Pioneers of Deep Creek by Scott Smith | Tales from the Trails: PNW High Country

Pioneers of Deep Creek by Scott Smith | Tales from the Trails: PNW High Country

Pioneers of Deep Creek by Scott Smith

Deep Creek on TrailForks

The year was 1991, I think? These days we might debate if Deep Creek is truly high country, but I digress. Back then, mountain biking was a relatively new sport. When I was not playing bass in bars, I pulled espresso in an office building lobby. I struck up a friendship with one of the customers, Brad. I recall Brad had a successful career as a regional sales manager for fertilizer products. Brad and I shared a passion for mountain biking, and were progressing through every known local mountain bike trail, which at the time wasn’t a lot. John Zilly and Tom Kirkendall were our guides. I was especially keen on Tom Kirkendalls excellent books, which described each ride as exactly the adventure we hoped it would be.

One weekend in late September, we had made Sunday plans to ride up corral pass, to Noble Knob and down Deep Creek, off hwy410. Our 3x7 drivetrains would certainly make the corral pass climb tolerable, and our friction thumb shifters were immune to mud. Prepared with cotton socks, rigid forks, hardtails, and SPD pedals, we were ready for anything- even the inevitable chain suck.

That was the plan, but the weather was not cooperating. Overcast skies in Seattle turned to light rain in enumclaw and pretty heavy rain by Greenwater. It was the first cool, wet day of Fall. But we were determined and had rain shell jackets and gloves with no fingers! Brad was the stronger climber, and with the rain I was happy to make my own pace up the seemingly endless climb, cold fingers wrapped around my Onza bar-ends.

As we summited Noble Knob, visibility was only a few hundred feet. I felt like an astronaut on an alien world, riding through the fog with my lightweight cannonade and fluorescent yellow jacket. Cramps set in immediately as we began the descent, fingers and toes were numb. We took turns chasing each other with our seat posts at full height. Those switchbacks were a challenge, but towards the bottom things opened up, and we could finally ease off those cantilever brakes!

On one of the last sweeping corners, Brad's Panaracer Smoke tire slid off some wet roots, dumping him off the downhill side of the trail. I only saw his arms extend as he flew a short distance. I laughed at the irony of him crashing so close to the bottom, but Brad wasn’t getting up so fast. As I approached, Brad raised himself up slowly. His face had come down on an old rotten stump, and he had chunks of soft rotten bark imbedded deep in his cheek just below his eye. Luckily he had been wearing cheap contractors glasses.

Brad was going to be OK, but his face needed stitches and he had a black eye coming on. Over a quick post-ride beer, he told me he had a big sales presentation early the next morning, and he was worried this injury might cost him his job. He confided that his boss and already discouraged him from mountain biking, due to the risk of injury. Sadly that was my last ride with Brad, I think he hung the bike up- at least for a while.

I think that particular ride stands out to me, simply because the sport was so fundamentally different back then. Gear was primitive, we were inexperienced and unprepared. It was the first time I saw the consequences of a backcountry adventure gone wrong. We had been a little overzealous that day, as a result I had lost a good riding buddy. It was a day I learned to respect the trail, the weather, and my riding friends. Brad if you’re reading this, cheers to you!

Author: Scott Smith

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