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Outdoor adventures, mostly gravel rides, but not always

Capital Forest

Variation on the challenging Evergreen Grinder 50 mile race route through the beautiful and vast Capital Forest in Olympia.

By the Numbers

Sport
Cycling
Shape
Loop
Profile
Pyramid
Two primary climbs, C-Line being the more challenging
Distance
45 miles
Elevation
5700 feet
Time
4h
Nutrition
No services, bring what you need for food & water
Logistics
The Safeway seems to be the most popular starting point, several rides originate from it’s lot.
External
Strava | Ride with GPS

I rode the Capital Forest once before, for the 2019 Cascadia Super Gravel and I got lit up. I was riding my 29er mountain bike on which I didn’t have many miles and I had almost no idea what I was doing racing on gravel. I remember the climbs being steep, the descents fast, and the overall environment pretty incredible.

In preparing for #OptOutside and #RaphaBlackFridayRide I decided to return the forest to see if it was all I remembered. Rather than re-ride the Cascadia route I decided to ride the 50 mile version of the Evergreen Grinder which offered a bit more adventure, complete with single track (which I do not enjoy) and river crossings (which I do).

Since I was riding on my own and the ominious “BIG RIVER CROSSING. USE CAUTION.” warning had me wondering what I was riding towards, I decided to ride the route backwards so if the river was more than I could comfortably handle I could turn around and do another ride I had in mind. In re-routing I managed to screw up the route and ended up riding through some private property, sorry.

Do not follow my route and go around this fence
Do not follow my route and go around this fence

After parking at the Safeway and doing a short five mile road ride I found myself in the familiar position of staring at a fence. If you see this fence, you’ve gone the wrong way.

Herein starts the route through the forest
Herein starts the route through the forest
B-8400 to B-8000
B-8400 to B-8000

Finally back on track and on B-4000, riding towards the intersection with B-8000.

Rainier's visibility improved throughout the day, it's barely visible here
Rainier’s visibility improved throughout the day, it’s barely visible here
Quiet gravel climb on B-8700
Quiet gravel climb on B-8700

Out of the woods and on to the more exposed road B-8700 with great views and terrific climbing.

Chunky descending
Chunky descending

I pretty much exclusively ride Rene Herse Barlow Pass tires, road or gravel, and I rarely feel under tired but this ride was different, the chunky gravel and the slick roads had me wishing for something a little bigger and beefier.

The connector trail, it's not marked but very visible and easy to navigate
The connector trail, it’s not marked but very visible and easy to navigate
The river crossing, wider than it appears.
The river crossing, wider than it appears.

Now the real adventure began. As I wrote earlier, on the RWGPS route there’s a warning about a “BIG RIVER CROSSING” about which I was pretty curious. It turns out B-8700 dead ends into a little cul-de-sac but there’s an unmarked-but-obvious connector trail.

The trail to the river was very muddy, very slick, and without much in the way of footholds, so it was a lot of holding on to trees and getting the bike down however I could.

The river wasn’t very big but it was a bike width or two wide. In August this would have been less of an issue but in late November, with many more miles to ride, I didn’t want to chance getting wet so I took my time and used the stones and my bike to get across safely. Quite a fun little diversion!

Starbursts
Starbursts
Beautiful day, slick roads
Beautiful day, slick roads
More climbing on C-Line
More climbing on C-Line

C-Line, a solid climb gaining almost 1900 feet over 7.5 miles, was easily the most trafficked of the roads with a random mixture of pavement, gravel, and slick mud.

On to quieter C-4000
On to quieter C-4000
C-4000 was pretty rough with recent logging
C-4000 was pretty rough with recent logging

Fortunately, the turn on to C-4000 brought quieter roads but some of the roughest from recent logging as well as crazy steep descending, some over 20%!

On to the Rock Candy trail
On to the Rock Candy trail
Rock Candy swamp
Rock Candy swamp

I am not a fan of single track and I especially didn’t enjoy Rock Candy, it was nominally a mountain bike trail but more suited to the ATVs passing me on the trail. On this day it was a swamp and after a few failed attempts to ride it I ended up hike-a-biking for the 1.1 miles, all-in-all it was fine but I far prefer the logging roads.

Finishing climb
Finishing climb

Terrific day in the Capital Forest and definitely warrants a return trip with more aggressive tires a little more time!

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