By Max Haglof McCallum, age 10.
By Max Haglof McCallum, age 10.
Back in the early 1990s at the dawn of PNW mtb, only three trails were open to mountain biking on Tiger Mountain—and even then for only half the year. You read that right. You could ride on Iverson, Preston and NW Timber from April 15 to October 15. Otherwise nada. Even this limited window was seen as a bitter compromise by the people who controlled access to Pacific Northwest trails—environmentalists and hiking zealots.
One day I was riding down NW Timber trail when I came upon a hiker approaching the opposite direction. Back then hiking was a serious, almost religious pursuit, and many hikers considered mountain bikes an abomination. Yielding to hikers wasn’t just a rule of trail etiquette for mountain bikers, it was an act of figurative survival—a way of maintaining cultural peace and extending goodwill (no matter what the chances of it being returned). I pulled off to the side of the trail, put one foot down, smiled and said hello, and waited for the hiker to pass.
He barely acknowledged me till he got along aside, Then, still saying nothing, he started jabbing at my wheel with his walking stick. At first I thought it was accidental, like he’d lost his balance of something. By the third or fourth jab, though, I began to worry he was going to break some spokes and then go after my helmet. I pulled my bike away and asked him what was going on.
“You people are destroying these trails!” he snapped. “There’s perfectly good fire access roads here for you to ride. Now get out of my way!”
I reminded him that the trail was open to bikes and I was observing the rules.
‘The rule is no mechanized vehicles!” he spat back. Then, shoulders squared and jaw jutting, he tromped up the trail.
Although you couldn’t ride a mountain bike back then without knowing of bad blood from hiking activists, I was still taken aback. I’d encountered plenty of stony silence, dirty looks and cold shoulders on the trails, but nothing approaching physical harm. I examined my spokes for damage. They showed some scoring but seemed ok. I chalked it up to the guy having a bad day, and finished my ride.
When I told my tale to a couple riding buds, though, I got quite a reaction.
“That had to be Harvey Manning!” they said. “You’re lucky you didn’t lose a wheel!”
Apparently Manning, a renowned eco warrior, author of popular hiking books and founder of the Issaquah Alps Trails Club, was in the habit of letting his distaste known when meeting mountain bikers on the trail. He was the driving force for getting mountain bikes banned forever on Cougar Mountain, and would have liked the same for Tiger.
So pervasive was Manning’s influence that riders like me would lose hiker friends when they found out our passion for mountain biking.
When I think back on that encounter today, though, I’m glad I didn’t get rude with Manning. The fact of the matter is, without the environmental movement and unyielding activists like Manning, mountain biking would have less space for trail access today. Far, far less.
Yes those early years were hard, but today when I meet hikers on an mtb trail, I know there’s a greater chance than not that they ride mountain bikes as well. I’ve volunteered on trails alongside hikers from the Washington Trail Association, and the friends I lost in the ‘90s are for the most part back to being friends.
There’s a reason that Evergreen is called an Alliance. PNW trail users of all stripes recognize the need to share, and to work together not just to preserve what we have, but to make our case for protecting lands and expanding access. We’re lucky—we have sophisticated mtb leadership that knows how to leverage the political system and work with other user groups. Other regions are not as fortunate, as I can attest from having lived on and off in Northern California for a couple decades. Even in those regions, though, progress is being made.
Manning, who died in 2006, might roll over in his grave at any gratitude I’d express. But without him and his supporters, our current golden age of mtb might never have happened. Even losing a few spokes would have been a small price to pay.
In 2016 my wife Sarah and I relocated to the PNW because of a promotion she was awarded. Moving to this area was both scary and exciting, but we were both hopeful and enthusiastic about such a big change. I was born and raised in Costa Rica, and living “pura vida” was all I did for 28 years, I was used to a system, my friends, and family so the move wasn’t particularly easy for me.
A few months after moving here I started to get sick, constant back and stomach aches were a common thing now, each day getting progressively worse and worse. 6 months into moving to Bellevue I was diagnosed with Chron’s Disease and Ankylosing Spondylitis; the lather had progressed so much that it fused my rib cage to the point where my lungs cannot expand naturally, which makes me get winded very easily.
The 2 upcoming years were extremely debilitating both physically and mentally. I got to the point where I lost 30lbs in the span of 2 months when the conditions were flaring at their peak. I dealt with extreme depression and anxiety that made me spend weeks stuck at home with no desire to see the outside.
Chron’s continued to damage my insides to the point where I had to get surgery to get a fistula removed from my colon and that was my rock bottom. I knew that something had to change but I just didn’t know what and I didn’t know how.
Back in high school I used to ride bikes with my friends, I used to have a great time and I wondered if that was something I could start doing here. I went on Facebook looking for support groups and that is when I stumbled on the “Tiger Mountain/Raging River/Olallie MTB” group where I started making connection and literally changing my life forever. Everyone on the group greeted me with open arms, with words of encouragement and guidance to make me come back to the saddle.
The following year was full of amazing experiences from buying a terrible used bike, to buying a world class champion bike from Jill Kintner and Bryn Atkinson. I met amazing people, went to amazing places, crashed a million times but overall, I was saving my own life.
At this point you are probably wondering how does this have anything to do with Tiger? Well here we go… The comments on the group about tiger were always consistent about how rad but how technical and treacherous Tiger Mountain could be. I developed a fear for that mountain and I actually crashed there every single time I rode it.
In 2019 my good friend Reid Postle convinced me to enroll to the Race Cascadia Tiger Enduro. There was no way I could pull off something like that. I couldn’t literally climb more than a few minutes before almost feeling like passing out, let alone full gas a whole day at Tiger Mountain, a place that I legitimately fear…
I was convinced to do it, I trained hard and brought myself to a point where I could take on the challenge. On April 20 2019 we headed out to Tiger and I got to experience my first race ever, not just here but literally the first race I had ever been involved in my life. I was scared, I was concerned, I was stoked! I fought “the beast” for 8 hours from the moment I hit the first pedal stroke to the moment I almost passed out after the last checkpoint. So many close calls, so many cramps, so many memories of a life changing moment. To me finally taking on Tiger was a critical point of my life. A little over a year from then I was ready to give up on life and yet there I was racing bikes and killing the Tiger once and for all.
Tiger Mountain holds a special place in my heart now. It saw me approach it at my weakest and it saw me conquer it at my strongest.
To all people who make this community such a welcoming place, to everyone who makes Tiger a reality, to Patrick Zuest for taking the picture over the rock roll on The Legend that my mother hangs on her wall in Costa Rica as the proof of a miracle… To all of you: Thank you! You have helped this human being stay alive and you helped pass on that positivity to other people through me.
Shred on people!
Although I’ve been riding Tiger since before bikes were banned, this story is I think from the mid-90’s. I had a fancy bike called a Dagger (a boutique version of the Amp B3) which was pretty advanced for the day. 3” dual suspension and the first cable actuated, hydraulic internal Amp disc brakes. But one thing we didn’t quite have yet was wide spread adoption of tubeless tires. I was using old narrow rims never designed for tubeless and WTB tires, which even today seem to have a reputation for being a little bit finicky to fit up and “small” in diameter.
So I had been playing with going tubeless and found it to be an idiotic, extremely messy cluster fuzz. The tire was hard to mount, it made a big mess, and a lot of times I couldn’t get it to seal. I was also plagued with part of the tire bulging out of the rim. Conservative by nature, I have resisted all new innovations including suspension and 1* drivetrains over the years . Pretty much everything but disc brakes. For the record, I was 100% correct about bar ends and plus tires though.
So I take my fancy bike with its stupid tubeless tires out to Tiger (where else would I go ? I had given up on poaching Cougar Mt, and there were no trails at Exit 27). Wouldn’t you know the bulge blows out on the tire and creates a big hole in the sidewall and I’m at the bottom of Preston DOA. I tried to put a tube in (fighting the undersized WTB tire the whole way) but the tube kept popping due to the hole in the sidewall and a dollar bill wasn’t stiff enough to hold it up.
So I’m rolling on the rim, bump roll, bump, roll, bump roll on the fireroad back to NW Timber (cuz that’s all we had back then, and we liked it !) when a couple of riders come by. I know right away they’re not local because they are riding narrow tires and hardtail XC bikes and had semi-pro looking kit. Even back then most of us had moved on from hardtails, lycra, and XC dirt roadie bikes. They were super nice and immediately started helping out. In fact after awhile I was itching to just keep riding out on my flat tire but eventually the two of them had tied my old popped inner tube around the tire and rim to bandage the sidewall tear and got a tube inflated in there. Now, this whole time they are working with me on the rim I am bitching about tubeless, and how its stupid and doesn’t work and how the nice simple, straightforward method of using a tube in a tire is now being ditched in favor of this ridiculous messy piece of crap system.
I also noticed that the woman kept using her partner’s name, “Keith”, a little bit too ostentatiously.
So we all roll out, and since I’m on a wounded tire, they take off ahead. But this is my mountain so after a little while on NW Timber I pass the woman and then the man and make it back to the parking lot where we had a final chat.
Realize now that some of the brands you know of as just marketing names for major corporations were still the children of their creator at that time and whose reputation and livelihood were intertwined. Names that were legendary at the time as pioneers of development in the sport. Names like Tom Ritchey and Gary Fisher and Horst Leitner. So this person who'd been helping me and heard an earful of my oppobrium against the new fangled tubeless system, still owned and ran his company, and had JUST come out with a new line of tubeless tires to boot ! Well by then I had guessed his identity and I thanked them both again and wished him luck with the new products. And that’s the story of how I beat Keith Bontrager back to the parking lot after he fixed my blow out flat tire on Tiger Mt. But it was still several seasons before I got proper rims and tires and finally admitted the superiority of tubeless tires !
I guess you can say that this one started just like any other night ride. It was dark. It was late. About 9:30 if i remember correctly. The lower lot was all but empty. In other words, it was us, and a beat to shit car from the 70's that someone may have been living out of. By us, I mean myself, and two other individuals who will remain anonymous. I remember it being cold to the point of feeling a subtle shiver (most plush fork ever), as we prepped our battery packs, and attached our headlamps. It was not a leisurely departure. We needed to get warm on the way to Iverson. As we passed the upper lot, it was completely empty as well. Barring any lost hikers who wandered over from the other side, it was just us and the transient dude. We had the place to ourselves.
Iverson was uneventful. It was probably an hour or so before we started up the logging road. The logging road you ask? This was 6, maybe 7 years ago now. Not too long after the new East Tiger Summit trail had been commissioned. So as most would know, there was no masterlink, predator, otg, etc... Anyway, the climb was especially daunting that night. Maybe because I had done it so many times during normal person riding hours.
After the slog, we stopped at the junction in the road where you would go right, up to predator, or left to ETS. It was getting close to midnight. It was quiet. It was still dark. And our mix of off-brand Chinese, and NiteRider lights, were very bright. I'm really not sure why we decided to stop at this point. Since there was only one possible destination, that being ETS to the left, it wasn't like we were discussing the optimal descent. Maybe one of the guys was lagging. In any case, it doesn't matter why we stopped, but instead what we heard after turning off our lights to appreciate a moment of silence and darkness.
We didn't see anything. We don't know what we heard. All I know is what we heard scared the collective shit out of the 3 of us. It was loud. It was disturbing. It was more than one animal(?). If the news had reported that a troop of chimps or some other type of monkeys had escaped from a zoo and took up residence on Tiger, I would've had a plausible explanation. That didn't happen. So that leaves us with monkey sounds. Not coyote sounds. Not owl sounds. MONKEY SOUNDS!!!! Terrifying fucking monkey sounds. Remember,our lights are off, it's completely silent. Then all of the sudden.....monkey sounds! What we heard had an almost conversational rhythm to it. It was not hard to distinguish from any ambient noise, as you could hear a pin drop. It was also very close. So what did we do? We found a new sense of urgency to absolutely destroy ETS and Preston, hoping that whatever it was wouldn't make an appearance on the thankfully obsolete road traverse to NWT.
Posting this for a friend,
Life takes unexpected turns, and mountain biking is a perfect analogy for that – before you ride a new trail, you think you know what it’s going to be like but until you actually get on that trail, you don’t really know what you’re in for.
My mountain biking experience began in 2011. Out of the blue, my wife and I bought mountain bikes for our birthdays. We were still playing rugby so most of our riding was in the summer when we were out of season. Mountain biking was an exciting new sport for us, and with my background in power sports, I found the easier trails at Duthie to be a blast. My wife and I took some Evergreen and Sweetlines classes there, and enjoyed trails at Black Diamond, Soaring Eagle, Big Finn and Paradise as well. In 2012 we even went to Whistler and pushed ourselves with some blue and black trails in the Fitzsimmons Zone. For the next few years we would ride when the weather got nice and go out a couple of times a month. It was a super fun activity in the mix with all of the other things we liked to do.
Then in 2014 we started planning for the biggest adventure of our lives. We wanted to start a family. We began the journey of doctors’ appointments and expensive treatments. Because of the time, energy and risk during fertility treatments, I had pretty much stopped mountain biking. This process pushed us in ways we never imagined. It was the most emotionally challenging thing I have ever been through. I am the person I am today because of this time but I can’t say I would ever want to repeat it. In the middle of this process, I met an injured mountain biker Denise Schwend. We had an instant connection and each time we saw each other our conversations would get deeper and deeper in to mountain biking. Talking to Deni about mountain biking got me more and more excited. It was something fun to focus on. My wife and I started adding rides back in again. In the summer of 2017 we took two trips to Canada, riding the Lost Lake trails at Whistler, then going to Alberta and riding in Jasper and Canmore. The trip to Alberta was perfect, literally perfect. Nothing was missing. I realized I had my family and we were whole just the way we were. This trip brought clarity, and while it was still challenging to let go of having a child, we were able to stop putting our lives on hold and begin to live again.
At this point in 2017, I still hadn’t ridden Tiger. With that power sport background, my skills often exceeded my fitness. The thought of climbing to the top of Tiger to then descend unknown trails while already being exhausted was way too much to overcome. I had heard about the Sturdy Dirty Enduro and really wanted to try it but knew there was no way I would be able to race if I couldn’t get to the top. Then something wonderful happened, Inside Passage opened. I started off riding Inside Passage, Joyride and Northwest Timber. After doing this a couple of times, I added Legend. Friendly riders would encourage me that Master Link gets easier after Inside Passage, and by early summer 2018 I had ridden to the top of Tiger. I signed up for the Sturdy Dirty and rode NOTG a couple of times before the 1-year anniversary of my first ride on Inside Passage. One blue trail cutting across the side of the mountain had suddenly opened up an entire trail system for me.
Inside Passage was the building block I needed and empowered me to do so much more. I have now done the Sturdy Dirty twice. I was confident enough to go to Roam Fest in Sedona last summer and ride with awesome womxn 3 days in a row. Most importantly I have found a community that I thought I had left behind in my rugby days. I have met wonderful people and enjoyed the camaraderie of doing something that we all love. Whatever our abilities we all share the same experiences of fear, injury, accomplishment, and stoke. Inside Passage made me a mountain biker and this community provides me with the family I thought I gave up in 2017.
You may not know where your trail is going to end up but if you can find some flow along the way, it will be worth the ride.