Welcome to Thom Randolph's photo site for Places!

To see the pictures, select from the photo albums below. In many of them, there are more photos than you might see at first; they have sub-folders inside the albums. Some albums allow comments, others don't. To navigate among the albums when you're away from this home page, use the drop-down list above, or click the site name above. I hope you enjoy viewing the photos as much as I did taking them.

    
Places

Photos from some of the wonderful places on earth

        
Mountain and Road Bike Rides

The Northwest School of Mud BalletThe Northwest School of Mud Ballet: The Pacific Northwest has possibly the best terrain, widest variety and overall the most mountain biking trails. Within 25 miles of my house, there are easily 100 miles of wonderful in-forest twisty muddy trails. Yeah, you can also ride on the roads if you so desire. The photo albums here are a record of some of those rides in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Northern California.

            
Blanchard Hill, Bellingham, WA

A very long hill climb to a great viewA very long hill climb to a great view: The mountain known as Blanchard Hill is about 20 miles south of the city of Bellingham, WA. The land is managed by the state Department of Natural Resources. There are a couple good trails on it, but remember that you're the minority there: horse riders, runners, campers, and walkers are there too. So, be kind and courteous. I usually start from the bottom parking lot, if for no other reason than I'm a glutton for punishment. At the top, after you've climbed something like 1800 feet in 6 miles, you'll be at one of two view points. The northern one has an amazing view of the north Puget Sound and San Juan Islands. The southern lookout also has a great view of the Skagit valley and the tulip fields if they're in bloom. The ride up is steep and there's a lot of pushing the bike involved, but it's well worth the workout. The ride down is fast and amazing, twisting and flowing through the woods the whole way.

            
Boise Front Trails, Boise, ID

A huge number of trails in southern IdahoA huge number of trails in southern Idaho: If there's one thing that can be said for Boise, it's that they love mountain biking. And if they don't, well then they just have way too much land. Boise riding is much like Sun Valley, but much less expensive to get a hotel, and much longer riding season. Beware, though: summers get very hot. There is a veritable maze of trails within a mile of the city. Yes, one mile. They are smooth and flowing, with no rocks and no roots. Just don't fall off the trail...burrs and cactus await the unwary. The people in Boise very much like, use, and protect their trails, at least when I was there in 2004. I also went north a bit to McCall, Idaho to ride there. There was a forest fire going on, though, so I couldn't finish my intended route. So it was back to Boise to ride on their sweet single track too. Thrown in for good measure are photos of a close-by derelict mining town, as well as of Boise itself.

            
Capitol Forest, Olympia, WA

A working forest with amazing trailsA working forest with amazing trails: Capitol Forest is a large working forest owned by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. That means there are sometimes trail closures due to logging. And what you see when riding out there are often the results: wide bare swaths of clearcut forest. Without getting into the environmental issues around that, it IS a working forest and it DOES contribute to the state budget, and is a well-managed natural resource. So once you get over that and realize there are probably 100 miles of trails to ride on out there, what's to keep you from enjoying them? I've been several times, ignoring the long drive down there. Amazing trails, and some really nice places to get a picture or two. And the trails are just amazing. Fast, flowy, and a barrel of fun. Just remember to get a MAP. Norman and I didn't have one last time, and got fully and completely lost...and we even had a GPS! Oh well. We had a blast anyway.

            
Cedar River Trail, Renton, WA

A great workout in RentonA great workout in Renton: The Cedar River trail mostly follows the course of the Cedar River from downtown Renton, Washington, out to the much more rural towns of Landsburg and Summit. When most of these photos were taken, the pavement ended at the 6.25 mile mark. But it has since been extended to nearly the 11 mile mark. Most unfortunate! But it's still a great trail. Very few road crossings, and since it's an old railroad bed, there are no hills to speak of. At about 11 miles in, the then-gravel trail splits. The left-hand arm goes to the Landsburg white-water kayaking course, while the right-hand arm goes up past Lake Wilderness and out to Summit. Though typically unremarkable destinations, Summit is oh so very close to the Lake Sawyer trails. If you ride both arms out and back from downtown Renton, you get a really nice 39 mile ride. Amazing stuff so close to town.

            
Charlton and Cultus Lake Loops, Bend, OR

Another fun two-fer in BendAnother fun two-fer in Bend

            
Cherry Valley, Duvall, WA

The trails I never foundThe trails I never found: Oddly enough, there are apparently lots and lots of trails up there. It's certainly a large-enough area. And very nice countryside. But, somehow, when I went there, apparently I wasn't given the secret decoder ring, nor the secret handshake. Because I found almost none of the fabled trails that people claimed are there. Oh well. For me, down here in Renton, it's a rather long drive. I got some photos, but mostly just rode on the logging roads, which was fine for me on that day. There supposedly is a nice waterfall, but by the time I was nearby, I was frustrated at finding no trails that I didn't bother looking for them.

            
Crystal Mountain, Greenwater, WA

When there's no snow, we get to playWhen there's no snow, we get to play: The Crystal Mountain Ski Resort is a great place in the winter, with lots of that great Cascades snowpack. But for about three months in the summer, before the snow comes back, the place is a great place to ride MTB. There's a great loop trail of delicious singletrack that you can do either clockwise or counter-clockwise. I recommend counter-clockwise, if for no reason than it's really difficult to find the down-hill side trail once you get to the ski lift tower at the top. But other than that, it's a great ride. I've been there several times, and often it's cool and overcast. The area borders on the Mount Rainier Wilderness area, so be sure to stay on the trail, and enjoy the views of our favorite sleeping volcano.

            
Deschutes River Trail, Bend, OR

A very popular river-side trailA very popular river-side trail: The Deschutes River runs northward to the Columbia river, confluencing at The Dalles. Along that river is the Deschutes River Trail, in several parts. The part that runs in Bend, OR, extends down to the resort community of Sun River. The trail in Bend is typically classed as beginner because it is nice and wide, and doesn't require a lot of technical skill. There are only a few sharp rises, and I only remember one of those that couldn't be easily ridden up. The trail starts down at the river's edge, and climbs up over one of the many huge lava outcroppings. If you're into interesting geology on your rides, this is a great one. The trail eventually ends just past Benham Falls.

            
Deschutes River Trail, The Dalles, OR

The hot part. The dry part. The unrelenting sun partThe hot part. The dry part. The unrelenting sun part: If you read the guidebooks about this trail, they pretty much say to stay away from it. Is it technical? No, not at all. Is it beautiful? If you like desert, sure! Is it fast and flowing? Um, no, it's an old railroad bed. But, at least it's not hilly. I rode this trail on somewhat of a lark in August 2005, while staying in The Dalles to ride the Mt Hood area of Oregon. Aside from the totally cool power generating plant named "The Big Eddy" on the Columbia River, there's not much in The Dalles. This trail follows the Deschutes River south, with not much winding, and almost zero climbing. There are some rock formations, but there are nearly no trees. The river is nice, but you're far enough away from it that it's not like you're going to go wading in it. The trail abruptly ends at an old house, and then you turn around and go back. Bleak. Desolate. Desert. There is no avoiding the sun here, so bring enough water and food. Wear sunscreen. It was amazing how the heat and sun made this a more-difficult ride than it would otherwise be.

            
Devil's Gulch and Mission Ridge, Cashmere, WA

Taking the Low and the High RoadTaking the Low and the High Road: This is a very popular ride, and well use trails, because it's a great ride. Some of the ride books for the Central Cascades region say to ride up the road...that's just wrong! No, the best way to go is to ride up Devil's Gulch (the low road) and come back down via Mission Ridge (the high road). Devil's Gulch is less technical than Mission Ridge, but also less exposure in the way of cliffs and such. If you do all of both trails, including the mile-or-so road ride from the top of Devil's Gulch up to the start of Mission Ridge, you'll get a good hard ride in with excellent views. The road is a useless pain, but the upper reaches of Mission Ridge are pretty fun.

            
Edison Ice Caves and Lava Lake, Bend, OR

A fun out-and-back ride in the forestA fun out-and-back ride in the forest: This ride is fun, not too much climbing, but technical enough to make it exciting. You start at the Bend end of the trail, and then ride westward until you reach Lava Lake. The forest is more open than the more-typical ones in this part of the world, and that is a nice feeling. As you move west and come back, you'll definitely notice there will be a point when you reach the "top" and then the real fun begins: fast, slightly downhill riding all the way back to the car. Great fun! Beware of the lava outcroppings that the trail runs over. If you're not careful and you fall, that stuff is sharp in ways you do not want to experience! At the eastern end of the ride, be sure to stop and check out the ice caves; they're pretty cool.

            
Eightmile Creek, Mount Hood, OR

A fun and frollicking romp in the forestA fun and frollicking romp in the forest: Eighmile Creek is a ride that seems to fade out of memory. No turmoil, no death-defying precipices, no hike-a-bike, and not even any really technical streches. And yet, it's a great ride. Smooth flowing swoopy trails through some nice well-drained forests. A little bit of altitude to make you feel you're in the mountains, easy access to the highway, and just a really nice easy ride. Of the three loops shown on the topographical map, this is the shortest, and also the most fun. But, it's also the shortest. So if you're out doing the more nightmarish fifteenmile creek trail, be sure to do this one first...before the other one beats you into a tired and bloodied pulp.

            
Fifteen Mile Road, The Dalles, OR

Pleasant ride on empty rural roadsPleasant ride on empty rural roads: This is not the fabled and cursed Fifteenmile Creek loop ride. No, this is a nice pleasant road ride along a somewhat small creek that runs around the area of The Dalles, OR. There are some nice views, but mostly it's just a nice quiet stretch of road, with very few autos to chase you aside. As with all things in August in The Dalles, make sure you bring enough food and water. It gets very hot there.

            
Hope Valley Loop, Lake Tahoe, CA

Lost in the snow. On a trail that doesn't exist. In JuneLost in the snow. On a trail that doesn't exist. In June: Yes, that's the situation I found myself in with this trail. It was the first week of June in 2007, and wanted to try out my new Santa Cruz Blur XC on some local trails. I talked to the bike shops. I got the books. I did the GPS waypoint poking. I was set. And then the ride started. About two miles into the singletrack, after I'd ridden up the gravel road, the trail abruptly went over the top of a ridgeline, notably and quite significantly out of the sunshine...into snow. The first few patches I found my way through, since someone had obviously gone before me. Eventually the GPS said I was 1/4 mile off...and about 400 vertical feet below where the trail was. I had to laugh out loud about a mile from the end of the trail when a couple in thin T-shirts and lightweight running shorts came up the trail as if the snow up ahead wasn't a bother at all. Kids these days! Overall, a very fun ride, if the snow is gone. Later at a bike shop, the guys there claimed they'd never heard of the trail. Hmmm....

            
Ironhorse Trail, Snoqualmie Pass, WA

John Wayne State Park and Ironhorse TrailJohn Wayne State Park and Ironhorse Trail: Granted, the "park" isn't much wider than the "trail", but the signs seem quite insistent that they are different entities. Must be a funding thing. In any even, the Ironhorse trail is a great accomplishment for bicyclists. You can take the trail from North Bend pretty much across the entire state of Washington, all the way to Spokane. It is indeed an old railway line, so the slopes are very gradual, and the scenery is breathtaking. On this particular section, from North Bend to Rattlesnake Lake and up to the old tunnel (now closed, I believe) you'll have great views of the I90 corridor, and lots and lots of trees. The trail is quite wide and well used and in great shape. Just watch for snow if you're not riding in the summertime. If you can, definitely ride through the tunnel at the top, to come out on the other side of Snoqualmie Pass, in the ski-resort town of Hyak.

            
Jolly Mountain Loop, Easton, WA

Brings new meaning toBrings new meaning to: Jolly mountain has some interesting contrasts. On the one hand, it's a long haul up a dirt road to get to the single track. On the other hand, the trail isn't really ride-able going uphill. But wait...sections aren't very ride-able going downhill either. Check out the picture of my bike on the trail. There are a couple sections where the trail is really a small creek bed with basketball-sized rocks. Maybe you can, but I chose to walk those. Other than that, it was a nice pleasant afternoon ride in the clear blue skies of the near Cascades. Mixed forest and older clear cut, the trail winds down down down that mountain you had to climb. There's a lookout point on the dirt road about a mile past where the trail meets the road. While I did not, I've heard it's pretty spectacular up there, so save some energy and make the trip to the top.

            
Jumbo Peak, Randle, WA

A wonderfully long backcountry ride in RandleA wonderfully long backcountry ride in Randle: A ride that just keeps on giving. It's really long, so plan a full day, be rested and start early. It's tough, especially in the first sections because they're jeep trails, and those guys love to go straight up the hillside. But once you're up and off the road, this is a truly wonderful ride. The scenery around Randle is just stunning and the mountain is just so big and empty and there's such a great feeling a being apart from the day-to-day world. There is a family/herd of pronghorn (?) sheep that live up there. They are curious, but remember: you're a long way from help in case they decide to prong you. The trails are smooth and flowing with very little really technical stuff, and only a little of what you could call "exposure". The terrain is varied, without too much of the usual forest. You'll definitely know it when you come out above the tree line, to a wonderful and huge alpine meadow. I highly recommend this ride. Remember to bring some warmer clothes, as the weather can change suddenly and severely.

            
Kachess Ridge Loop, Easton, WA

A great loop either way you goA great loop either way you go: Ah, Kachess Ridge. This is a splendid example of Cascade mountain biking. It's nice and long, there's a good deal of elevation gain at the start, but it's well worth it. There's a bit of hike-a-bike, and bunch of sketchy downhill, and a whole heapin' helpin' of smooth flowing singletrack. I think I've ridden Kachess Ridge 5 times now. I tend to prefer the clockwise direction, but many think the road climb is unworthy. I find it easier to climb on the road, and the views northwest over Lake Kachess are pretty cool as you climb that road. Once you're at the top you're rewarded with the wonderful trails that slow descend the ridge and valley back to the car. If you ride up the trail and then back down, it's still great, but the trail seems to climb faster and harder than just moseying up the road. There are stream crossings as you come down the valley, but nothing major. Do remember to bring warm clothes, maybe even a jacket and plenty of food and water. Weather at the top is often not the same as at the bottom.

            
Knebal Springs Loop, Mt Hood, OR

Tool the Knebal KnobTool the Knebal Knob: Another great ride in the Mt Hood area. Like Eightmile Creek, this is a fun romp through the forest, rather around a "bump" in the landscape. The trails are nice and smooth, the forest well-maintained. Unlike many of the rides in this area, this one is quite deep into the forest, so there aren't the typical sweeping panoramic vistas. But, that also means there are no dangerous cliff exposures, and you're never more than a mile or two from your car. I definitely recommend riding both Knebal Springs and Eightmile creek in one day. If you do them both and you still want more, do more of these shorter loops. Leave fifteenmile creek for a different day; that ride back up out of the creek is a long haul and not for the tired.

            
Lake Sawyer, Black Diamond, WA

The sweetest trails in south King CountyThe sweetest trails in south King County: Yes, these are by far my favorite trails. They're about 25 miles from where I live, but the quality, variety, and distance possible on them is far better than any other local trail systems. But, they have also been here a very long time. Right now it's just about Christmas 2009. I have a terrible feeling that when you read this, these trails will be gone forever. Yarrow Bay now owns the land, and in 2006 got approval to level the entire forest there and put in housing. We got a thankful reprieve thanks to the economic recession in 2007-2009, but based on the talk I'm hearing they are likely to move on the project in 2010. Another sad and tragic loss to the MTB community here; just like Bonney Lake. And so, this past summer I got out to Lake Sawyer as often as I could. And I will too until the day they make it impossible for me to ride there. Long Live Sawyer!

            
Lake Tahoe Road Loop, Lake Tahoe, CA

A Grueling Beauty of a road rideA Grueling Beauty of a road ride: Yes, Lake Tahoe is splendid to look at. The weather is wonderful, the car drivers are mostly courteous of bicyclists, and the roads are in good shape. What could go wrong with a simple circumnavigation? Well, first of all, it's one BIG lake! Riding around it is a 75 mile ride, with plenty of ups and downs. Something like 5000 total feet of climbing. There are some good long hills, and of course, many of those hills are on the windy narrow dangerous parts of the road. But, the ride is definitely worth it. I've ridden the early-June America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride (AMBRR) twice now, and it was very enjoyable both times. If you do, be sure to do the full 100 miles...the ride down to and out of Truckee will, um, "build character". Most of the pictures shown in this photo album are actually from me driving around the lake; taking pictures while doing a road ride doesn't usually lend for getting really good shots. So I drove around the lake the day after the ride.

            
Lake Washington Loop, Seattle, WA

A great way to see SeattleA great way to see Seattle: Yes, this is another lake-circumnavigation. Around here in Seattle, the notion of where you are is almost always with reference to some body of water. Are you near Lake Washington? Lake Union? The (Puget) Sound? Well, I happen to live about 1.5 miles up the hill from Lake Washington. The 50 mile ride around the lake is very well known to bicyclists here. It's for the most part relatively flat; there's very little elevation gain. If you're training for something long like the 204-mile Seattle-To-Portland ride, doing this loop four times in a day will definitely make it clear you're ready. The communities that line the lake are very much representative of the area; everything from the expensive condos of the Kirkland Waterfront, to the industrial areas of Bothell and Renton, and everything in between. Definitely the clockwise route is the proper direction. If you do both, you'll see the difference pretty clearly. In any event, it's one of the local must-do-several-times-a-year rides, so do!

            
Loon Lake Loop, McCall, ID

One of Lake McCall's many trailsOne of Lake McCall's many trails: Ever had one of those rides? You know the ones. You arrive at the trailhead and it immediately starts pouring rain. You wait, hoping it will stop, and sure enough, 1/2 hour later, the sun comes out and the sky clears. You hop on your bike and head out for a full-day ride. You're just settling into the singletrack when the forest gives way to more open woods, and your delicious ribbon turns to wide roads and gutted jeep tracks. But, you persevere on, for no other reason than the GPS says to. You ride and eventually come to a beautiful lake. You meet a couple of other riders, and life is great. You have a little lunch, and you set out for the rest of the ride. And then you come to the yellow "WARNING: FIRE DANGER" tape across the trail. And the Forestry Ranger on his motorcycle telling you to leave. Now. The fire is coming. Well, okay, it's still 12 miles away...but you have to leave. Now. And so you turn around and you head back. Yes, that's how the Loon Lake Loop went for me. I'd do it again, but without all the weirdness. Seemed like a really nice place to ride.

            
Macenzie River Trail, Eugene, OR

An epic ride I barely even startedAn epic ride I barely even started: I actually did this ride twice. Well, okay, I tried to do this ride twice. The first day I flatted twice in the first two miles, and so bailed. The second time I broke a spoke 5 miles in, and a second spoke on the same wheel two miles later. Not a good sign. But, what can I say? This is a very famous trail that many many people ride every year. There are even commercial tours and shuttle buses. I'd do it again in a minute; I would love to do this ride properly and completely. Where else can you be on singletrack and find asphalt pavement over bare lava? Yes, asphalt. Over lava. The parts I saw were beautiful and the forest is intensely thick, but dryer than we get up here in Seattle.

            
Metolious-Windgo 99, Bend, OR

A well-trodden horse trailA well-trodden horse trail: This trail is very interesting. The majority of use is clearly horses, because much of the beginning is very loose sand that makes the going hard and slow. The trail eventually firms up nicely, and you soon forget it as you go winding your way through nice open central-Oregon forest. The trail wasn't all that well marked. Either that or there are just so many unmarked side-trail options that it's easy to get off the main trail. In any event, I really enjoyed this trail; it was a nice quiet weekday ride with nobody else around. The only really treacherous place was the creek crossing. Even in late July, the creek was running so hard it almost did me in.

            
Mrazek Trail 32, Bend, OR

It just keeps going, and going....It just keeps going, and going....: This is one amazing trail. It starts at Shevlin Park in Bend, OR, and from there quickly heads out across the flats, up through some forests, and just keeps going up and up and up. While the uphill might make you think it's hard, it's a very gradual uphill. There are very few switchbacks, and no spots of hike-a-bike at all. Smooth, well maintained trails the whole way. There were even some fun "technical trail features", but nothing at all difficult. Once you get to the trailhead at the top, where there's a parking lot and plenty of other people, you just turn around, and enjoy that same smooth trail with now a very slight downhill all the way down. It's almost a crime that it goes by so fast; you just want it to keep going and going and going. If you're in Bend, you HAVE to do this trail. A ways out from the park is also Tumalo Falls, but bikes aren't allowed on that trail, no doubt due to the large number of hikers.

            
Newberry Caldera Rim Trail, Bend, OR

Good trail, great views, and pumice to ride onGood trail, great views, and pumice to ride on: This is quite possibly my favorite ride in the Bend, OR area. It's not that heavily used, it has some good by not to painful elevation gain, and the trail is well marked. In fact, the only thing I didn't like was that the ride ended. The ride up from the parking area starts off through the forest, and then you pop out onto a road for about a 1 mile climb. But once you get to the main trail, it's all wonderfully graded, nice and smooth. There are a few sections that for newcomers will be very odd-feeling. Not dangerous, but weird. It's because you're riding on small pebbles of pumice, a type of lava. The pebbles squirm past each other almost like sand, but it's decidely not sand. So cornering is more like surfing, but the straights don't plow under as badly as sand might. The views of Lake Paulina are just amazing, and once you're up on the rim, there's almost no elevation gain or loss. The ride seemed just the right length, but do bring food and water, because there are no shortcuts back to the car!

            
Palisades Loop Trail, Greenwater, WA

Amazing loop trail east of Mount RainierAmazing loop trail east of Mount Rainier: If you ride MTB in the PNW (Pacific Northwest), this is one trail you must do. With occasional glimpses of the sleeping volcano Mount Rainier, and some pretty decent elevation gain, combined with flowly smooth single track and a dose of technical rocky descent, this is quintessential riding at it's best. After the long road ride up the hill, the trail becomes true paradise as you glide through alpine meadows and moderately open forest. Be sure to stop at "the shack" for some rest and food. And then the major descent begins, so hold on! There is one section that's very rocky, so watch for that; it's pretty technical if you choose to ride it. Once at the bottom, you're thinking "I want more!". And more is what you get, with the up and down flowy trail that leads back to the car. A great ride, with great views of the White River Valley and of course Mount Rainier. Highly recommended.

            
Phil's Trails, Bend, OR

Mile and Miles of Smiles, and even a RoosterMile and Miles of Smiles, and even a Rooster: Yes, a Rooster. The fact is that the people in Bend really, REALLY like these trails, named after the original trail builder. Phil's is a quite large network of trails spread out over 50+ square MILES, nestled right next to Bend. And so, people love these trails so much, the put up art at some of the major intersections. And thus the huge red rooster with Mardi Gras beads strung over him. The trails themselves aren't all that technical, but do get more so the further out you go. Not a whole lot of elevation gain, either, just miles and miles of fun smooth trails. They don't seem to get too sandy in the summer, since not many horses come through. You could spend an entire vacation exploring this trail system, but with so many other great trails around Bend, why would you? And that is the only problem I found with Phil's trails: there is just so much of them. It's a multi-day exploration, but it's so close to town you don't feel like you're really getting OUT of town. Definitely go and explore Phil's Trails. You will not be disappointed.

            
Snoqualmie Valley Trail, Snoqualmie Falls, WA

Rail trail through the forested Cascade foothillsRail trail through the forested Cascade foothills: Like most rails-to-trail projects, the Snoqualmie Valley trail goes from one lumber/agricultural/industrial area to other ones. After all, that's where the railroads went. But unlike a desolate grassland in the middle of nowhere, the Snoqualmie Valley Trail cuts through some of the most wonderfully wooded hillsides in the lower flanks of the Cascade Foothills. The best place to start is in Carnation, and then head up the trail toward Snoqualmie Falls. The trail starts in the flat farm and horse pastures of Carnation, and ends at an old concrete rail tunnel about 10 miles uphill. If you then climb the stairs on the far side up to Tokul Road, it's an easy couple miles to the actual falls, which are quite spectacular. The trail is wide and well graded, and soft-surfaced the whole way. Scenery is great, with the occasional sweeping vistas of the valley, and a couple old wooden railroad trestles spanning deep gullies. And, as a bonus there is are several networks of singletrack adjacent to this trail; you'll see them as they connect to the rail trail.

            
Sunday Road Ride, Bend, OR

A leisurely ride that proved harder than expectedA leisurely ride that proved harder than expected: When you go to Bend, it's tempting to completely skip the road riding and just revel in the amazing singletrack. And yet, lots of people enjoy riding the roads too. There are some wonderfully long country highways and smaller roads. Some of which, sadly, abruptly become unpaved and more than a bit sketchy for road bike tires. But if you stick to the main roads, you'll be rewarded with some excellent miles. On this particular Sunday, I wanted to ride out of town toward Mount Bachelor, the local ski resort. Through town the ride was great, but by the time I'd reached the Edison Ice Caves turnoff, I'd had more than I cared to admit. I was never sure if it was the elevation, the constant long slow climbing, the chip-seal rough pavement, or what. Either way, I didn't make it as far as I'd hoped, but got some decent pictures despite sweating profusely.

            
Surveyor's Ridge, Mt Hood, OR

A fun and frollicking ride near Mt HoodA fun and frollicking ride near Mt Hood: The first thing to know about this ride is that the books say to take the road uphill. That's questionable advice. While on the one hand there are some wonderfully flowered sub-alpine meadows along the way, the trail ride uphill isn't all that bad. I did the road, but I'd to the trail up if I was doing it again. The other thing to know is that this is one FUN ride coming back down. Fast, flowing singletrack, in that very typical Oregon fashion where they have lots of land and space to put their trails. There are several good views of Mt Hood along the way. At the very top of the Surveyor's ridge trail, apparently there's a gnarly downhill trail, because I came across several groups in full body-armor and full-face helmets, shuttling. This is definitely a must-do trail if you're in the area. But, skip the road ride...take the trail.

            
Taylor Mountain State Park, Maple Valley, WA

Great scenery in a hill-climb training zoneGreat scenery in a hill-climb training zone: While there are singletrack trails on this mountain at the base of the Cascades, they are very heavily used by horses, and so mud-holes abound. I don't really recommend riding the singletrack, but some people certainly do. Whatever you do, please always remember there might be horses and riders around any turn, so be courteous, don't scare them, and be friendly. I've heard lately that the Seattle Watershed finally lets people go from the old turnaround up to the top of Taylor Mountain, but I haven't gone there myself. This ride, if you start down at 208th St and 298th Ave, rises about 2000 feet in just over 6 miles. It's a good sustained hill-climbing training ride, especially given that it's a gravel road the whole way. So you learn not only how to pace yourself, but also practice smooth pedaling.

            
Teanaway River, Teanaway, WA

A ride that simply was meant to not beA ride that simply was meant to not be: hacked

            
Tiger Mountain, Issaquah, WA

Very popular, but far from the bestVery popular, but far from the best: The trails around the greater Puget Sound region offer a huge variety: from the twisty turny trails of Lake Sawyer and Towers of Power, to the flowy greatness of Capitol Forest, to our various rail-trails. Tiger, however, stands alone as an insrutible mystery. Here we have a trail system with not many miles of trails, in which MTBers have been officially kicked off two of the three of the peaks that make up Tiger Mountain. The main trail itself is really not much more than a long downhill mud pit with root-drop offs. For me, I just don't see the attraction. But others will tell you it's the only game in town; it's da bomb; and the number of riders there will attest to it's draw. Weird. The pictures here are from the very few trips I've made to Tiger over the years. I don't have any real plans to go there in the future, either.

            
Tolt-MacDonald Park, Carnation, WA

Lots of great trails...once you climb the hill!Lots of great trails...once you climb the hill!: Yes, the trails at Tolt are really great. There are a lot of them, and the ones around the outside can be used pretty much all year-round. The inner ones tend to get muddy, but that can be fun too. The trails are on partly Washington State Department of Natural Resources, and part on land owned by a Timber company. The elevation gain on the actual trails is pretty nominal and the hills are generally quite ride-able. But, the thing to remember is that you have to up off the Snoqualmie Valley floor and up to the top of the river valley. It's about a 500-600 foot climb in about 1/2 a mile. There is a really good reason that trail is named IAB, or "It's a B!tch": because it is exactly that. So take that part easy and save your energy for the real, fun trails up on top.

            
Towers of Power, Renton, WA

Technical Twisty Trails right here in RentonTechnical Twisty Trails right here in Renton: This trail system goes by several names, but it's proper name is that used here. The other names "Tapeworm", "Mr. DNA", and even "Crop Circles" are actually those of trails in this splendid little inner-city trail system. The trails are under and near the power lines that feed the Boeing Plant in Renton, and only 7 miles from my house. There is quite some room here, just up the hill from downtown Renton. These are great trails for getting your agility and on-bike handling skills back if you're rusty. The significant and steep short hills are also great for getting some serious anaerobic leg strength training. All in all, a great set of trails. Crop Circles, when it's clear, is a fun, silly ride. Tapeworm is twisty-turny goodness, while Mr. DNA adds more technical work in the form of log jumps and such. My fave is definitely Tapeworm.

        
France 2008

Our trip to France in October 2008: This is the long-awaited album of Margot and my vacation in France. It was wonderful! I cannot say enough good things about the place! The people were 99% kind and warm and friendly, the food was outstanding, the sights were indeed magnificent. No wonder everyone wants to go! Thank you to everyone who made our visit possible, our trip memorable, and our time in your country wonderful.

            
Friends and Family

The great people we met and shared our time withThe great people we met and shared our time with: Margot, born and raised in France, was not only my personal interpret and tour-guide, but she also helped me see the not-so-touristy side of France. Namely, Nancy and the Lorraine countryside. The photos in this area are of the many kind and generous and wonderful people in her family, and their homes. I can't thank Margot's mother enough for her kindness, patience and generosity throughout our stay. For a woman who does not drive...EVER, she did amazingly well as we drove around the countryside, abruptly stopping to look at ancient buildings in near ruin, a graveyard, and so on. Thanks Mama!

            
Topics of Study

Food, Urban Art, People on the Street, and other interesting sightsFood, Urban Art, People on the Street, and other interesting sights: This section collects some subjects that I purposely tried to get a wide variety of. Some really weren't all that thrilled with having me store the photons they freely sprayed from themselves, but I captured them nonetheless. People are always a fascinating subject, and candid shots of them being themselves are sometimes difficult to get. Paris is also home to a wide variety of cultures and thus their foods, so I've captures a good deal of those as well. Unlike America where we all seem to drive either a Prius or and SUV, France has a wider variety of oddly shaped vehicles. And finally, what city would be complete without graffiti, tagging and the creative defacement of anything vertical? While there is little graffiti in France, there is some, even if it's not quite as good as New York or Los Angeles.

            
Areas of Paris

Places and things to see and do around ParisPlaces and things to see and do around Paris: The wonderful city of Paris has many neighborhoods, each with their own flavor, charm, and even seedy underbelly. Starting with the studio apartment with an excellent location but not enough room for our luggage, and then Montmarte, the cute top-of-the-hill artist colony near the hotel we found. The Hotel Sofie, right between Barbes and Pigalle. WARNING: Pigalle is the Red Light District of Paris, and no matter how fashionable, it's still a place of adult themes and images; if you are offended by them, please don't view the sub-folder of Barbes and Pigalle. I kept those images from the top-level set, so hopefully nobody will be offended there.From there it's on the Pont Neuf and along the River Seine, and a favorite of mine, the Institute of France. It's where they keep the language locked up from pesky Americanisms and Quebeckers. Past the Louvre is the Jardins de Tuileries. Around the Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris is the island Cites. The Pantheon is a cool place with lots of old schools. And finally we end up with the required boat tour of Paris. Only this time we do the tour in the pouring rain. Made me feel right at home.

            
Arc De Triomphe and Eiffel Tower

The Arc and the TowerThe Arc and the Tower: What trip to France would be complete without visiting these iconic, and frankly HUGE monuments. Margot and I figured we had only so many days, and on the map the two seem like they're right next door, and we wanted to get the more touristy areas done in one major day. So we went back to the gardens near the Louvre, and walked up the Champs Elysee, walked around the Arc, but not up it this time. We then walked down the deceptively long Rue Kleber where all the embassies are, and then to the Eiffel Tower. We went up the tower and took quite a few photos of the surrounding areas. Once back on the ground, we decided we were tired, so we took a taxi back to the hotel, took a nap, and then came back to the Arc De Triomphe at 10pm to see the light show playing on the Eiffel Tower. So up we climbed, only to be told "sorry, no tripods". Oh well, we made do, and got some decent photos nonetheless. Even witnessed a car accident far far below!

            
The Louvre Museum

The endless and splendid LouvreThe endless and splendid Louvre: If you've ever been to the Louvre, you know that you can't see everything. It's like going to Seattle and visiting every single store. You just can't do it in one day. So instead, we did about four hours. By the third hour, Margot found a comfy bench and went to sleep while I took pictures of ever Baby Jesus and Angel I could find. And my there were lots of them. WARNING: The old master painters and sculptors didn't always put clothing on their subjects. If you are offended by images of nudity, either male or female, you might be better off staying away from these pictures. They are art of the highest form, world-renowned and priceless. But, that doesn't mean they don't offend people. The top-level images have little or no obvious nudity except for the Venus de Milo, but Paintings and Sculpture definitely do.

            
Cathedral Notre Dame De Paris

The old and magnificent Cathedral Notre Dame...in ParisThe old and magnificent Cathedral Notre Dame...in Paris: I think that description pretty well sums it up. Yes, it's very large. Yes, it's very old. And yes, it's a church where people go to worship every day of the year. The architecture, the sheer size of it, the stained glass, and the Catholic significance is very impressive. The thing to remember about "Notre Dame" is that there are LOTS of them. Heck, there's one in Indiana! In this case, it's the Cathedral that was built in Paris, thus the name. Later on in the trip we visited a much cleaner Notre Dame, in Saint Nickolas. And no, I don't mean Santa Claus. The Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris sits on the island named Cites, right in the middle of the River Seine. There are more photos of the area around the Cathedral in the Cites section of the Areas of Paris album.

            
Jardin Du Luxembourg

Wonderful Paris garden with fountains and statuesWonderful Paris garden with fountains and statues: When Margot's mother worked in Paris, these are the gardens in which she ate her lunch, and strolled around in that very Parisian way. I can see why. The gardens are right in the middle of Paris, with just enough trees, benches, fountains, sculpture, flowers, grass and such to make it really quite lovely. It's a pleasant mix of old bronze and marble statues with newer metal pieces, some whimsical, and some of questionable quality. But, who wouldn't love a 20-foot tall head of Jesus in your back yard, eh?

            
London, England

The palace, the busses, Big Ben, noise, people, trafficThe palace, the busses, Big Ben, noise, people, traffic: Margot surprised me on Wednesday with a day trip through the Chunnel on the TGV to London! Wow, what a different place than Paris. While it's important to say nothing bad about our English friends, London seemed a mis-mash of old and new and broken and shiny, all crushed together in a tiny space, with about one half of the roads under construction at any one time. We were happy to get back to France...especially when a Lorry caught fire in the Chunnel and they closed it for 3 days after we were safely back in France!

            
The Palace at Versailles

The palace and gardens of Louis XIV's palace at VersaillesThe palace and gardens of Louis XIV's palace at Versailles: Our second day-trip away from Paris, the Palace and Gardens of Versailles are immense, beautiful, and very very gold. This guy Louis XIV was pretty happy with himself, and my he must have spent one pretty penny on that place! No, fast-forward to the 21st century, and along comes an American, Jeff Koons, who puts up a whole bunch of larger-than-life balloon animals, and a porcelain statue of Michael Jackson and Bubbles...the chimp. All of France was aghast. Me, being American, saw the juxtaposition of cheap mylar blow-up animals with the riches of the ancient masters as pretty darned hilarious. My favorite was definitely the huge blue mylar balloon in the hall of mirrors.

            
Nancy, France

The everyday, normal city of NancyThe everyday, normal city of Nancy: Margot was raised in Nancy, France. It's nearly at the Eastern end of the country, close to Germany and Strasbourg. The town is famous for a particular type of cookie: the Madelaine, of which I don't think we actually had any! There's a really nice museum there, and a cool Plaza named Place Stanislas. Somebody who King Louis really liked had a pretty nice square built; it is pretty darned nice! Every Saturday night they have a light show that's projected onto the main building, and so we went to that. We'd have gotten more pictures except for the drunk guy who simply would NOT leave us alone. Finally I tricked him into thinking I only spoke Spanish. And if you know me, you know I don't speak Spanish AT ALL. I was betting he didn't know Spanish, but probably did speak English. Eventually he went away. Anyway, it's a nice, rather quiet part of town where a lot of Margot's family live. Everyone was wonderful to us; I miss them!

            
Lorraine Region

The countryside and smaller villages of LorraineThe countryside and smaller villages of Lorraine: Surrounding Nancy is the very large, very French agricultural region of Lorraine. There are some, but not quite so many vineyards as other parts, but there are some. Much of it is rolling countryside, used for grazing, growing hay, and herding sheep. Very often the dust generated by the farm machinery and cars bring haze to the region, but we were very fortunate to have relatively clear skies while there. Our stops included the small and very old town of Liverdun, a trip to the Cathedral Notre Dame De Saint Nickolas, some unnamed small towns on our way to see the sadly disappointing Baccarat museum, a park, a cemetery, a TGV station, and the hill-top church at Sion.

            
Strasbourg, France

The nearly Germanic Alscace town of StrasbourgThe nearly Germanic Alscace town of Strasbourg: Strasbourg is further east from Nancy, very close to the German boarder. Had the Allies not won the battle of Verdun in the second world war, Strasbourg would very likely be in German hands even today. It is definitely a very Germanic town, as is most of the Alsace region. I was amused that my companions the day we traveled to Strasbourg kept saying "oh, we don't understand the French they speak here in Alsace." But after seeing some of this "foreign" tongue in print, it was clear that it was just a lot closer to German. The homes and building all have that Swiss Chalet style, which they claim as their own Alsacian style. Strasbourg of course has many large Catholic churches, but it also home to the first Protestant Church. There is also a lovely little area known as "Petite France", which is odd given the city is IN France.

        
Lake Tahoe, California

The blue blue Lake Tahoe and surrounding areasThe blue blue Lake Tahoe and surrounding areas: Margot and I drove from Seattle, Washington down to Lake Tahoe, which is right on the border between Nevada and California, about 50 miles from Reno, NV. We went there so I could ride in the century ride around the lake, called America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride. This is my second time riding the AMBBR, and it is indeed a good ride; one of the easier centuries out there, even though there is something like 8000 feet of climbing. But, the weather is always wonderful and the lake is gorgeous. After the ride I always take the next day and go around the lake taking pictures.

        
Vashon Island Lavendar Festival

Purple Purple everywherePurple Purple everywhere: Margot and I spent a wonderfully warm day going out to Vashon Island to see the Lavender Festival. There is a much larger festival farther north, but this one had a certain small-town charm that seemed better to capture the feel of small farms on island rural Washington. This album includes photos from four different lavender farms, and the ferry rides back and forth from Seattle. On Vashon Island there is also an old elementary school gymnasium turned into a skate park, with some very nice graffiti outside. Inside too, but I didn't want to make the kids think we were taking their pictures, so we stayed outside. Well, that and the light was better.


 
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