May is National Bike Month — let’s celebrate

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As Thursday marked the first day of National Bike Month, and we had spectacular weather in the Pacific Northwest, I decided to mark the occasion by exploring the bike trails around Wilkeson.

That's me pausing on a grassy trail new Wilkeson Creek.

That’s me pausing on a grassy trail new Wilkeson Creek.

The old town, by Washington standards, is on the way to the Carbon River Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park. It’s economy was based on coal mining and timber harvesting in the early days. Today it’s decorative stone production and tourists making their way to Mount Rainier.

The railroads laid tracks for Wilkeson, Carbonado and Fairfax and other coal mining towns in the late 1800s. Those have been abandoned and are now largely owned by Pierce County.

Now you may know the Foothills Trail as the paved bike trail that passes through Orting as it rolls between Puyallup and South Prairie under the watchful eye of Mount Rainier. What I’ve come to learn is that there are bits and pieces of the Foothills Trail in Enumclaw and Buckley, as well as Wilkeson and Carbonado. They’re not all paved, and they’re not all connected.

The Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition is a citizens group working to maintain the trails and connect all these pieces. Up in the Wilkeson – Carbonado area, they’ve been helped by the Foothills Mountain Bike Task Force.

There are a couple of trails in Wilkeson that I explored. One leaves from downtown and follows the uphill grade for four miles toward Carbonado. The first section in town is paved, while the rest is dirt and mud. It’s mostly shaded. I didn’t see a soul.

Bike rack outside the historic Carbonado Saloon

Bike rack outside the historic Carbonado Saloon

Another trail heads down along fast-flowing Wilkeson Creek from an unmarked trailhead north of town on 156th Street East. I actually ran into a crew from Foothills Trail Coalition working there yesterday to shore up the trail alongside the creek.

There are new trails and new routes to explore everywhere on your bicycle. Make this the month you’ll start the habit of checking them out.

In you’re in the Seattle area, the Cascade Bicycle Club has a list of Bike Month events for May. The highlight is Bike to Work Day on May 16.

Meanwhile, the League of American Bicyclists suggest joining the National Bike Challenge. In 2013, 34,000 bicyclists logged 19 million miles.

You can also check out the May 2014 bike ride calender for Washington, California and Idaho.

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