Silver Lake - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

July 15, 2020

Silver Lake

Another brilliant day, another fine ride in a corner of the region we haven’t explored yet.  We start in Everson, the small riverside town about 20 miles northeast of Bellingham that we biked out to on July 4th.  At elevation 80’, it’s just on the eastern edge of the flat Nooksack delta; but only two miles to the east the mountains commence abruptly with Sumas Mountain rising like a 3,400’ wall.  Seen from the basin, it looks even more impressive and prominent than Marys Peak does from Corvallis.  Beyond Sumas mountain, one ridge or mountain after another follows nearly continuously through the North Cascades and Okanogans to the Rockies.  Other than the occasional river basin cutting through the mountains, there’s no significant flat land until you finally cross through Glacier National Park and reach the Eastern Front  400 linear miles away; or by bicycle, that’s 700 miles of mountains, with 45,000’ feet of climbing.

It all starts here, just two miles east of Everson.  Not for us though, at least not today.  We’re headed east into the mountains, but sticking to a network of low, flattish river valleys that cut through the nearest formations.  Our route is a ragged figure 8 that begins by biking east on South Pass Road through a narrow trough between Sumas Mountain and Vetter Mountain just to the north, angling our way northeast to the Canadian border.

In Everson, unpacking for the ride. That’s a dumb picture, she says. Why did you take that? To show the mountains up north in Canada, of course.
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Biking east from Everson on South Pass Road, we aren’t intimidated by massive Sumas Mountain glowering down at us. We’ll just hop over his left shoulder.
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On South Pass Road sits Glen Echo Community Center. Originally a schoolhouse that opened in 1906, it was deeded to the Glen Echo Community Club in 1943 for the sum of $1. Its been in operation ever since.
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Climbing over the low northern shoulder of Sumas Mountain, on the only significant climb of the day.
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Ten miles into the ride and still on South Pass Road, we drop off the shoulder of Sumas Mountain and enter Paradise Valley, a beautiful, bucolic hinterland.  The next ten miles are fantastic riding - quiet, scenic, flat.  The best miles of the day, and arguably the best of the month.  We have to return here before we leave.

Still on South Pass Road, we’re biking through beautiful Paradise Valley, in the narrow trough between Sumas and Vetter Mountains.
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We were enchanted by this old wreck in Paradise Valley, it’s roof breaking through but its paint still holding on for a few more seasons. I wonder how long it’s been since it was occupied.
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Devil’s Club with fruit clusters (drupes, my new word for the day).
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Jeanna & Kerry SmithThanks for the new word :-). Are you sure they're not berries?
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jeanna & Kerry SmithNope, it’s not a berry, though I wasn’t clear on the difference until you asked. A drupe is a stone fruit (pitted). Other examples of drupes include cherries, peaches, and olives. So think of this as a cluster of miniature cherries.
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2 weeks ago
Jen GrumbyDrupe!

I will have to try to use that in conversation.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyReally, it comes up all the time. Life is just a bowl of drupes. Extra virgin drupe oil. Drupy keen.
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2 weeks ago
Jen GrumbyBrilliant!

I would love to be in a room full of marketing people as explore ways to spark consumer enthusiasm for Drupe Oil.

A jingle, perhaps?

Feeling droopy?
Kinda poopy?
Drop your toil!
Buy Drupe Oil!
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyOh, nuts! I forgot about some of our favorite candy treats: drupe roca and drupe joy. (I was surprised to see that almond are a drupe also, and considered technically a fruit rather than a nut).
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyI’d like a berry. But a drupe? Foop!
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2 weeks ago
Jen GrumbyAnd for dessert? Tonight we have either a drupe cobbler or if you'd like something cooler, a drupe sorbet.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbySounds delicious! My mouth is drupling in anticipation.
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2 weeks ago
Ron SuchanekTo Scott AndersonHar!
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4 days ago
In Paradise Valley.
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Just about 200 yards south of the international border, South Pass Road abruptly bends south and is relabeled as Silver Lake Road.   A short climb takes us over a low saddle separating Paradise Valley and the upper end of Maple Creek.  For the next seven miles we bike south and generally downhill along Maple Creek, down a narrow valley with Red Mountain rising on on our right and Black Mountain on the left.  A very pleasant ride still, but more closed in, shaded and less scenic than open Paradise Valley.  Along the way, we pull in at Silver Lake County Park for lunch.

Silver Lake is an apparently natural empoundment of Maple Creek.  It’s a beautiful spot and a well developed recreational area, with a small lodge and a few cabins.  On a day like today it’s a delight to sit by the shore and eat our lunch, watching for fish jumping in the lake and observing people fishing from the shore or venturing out in the water on paddle boats.

After lunch we continue south on Silver Lake Road, with the country gradually opening up ahead of us as we follow Maple Creek downstream to its end at the Nooksack River. 

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Lunch spot, Silver Lake County Park. Looks secluded from this spot, but it’s actually pretty busy today.
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Southbound on Silver Lake Road, biking between Red Mountain on our right and Black Mountain on our left.
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For a very brief span of only a few hundred yards, Mount Baker is visible from Silver Lake Road. We’re looking up the narrow Nooksack Valley here, across the south shoulder of Black Mountain. The alignment needs to be just right.
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At Maple Falls the quiet, idyllic half of the ride comes to an end when we turn back west on the Mount Baker Highway.  After about five miles following the Nooksack down this rather busy highway we turn north on quieter Kendall Road and thread the gap between Red Mountain and Sumas Mountain.  Coming out the other side, we’re back in Paradise Valley and bending west again, toward the small border town of Sumas.  All in all, these last miles are just OK.  If we come back, we might just ride this as an out and back to Silver Lake and skip the southern half of the circuit.

Beyond Sumas we’re back in pretty familiar territory, working our way south to Everson on flattish delta farming roads on the quietest route we could find.  It’s much quieter and better riding than the Mount Baker Highway and Kendall Road, but we don’t enjoy it as much as we’d have expected because the day has really heated up and there’s no shade.  By the time we finally make it back to Everson it’s an unpleasant 85 degrees and we’re happy to hop in the car, roll down the windows, and drive home.

In Maple Falls the Baker Bus fleet sits idle, waiting for the ski season to roll around again.
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On Kendall Road, north of Maple Falls. Not the most interesting stretch of road, but safe enough.
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Looking north into Canada from Sumas: Mount Robbie Reid and Mount Judge Howay?
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A closer look at Mount Robbie Reid.
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Leaving Sumas. Rachael was ahead of me but I caught up here. She’s been waiting for this long train heading south (to the left) that went past the crossing just before she arrived and then stopped. After a few minutes it started up again, in reverse.
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Another hop dryer?
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Biking east of Clearbrook, in the direction of Sumas. Rachael is going the wrong way here. When we got to the top of the rise I pointed out the mountains behind her, and she decided to bike back down and video them. She was sorry on the way back up, biking up a second time on a now hot day.
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Video sound track: You are the Sunshine of My Life, by Stevie Wonder

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Ride stats today: 50 miles, 1,800’

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Jacquie GaudetYou had me really confused. My sister lives in Abbotsford, on the slopes of Sumas Mountain, which is north of the Trans Canada Highway and south of the Fraser River. Imagine my surprise to discover that there are TWO Sumas Mountains! One in BC and one in WA, not really very far apart.
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6 days ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetYes, this surprised me too. You’re a couple of days behind, or you’d know. In the Borderlands post I have a photo of YOUR Sumas mountain and the outskirts of Abbotsford and commented on the same oddity. Your sister’s house is probably in my photo somewhere.

I see that the Wikipedia articles on these two mountains tries to clarify this and says they’re sometimes referred to as American Sumas and Canadian Sumas.

Hee, hee. Ours (elev 1045 m) is much higher than yours (910 m).
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6 days ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Scott AndersonYup, my sister's place is probably somewhere there in that photo. I don't think I've biked to her place since they moved there...but then, it's kind of far from my place to hers and back for just tea and a chat.
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6 days ago