Day 3 dawned clear, cool and sunny. It was wonderful being in the midst of the mountains along the talkative Cle Elum River. I made breakfast and packed up and then enjoyed a second cup of coffee sitting on a rock in the river. The plan today was to ride a trail to Cooper Lake which wasn’t many miles away. There I would setup camp for a few days and hike around the area and spend time in the mountains.
In no particular rush I meandered up the Salmon La Sac road along the Cle Elum River. Stopping frequently to take pictures, checkout trailheads and to monitor the river. Stopping at the bridge pictured above looking down into the river I spotted bright red spawning salmon! Truly a glorious time in the mountains. A bit further up the road was the Salmon La Sac Campground, which was a quite large and quite empty campground.
From the campground there was a short stretch on a dirt forest road before I reached the Salmon La Sac trailhead. I stopped for lunch at this point during which time a barefoot woman in a bikini walked out of the trailhead. Seemed a little casual for hiking into the mountains. However after a short stretch on the trail along the Cooper River, there was a wide bend in the river that created a deep turquoise swimming hole where there was a number of college kids sunbathing, Mystery Solved.
The trail along the Cooper River to Cooper Lake was billed as a “mountain bike” trail, but it clear was a horse trail that had been opened up to mountain bikes. I assume that very technical riders with a fully suspended mountain bike and no load could navigate this trail, but it was not rideable on a fully loaded touring bicycle. Rocks, roots, short super steep sections, torn up trail and so on made for a surface that I pushed the bicycle on more than rode. After some time of this I decided that several more miles of this wouldn’t be a good time.
Luckily there was an alternative route to the Owhi Campground on Cooper Lake. There was a forest road that took you to the south side of the lake and then you could hike around the lake to the north side where the campground is. I decided to take this, most likely less scenic, but certainly easy to negotiate route. So I rode back to Salmon La Sac Campground and then Road heading toward that bridge where I was looking at spawning salmon just few hours earlier.
Rounding a corner on the road, gaze on the river or mountains, I glance at the road and spot the above pothole moments before my front wheel entered it. I tried to ride around it, but was two late and I dropped into it and nearly immediately slammed into the far edge. I popped out, wobbling and miraculously didn’t fall. My tire had popped of course and the wheel was way out of true. I figured I’d popped a few spokes. I pulled over and noticed how mangled the wheel was. Taking it off at a picnic table I discovered that I had completely bent the rim at the edge and this wasn’t roadside serviceable.
There was a woman walking on the road right when I hit the pothole and she came over to see if I needed any help. As I pulled off the wheel and inspected the damage I allowed as I did. Her husband was off riding trails on a trials bike (something I was completely unaware of) and she said that after he came back they would haul me into Rosyln which had a bicycle shop. If it was unfixable she offered to take me back to Seattle when the left the next day. Really generous and friendly I gladly accepted her offer. As we waited, we walked down to the Little Salmon La Sac River which was shallow and rocky at this point.
This would turn out to be my last encounter with the rivers and mountains in the Winatchee-Okanogon National Forest. Back from the trails, Julie’s husband made some attempts to pound out the dent (but just look at how severe it is) and failing that we loaded my bicycle into their van and drove into Roslyn. They walked around the town while I took it into the NW Bicycle Improvement bicycle shop. Nice helpful guy there but as I suspected they didn’t have a viable replacement rim in stock. So I was prepared to return to the campground and stay overnight and return with Julie and her husband tomorrow. But while I was in the shop they talked it out and decided to just haul me back right away, cutting short their weekend camping. That was super generous and of course while I said I’d be happy to return the next day, I gladly accepted. So back into the van with the bicycle and now it was a reverse trip down I-90 back home. I had them drop me off near the Bellevue Transit Center where I was able to take a bus home.
So this is the first tour I’ve been on that got cut short due to mechanical issues. I’ve had many mechanicals on tour and have fixed most of them in situ, for at least long enough where I could get professional help. But this was unfixable by anyone on the road. While I was lucky with there being people willing to help immediately on had I have to say at no point was I worried or scared. To me handling the unexpected is part of what you are training for in each tour. Just up the road from the accident was the camp host for one of the campgrounds and I knew I could get a ride into Roslyn from them. From Roslyn I could either wait out a replacement wheel, or work out a bus back to Seattle. So while there definitely would be some much less fun effort involved I never felt that I was stuck. Too me the biggest downer was that my mountain camping was cut short right at the point I was really interested it: hiking in the Alpine lake regions. Well I know for sure that I will be back!