Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lizard Lake Bike Tour

I was bored on a Monday so I made up my mind to go camping by bike the next day.  Lizard Lake, my chosen destination, is one of the few camping spots on Blanchard Mt.  This DNR recreation area is just one hill over from my house, so it would be a door-to-door trip with lots of familiar trails and roads along the way.

I embarked on this trip with excitement for my longest bike packing expedition yet, and nervousness for my lightly tested setup.  My interest in camping by bike was sparked this spring, at which time I came up with a workable gear placement system on the cheap with help of and some searching around the house.  My setup consists of a compression sack, a nylon strap, a yoga mat strap, a waterbottle cage, and my 38 liter backpack. 

Sleeping bag under the seat, bivy sack on the handlebars, and everything else in a pack.  This meant that I had lots of weight on my back, but the bike was still capable of being ridden downhill on trails when the need arose.

An hour in, and all uphill so far.  That pack was starting to feel very heavy...

Finding trail time mid-route.  More fun, but more work too.

Top of Galbraith, the first high point of the route.  It would be downhill for the next few miles.

Welcome to Skagit Valley. 

Bormuth's Saw Mill.

Starting the last uphill push on trail.  This part was 4 miles of off and on pushing.  However, I was on trail when I could have taken a logging road instead.  Trails are always better than a road.

Lizard lake, home to some very busy beavers.

Lookout Mt. (background) from North Butte.


Sunset over the San Juans.

Camping is a dark sport in the Northern Winter.  The long night arrived around 5pm, and found me sitting in a wet campsite by myself.  Rather than fight my circumstances, I gave in to the lack of stimuli and ate dinner then promptly went to bed.  I woke at 12:30 am feeling rested, with 8 more hours of darkness to go.  Luckily I was able to pass out again, until i awoke around 4:30 to the sound of nibbling emanating from my pack.  A small creature had sniffed out my bread and decided to have some for itself.  I tried to catch it at work for a little while, but gave up after half an hour because it was obviously much smarter and more awake than I.  Subsequently, waiting for the sun to come up became my main purpose.  I cooked myself a breakfast of soft-boiled eggs, oatmeal, and mouse-tainted bread.  I moved slowly getting breakfast cleaned up and packing my things.  Still, it was before the sun came up that I rolled out the the campsite and down some new trails on my way home.

Fog over Lake Samish.

Lake Samish Bridge.

I decided to take a more direct and less elevated route home.  I wound my way down the hill from Lizard Lake on the British Army Trail, and then a piece of the Pacific Northwest trail that apparently sees more motos than hikers.  Rolling down the hill toward Lake Samish, it looked like I was in the islands.  The rural setting, brisk air, and dense fog lent an unhurried feel to my pace, a sentiment that was shared by legs still rubbery from the day before.

First sight of the city, and final stretch of the journey.  At the bottom of this hill lay donuts.  DONUTS! Nothing keeps me going like the promise of fried pastries.  I was so excited about fresh food and the prospect of getting out of my damp chamois that I neglected to take photos of much else on my way home.  My decision to take an easier route home was a good choice.  I was tired from the day before, and more hills would have destroyed my already fragile ego.  I spent five hours in the saddle riding to the campsite, and only two coming home.  

This was my third time bikepacking, and it soldified my trust in my home-baked setup.  Although my backpack was very heavy, to the point of feeling like it was grinding my butt into my saddle, I feel like I used everything that I brought.  In the future, I would love to do more bike tours, but I will try to bring along a friend or at least a book.  There's lots of non-riding time in the day, as I discovered.  

Bikepacking is a satisfying way of exploring by bike.  It takes extra effort to haul around the supplies it takes to survive, but to be able to spend that much more time away from the indoors is well worth the energy expenditure.  The best part of exploring by bike is that you can cover so much more ground than if you were on foot, yet the terrain you cover is not just limited to roads as it would be in a car.  There are many interesting places to find out there, just start pedaling!


  1. You mean you can bike pack on a bike that doesn't have bars that look like they were made out of twisty balloons, by a clown? Hope to see more of these tales of bike packing adventure 'round here - on any bike, with any bars. Good read.

  2. Looks like a beautiful trip! Good work getting out in January, that's tough.

  3. very cool. the minimalistic setup looks way fun - esp for trail section ripping potential.