KETTLES AND FORT EBEY TRAIL LORE
By: Dave Harrington in consultation with Darcy Patterson and Hugh Cargill – with occasional mild embellishment, but always as to the best recollection of all. Mr. Harrington is solely responsible for any omissions, misrepresentations, inaccuracies or silly embellishment(s).
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As a preamble to the individual trail name origins I feel it is important to note that, although there have been many of us (including most recently Matt Plush of WIBC) over the years and decades that helped lay out, build and maintain the trail system(s) at Kettles and Ft Ebey State Park, there were over all the years two primary movers of the early development and maturation of the Kettles Park – they are Hugh Cargill and Doug Shepherd. Both dedicated thousands of hours of personal time and effort to the development, construction and maintenance of the Kettles Trails. Without Hugh and Doug I am not sure that the Kettles trail system would exist – most certainly it would not exist as it does today. We certainly could and probably should consider these two individuals as the “founders” of the Kettles trail system as a mountain bike, hiking and horse riding park.
The Kettles area was originally a County gravel pit that was deactivated. Over the years following its deactivation it was treated by some citizens as a dump for trash of all sorts including appliances and cars. Hugh Cargill saw the area as a great place to ride his bike and commenced to use the existing logging and pit access roads to do just that. In the process Hugh began to clean out and remove abandoned and dumped “stuff” in the easily accessed road areas of the park. Within a short time he enlisted his friend and fellow hiker and mountain biker to help him work on the area and ride the “new” trails. Doug and Hugh then took the development of the Kettles area to a new level by joining forces with the North Whidbey Trails Council, at that time known as the Central Whidbey Trails Council. Over the years the Council “contracted” with the County and the State through the Park Rangers to lay out, construct and maintain new trails – from a few decades of such work a spider web of trails, for most levels of riders, were developed and are maintained today. The most recent trail in the system, known as “The Trail With No Name,” was hand roughed in by John & Darcy Patterson and Dave Harrington, but not completed. It was finished at a trail blazing party in honor of National Trails Day in June of 2009. The trail, as with many of the trails originally developed within the Kettles, was hand cleared and roughed in then grubbed out to its finished configuration and then simply “ridden” into condition – with many of the existing obstacles left in place for riders to deal with as their skill set permitted. “The Trail With No Name” can be entered from near the top of Humpty Dump and is unsigned at this time.
Now on with the trail name origins – just so you know – and don’t waste a lot of your time trying to find a sequence to the names – the trail names are listed randomly.
For the sake of this publication I will include only the trails that are technically part of both the Kettles Park and Ebey State Park that exist on the West side of Pt Partridge Road and lying between Pt Partridge Road and Highway SR 20.
KETTLES TRAIL: Originally a logging, pit and private access road that runs from the Highway all the way to where it connects to Pt Partridge Road.
SPENCER’S: Technically within the State Park boundary. Our only real “black diamond” trail is named after Hugh Cargill’s grandson. It was built twice… and a huge number of trail grubber’s and workers took a few months to complete the trail. The original configuration included a lot of manmade obstacles, bridges and drops. The Park Ranger did not find that configuration within State trail standards and the man made “tricks” had to be removed. It is still a fine trail and substantial challenge to any skill level of mountain biker.
PIGEON RIDGE: Technically within the State Park. A trail that was hand built including the help of many horse riders. Named after a pigeon sighting during the construction of the trail. Significant challenge at Southern end as trail drops onto a steep rooty kettle and then steeply climbs out to Pt Partridge Road.
FISHER RIDGE: Technically within the State Park. A hand built trail including the help of a number of horse riders. Named after Bob Fisher a respected and helpful Park Ranger. A very challenging trail – particularly at the upper portion toward Hugh’s Delight.
HUGH’S DELIGHT: Originally a logging or access road of some sort. One of Hugh Cargill’s early favorites… and therefore named after him.
MAIN LINE: The main trail that goes straight through from the North Gate at the Highway to Pt Partridge Road. Eight or more trails fork directly off of Main Line and through those trails all others in both trail systems can be accessed.
EMILY’S RIDGE: Technically in the State Park. Built by the Eagle Scouts under Doug Shepherd’s direction. A week’s worth of hard, hand effort and much construction, especially at the kettle bottom and the climb out or “drop in” (depending on your direction) was required. The trail was named after Doug’s granddaughter.
THE TUNNEL: Technically within the State Park. Partial trail, partial old logging road – a delightful combination that produces a fast, fun trail. Named after the dense tree canopy.
GRANCY’S RUN: Technically within the State Park. A trail on which one of our mountain biking friends crashed and broke her collar bone. Thereafter, named for Nancy Wezeman’s fall — a combination of “gr”ound and N”ancy”.
CHUTES: A trail built beside the old road named Main Line – Ride down it… then TURN sharply right to go on to Ladder’s – hence playing Chutes and Ladders on your mountain bike.
LADDERS: Partial trail, partial logging road – “laddering” uphill through steep Kettle hill terrain – all the way to High Traverse. A serious work out for any biker, hiker or horse.
FERN GROVE: Hand built trail. Traverses a small kettle from Lower Ridge trail to Main Line. Look for the wild Kettle’s ferns.
BAKER VIEW: Grunt to the top of this hand built trail and view Mt Baker to the North and East – maybe you’ll even see it – on a clear day.
ELLE BELLE: A trail that was simply found and ridden in… no one seems to know where the name came from. At least no one I was able to talk to. It is a fun and sometimes challenging connector from Fern Grove to Baker View.
LOWER RIDGE: From the middle gate on the Highway up to connect to Escape trail along what is the lower ridge of the upper section of the Kettles Park under High Traverse. Partially hand built mostly old pit road.
DP CUTTOFF: An old steep deer trail discovered by Darcy Patterson who showed the trail to her riding friends who thereafter rode the trail in… to my knowledge it has never been touched by human hands, unless their owner fell off their bike. A “mo-betta” way up to High Traverse than using Ladders. At least in my opinion.
HIGH TRAVERSE: Probably the highest spot in the Kettles. At the top cell phone reception is available – if you are silly enough to be carrying one. Mostly hand built. As Hugh can testify – it is a fast fun roller coaster ride on the down side heading West – but is also a good spot to tear your rotator cuff if you aren’t careful. There is a short log ride in the middle of the trail just short of the access to Nirvana.
NIRVANA: Hand built by a couple of trail riders on their own. Hand rough grubbed in and then ridden in, with no removal of any roots or obstacles until recently. A fun, but all too short link from High Traverse to Boundary Trail. It would be really good if folks would not remove obstacles, even small ones, from existing trails. If you can’t ride it – walk it until you can ride it.
BOUNDARY TRAIL: Machine and hand built. Trail snakes along the boundary line between the Kettles Park and the Ebey State Park. Runs straight through from Escape, North to Hugh’s delight. Most of the challenge is at the Southern end which drops into a Kettle that gets quite muddy and the climb out can be challenging especially if wet and muddy on the climb out to Escape.
ESCAPE: One of the first trails to have a sign installed before there were many signed trails… wander around long enough and you would find the intersection with this trail… and could then gleefully follow it out to salvation.
WINDSUCKER: Uphill from Lower Ridge trail to the Escape intersection – the name says it! Downhill from Escape Intersection — “Whee!”.
ALDER GROVE: Lots of Alder… hence the name… was probably once a road. A really poor road.
FLATBACK; LIMBO; HIDEAWAY: A small triangle of trails off of the Adler Grove and Roundabout junction. Hideaway can be a bit hard to notice if you don’t know it’s there… I have no idea where the other names came from.
ROUNDABOUT: A wide fast downhill on mostly an old road surface – if heading downhill toward the highway be careful at the bottom in the soft sandy material and water bar berms. Connects the Highway at the South Gate up to Alder Grove.
MOSS HILL: Hand built. Lots of Moss growing on trees. Connects to Lower Ridge trail.
MUELLER’S: Named after the original owner of that section of the Kettles Park. A nice friendly connector to Rusty Well and Gretchen’s Boundary trails. Used to be part of Rusty Well. There is an old well site capped off down at the end of a short dead end trail on right as you are heading toward the Highway, Rusty Well and Gretchen’s. Sooo… the old rusty well site is now on Mueller’s.
RUSTY WELL: Named after the Rusty Well off of Mueller’s(see above) when the whole trail was known as Rusty Well. Hell–a-gravelly heavily rutted steep decline down to Salal Run. Caution is required… or just blast on down and transition into the ol “superman” off into the weeds when you have to stop!
SALAL RUN: A delightful, blissfully pretty jaunt down a salal bordered smooth woodsy trail to the intersection of Rusty Well, Wendy’s Revenge, Gretchen’s and Double Dare.
GRETCHEN’S BORDER: Hand built. Named after a trail worker who put many hours into trail construction and maintenance. Enter at the end of Mueller’s close to the South Gate at the Highway. Borders the Highway over around and through a few fun switchbacks, down into a Kettle and out a steep climb with a challenging uphill switchback to the Middle Gate Highway entrance and then up an even steeper oxygen and leg burning climb to an intersection with Baker View. The good part is you have a nice level, soft sand surface at the top of Baker View where you can drop off of your bike and simply throw up. Assuming you live… of course. You can also choose to turn left instead of right at a Y intersection in the middle area of Gretchen’s trail and avoid all the lung searing unpleasantness by dropping into the Wendy’s Revenge intersection.
WENDY’S REVENGE: A short moderate downhill section named after a young girl named Wendy who on one of her first rides just took off (or lost control) and blasted down to the leveled out intersection of this trail with Double Dare, Rusty Well .. etc..
DOUBLE DARE: A short connector trail from Pitch Up down to the intersection with Rusty Well and Wendy’s Revenge… be cautious it is short and pitches down quickly with a 4’ +/- shear drop at the bottom as it enters the intersection – caution is required here as there is virtually no landing area – every time I have done this trail I have ended up in the bushes across the trail it intersects. A nice soft landing at least, but I personally don’t do this trail anymore- age you know.
PITCH UP: A fun small trail that was simply ridden in with little construction that pitches up to Salal Run from Lower Ridge trail.
HUMPTY DUMP: Partially hand built and an old pit road. Numerous water bars and berms create a lot of opportunities to dump your bike as you pop over the berms. A lot of speed can be acquired here so it is good to be somewhat cautious as this trail is intersected by three trails that have essentially invisible entries onto Humpty Dump. There is an interesting root fest at the bottom that someone recently “cleaned up” the most interesting part of…. please leave the trails alone – if you really want to do trail maintenance call up WIBC and volunteer.
WHIPPER SNAPPER: A great hand built trail mostly ridden into condition. A number of fun small log rollovers… nothing terribly technical, but a lot of fun when the whole trail is considered. A good trail to sharpen skills. I wanted to name it “lickey split”, but was outvoted.
CONFUSION: The middle trail of the “clear cut” trails. Hand built. Very smooth nice learning trail for beginners to learn some bike handling skills. There is a nice sharp downhill toward the intersection with Hill Loop. Is intersected by Hill Loop, Roy Evans and Madrona. Can be done in really fun combination with Hill Loop, Roy Evans, Madrona, Whipper Snapper and Humpty Dump or Kettles Trail.
MADRONA: Hand grubbed in by two riders who’s names I do not remember. Then ridden into trail condition by many. Originally, had few if any obstacles removed… still has many log and technical obstacles in place. A real fun trail with no climbing – but a fine place to work on technical handling skills.
ROY EVANS: Hand built. Named after Roy Evans. An older gentleman and avid trail user who came to Trail Council meetings and always had great stories of his hiking adventures throughout our State. Designed, built and named specifically to honor Roy.
HILL LOOP: Want to combine all the trails in the clear cut to complete a Loop?…. Turn left off of Confusion and Climb a big Hill!
CEDAR HOLLOW: This trail is technically within the State Park. This is a hand built trail and is very extensive. The area has always been known as Cedar Hollow and contains a large number of third and maybe some second growth cedar trees. It was one of the later trails to be constructed in the State Park boundary. It is very challenging and contains: Sharp switchbacks – up hill and down; steep climbs; soft soils, some technical sections, steep fast down hills; a lovely forest and beautiful views. This is one trail in the Kettles system that you do not want to miss.
Oak Harbor, Washington
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