|THE MOST frequently asked question on Galbraith Mt. used to be, "which way to Chutes & Ladders?"
Although it wasn't a trail as much as a strip mall of man-made stunts -- ala the North Shore in B.C. -- Chutes & Ladders used to rule the imagination of many Galbraith Mt. riders.
In fact, Chutes & Ladders is the cradle of freeriding on Galbraith, which is to say the cradle of freeriding in the United States, since the modern freeriding movement began in the '90s on the North Shore in Vancouver, BC, and quickly spread across the border to nearby Galbraith Mt. in Bellingham, WA.
Chutes & Ladders was also the first masterpiece of the great outlaw Galbraith trail builder, Dan Waters (pictured at left, exiting the upper portion of one of his later creations, The Scorpion).
Before Trillium Corp. (which purchased much of Galbraith in 2002) and the WHIMPs (Trillium's control-freak mt. bike manager) drove him off the mountain with a Cease And Desist Letter from their lawyers, Dan and his brother Jim pretty much singlehandedly brought the Freeride Revolution to Galbraith with trails like Chutes & Ladders, Dan's Trail, Jaws, of course, Scorpion, which still reigns as the premier technical feast on Galbraith, despite having as much plastic surgery in recent years as Michael Jackson.
Chutes & Ladders itself was defanged in 2004 by edict of the Trillium Corporation, and under WHIMPs management, a similar fate has befallen another of Dan Waters's great early Galbraith trails, Dan's Trail. All that remains now, for instance, of the ladder drop stunt shown with Thad Quinn in the picture above, is a couple big spikes in the old growth cedar stump. The drop into the cedar snag-filled bog (see below) is gone now too. In a way, doing Chutes & Ladders these days is like wandering in a ruined cathedral.
Meanwhile, all the serious stuntsters have moved their playgrounds to more private parts, and Scorpion, Evolution and Shawn's Trail have replaced Chutes & Ladders as the South Side's most popular place to lounge around in body armor.
But that's not the end of the Chutes & Ladders story! Starting in 2006, the cross country community on Galbraith reclaimed Chutes & Ladders, giving it a Borg implant to make it one their own. Mark Belles (pictured at LEFT), the creator of the old Wonderland, spearheaded the volunteer effort and built the long bridge, which rerouted Chutes & Ladders and entirely amputed its lower half.
So now Chutes & Ladders is a much, much different trail with an entirely different personality. It's gone from being a star to being a minor supporting player, essentially functioning as a alternative route to the first half of Lost Giants, enroute to the Pipeline Rd. / 1000 Rd., Evil Twin and/or Mole Trap.
LOST GIANTS is now the keystone trail of the South Side flats, connecting all the way through from the 2400 Rd. at the bottom of 911, Crazy 8s and Shawn's Trail to the Pipeline Rd. / 1000 Rd.
Like the new Chutes & Ladders, Lost Giants is essentially a snakey cross country trail. There are several serious technical trail moments inna Galbraith style, but there are no heinous stunts. In fact, the only trail in this area that stilll boasts a storied stunt is Evil Twin, home of the Big Drop.
Entirely natural (which is why is wasn't torn out by the WHIMPs trail police), the Big Drop is essentially a breastwork where a large downed cedar log is butressed on the rider's left by a large alder with a complex system of cascading roots that throw a lot of 45 degree angles at you, all with some of the finest Galbraith slime you're ever gonna find. It's wet on the South Side flats, and there is a fine alder forest cover around the Big Drop, so it's almost never completely dry in here, even in high summer.
I remember riding Evil Twin once with a group of young hotshots from Glacier. I was leading so when I came to the Big Drop I called over my shoulder, "the line's to the left, next to the alder."
Rider after rider followed, swooping down the drop like a flight of birds, until the last one came. This was Jimmy B (pictured at RIGHT going over the bars on the old Ramp Drop on Ewoch Village, now called Mas Pollo), who characteristically went right instead of left. Jimmy, who is a tremendously strong and athletic rider, launched off the high side of the drop into a logging debris pile (something the south side has in abundance) and took a huge fall. He came up grinning, but take my advice: the best line is to the left, in the crease between the alder root and the old cedar log.
Climbing the Big Drop on Evil Twin is perhaps even more challenging, but it can be done. Mongo has climbed the line to the right and Mark Belles has climbed it on the line to the left. Either way, you've got to have as much speed as possible, which means going into a full sprint the moment you come around the last corner, even before you can actually see it.
AS OF 2009, the Big Drop is stil standing, although it has also been partly dismantled, in this case by heavy use. So many riders have ripped over the Big Drop that they've worn the cedar log to a nub -- see photos below of Mongo in 2002 and 2009...
No matter. Evil Twin, Lost Giants and yes even Chutes & Ladders are sweet trails that will put a smile on just about any rider's face, from intermediate level up. And they share that sweetness with the two trails immediately to the north, Rock 'n Roll and Mole Trap, which connect the South Side to the North Side at Cedar Dust and Mas Pollo.
Mongo (ABOVE) swallowing the remnant nub of the Big Drop on Evil Twin in 2009. Mongo again (BELOW) rolling the Big Drop in 2002. Notice how deely it has been worn away on the right and the left.