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The remarkable resurrection of Squilchuck State Park

By on June 25, 2019 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments
Molly rounds one of the beautifully built corners on Twisted Giant — it’s not all trying to balance on logs.

By Molly Steere

I keep my eyes fixated on the wood beam I’m balancing on, well ahead of my front wheel. Focus. 

I sneak in a shaky half rotation of my pedals to keep my speed up. I’m doing it! 

The realization that I’ve made it over halfway surprises me. Then, my concentration wavers and my gaze slides to the grass below. 

My front wheel, a slave to whatever direction I look, starts rolling off of the side of the elevated beam, taking me and the rest of the mountain bike with it. Rather ungracefully, the wheels of my bike reacquaint themselves with the ground. 

“I have to try again,” I said to my husband, Toby, who is already cruising smoothly down the balance beam located in the heart of the Squilchuck State Park skills park. Neither of us makes it to the end of the beam on our second attempts. 

While we were lamenting this fact, Roper, our son, casually pedaled onto the beam and skillfully propelled himself down the full length of it without a single waver. Of course.

“Well, now we obviously can’t leave without doing it,” Toby said. I agree, and with a steely determination not to be shown up by a seven-year-old, Toby and I complete the balance beam on our next attempts. 

That was a couple of years ago. Now, a similar scene plays out each time we visit Squilchuck State Park. First, on the shorter elevated beam in the skills park, and then on the over 300-foot log ride (logs sawed in half lengthwise and connected end-to-end on elevated stands) on the Twisted Giant trail. 

The long log ride is our reward and destination after pedaling the nested trails. The hills (one of the joys of living in a valley — you always start with uphill) are moderate and made more palatable by the shaded canopy of trees, butter smooth berms, and (depending on the season) a carpet of wildflowers, greenery, or rich fall colors. 

Roper (now 9) has completed the log ride once, Toby always manages to complete it at some point during each ride, and I can usually get a decent distance down it . . . if I sneak up on it. 

But if I think about it at all, I’m just as likely to start falling over before I even get on the log. Sometimes, my brain and I don’t get along. 

Amidst pep talks, good-natured ribbing, and muttering to ourselves, we practice and play. Once everyone’s had his fill, we fly down the serpentine trail, hooting and laughing, through a veil of dappling light filtering through the branches overhead. 

These summer evenings are the highlights of my summer: spending time with my favorite humans, challenging myself mentally and physically, and enjoying the beauty of our communal backyard. 

I am grateful for the passionate mountain bike enthusiasts who make up the Central Washington chapter of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance (EMBA), who have made these evenings possible.

In 2009, Squilchuck State Park, a 288-acre park sitting just below Mission Ridge and forested with fir and ponderosa pine, was nearly mothballed due to state budget cuts and was destined for obscurity. That’s when EMBA went to work forging a new identity for the park.

The local chapter envisioned Squilchuck as a mountain biking mecca with a skills park comprising progressive features, jump lines, and a pump track alongside nested trails to serve as a hub to a much larger trail system. 

With this in mind, they approached the local branch of Washington State Parks with their concept to make Squilchuck relevant and deserving of resurrection.

Mission accomplished.

New trail construction began in 2013 and as of 2019, 10 miles of single track has been developed. It’s a multi-loop configuration so riders can choose the length of their ride, and trails range in technical difficulty from easy to moderate.

Roper stays on track as he rides a portion of the 300-foot plus log ride.

The Squilchuck riding area and skills park is a fantastic training ground for mountain bikers. There, riders can work on their foundational skills and then take those skills to the rest of the trail systems in the valley. 

Thanks to a great partnership between Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance’s Central Chapter and Washington State Parks, Squilchuck has returned as a thriving recreation area.

The Central Washington chapter of EMBA not only advocates for — and donates massive man-hours to — forest health, trail access and trail development, but they also offer camps for kids and adults at Squilchuck and the Leavenworth Ski Hill. 

Last summer, Roper participated in one of the youth bike camps, and each day after camp he literally counted down the hours until camp started the next day. It was a hugely positive experience for him and gave him the opportunity to focus on particular skills with enthusiasm, advancing each day. 

The coaches were knowledgeable, encouraging and playful. I can’t wait to attend an adult camp so I can brush up on some of the foundational skills and advance my riding.

EMBA will also be rolling out new mapping at the end of the summer including new signage and wayfinding systems with signs at junctures. You’ll no longer have to pull your phone out to figure out which way to go.

If anybody’s looking for me on a hot summer evening, I’ll be at Squilchuck honing my skills and riding premier trails in the forest shade.

 (Be advised that currently, there is a partial park closure for healthy forest maintenance that will likely remain in effect until the end of the summer. The majority of the trail system — plus the skills park — is still open for public use and the closed trails are well marked.)

Molly Steere is a local technical editor and freelance writer. She considers the Wenatchee Valley trail systems an extension of her office.

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