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The Bald Eagle Boogie

The winter ride with a payoff

Searching for Bald Eagles in the dead of winter on your motorcycle? For some that's not such a bad idea. During an extreme winter, a few mild days means you get a chance to get out on your bike. If it's been raining for 30 days straight, and it finally stops for a few days 'why not get out for a ride' I say.

A place like Marblemount along Highway 20 in Washington doesn't sound like much of a place to go in the dead of winter. It's up in the Cascade Mountains for God's sake!!! Actually, when you look at a topo map, you'll realize it's only about 1,400 feet above sea level, not 5,000. So take a semi-cloudy day with temperatures in the mid 40s or higher and you've got the perfect conditions for a trip to the Cascades sans the motor homes and summertime traffic.

A group of us recently did this. Several sport and sport touring types along with one cruiser took off from Arlington and had lunch in Marblemount. Along the way Bald Eagles were spotted doing their search for chum while auto traffic was nearly non-existent, except for a few cage drivers packing binoculars and camera gear with the same view in mind. And thus the Bald Eagle Boogie was born.

Summer in the Cascades brings out droves of tourist along with plenty of speed traps. In the dead of winter, you have the roads pretty much to yourself most of the time. It's advisable to keep your eyes focused for gravel that may have been sprayed earlier on colder days.

Begin the ride from Arlington. If you need anything for your bike, the nearest shop is Cycle Barn in Smokey Point. Head north up Highway 9 making your way to Clear Lake. Keep your eyes peeled for Bald Eagles along the Stillaguamish River just as you start out in Arlington. Once you hit Clear Lake, head east along Old Day Creek Road. At the junction, turn right onto South Skagit Highway and follow the river east as it winds its way to Concrete. If you stick close to the speed limit your peripheral vision will be wide enough that you may see Bald Eagles hanging out in the trees along the way.

Above: A VFR rider winds his way into Darrington from Marblemount in January

At the junction for Concrete, turn left and make your way into town. From here go east on Highway 20 for 16 miles to Marblemount. Along the way you will spot pullouts where good Bald Eagle sightings can be had; the most common are near Rockport. You'll also see people fishing and floating in rafts trying to get a waterfront look as well.

Marblemount has a decent restaurant � the Buffalo Run. A typical roadhouse menu exists, but you also have the option of ostrich and buffalo meat when it comes to the burgers.

After lunch, head east and cross the steel bridge onto Cascade Road,. Make the first right onto the Rockport-Cascade road. I passed one car along this entire stretch, never saw another soul. When you hit the junction for 530, turn left and go to Darrington. Once in Darrington you continue down 530 into Arlington.

That's a loop, but if you're headed back south to Seattle or otherwise read on. At Arlington find your way to Burn road and head south to Granite Falls by way of 100 th St NE or Engebretson Road. From Granite Falls head south using Robe-Menzel Road, Carpenter Road and the OK Mill Road to reach Machias. Turn left and follow Machias south into Snohomish. From Snohomish you can continue south down Highway 9 to Woodinville, or use Marsh Road and Seattle Hill Road to get to Bothell.

It's a long day in the saddle, but you've been itching for a ride. Now keep that smile on your face as you step into a warm tub - deservedly so.

Patrick Thomas/Winter 06


To download the map of the Bald Eagle Boogie CLICK HERE


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