Mountain Biking, Almost in Canada
By: Jason Hock
The turn approaches fast, I lean right and slightly adjust my handlebars so that I come up the wall of the bank and become parallel with the ground. I slingshot around the corner and get pulled off the path. A tree looms in front of me. I slam on my rear brakes sending my back tire skidding outwards and I put my foot on the ground coming to a stop before crashing. My heart races, fear flickers through my conscious. I extinguish the flame as I mount my bike and continue the descent. I fly over jagged rocks, bumps, and depressions, my suspension absorbing everything. I find myself at peace as I wind through the woods like a rushing creek, the sun filtering through the trees turning my surroundings into gold. Welcome to Galbraith.
Galbraith is a world class bike park located in Bellingham, Washington on the fringe of the Northern Cascades within a half hour of the canadian border. It is open year round and boasts 50 miles of single track that covers an expansive 3000 acres. The whole park is owned by private landowners and stewarded by the Whatcom Mountain Bike coalition. It is free to access the mountain and maps can be found at the visitor kiosks located at either main entrance. The Northern main entrance can be accessed by Birch St off of Lakeway Dr, and the Southern Main entrance can be accessed via Sammish Way with a parking lot across from Galbraith Lane road. If you want to buy a map you can buy a paper copy for $14 or get a digital PDF for $14.99. A portion of map fees goes to help maintain and expand Galbraith (Galbraith WMBC website). Personally I would recommend purchasing a map because the park is so big and a bit confusing, the only reason I didn’t get lost without one was because my friend Emma showed me around. I’ve heard of people starting at one entrance and coming out at the other entrance, not fun. I now have a map for when I don’t have an experienced guide with me.
If you are ever visiting Bellingham or live near Bellingham and are into mountain biking or wish to try mountain biking out Galbraith is a great opportunity. The topography makes for gentle descent that are not too fast or to slow, also there is a broad range of trail difficulty for beginners all the way up to advanced riders.The North entrance is within riding distance of downtown Bellingham, this makes the mountain very accessible to those in the area (Galbraith WMBC website). Also it’s free, not often are you able to ride such nice trails without paying a fee. Where I come from, Juneau Alaska, the only trails we ride are hiking trails. This means that there are no banked turns so you can’t carry speed down the hill easily. Also certain areas can be covered with gnarled slippery roots that will put you on your ass faster then you can peddle, and mud can get so deep you can hardly move or not at all. Not to be forgotten are angry hikers who don’t want you whizzing past them. Galbraith has none of the former problems. On many of the trails large banks allow you to carry speed down the trail, and there are no hikers to worry about. Even though Juneau doesn’t have the best biking I have still developed a passion for biking and become a ok technical rider due to the rough terrain encountered.
On the contrary there are some things that could use some improvement about the park. When I asked my friend Emma what sort of improvements could be made around the park she said, “The trails need to be marked WAAAY better. They blow right now. Also the main roads need better markings too.” I definitely agree with her I went past all the trailheads and had to be guided to each one by her. She also said “I’d like to see more trail work done on the trails Evolution and Cheech and Chong.” As I said earlier all the more reason to buy a map because Galbraith can become a maze, also that portion that goes towards trail maintenance might just help repair the areas of the park that Emma talked about.
I personally have rode at Galbraith twice but I am planning to go up again this week. My first thought when I got to the bottom of the trail for the first time was “Wow that was awesome.” I have never ridden any trails close to comparable in my life, as you learned earlier. We started at the South Entrance and followed the main path up to a Y where we went right and kept going up until we got to the Blue Rock where we stopped and took a break on the conveniently placed bench. At the blue rock the trail again splits into a Y and we took the right hand path again. We continued along the path until we reached the trailhead of Unemployment Line one of Emmas favorite trails. Here we started our descent. The trail has a nice gradual slope with big banks on all turns. There are table tops, a small uphill to flat to downhill that can be ridden over or used as a jump, and gap jumps that require you to gap a distance to land nicely are scattered along as you speed down. There are paths around the features for those of us who are not ready for going fast and flying. There were small technical sections, and a couple small drops sprinkled throughout the trail. Once we reached the bottom we went right and followed a path to atomic dog, also a fovorite of Emmas, another trail leading off one of the main paths. It was a little bit faster and had a couple more technical sections. I couldn’t tell you which of the two trails I preferred, they were both great. On my second ride we followed the exact same path up and down, but this time on the way down we stopped about halfway through unemployment line and enjoyed an epic sunset over Bellingham bay and the San Juan Islands at the lookout point next to the bench where the trees open up.
What impressed me most about the trail’s was that during our descent we saw 4 people fixing areas of the trails where it was getting muddy, and fixing jumps. After riding I asked Emma if she had ever seen trail work happening before and she said “a few times.” To me that shows that these trails are cared for and will be as good or better the next time you ride. On my second ride it had been raining for a few days prior so the trails were a bit muddy as to be expected. I was surprised they were not worse. In Juneau where I come from if you want something fixed on a trail you do it yourself. The trail work that was going on also shows that the mountain bike community here is strong, because most of the work is done by volunteers with donated funds. Here is a photo of a trail work crew showing off a newly built step up jump, a jump that requires you to go higher then you started to make the landing (Manualmike).
Even though I have only seen a small sliver of Galbraith Mountain, I feel comfortable recommending the mountain as a whole because of the work I saw being put into the sliver I saw as well as the recommendations i’ve got from numerous people. Also I thoroughly enjoyed riding the two trails that I did, and would most definitely recommend them for beginner to advanced riders. Galbraith is an awesome place that has been created by the hard work of mountain bikers in this community over the past 30 years (Galbraith WMBC Website) . If you have any interest in biking in or around Bellingham plug in Galbraith Mountain Bike Park into Google maps(Google Maps), and go put a smile on your face weaving through the trees on two tires propelled by your legs and gravity.
“Pages.” The Ramblings of MTBBill RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2016.
“GALBRAITH.” WMBC. WMBC, 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
“Google Maps.” Google Maps. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
“Manualmike.” Manualmike. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.