difficult with the thick overcast clouds! We thought one way was west, but then decided the complete opposite direction was west only moments later.

Tolt River - John MacDonald Park
Navigating the Trails

We took turns leading, and the leader was put on “Spider Patrol”. Numerous spider webs were strung across the trail, and we were frequently wiping the sticky strands off of us. One time I rode right into the middle of a big web. It pretty much stayed intact, covering my face, with the spider still on the web, dangling right in front of my eyes! That made me stop quick.

Tolt River - John MacDonald Park
Slippery Log Crossings

Tolt River - John MacDonald Park
I think this way is West. No wait, maybe it’s this way!

The thick woods were very dark, especially under the overcast skies. I brought my light lenses that work so well in the trees around Tahoe, but they turned out to be useless and I stowed them in my pocket. Riding without eye protection proved to be hazardous. One time I rode through a mud bog and flung a chunk of earth into my right eye. I had to stop and flush my eye with my water bottle. A couple sections were so dark that lights would have been helpful. Photography proved to be difficult in the low light, and many photos turned out blurry if the subject wasn’t perfectly still.

Tolt River - John MacDonald Park
Brian’s turn on Spider Patrol

Tolt River - John MacDonald Park
Relaxing Double Track

Many of the trails had me wondering how the trail builders went about the construction. It wasn’t like you could look across the land and visualize a trail like we do here in Nevada. It almost seemed like you had to just start cutting your way through the jungle, making direction adjustments as you went. However they accomplished it, they did a fantastic job!

Tolt River - John MacDonald Park

Tolt River - John MacDonald Park
Bridge Crossing

We only got to ride for a couple hours, but we had a total blast. The trails were the type of trails that you couldn’t master on the first ride out, and it would be great to go back and learn all the loops and practice all the obstacles. John MacDonald Park was definitely a place you could ride every day and not get bored. There were many signs of new trail construction projects along the way too.

Blue Streak
The Blue Streak

Tolt River - John MacDonald Park
Tolt River

If you’ve only ridden your local trails, I highly encourage you to do some cycling while on vacation. You’ll be surprised how different and fun the experience can be!

10 thoughts on “Mountain Biking Washington's John MacDonald Park

  1. it was a blast despite the abundance of spider webs! and mud in YOUR eye!!
    glad we got out there. i will have to go back and do some better re-con for your next trip out.
    great to have the whole Family Moser here and come back anytime!

  2. Crawling with sleestaks? Yes, especially at night.

    I loved Land of the Lost when I was a kid. Never saw recent remake with Will Ferrell. It didn’t look like they stayed close enough to the original for me and I’m not a big fan of his.

  3. Next time you are there check out St.Edwards Park in the Juanita/Kirkland area and The TapeWorm Trail in nearby Renton, WA. tons of fun!

  4. Clyde: I ride St. Edwards/Big Finn trail at least once a week. We didn’t have time to get over there but next time Jeff’s in town, I will give him the tour. I have been intending to go out to Tapeworm and just haven’t gotten there. Thanks for the reminder!
    Jeff: The Tolt river is running very fast and deep today. We had a ton of rain last night and they were worried it might flood. Guess we got out there just in time!

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