Icicle Creek is a magical happy place. 😀
Toward the beginning of the ride, as you come into the Icicle canyon, it looks like it could be some lost part of Colorado. Soon, though, after passing under the pyramid-shaped massifs, the gates of the Icicle canyon, you’ll realize this could only be the Cascades. The jagged ridge-line looks like the teeth of a prehistoric serrated knife, set up by some malevolent god to tear the ancient clouds apart when the world was still being formed.
This past weekend, I took my bike over Steven’s Pass to ride the Icicle. I’d heard that the road was snowed out 11 miles in, so, to get a bit more exercise in, I parked on Route 2, about 7 miles from Leavenworth, and rode down through the Tumwater Canyon.
You won’t see any pictures from that area in this post, partly because I’ve already shown you what it looks like, but, more importantly, because Icicle Creek and the mountains that line its canyon are dramatic enough to fill this page. But keep Leavenworth in mind; if you decide to visit, it’s a nice place to explore.
As you ride into the canyon, the first few miles are developed, with houses, school bus stops, and the trappings of modern society. Quickly, you cross into the national forest land. Soon, the only developments are trails leading up the mountains, and small pull-outs for hikers to park in. If you’re especially ambitious, and equipped for touring, you might think about stopping for a mid-ride hike.
Ansel Adams said that he was happy if he got one good photo every month, or even ten in a year. Famously, he told people not to expect to produce miracles with every roll of film (anyone remember film?), or even every month.
I used to do a lot of landscape photography, but, sadly, haven’t shot anything good for a while. I came away from this trip with 26 photos I was proud of. Putting this blog post together has been a challenge, mostly because it’s nearly impossible to decide which ones to show, and which to cut. It’s even more difficult because this isn’t strictly a photography blog; I’m trying to give people a sense of what it’s like to ride a bike here.
Several kinds of wildflowers were already blooming, and this section of the road was home to more lupines than I could ever hope to count.
Ask a few people about the Icicle area, or The Enchantments, and “austere beauty” is a phrase you’ll hear over and over again. I think the next photo gives a hint at what people are talking about, although, for hikers and craggers, the world becomes much drier and rockier as you climb the ridges.
As with other ride reports, I’ll describe the route I followed, and you can adapt it to your schedule and taste. I think the pavement goes about 15 miles, but I’m not certain. It’s currently snowed out at 12. If you want to ride longer, start the ride farther away.
- I parked in the picnic area on US 2, 7 miles up the mountain from Leavenworth.
- From the western side of town, follow Icicle Road. If you’re heading east, as I was, this will be a right turn immediately before the first gas station.
- Follow Icicle Creek Road until its end, or until you feel like turning back.
My Garmin shows 37.7 miles for the trip, with 2,283 feet of elevation gain. About 14 of those miles, and 500+ of those feet were in the Tumwater Canyon.
Be sure to bring plenty of water, and, if it’s a hot day, a purifier would be a good thing to have.