Aug 102020

With the world changed forever by the coronavirus pandemic and the Pacific Northwest leading the nation with social unrest and political division, kayak fishing seems to be a small thing in the big picture. Fishing is one of those things that is normal on any given day, perhaps we are looking for any semblance of what “normal” used to be.

Mostly due an incredible months long run of windy weather, and with nearly all public facilities closed, this season’s kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River has been a total washout. We’ve not had the kayaks out in months and don’t see much happening in the weeks ahead. This is normally the time of year we would start fishing for salmon and steelhead, but with the rapidly diminishing number of fish making it this far up the Columbia, it’s not worth the effort.

Kayak fishing on the Columbia River

Due to the drought conditions here in the PacNW, the water levels in the Columbia and other local rivers are extremely low. The aquatic vegetation gets thicker every year. Warmer water and agricultural runoff? Fishing conditions get tougher every year.

Kayak fishing on the Columbia River at sunrise

Watching the extraordinary decline of returning salmon and steelhead to the Columbia River has been stunning. I think it would be hard to find a local salmon fisherman who thinks the salmon and steelhead will come back to previous numbers. Salmon fishing season is now very short and catching fish is very tough while gill netting continues year round. It’s sad to think that I may have caught my last Columbia River salmon. I haven’t hooked a steelhead in years.

Kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River

This area has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic from the very beginning. With a good deal of the economy based on outdoor recreation and out of town visitors, businesses in these small towns are struggling or have already closed down. The next few months are going to be critical for all of us, let’s hope we all will be fishing again soon.

Aug 102020

As is the case just about everywhere in the United States, the coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on daily life here in the PacNW. The high infection rate large population centers of Portland and Seattle call the shots so the entire states of Washington and Oregon are basically shut down. The low infection rate rural communities which constitute the majority of the state’s area have been crippled by the quarantine restrictions. Areas that depend on outdoor recreation, mostly weekend warriors from the big cities, are pretty much out of business. With limited medical facilities, cities that normally encourage out of town visitors are trying to keep them away. On top of it all, there is a deep political divide in these states. Rioting in Portland is a weekend event. How long before the rest of the state loses control? Not a pretty picture.

Even in a world gone crazy, there are a few spots away from all the wonderful things civilization has given us. Thankfully, very thankfully, we live near one; the Cascade Mountains. Even here things are changing, but we can still camp in the mountains and ride our bikes. How long that will last is anybody’s guess, so we take every day we can to go riding.

Early morning mountain biking on a Cascade Mountain trail
Early morning mountain biking on a Cascade Mountain trail
Early morning mountain biking on a Cascade Mountain road

Along with everything else going on, this area, known for it’s rainy weather, is going through a drought. It doesn’t rain that much in the summer months, but no rain at all is not good. Everything is dry as a bone and fire danger is extreme. The mountain trails, in perfect conditions a few weeks ago, are dry and dusty.

Dry, dusty Cascade Mountain trail

The hot and dry conditions have an effect on the forest wildlife. This mountain butterfly was so thirsty, it was drinking the moisture from the mouthpiece of my hydration pack.

Thirsty Cascade Mountain butterfly

This butterfly was drinking from the cap of a bottle I had set down while having a drink myself.

Thirsty Cascade Mountain butterfly

And the source of a lot of the water in this area is Mt. Adams. The snow pack is gone and the glaciers are melting. Local streams and rivers running from Mt. Adams to the Columbia River are gray/green with glacial silt.

Melting glaciers on Mt Adams

After the midsummer season here in the Cascades, which lasts a couple weeks, the days are still warm but the nights are getting cooler and the sun is a bit lower in the sky.

Early morning Cascade Mountain bike camp

There is always something to see along the dry, dusty mountain bike trail. The warm and dry weather is causing the mountain berries to quickly ripen. Have to keep an eye out for bears who will eat all the berries they can get, sitting in the trail.

Wild Cascade Mountain blackberries

This is a small herd of range cattle using the trail as their living room. Usually, you can ride slowly past them, but these cows didn’t seem like they wanted to move so I went another way.

Range cattle blocking the trail in the Cascade Mountains

This ancient lava flow from an erupting Mt. Adams stopped right here.

Ancient lava flow from erupting Mt. Adams in the Cascade Mountains

We’ve just about given up on kayak fishing and going into town is like a trip into the Twilight Zone so having this respite from the troubles of the world is a gift.

Mountain biking near Mt Adams

Like everyone else, we are taking it day by day. Winter will be here soon and positive news is hard to come by. Through thick and thin, the simple fact of riding a bike, freedom to ride away, is now a precious gift.

Jul 222020

We spent a few windy and rainy days in town while we geared up for more mountain biking adventures in the Cascade Mountains. Kayak fishing has all but been blown out of summer due to the seemingly endless wind and pandemic restrictions. Even though this is one of the windiest places in the continental US, this year so far as got to be a record. Thankfully, we have great mountain biking close to home so we don’t have to spend the time at home watching bad news on TV. The coronavirus pandemic seems to be headed in the wrong direction here and it’s really starting to take it’s toll. The situation here is pitiful and looks like it’s about to get worse.

Not much to do except practice social distancing. If six feet is good, six miles will be better. Off to the mountains we go!

Morning at the MTB camp in the Cascade Mountains

We set up camp a few days before the July 4th weekend. The weather was good and the pandemic definitely had an impact on what would usually be one of the busiest summer holidays. We are “dispersed camping”, which is how it is here, so not much difference from “normal”. With reduced staff all around, expect a long wait if you get into trouble.

Blown down tree blocking Forest Service Road

The recent wind and rain had taken it’s toll with more blown down trees. This road was open and the tree still standing just a couple days earlier.

Mountain bike riding near Mt Adams

We hopped over a few blown down trees on the way towards Mt. Adams. It was warm with blue skies and scattered clouds.

Cascade Mountain flowers
Cascade Mountain singletrack trail

The recent storms knocked down a few more trees, but they also left the mountain trails and roads in great, dust-free riding condition. Mountain plants like flowers were in full bloom.

Morning at the MTB camp in the Cascade Mountains

Away from the pandemic, politics and problems, mountain bike camping is simple; ride, eat, sleep. Maybe a few extras to help forget reality for a few days. Sun comes up, wake up and get ready to go riding.

Cascade Mountain singletrack trail
Dark Cascade Mountain singletrack trail

After a night of scattered rain showers, the next morning, the skies were sunny and the rain had upgraded the trails that were in good condition to perfect condition.

Trail conditions perfect for mountain bike riding
Cascade Mountain singletrack trail perfect conditions

This is about as good as it gets, which is pretty good.

Jul 222020

One thing for certain about the Cascade Mountains is that things are constantly changing. After a few mostly sunny days, the clouds rolled in and the weather went from mostly sunny to completely overcast. Not a bad thing because it made the days a bit cooler and the nights a bit warmer.

Young deer by morning campsite

The forest animals didn’t care about the weather change. This young deer ambled right up to the tailgate of the truck to have some breakfast with us.

Cascade Mountain trail overcast conditions

The overcast conditions change the way the trails look under sunny skies.

Cascade Mountain trail overcast conditions
Green Cascade Mountain trail overcast conditions
Cascade Mountain trail overcast conditions

These are world class riding trails and with perfect conditions, we ride until the legs stop working, which is always too soon.

Cascade Mountain stream
Thistle flower Cascade Mountains

The bicycle riding is about as good as it gets, with plenty of interesting things to see along the way.

Sun barely able to shine through the thick clouds over Mt Adams

The sun was barely able to shine through the thick clouds over Mt Adams as we made our way higher up the mountain.

Cascade Mountain trail

In the deeper parts of the forest, the overcast skies created a quiet, surrealistic effect.

Mountain bike riding near Mt Adams

The overcast skies eventually gave way to more blue, sunny Cascade Mountain skies.

Overgrown Cascade Mountain trail

We rode up to where the bushes were so thick that it was impossible to peddle uphill with the bushes tangling with the bikes. We will have to try this trail coming downhill from another direction.

Cascade Mountain butterfly

Back at camp, butterflies were fluttering around while we packed up and got ready to move to another part of the mountains.

Jul 222020

After a few days taking care of business and the kayak fishing opportunities again being zero, we headed to another part of the local Cascade Mountains to check out some different trails.

Morning at the MTB camp in the Cascade Mountains

We travel light so setting up camp doesn’t take long at all and we are ready to ride!

We were stoked to find the trail conditions here were just as good as the perfect conditions we had on the other part of the mountain a few days ago.

Mountain bike riding near Mt Adams

We wanted to ride up and over to the trail that was overgrown with brush to see if it was rideable from the top down.

Mt Adams 7-17-20

The closer you get to Mt Adams, the bigger it gets.

Clearing Cascade Mountain trail of blown down trees

We got to the trail we were looking for to find that someone had gone through and cleared all the blown down trees. Just a few days ago, this trail was impassable because of blowdowns.

Overgrown Cascade Mountain trail

The trail was clear of trees, which is huge, but the trail was choked with thick bushes. Some of the bushes were over eight feet tall, hiding trail side stumps, logs and rocks. We descended slowly and cautiously, as you should when you can’t see the trail ahead of you.

The final day of excellent mountain bike riding and camping in the mountains was here. Another sunny and increasingly warmer mountain morning.

Cascade Mountain bike camp early morning

Warmer days mean we get started riding before it gets too hot. The continuing warm, dry weather also means dusty trails and increasing fire hazard.

Cascade Mountain trail early morning
Cascade Mountain trail

What has happened in the week we’ve been up in the mountains? We’ll find out soon enough. We’d like to get some kayak fishing in before the end of the world, but we may be back in the mountains in short order.

Jul 072020

The weather conditions for kayak fishing, mainly the wind, have been terrible and the mountain trails and weather are perfect, so it’s off for more Pacific NW mountain bike adventures in the Cascade Mountains. Camping and riding bikes in the beautiful Cascade Mountains is a good way to get away from civilization and see the lessons nature has to learn.

The majority of the winter rain had barely stopped falling, the sun appeared and we were on the first mountain bike camping trip of the coronavirus plagued season. Almost everything is still closed as far as recreational facilities go and I think the hope of them being opened this summer is fading fast. Dispersed camping is still allowed, that’s what we usually do anyway.

MTB camp Cascade Mts

Everything was still damp from a long winter of rain and snow, fresh and green, with perfect bike riding conditions.

Great MTB riding in the PacNW

It’s cool in the mornings and warms up quickly as the sun comes over the tall forest trees. I put the solar panel out for some early morning mountain sun as we have breakfast and get ready to go riding.

Early morning MTB camp getting ready to ride

With the early summer sun and the damp forest dirt, everything was growing full speed during the short summer season. These mushrooms were growing out of hard dirt and lava rock on the side of a road.

Forest mushrooms growing out of lava rock

The weather was perfect, the roads and trails were in perfect condition. There was a lot of wildlife running around and storms of pine tree pollen.

Great MTB riding in the Pacific NW

After a couple days of getting used to riding in the mountains again, we headed a little higher up the mountain and got our first glimpse of Mt Adams for the 2020 mountain bike riding season.

Riding mountain bikes towards Mt Adams

After a few days of nice sunny weather, there was some overnight rain. As long as it’s not raining while you’re riding, it’s a good thing for the trails and cleans up the dust.

Cloudy damp morning MTB ride

We moved to another campsite to check out some other trails.

Moving to new MTB camp

Many of the trails and roads were blocked by blown down trees. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are minimal Forest Service people on duty, so clearing the roads and trails is going to take some time.

Forest Service road closed by giant blown down tree

Our weather luck had run out and as a series of late winter storms moved into the Cascade Mountains, we headed back to civilization, stopping at this tree that had blown down. This was a huge tree, well over one hundred years old.

Large blown down tree on Cascade Mountain road

Now, more wind and rain…

Jul 072020

After nearly two weeks of wind and rain, the rain finally stopped but not the wind, so back to the mountains for more mountain bike riding. Things are really tense in the cities and towns around here, so it’s nice to have the mountains to escape to.

Anxious to go riding after two weeks of sitting around watching it rain, we were up early and ready to ride. Cool nights and mornings after the passing storm fronts. Once you got on the bike and riding, it was fine.

Early morning MTB camp

We try to do the bulk of the climbing in the morning when it’s cool. The wildlife is active in the morning so you have a better show as you grind your way up the mountain.

Riding mountain bikes near Mt Adams

Due to the past couple weeks of non-stop rain, the trails were in perfect condition. The soil is sandy and after a couple of warm summer days, it will be loose and dusty.

Perfect trail conditions in the Pacific Northwest

We rode up to some of our favorite singletrack trails only to find the trail completely blocked by numerous large blown down trees and the trail head markers destroyed.

Trail head destroyed by large blown down trees

Everything was clean and green from all the rain, maybe even a light dusting of snow on the top of Mt Adams.

Mountain bike riding near Mt Adams

We rode up old logging roads made of black and red lava rock. On the sides of the roads there were these durable flowers growing out of lava rock.

Mountain flowers growing out of lava rock

We rode through ancient lava flows and lava domes like this one.

Ancient lava dome near Mt Adams

We rode higher and higher towards Mt Adams and the roads got steeper and steeper. Not in very good shape from not riding, there came the time I could go no further. To be in good bike riding shape means you can ride more so it’s always a solid goal to stay in shape.

Riding mountain bikes near Mt Adams

Before we turned around for the downhill run back to camp, we took a final look at Mt Hood on the other side of the Columbia River Gorge.

Mt Hood

The next day, Mt Adams was covered with clouds as another storm moved in.

Cloudy Mt Adams

We decided to spend the rainy days taking care of business, so we closed up yet another great stretch of mountain bike riding.

Jul 072020

After a couple damp days in what looks more and more like the Twilight Zone every day, we packed up the bikes and headed back to the mountains. The wind continues to blow our kayak fishing hopes to little bitty pieces. We’re grateful there are options to enjoy the Pacific Northwest outdoors.

We set up camp in one of our favorite spots. Sun for the solar power and close to great singletrack trails.

Morning MTB camp
Mountain bike in the morning sun

The day’s ride took us past another huge blown down tree. This another old giant, over a hundred years old.

Large blown down tree and MTB

Dirt roads turn to overgrown roads that turn to trails until they either hit another road or trail or disappear.

Riding mountain bikes near Mt Adams

Nearing Mt Adams, a large, burned out area of forest has been taken over by large bushes that have overgrown the trail. The trail is there, you can’t see it. In another month, these bushes will be over six feet tall.

Trail disappears into thick bushes in burned out forest

Leaving the overgrown trail for another day, we headed back down the mountain. The trail leads through sections of deep forest that are completely dark, even at noon on a sunny summer day.

MTB riding on dark forest trail

There are sections of great Cascade Mountain singletrack trails. Be sure to stay on the trail because hazards are only inches away. If you fall, you will probably hit wood.

Cascade Mountain singletrack trail

You also do not want to casually brush against trail side bushes. Some of these bushes are blackberries whose thorns are like fish hooks.

Blackberry bush thorns

Mountain streams run from Mt Adams, through the Cascade Mountains and down to the Columbia River.

Cascade Mountain stream

Day after day of great weather and great mountain biking on some of the best trails in America.

Mountain biking near Mt Adams

Singletrack trails wind through the forest of pine trees and mountain flowers.

Cascade Mountain singletrack trail

Trail conditions, like the weather, change all the time. Quickly.

Fallen tree blocks trail

As if riding bikes up and down the side of a mountain isn’t enough excitement, Mother Nature always seems to have a little something for you. This morning, as we were getting to go riding, we noticed bear hanging around the campsite. It’s not like there’s a lot of food here, but enough for this bear to have a look.

Just a short distance from that bear, we saw this one, closer to camp, circling around to the side.

If you make a lot of noise and jump around, bears usually leave. Otherwise, they eat you. Thankfully, these two bears left for the campsite down the road with more food. I did see another, even larger bear, on my bike leaving camp and saw plenty of various size bear tracks on the sandy trails. It was another great day of riding, although we kept an especially close eye out for bears.

Cascade Mountain singletrack trail

After the pesky bears and a great bike ride, the clouds moved in and it began to rain. Light rain started in the early afternoon and did not subside until the next morning. The somewhat dusty trails were now perfect again and everything else was dripping wet.

Cool damp morning in Cascade Mountains
Perfect PacNW trail conditions

Another great day of mountain bike riding in the Cascade Mountains with perfect trail conditions due to overnight rain.

Cascade Mountain singletrack

Great riding, but everything was wet and/or muddy. Pretty much what mountain biking in the Pacific Northwest is all about.

Wet and muddy MTB

That wraps up this edition of Adventures in Mountain Biking, Cascade Mountain style. We are looking forward to more great mountain biking, so check back soon!

Jun 132020

We are doing everything humanly possible to get away from the worries we all are living with now, but Mother Nature is piling on with plenty of wind and rain. Too much wind for kayak fishing and riding a bicycle in 20mph wind on exposed terrain isn’t much fun either. Then it rains.

It was a decent day yesterday, overcast but mild, with light winds and sporadic drizzle. While eastern Washington has clouds, everything to the west has serious rain, so we’re fortunate to be riding dry. No epic singletrack, but miles of rock and dirt roads and trails along the Columbia River and the plateaus above it.

Mountain bike riding in eastern Washington

There are farms on the plateau above and the Columbia River is to the south, between there is a band of rugged, rocky terrain. You can ride for hours on various surface conditions and different terrain.

Mountain biking in the rocky terrain of eastern Washington

Eventually, even the roads that are barely roads come to an end. Around here, the farthest south you go is the Columbia River. The gorge of the Columbia River created by a prehistoric geological event is spectacular along its entire length, that’s the story here as well.

Mountain biking along the Columbia River in eastern Washington

Looks like the rain may finally stop but it does not look the same for the wind. Breezy for the next week so we’ll probably head back to the mountains for more mountain biking. Most things along the Columbia River are still locked down making kayak fishing trips difficult, great mountain biking is available, so the choice is clear.

Jun 112020

We finally got a break in the weather and managed to get in a great day of kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River. It’s been a windy and rainy spring in this part of the PacNW making it tough for kayak fishing. A calm day on the river, albeit with the entire PacNW rain, sun and everything in between weather show, is a rare thing this year so far.

Kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River

When I say “a day” of fishing, I mean one day. The next day the wind has come up again with another round of rain and high wind storms coming up for the next four or five days.

The day started out overcast and calm with intermittent drizzle. The fishing was a little slow to get started, but the Columbia River water level is very high and once we found where the bass were hanging out, the fishing was very good. A rainstorm passed through, but when the fishing is good you hardly notice.

Columbia River smallmouth bass caught by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

Due to the changing water levels of the river, it can be like fishing different spots. The smallmouth bass move around as the water level and temperature change. You have to paddle around looking for them, but they are nearly always around rocks or some kind of structure.

Columbia River smallmouth bass caught by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

There is a lot of seaweed and algae in the water. Usually, it backs off in the cold water of winter and grows very quickly as the water warms up towards summer. The water is not that warm, yet the aquatic vegetation, especially the slimy, free floating algae, is already taking over the river. When we get fishing again, we’ll check out some other spots so stop back soon.