Tour without a goal – 21 July 2014

Written by robert on July 22nd, 2014


I have all the vestment I will ever need,
not gauzy silk nor twill,
and if you ask about the color,
neither red, nor purple . . .
In the summer it’s light as wings;
in the winter it’s my quilt.
Winter or summer, of use in both . . .
Year upon year,
just this.
-Han Shan

the grey mountain
It had been a peaceful night in my little spot in the woods and while I had to filter my water from Iron Creek I really appreciate being able to camp in the woods. I was very close to the junction with FR25 and was soon back on the climb to Elk Pass. Four miles in the woods on this chilly yet clear morning. The pass itself is unmarked, demarcated only be a sign warning of miles of steep grades ahead. This was a fun descent, without much traffic I was able to take advantage of the full winding road and ride it down. Distractions from the pure descent was the mountains that began to reveal themselves, first Mt. Adams and then finally Mt. St. Helens.


St. Helens dominates the landscape in a similar, if in a less dramatic fashion than Mt. Rainier a bit further north. The the fresh snows melted off In the summer warmth only the old glaciers remain, which are all grey with impacted ash. There was a succession of viewpoints throughout the day each revealing more of the mountain and the surrounding landscape. Em long descent finally concluded and I was in the usual river valley you find below these passes. This time though the route turned and began the climb toward another pass.


The climb to Oldman Pass was among the most unforgiving of the passes I’ve done. Not an epically high pass at only 3050′, but it does all of its climbing in just over four miles. It’s initial section was the steepest grade yet on any of these passes. Around three quarters of the way up there was an overlook with a final view of St. Helens, perhaps the most volcanic looking view. Once Oldman Pass was surmounted it was a steep, toasty descent down to the Wind River. The Wind River valley gently descending for many miles through moss strewn trees along the rocky river. Eventually I left the Gifford Pinchot National Forest which I left feeling there was a lot more to explore here. I will be back. I ended up,in Carson and after days in the mountains felt odd to be back into civilization (as it were). A few miles off route is the Home Valley County Campground where I stayed for the night. A pretty beat down ‘ground right on the Columbia River I was rewarded with a shrinking sunset that evening.


coming down from the mountains
among ordinary people again
I can’t seem to see what they see
or say what they expect to hear
my eyes have been rinsed by mountain streams
my tongue thick from lack of use
they ask me where I’ve been
and I don’t know what to say
vaguely flapping my hands northwards
I point toward high peaks.

Posted from Stevenson, Washington, United States.


Tour without a goal – 20 July 2014

Written by robert on July 21st, 2014


The white dome peak whacked lower down,
open-sided crater on the northside, fumarole wisps
a long gray fan of all that slid and fell
angles down clear to the beach
dark old-growth forest gone     no shadows
The lake afloat with white bone blowdown logs
scoured ridges round the rim, bare outcrop rocks
squint on the bright
ridge top plaza packed with puzzled visitor gaze
– Gary Snyder, from Blast Zone

the road to Helens is lined with stinging nettles
It was actually rather cold this morning, fully overcast, damp with streamers of mist throughout the forest. I do ten miles on route this chilly, misty morn, most of it the climb up to Elk Pass I’d complete tomorrow. Turning off at FR99 I head west toward the mountain. I ditched my front panniers in the woods after a couple of miles as this road is all steep up and downs and of course won’t need the camping Gear at the top. Unburdened it was now merely a hard climb instead of a feat of strength. Winding forest road for six miles or so and then the first lookout which reveals the clouds are breaking up but the mountain is still hiding behind clouds.


At the next overlook I emerge from the forest into the blast zone. Ghostly remnants of trees protrude from ground like sticks poked into sand. The downed trees, white, strangely undecayed scattered like pickup sticks after a child’s temper tantrum. But down the other direction, Green River Valley, rich, striated between the lush returning life and the managed forest outside the National Monument.

In a great swath around the lake basin, everything in direct line to the mountain is flat down: white clear logs, nothing left standing. Next zone of tree-suffering is dead snags still upright. Then a zone called “ashes trees” blighted by a fall of ash, but somehow still alive. Last, lucky to be out of line with the blast, areas of green forest stand. A function of distance, direction, and slope. Finally, far enough back, healthy old forest stretches away. – Gary Snyder, To Ghost Lake

Stopping at every overlook really helps to break up the climb. FR99 ascends to 4100′ and then descends several hundred feet, a process which repeats multiple times until Windy Ridge at 4200′. The sky became increasingly clear and sometimes it’s warm in the sun, but when your destination is “Windy Ridge” you know what to expect . Indeed the wind was fully present and it was strong and cold coming right over the ridge to the west. Always blowing more clouds over the mountain.


Spirit Lake, this blue oasis in the blasted landscape with a huge mat of dead trees that were pulled into the lake when the massive landslide from the eruption pushed up the valley walls hundreds of feet and then trammeled back down. These logs were all, pushed to the far end of the lake – opposite of the relentless wind. One of the viewpoints is a Miners Car which a family had left at a trailhead and hiked to where they had a cabin on the supposedly safe “Green Zone”. The lateral blast went right into that portion of the green zone flattening their car and killing the miners. It’s paint stripped off my the blast, it sits there, flatted, rusted with fireweed growing out of it.


Windy Ridge has a tremendous view of Spirit Lake, the plateau below the mountain – with mounds made up of the top of the mountain strewn about –
and views right into the crater an the lava dome. But it never cleared up on this day and only the bottom of the crater below the lava dome was visible. A good part of the sky was clear but in the direction of the ever present wind was a stream of dark clouds all the way to the horizon. This is the Pacific Northwest and we always make do.


The descent was cold and punctuated with climbing at those spots where it had descended on the way up. The road is crumbling on this side as well so it had to be a careful descent. Still it was a lot faster – the wind was also with me. Soon enough I reached where I stashed my panniers and re established them to their rightful place. Then I rode another couple miles down and almost at the junction with FR25 I found a dirt road that went down to Iron Creek. I rode down there and found it was a well established camping spot and stayed there for the night right above the creek.

sitting in the forest
the twilight birds calling
filtering water for tea


Tour without a goal – 19 July 2014

Written by robert on July 20th, 2014


This present moment
     that lives on
to become
long ago
-Gary Snyder

a ride in the woods
When I arose it was overcast and chilly. It’s hard to express what a relief that was: back home in Western WA. After the steep climb out of the campground I was back on 12 to find the winds out of the south – i.e. the direction I’m going – to still be present. It was a short mostly downhill ride to Packwood where I spent some time at a cafe taking advantage of their WiFi. In the cafe a local asked me about my rig and where I was heading and when I said Mount St. Helens his companion piped up and noted that the roads might be closed. They are doing seismic testing there she said and I was advised to check in at the ranger station in Randle.

a zebra swallowtail ran into me!
or did I run into it?

The road to Randle was in a green hill lined valley that reminded me of the Nooksack valley way back at the start of the route. This time though the wind was against me the whole way which was not quite as pleasant. The sun came out and it warmed up and was rather humid. I crossed the Cowlitz River which was this striking milky blue-green color. At the Randle Ranger Station the rangers got a lot of laughs out of the seismic testing concerns. “We’re going to blow up the mountain!”, they joked. Of course they were doing some seismic testing it just would be unnoticeable. I did get good advice on camping in USFS land which you can pretty much do if not indicated otherwise.


I resupplied for the next few days in Randle and then headed out on Forest Road 25 upon which the wind was finally with me. I soon entered the woods and began climbing this steep forest road. Paved, but narrow and winding, this road was right in the trees some of which were strikingly large. Moss hung from everything and the riotous undergrowth was endless shades of green. But it wasn’t long until I came on the Iron Creek Campground where I was contemplating just getting water and riding a bit further and wild camping. But the camp host came out and after inquiring after my intentions said he’d let me in on a secret. I could just pick a spot here and camp. “We figure you cyclists are already working hard enough.” Well I could resist that offer so I founda. Ice spot near Iron Creek and set up camp.

like a butterfly
mind flits from place to place
- who is listening?


Tour without a goal – 18 July 2014

Written by robert on July 19th, 2014


Things spread out
rolling and unrolling, packing and unpacking,
– this painful impermanent world
- Gary Snyder

buy the ticket, take the ride
It was still windy when I woke up, still blowing south. This added some difficulty to what otherwise would be a (relatively) easy pass to cross. White Pass ascends in a couple of stages, first up to Rimrock Lake and then over the pass. The trek is made somewhat easier in that there are campgrounds, resorts and stores all the way to the end of Rimrock Lake. Thus one does not have to horde water all the way up, being able to refill at the Indian Creek Campground 9 miles from the pass.

washing my head in the frigid mountain stream
– wake up!

But then there is the wind. And the roads are bad all the way to Rimrock with no shoulders, crumbly surfaces at times and plenty of traffic, including truck traffic. The route follows the river and then the mountain sides to it really wends this way and that. So as you’d bend south you’d get a blast of the wind, which at times was intense. Riding along Rimrock Lake was the worst as that was were a lot of the recreation traffic was going, there were shear walls past the limited shoulder and was into the wind most of the time.


The scenery was fantastic though. The dry forest with its ponderosa pines and scrabbly underbrush giving away to lush Western Washington forest. At the start of he climb there are rattlesnakes, cacti and sage. Once over the pass you find ferns, mosses and a green riot of trees. Up in the passes there are mountain goats though I didn’t see one. Near the top of the pass there is a spetsular waterfall, the Clear Creek Waterfall that cascades into this big, lush, wilderness valley that runs to the east of the pass. And then it’s just a pretty easy mile or so and you are at the pass.

out of the dust
tiny lavender flowers
like an open hand

The descent was also hampered by the wind but I still kept up a good pace. The views, though scene more with stolen glances now revealed snow capped peaks curving like a crown around a valley. A few miles down and around a bend Mount Rainier hew into sight and it literally gave me chills. Wreathed in mists, still snowy but lean and dominating the landscape with thin clouds streaked around its crown.


The fast descent soon took me to the turnoff to Mt. Rainier National Park and I had a choice to make – gamble that I could find a spot here on a Fridy in July or try the campground just down the road. I hadn’t had cell phone services since Naches so I could call in. Well it was only three miles and I hadn’t gone too far (all things considered so I went for it). A bit over three miles in, mostly uphill natch, a sign told the tale: FULL. So I turned back and went to La Wis Wis which was just a half mile from the turnoff. It too was nearly full but I found a site reserved for tomorrow and was able to secure it for tonight. A USFS ‘ground it’s pretty big but the sites are mostly small, well separated and in the woods. So it doesn’t feel, super occupied and since it’s a place that caters to other activities – hiking, going to Rainier etc. it doesn’t seem to be a “party ground”.

decaying fallen trees clog
the clear mountain stream


Tour without a goal – 17 July 2014

Written by robert on July 18th, 2014


Even these long days
are not nearly long enough
for the skylarks to sing

with and against
As has so often been the case this tour the morning was dramatically different than the afternoon. I did some errands in Ellensberg so got out later than I’d wanted but the wind from yesterday was still present and still with me. The bulk of the mornings ride was in the Yakima Canyon which is just superb riding. Tall, barren rocky cliffs tower above and to ones side is the Yakima River and the riot of green that surrounds it. In between is the shades of tan one has become accustomed to but away from the river the landscape approached a moonscape. As I rode up out of the Canyon I found myself above Yakima and to the northwest I caught my first glimpse of Mount Rainer since leaving the Olympia area. I also ran over a nail, a rusty spike rather, that went through the tread of my tire and out the side. But it did not puncture the tube. This is why I tour with Schalwbe Marathon Plus tires.

the high drone of the crickets,
the lonely wail of the wind in the wires

The route turns north at Seleh and now the wind that had been pushing me along was against me. It picks up in the afternoons and by the evening there were crazy strong gusts. It’s the kind of wind that heralds a storm, but a storm never came. This part of the days ride was the opposite of enjoyable – hot, headwind, rolling hills. Due to there being a S. Wenas and a N. Wenas road and that you ride on both I ended up on North when I should have been on South. While not tragic it was another mile or two of “bonus” riding into the headwind. Once back on track I turned west and now had a crosswind for what is a pretty long, steep climb over the canyon walls above Naches. With the crosswind the descent was also somewhat tricky.

the evening wears on
- the summer sun still so high in the sky

Riding backroads around Naches through apple and pear orchards the occasional blast from a sprinkler was welcome in the hot evening sun. But then I was on hwy 12 riding west toward White Pass. The black rocks of the mountains towered above me and green began to reappear. Today has been the longest ride in a while and I was quite happy to reach Windy Point Campground which was appropriately named on this evening. It turned out the water pump here was busted so I had to filter water from the stream. But it is a more more empty campground which I can’t deny I enjoy.

the wind and the river-
rushing in different directions

Posted from Packwood, Washington, United States.


Tour without a goal – 16 July 2014

Written by robert on July 17th, 2014


O summer snail,
you climb but slowly, slowly
to the top of Fuji

crossing the dry mountains
It had actually gotten almost cold overnight which really was a relief. But I knew that today was suppose to be the peak of the heat and I had a pass to cross. I didn’t linger but ended up leaving a bit later than I’d hoped and the sun was already heating things up. The route begins on hwy 97 and was already in the midst of its long gentle climb. The Peshastin River burbled along side and mountains towered above. After about 6 miles I left 97 and took to Old Blewett Road. This was the old crossing and is now a forest road that is not maintained. Narrow, winding, cracked, pot holed, rock strewn at times but nearly car free. Also it hugs the sides of the mountains so there is a lot more shade. It’s almost like being on a bicycle path over the pass.


For the most part I simply inched my way up the pass taking occasional break for food or photos. Not too far from the summit I acquired the worst chain suck I’ve ever had – the chain had gotten jammed behind the kickstand mount and nothing I could do would dislodge it. So I laid the bicycle down and piped the quick link on the chain and thread it through. The end result was my hands were filthy. Happily Dr. Bronners and a mountain brook helped with that. Shortly after this even I reached the summit and made the long winding descent back to 97. The road was in similar condition as the ascent so there was no bombing down.


Hot now there was also an increasingly strong wind as I rode down. At times the gusts almost counted the effects of riding downhill. Happily though the route is downhill almost all the way. Except for a massive hill as the route turns south. But now the wind was with me and while not quite pushed up the hill it really helped. At the top of the hill and in the surrounding valley was a wind farm – I could see why! The route was downhill the rest of the way to Ellensberg and with the tailwind I literally blew into town.

slowly climbing under the hot sun –
summer winds shaking the trees

Ellensberg presents it’s own delima though – the only nearby camping is a KOA and it’s miles off route. And a KOA. Otherwise a bit further down the route there are these DNR fishing camps that aren’t much more than a wide spot on the river with no amenities at all – tough in 100 degrees. So on spotting a Motel 6 I stayed there. It will I think be good to have a nice cool evening and to take full advantage of the break from camping.

dusty green trees
poking out like whiskers
on the arid mountains


Tour without a goal – 15 july 2014

Written by robert on July 16th, 2014


The distant mountains
are reflected in the eye
of the dragonfly

It had been nice and cool overnight on the lake which was quite a relief I must say. Trying to get the bulk of the ride in before the heat of the day I did not linger in camp. You have to climb out of the Chelan Lake valley and it’s a stiff exposed set of switchbacks for over a mile. But then it’s a lovely descent down a shady canyon all the way down to the Columbia River. Heating up but the rover I ink helped it was a nice ride amongst the high, hills, all exposed rock, scrub and mesquite.

like twisted wire, grey remnants of shrubs
poke out of the fire blackened ground

In fairly short order I arrived at Entiat where I had intended to stay last night. Well it turns out the park there was closed for what looks like a complete renovation, so I really dodged a bullet there. Then I reached the edge of the ongoing Mill Canyon fire. All the way down to the road the brown lands are scorched black with piles of ash, and blacked dots where little plants had been. Fire crews would be seen heading up valley roads at least one of which was closed off.

when you reach Deadmans Hill
you don’t expect things to go well

It was 99 degrees (F) when I reached Winatchee and left the Columbia River behind. It wasn’t much past noon and the temps would continue to climb. The route tries to keep,you off the now busy hwy 2/97 but hy doing so takes one up and down the canyon walls. The steepest bit of climbing so far was on Deadmans Hill. In the heat this pretty much sapped my remaining strength. Happily it wasn’t too many more miles to camp, though it was in the beginning stages of he climb up. Blewett Pass.

hazy from wild fires
the sky glows pink, as the sun
sinks behind the hills

The last campground before the summit of the pass is Blu-Shastin RV Park and Campground which I’ve stayed at before. I was able to camp,right on the Peshastin River and once the sun descended behind he hills it cooled down nicely.

sitting on a rock
listening to the river


Tour without a goal – 14 July 2014

Written by robert on July 15th, 2014


like misty moonlight,
watery, bewildering –
our temporal way

It didn’t cool down much last night which certainly led to a fitful night sleep. I knew it’d be another hot day so I made an attempt to leave earlier than I have been. But just a couple miles back on the road, after a brief pit stop for a raspberry smoothie (really appreciated its iciness), it began to sprinkle. Refreshing and cool I only wish it had lasted longer. I was riding along the Columbia River today and all the way into Chelan I had a tailwind. A hot desert wind by noon it had really whipped up.


I had business to take care of Chelan – lunch, shopping and laundry and by the time that was done it was later in the afternoon and plenty hot again. As I looked down the valley I could see black threatening clouds with that thin grey sheeting that denotes rain. I decided to camp at Lake Chelen State Park which is 11 miles or so up the lake right before the route climbs out of the valley. A big, play oriented family campground it’s not what I typically seek, but it does have a hiker/biker area (an open field above the beach) and as I was setting up the storm broke. Thunder and lightening and rain,though not torrential rain. This all cooled things down and while it quickly cleared up the sun soon went down behind the valley walls and it was a pleasantly cool evening. As I went to bed the reddest moon I’ve ever seen rose above the lake casting a long orange shadow.

after the storm
a blood red moon
rises over the lake

Posted from Chelan, Washington, United States.


Tour without a goal – 13 July 2014

Written by robert on July 14th, 2014


the moon this evening,
and in the whole wide sky
not a trace of cloud

it gets hotter as you go down the valley
I lingered at the Barn enjoying the facilities and the shade of its trees. But eventually I wrapped things up and hit the road for the short ride to the historic town of Winthrop. I needed a bit of supplies so I lingered there as well. Ended up having lunch at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery. Once I finally left town it was truly hot. The route descends down the Methow Valley which is like a mirror version of the Skagit Valley I rode into the mountains. Along the Methow stream, hills and barren mountains to the sides and irrigated pasture land. Of course outside the stream and the irrigation it is all browns and tans. It was 103 degrees fahrenheit when I reached Twisp and all I can say is that thankfully the route is mostly downhill. I rode almost all the rest of the way down the valley but pulled off right at the end. Ther was a painful climb up for a couple miles and the. I arrived at Alta Lake State Park where I’d be staying the night. It was dry and dusty and the lake is like a gap in shear rock walls filled with water. And it never really cooled down all that much.

siting under the apple tree
in the hot morning sun
forgetting myself

Posted from Pateros, Washington, United States.


Tour without a goal – 12 July 2014

Written by robert on July 13th, 2014


“But now that you’re in the mountains be ready to suffer.” -Gao Xingjian, Soul Mountain

pushing that rock
This the third time I’ve crossed Rainy and Washington passes and whole they’ve all been tough the heat on this day added to the overall challenge. I got up early and left early (for me) and hit the hill that climbs up from the Colonial Creek valley while it was still in the shade. This initial climb is one of the steeper grades on the crossing and after the Diablo Lake overlook it actually flattens out and is gently up and down for a number of miles. But as you leave the Ross Lake Recreation Area the steady climbing begins.


The next 22 miles or so are almost all just steady climbing with the occasional flatter bit and of course the mile descent after Rainy Pass (which of course you have to make up and then some to cross Washington Pass). I’d stop every so often to rest, or to eat some food or to take a picture. But several strange and notable events occurred in this crossing:

- a couple parked at a scenic overlook sitting on foldable camp chairs singing gospel hymns.

- a van load of people who slowed down, rolled down their windows and cheered me on as if I was on a mountain stage on the Tour de France.

- three roadies at the summit of Washington Pass who had ridden from Colonial Creek Campground to Mazama and were riding back. Thus crossing the pass on the both sides.

- a van parked at another scenic overlook with a man standing outside the drivers door, which was open and just laying into the passenger within with a heavily explicative filled harangue.


The heat was definitely a factor and as I reached Rainy Pass clouds rolled in which at least blocked the merciless sun. But the humidity, already high, skyrocketed. I was constantly wanting to just drain my water bottles but I restrained myself and still had half a bottle left when I reached the summit.


Then the descent began. It got hotter and hotter as I went down. It had been in the mid eighties on the west side of the mountains and it was now the upper nineties on the Eastside. I was happy to reach Mazama and the country stores beer garden. Even happier to reach the Bicycle Barn in between Mazama and Winthrop where I stayed the night. A cyclist only campground I shared it’s well equipped faculties that night with Ron, a touron who’d left from Camano Island and was riding the Northern Tier route on his way to a family reunion in Spokane. We talked touring of course as it tends to go when touring cyclists meet and I have to say I hope that I too am still touring at 73!

the unrelenting blue eye of the sky
pins me to the hot winding road

Posted from Winthrop, Washington, United States.