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Back, just in time to leave

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

After myriad technical issues, the blog has finally returned. Just as I’m about to set out for five days of bicycle camping.  I’ll be a ways into Olympic National Forest at an old closed campground.  Sure to be free from cellphone-telephones and the like. What a relief!  So reports of the trip will have to wait upon my return. Check back late last week for the news.  In the meantime, checkout out some new(-ish) photos on Flickr.  If I manage any updates from the road, it’ll be uploading some photos there.

October Overnighter

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Autumn Overnighter - Shrouded Rainier

Mount Rainier shrouded in clouds

Since returning from tour I haven’t had a lot of chances to get out in the (nearly) always beautiful PNW Autumn.  My bicycle needed a bunch of work and it took getting into a new place and emptying out my storage unit to have the necessary tools. Then a visit to family out of state took me away during prime early October weather.  On my return – just last Thursday – it looked like persistent rain had moved in early.  Well that forecast changed and it was looking to be just overcast on Saturday clearing up in the evening, with Sunday being mostly clear with temps reaching the low 70s (F).  Reading this post from Cliff Mass I saw that the lows had been unseasonably high and thus I decided an overnighter was in order.
Autumn Overnighter - Ready to ride.

Atlantis - ready to ride

I had decided to embark on this trip pretty late and I did have a couple of final tasks to complete on the bicycle. In the above picture you can see my Atlantis as set out. Since returning from tour I have replaced the Shifters, the pedals, the middle chainring, the chain and the rear derailleur. This morning I replaced the cassette and the rear tire and I was ready to go. Since this was just an overnighter I only needed two meals and a few pieces of off bicycle clothes, so I was able to pack as minimally as possible. In the saddlebag (a Grant Peterson top 5!) I have my sleeping back, inflatable pillow, Trangia cook set, rain gear and the off bicycle clothes. In the basket I have my air mattress and my Grab Sack (another top 5!) with my camera, journal, iPad Mini and such in it. In my Hobo Bag (best h’bar bag ever) I stuffed in my toiletries and food bag. Strapped on the back rack is my tent with the poles along the top tube. Pretty amazing how light a load camping requires for just one night.
Autumn Overnighter - Clearing up

clearing up

It had rained that morning but by mid-afternoon the clouds were breaking up. I had decided to camp at Fay Bainbridge Park on Bainbridge Island. This is the closest campground to Seattle and it’s really close – I rode 12 miles to the campground. This has it’s positive side – I left around 2:30 and on a day when it is dark by 6:30 that meant I was able to setup and cook while it was still light. Of course I would prefer a bit more of a ride when I have more time, but there is no reason one could ride clockwise around the Island from the ferry terminal and get in those miles. But on this day the late departure, plus the ferry trip and 7-8 miles on the island worked out just fine.
Autumn Overnighter - Camping in Fay Bainbridge Park

Camping at Fay Bainbridge

The campground has an upper area with walk-in camping and a lower area with sites under the hill and along the beach. There is an electronic pay station down there where I paid for the hiker/biker site, a reasonable US$7. I then proceeded to ride around for half an hour trying to find said h/b site. I never did. I did an internet search and found via Google Books a map of the park which indicated that the h/b area was in the walk in area. As there was no-one camping up there (there was about half a dozen campers on the beach) I just took a space up there. This was a good deal as I was able to utilize the covered picnic tables for cooking. I setup, cooked, and by the time I cleaned up it was pretty dark. I took a cup of green tea to the beach and sat there in the glow from Seattle listened to the gentle surf and the rumble of the passing ferries.

a creaking frog,
the bobbing glow of eyes,
this misty autumn night

Autumn Overnighter - Morning in Fay Bainbridge Park

Camping at Fay Bainbridge

I slept late and took my time making breakfast and packing up and then headed down to the beach. It was a lovely morning with blue skies streaked by torn up clouds. Pretty windy too, with stiff gusts of wind. Since I had left late and took the short route here my plan was to ride around the island before heading home. I’ve ridden Bainbridge plenty of times, but usually (mostly) follow the Chilly Hilly route which circles the island, staying on roads that can support 7000+ cyclists. But on this day I started following Dan Henry’s on the road in the shape of a pie and green arrows painted on the road. These routes took me on narrower roads that dove down to the water and then right back up, across the island and through Fort Ward Park.
Autumn Overnighter - Port Madison Bell with Atlantis

Port Madison Bell with Atlantis

It was such a lovely autumn day, with big gusts of wind blowing leaves all over the road. I finally accomplished something I wanted to do for a long time: I caught a falling leaf while riding alone. A big gust of wind blew a bunch of leaves toward me and without thought I just reached out and caught a large blowing right by me. The Dan Henry’s wended a route on and off the Chilly Hilly route so I saw the usual landmarks: Port Madison, the Bainbridge Island Frog, many views of the Puget Sound and of course mostly took me on the great Bainbridge Island side roads.
Autumn Overnighter - Cormorants all in a row

Cormorants all in a row.

The Dan Henry’s eventually took me on this climb up the middle of the Island and then wound down to Lynnwood which had really been built up since last I was here. I had lunch at the Treehouse Cafe there, a location where I have many times had an ice cream cone but never actually stopped for lunch. Well the food was good and while I had a sandwich it looks like they make a good pizza as well. I walked around Lynnwood a bit checking out all the new shops and restaurants before rejoining the Chilly Hilly Route for a stretch. The Dan Henry’s pretty quickly took me off the route and I ended up riding through Fort Ward – completely new territory for me. Well this former military fort, now a small park right along the edge of the island allows one to ride a bit more along the water. Especially if you continue onto South Beach road after the park.
Autumn Overnighter - Heading up Toe Jam Road. Painted on the road: "Good Luck"

Heading up Toe Jam Hill Road.

Riding the narrow road right on the edge of the island is quite scenic and with the wind blowing out of the south, a nice ride. Of course you do then have to ride up Toe Jam Hill which was by far the steepest hill I’ve ridden on Bainbridge. There are longer hills and plenty of pretty steep hills, but this one took the cake. As you rounded the curve pictured above painted on the road was “Good Luck”. I did make it up the steeped, cracked pavement and after a bit more time on the heavily wooded Toe Jam Road, I turned onto Country Club road which took me back to the Chilly Hilly route which I’d follow for the rest of the day.

One of my favorite spots on Bainbridge Island, is this memorial park with a Tibetan Prayer Wheel. As always I stopped and spun the wheel and took in this peaceful spot. But after leaving the park I rode steadily back, along the Chilly Hilly route primarily, back to Eagle Harbor and the ferry. I needed to be back home before six and while there was still plenty of riding I could have done on Bainbridge, not to mention the quaint little town of Winslow which I’ve never really explored, I headed straight to the ferry terminal. Of course I did end up waiting a bit for the next boat, but I enjoyed the waning day and being on the water. The ride back featured stunning views of a cloud enshrouded Mt. Rainier, big fluffy clouds hovering over the Seattle cityscape and many sailboats out enjoying this windy, beautiful autumn day.
Autumn Overnighter - Clouds Over Seattle

Clouds Over Seattle.

Check out all of my pictures on Flickr: Autumn Overnighter.

Late May Two-Nighter

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Late May Two-Nigher day 3 - The ur-Washington photo

Late Spring on the Sound

We had a particularly wet winter and early spring here in the Pacific Northwest (record setting rain even) but things have really turned around. April was above average temperatures and we’ve had many days in the 70s (f) and even a few low 80s (f). There was a string of weeks where it would be really nice mid-week and then rain on the weekend.  All of this has led to my taking my first bicycle camping outing at the very end of May.
Late May Two-Nigher day 1 - Atlantis at 1616

Atlantis at 1616

My touring plans for 2014 have shifted from a doing a series of two-three day trips to far more ambitious plans (more on that forthcoming) but the situation in the above ‘graph meant that my riding has been commuting with the occasional rec ride.  I’ve been really picking up the rec riding of late and I wanted to get in a few overnighters for both the riding and to test out some changes to the kit.  So with predictions of days (five days it appears now) of warm sunny weather I decided to update a planned overnighter to South Whidbey State Park to a two-nighter trip around the norther Puget Sound.  With thoughts of future touring in mind I also took more or less my entire planned setup, minus only some extra clothes I’d take for more sustained touring.
Late May Two-Nigher day 1 - Everett

Everett in the distance

Day 1: Seattle to South Whidbey State Park
48.1 miles ridden today
Late May Two-Nigher day 1 - Interurban SignageAs is always the case I left a bit later than I’d hoped and I had to make a couple of stops on the way (for lunch and at the co-op for supplies). I left my apartment a bit after noon and left the store in Fremont (about 5 miles away) around 2pm.  I was on the way, taking a pretty familiar route to the ferry at Mukilteo.  I rode on the Interurban Trail for a good bit of the way and then at Lynnwood I left the Interurban and crossed the 99 and rode arterials and suburban roads until it intersected with the Mukilteo Speedway and the road down to the ferry Terminal.  I had arrived just as the ferry was unloading so it was a pretty short spell before I was on the ferry and we were heading to Whidbey Island.
I’ve ridden this ferry countless times – I grew up on Whidbey Island – and it is always enjoyable. It’s pretty short, around fifteen minutes, but it nicely breaks up the ride.  On a nice day the views are spectacular and it’s bracing to be out on the deck.  Soon enough I arrived at the Clinton Terminal on Whidbey Island and rode off the ferry after all the cars.  There is a long hill up from the terminal, fairly steep at first and then it flattens out a bit and is a long steady climb for over a mile.  Then it is rolling hills on Hwy 525. At this end of the Island there are nice scenic roads that route you away from the 525 but they almost always go way out and then back to the highway and can feature steep climbs. So for about 8 miles I stuck with the highway.  Google Maps route me off for one section that I had actually never ridden before. This was a nice scenic route past a wildlife sanctuary and brought one into the tiny burg of Freeland from the backside.

Late May Two-Nigher day 1 - Deep gloaming at S. Whidbey State Park

Deep gloaming at South Whidbey State Park

From Freeland I returned to the 525 but after less than 1/2 a mile I was on Smuggler’s Cove road, taking heavily wooded backroads to South Whidbey State Park. There’s some serious rolling hills on this route and I was definitely feeling it, as I’d ridden pretty much continuously from Fremont to this point with only the ferry trip as a decent break.  But it was good I did so as I arrived at camp just after 7pm. The Hiker/Biker sites are right by the entrance and I quickly picked my preferred site (I was the only one there) and setup and cooked dinner. Then I went and paid up and walked around the camp. The h/b sites are on a bluff and I could see there was a fantastic sunset but there wasn’t a really clear view and it was a steep trail down to the beach.  So I enjoyed the obstructed view and after it was pretty deep twilight I retired to my tent for the night.

Late May Two-Nigher day 2 - Commerce

Blue skies, clouds hovering above the Olympics and commerce

Day 2: South Whidbey State Park to Old Fort Townsend State Park
30.2 miles ridden today
78.4 miles ridden to date
I awoke to a cacophony of twittering birds including the knocking of a woodpecker.  Said woodpecker kept it up for a good hour or so at one point working a fallen log on the edge of my campground.  It’s pretty amazing how just away from the towns, in these relatively small reserves there is just so much more wildlife.  I cooked breakfast and then headed down to the beach.  It was shaping up to be a marvelous day. The winds I’d rode against yesterday had yet to arise and with it already clear it looked to be even warmer.  This was my short day so I lingered at the beach, reveling in the view of the distant peninsula with the Olympic Mountain range. There were numerous families with their kids already down at the beach and more came down as I hike the half mile trail up from the beach. Back in camp I packed up in short order and hit the road around 11:30.
Late May Two-Nigher day 2 - Looking back from the ferry

Looking back from the ferry

It was just over 12 miles to the ferry dock with a bit on 525 and 20 and a bit on side roads.  I arrived there about 20 minutes before the ferry and I got a coffee and wander around the beaches.  Soon enough the ferry had arrived and I was on my way.  This is a longer trip than my previous ferry ride, around half an hour with of course time for the loading and unloaded.  I was in Port Townsend by 1:45 and I headed straight to Waterfront Pizza where I got two large slices of pizza. I wandered around town, mostly just taking in the sights but I did stop at one of it’s small bookstores.  After a bit I decided to ride up to Fort Townsend State Park where I’d camp for the night.  This campground I feel is ideal if one wishes to mainly hang out in the southern parts of PT (where the brewery and best alehouses are) as you can just ride the PNW Trail most the way to the ‘ground.
Late May Two-Nigher day 2 - Towering above Port Townsend

Classic architecture towering above Port Townsend

I setup my camp there and rested for a bit and then headed back into town. I went to the Pourhouse, an alehouse near the port that specializes in craft beers.  I spent and enjoyable evening there tasting several fine beverages and getting a bottle to go as I headed back to camp.  Back in camp I cooked dinner, enjoyed my takeaway beer, cleaned up in near darkness and then hit the tent.  All in all a relaxed and enjoyable day.
Late May Two-Nigher day 2 - At the Pourhouse

At the Pourhouse

Day 3: Old Fort Townsend State Park to Seattle
45.7 miles ridden today
124 miles ridden total
I once again woke to chattering birds and the knocking of a woodpecker (though I never saw this one).  This day dawned overcast and cool, especially among the trees of my campground. I made a hearty breakfast of coffee and oat bran with walnuts and dried cranberries, trying to use up my supplies.  I packed everything up and left the campground around 11am.
Late May Two-Nigher day 3 - Campground at Old Fort Townsend

Campground at Old Fort Townsend

It was sunny and mostly clear now, with streaks of clouds across the sky. The route began on hwy 20 and continued onto why 19 as 20 veered westward.  At the tiny town of Chimicum 19 becomes Beaver Valley road and follows the valley all the way to it’s end. I’ve ridden both sides of this valley on different tours and it is always a pleasant and scenic ride. Though for a sunday afternoon there seemed to be more traffic than I’d have expected.
Late May Two-Nigher day 3 - Atlantis above the low tide

Atlantis above the low tide

The valley ended at a T intersection at hwy 104. As I turned left onto the highway an RV was also making the turn and as it did it’s side door swung open dumping a bunch of stuff right into my path. I stopped before hitting an empty plastic container and watched as the RV kept going a bit and then pulled over to the side. There was something protruding out of the open door that looked like a hobby horse. I had to ride into the highway to ride around the RV as they completely blocked the shoulder.  The route was on 104 for a bit and then a nice section on a frontage road that was right on Hood Canal.  I stopped to take the above picture and eat an apple on a bluff above the tideland.  There was a super killer hill off this side road back onto 104.
Late May Two-Nigher day 3 - Sailboats in the harbor

Sailboats in the harbor

The road came out right above the Hood Canal Bridge which last time I rode it, it wasn’t much fun. The drawbridge bits were steal grating with no shoulder and plenty of traffic. But it has been improved since then and is now totally no big deal. There is a shoulder the entire way and the grated bits have a shoulder as well with decking on it.  I climbed up from the bridge and about a mile from there was Port Gamble where I stopped for lunch. The last time I was here – my first tour! – there was a medieval fair at Port Gamble and it is here this time as well. If it is a “first weekend in June” sort of thing then this would make sense as it was around then of my first tour.
Late May Two-Nigher day 3 - Ferry coming in

Ferry coming in

The route from Port Gamble was on back roads that were incredibly hilly. For narrow winding roads there was more traffic than I’d have thought, but not constant or anything. The road was through woods and farmland was winding up or down almost all the time.  At one point I was passed by a couple of roadies as I was climbing a hill while coming down the other side a man was walking two horses as cars came at just this time from both directions.  Eventually I was down with the backroads and at the Suquamish Reservation I crossed another bridge onto Bainbridge Island. I’ve of course ridden Bainbridge many times, usually the scenic loop along the water. This time though I just stuck to the highway and rode straight across the island to the ferry terminal.  This was an easy ride on long rolling hills with big wide shoulders. Plenty of traffic of course, but it was only about 8 miles before I was to the ferry terminal.
Late May Two-Nigher day 3 - Seattle Cityscape

Seattle Cityscape

As I waited for the boat more and more cyclists arrived to take the ferry back to Seattle. It was a beautiful day, sunny and pretty hot after the morning clouds. So no surprise that a lot of cyclists, roadies for the most part, took the ferry over to Bainbridge for some sunday cycling.  The ferry arrived after 20 minutes or so and I mostly just relaxed on the boat until we docked at downtown Seattle. From there it was a ride on the waterfront, through Pioneer Square, up to the International District and back to my apartment. I arrived home around 6:30 in the hot evening – another successful and enjoyable jaunt.
Check out all of my photos from this trip: Late May Two-Nighter on Flickr.

The BioLite Campstove considered

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Biolite Stove - making tea

Making tea on the Biolite Campstove

I picked up a BioLite Campstove this spring and have taken it on two short tours around Washington State: 4 day tour around SW Washington and a week+ trip to Victoria BC. I wouldn’t consider this extensive testing by any means but I can certainly offer my impressions so far.  Let me set the stage first: so far I always tour solo, self-contained and do fairly ambitious cooking. That is to say I’m not just boiling water, I’ll actually cook things where it may take a long time (like rice say), you are pretty active in the minding the cooking (like a stir fry) or you need temperature control (something like oatmeal, or the rice, etc).  I’ve been using alcohol stoves since I’ve been touring and I’m a pretty diehard Trangia fan since picking one of those up a couple years back. I also have been experimenting with electronics and charging systems for most of my tours. These experiments I’ve pretty well documented in these two posts on my blog: charging systems and charging systems revisited.

One of my recent touring goals has been one reducing overall dependency on services. Two aspects of that IMO are buying fuel and charging devices. So the BioLite seemed to offer solutions to those problems. Now as always I’ve done my research and knew that the BioLite is not going to offer much charging unless you just sat there feeding the fire for hours. However in my experience if you are serious about charging stuff what you want is an external battery and you should always keep that charged. You also should keep your devices charged as well instead of running it all the way down. The goal should be to be able to only drain your batteries in a give day as much as you can recharge in a typical day. That is if you use 10% of your smartphone battery per day you should be able to charge it 10%. So anything that offers additional charging along with its primary function is an advantage – if and only if it does the primary function well.

Biolite Stove - cooking soba

Cooking soba noodles with tofu and veg

So how does the BioLite work for cooking? I have to say not bad.  I made soba noodles the both times I used it, which is a pretty go to dish for me. However it’s not one that demands a lot of temperature control. I mean its nice to turn down your stuff once the water is boiling so it doesn’t boil over but you can deal.  You can control the fan speed on the BioLite between high and low and that gives you a rough temperature control. You also as you use it build up coals inside and you actually can have a nice lower temp burn up going.  But it’s hard to keep it at that. This is because you need to constantly feed the stove. It’s small – which is good cause otherwise you wouldn’t tour with it – but that means it doesn’t hold much wood.  For pure boiling of water from my kettle it pretty much kicked ass, at least as fast as my Trangia with kettle.

I have a style where I tend to either setup or take down my camp while cooking (if the food prep isn’t too demanding). This is true in the morning especially where I always make oat bran and coffee and can pretty much have all my gear beyond the cooking gear packed by the time breakfast is ready. This is much more difficult with the BioLite.  Since I used my Trangia cookset with the BioLite I carried it packed with the alcohol burner me and used it for breakfast cooking.

Biolite Stove - getting the water boiling

Getting the water boiling water for my Soba noodles

So my thoughts on this is that the best way to use the BioLite is to carry another stove, one that ideally fits in your cookset and thus isn’t much more bulk. One could carry less fuel in this case –  basically one bottle of HEET being the typical minimal amount I can buy. One would want to use the BioLite as much as you could but in the cases where you find no twigs – say in grassland type camping – or where you don’t want to feed the fire, or are in a rush you use your other stove.  This does bring up the last point worth mentioning. The BioLite is pretty heavy and bulky as far as it goes. Since you have to carry at least some sort of cookset along with it, your space for your cooking gear is a lot bigger. If you could use it exclusively the weight savings on carrying fuel would I think be pretty close but the bulk is unavailable. In multi-person groups I think a lot of these problems would be alleviated – the bulk is less of an issue, someone needing to constantly mind the stove is less of an issue, carrying a backup is less of an issue.

Biolite Stove - charging an external battery

Using the Biolite to charge an external battery pack

I did use it to charge my external battery on my first time using it and it worked fine. But I’d need to do a lot more experimenting with it to say how much I’d count on charging in a typical cook session. Unless you just barely use your devices I wouldn’t count on it to keep your stuff charged. But if you have another system (generator, solar or frequent mains access) it certainly will help. I did not end up using it to charge on it’s second outing as I’d forgotten my iPhone USB cable (D’oh!) and that was the only device I’d really run down. It can’t charge the iPad, hence the external battery which it CAN charge, but I think it’d be perfect for “topping off” a smartphone which I’ve come to realize the trick to self-charging devices on tour.

Biolite Stove - getting the fire going

Getting the fire going

I suppose it’s also worth noting that this is a fire you are cooking over. So there is smoke, soot and flames.  I rarely made campfires in camp myself but I do enjoy them. The BioLite does give you a nice, easy to make fire for that purposes. But you do smell like smoke and your cookgear gets a lot more dirty. As noted you also really go through the little sticks and it’s worth trying to get larger ones going after the fire is well and truly burning. I gathered a much larger supply on my second use of the stove and still found myself running through them by the time I was done.  For me I’d have to gather a pretty good stash the night before if I wanted to cook breakfast with the stove.

Anyway as I use it more I’ll post some more experiences.  In the end I think it works as advertised but there are a lot of things to consider. But this is the case with any cooking gear so everyone will have to decide what the tradeoff and benefits they are willing to make.


Note: I always intended to review the Biolite Stove here, but I ended up writing a long post over on the Adventure Cycling forums after my first use of the stove which I’ve based this post on.

May Micro-Tour day 1

Monday, May 27th, 2013

May Micro-Tour day 1 - Atlantis in Centralia

Atlantis in Centralia

May Micro-Tour Day 1
Since I had myself well packed up the night before I was able to take a pretty leisurely morning and set off pretty much right when I’d planned to. I had about 5 hours of riding to do and felt there was no reason not to have an early lunch and set off around noon. So this is what I did. There was one hitch as about 3/4’s of a mile from my place I found I had left my water bottles in the fridge. So a quick return home where I rectified this and also took the opportunity to also adjust one of my fenders which was rubbing a bit.  I was back on the road only 15 or so minutes from my desired departure time.

May Micro-Tour day 1 - Red Barn

The (formerly) Red Barn

As previously reported it had been hot and was predicted to continue to be so, but this morning was overcast, grey and cool enough for the leg warmers and socks. Getting out of Olympia I was on well travelled roads, enough so that I was just winging it instead of looking much at my route. Google Maps had a rather strange route but it turned out to be a bit shorter than my assumed one. So at some point I realized my route was diverging from it’s and just struck out east until I was back on track.  This added about 5 miles overall to my route. The clouds were starting to break up now and by the time I reached Rochester it was mostly blue skies. From Rochester on, it was new roads for me, still mostly back country roads – nice riding and pretty flat for the most part.

May Micro-Tour day 1 - Road Closed (I rode it anyway)

 Road Closed (I rode it anyway)

These backroads took me into Centralia which got increasingly busy as I approached I-5 and crossed under it.  The route went around an (artificial?) lake that I’ve seen many times from I-5 but had never been to. In fact I can only recall ever being in Centralia once or twice. After wending around the lake the route went under I-5 again and then made it’s way on frontage roads to Chehalis.  These roads presented the first hurdle in that the one I need to take was closed. I rode on it anyway and found to my surprise a new separated bicycle path. I happily rode on this and of course didn’t see a car all the way. The one downside is that street signs hadn’t been replaced yet so I rode past the turnoff I needed to take. But I didn’t ride far as I suspected all along that was my route. So I stopped maybe 1/4 mile up the road and checked Google Maps via my iPad and confirmed my suspecion. So a bit of backtracking and I was back on track.

May Micro-Tour day 1 - fields

Clear skies on country roads

Once on this side road the route wended through fields, past the county airport and a golf course. There was a raised crushed gravel trail out here as well (the Airport Levee Trail), but since this road was also technically closed as it only fed into the other closed road there was no reason to not enjoy the empty streets.   This route took me back toward I-5 into the small town of Chehalis where I’d find the Willapa Hills Trail which I’d ride most of the way to the campground.

May Micro-Tour day 1 - Start of the Willapa Hills Trail

Entering the Willapia Hills Trail

May Micro-Tour day 1 - Chehalis Map The Willapa Hills Trail is a 56 mile long trail from Chehalis to South Bend on the coast.  The vast majority of this is unpaved but it begin with a good 5.5 miles or so paved. This was some nice trail riding through the forests, farmland and wetlands of Lewis county valleys between the Willapa Hills. You cross numerious trestles over creeks, rivers, roads and wetlands.  Alas after the trail becomes gravel these trestles also stop being surfaced. That is the tracks are gone and there are slats but no flat surface. When I first encountered one of these I turned back and took a county road to hwy 6 which the route more or less parallels. Highway 6 was not nearly as flat as these trails and at this point it had little shoulder and a pretty steady stream of traffic. So not much fun for the 8 or so miles I rode on it.  Soon enough though I cut off the highway into working farmland until I got back on the trail. The trail was crushed gravel now and a stiff evening wind was coming out of the west. This last stage of this days ride was not as congenial though there was some beautiful scenery along the river.

May Micro-Tour day 1 - A gravelly section of the Willapia Hills Trail

Gravel section of the Willapia Hills Trail

Eventually I crossed the road which was to take me back to Hwy 6 and then a short back track to Rainbow Falls State Park, my stated destination. As I was riding back on 6 I noticed a sign on the other side of the road saying Rainbow Falls next left.  Curious, but I rode on. And I found that the state park extends across the river and the highway and that for inexplicable reasons Google Maps leads you to this side of the park instead of the other where the entrance and the campground is. So backtracking again. I crossed the Chehalis River one more time and then noticed another sign directing you to take a right toward the campground – this sign was not present going the other direction, which surely I would have caught. Another mile or so up the road and I reached Rainbow Falls State Park. All of the backtracking and mis-routing I’d done on this day had led to about 11 miles of riding off the Google Maps route.

May Micro-Tour day 1 - First timing cooking on my new BioLite Campstove

Biolite Campstove

I did a spin around the campground until I found the Hiker/Biker sites (there was also horse riders only sites nearby) and got myself setup. These were looking like they’d been pretty neglected so far this season, to the point where I had to cross a fallen log to get to my site.  I registered and then set up and then cooked dinner. I’d gotten a new stove that runs off of wood that I was testing on this tour and this was my first meal I cooked with it. The BioLite Campstove has a batterypack that runs fans that allows for very efficient and hot fires. It worked quite well for tonights dinner which was Soba Noodles with vegetables and tofu. I also boiled water for tea and cleanup and it worked quite well. The stove is able to charge it’s own batter and if there is reserve power devices connected via the USB port. This also seemed to work out in my limited test. Look for a full report on my experience with the stove to come.  After dinner it was pretty much dark so I cleaned up and retired for the night.

61.5 miles were ridden today.
The planned route: Olympia WA to Rainbow Falls State Park
More photos on Flickr: Day 1 Photos, complete May Micro-Tour photo set.

April Overnighter

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

April Overnight Day 1 - Atlantis, loaded for bear

Atlantis, loaded for camping

The end of April graced us with several spectacular days. Around noon on the 24th I decided that I was going to go on an overnighter up at Potlatch State Park, which I had been to on my 2011 tour and knew wasn’t too epic of a route.  So began a flurry of packing and prepping  and by 2:45 I was on the road. A brief stop at a downtown Olympia grocery store and I was on the road.

April Overnight Day 1 - End of Puget Sound

Mud Bay

Day 1
It being mid-afternoon when I hit the road it was pretty much at peak temperature in the low 70s (F). I was riding in as light of clothing as I ever do – seersucker shirt, shorts, sandals – which is so nice.  This route is a pretty familiar one for me having ridden parts of it on three different tours and various other parts in my rides around Olympia over the last year. I still had Google Maps generate me a route to see what it would suggest. It had more options off of the highways, which while adding some miles made for some nicer riding.  However as seems to be increasingly the case it had some quirks to it.  The first of these was just past Mud Bay where it routed me over hwy 101 and toward what was labeled as a dead end road. Now it looks like you can get into the Capitol Forest and wander around on logging roads and trails and make it back to 101 a few miles up the road, but not an even remotely reasonable route fully loaded and without a lot of time. So I took 101 on that stretch but did take advantage of Google Maps routing through Shelton.  This added a few miles and did put me on some busy county roads but still nice to be off 101.  Going through downtown Shelton I noted that it had been rather built up since I’d last been here. There was a brewpub and more coffee houses and touristy sort of places. Nice to see.

April Overnight Day 1 - Google maps routed me up this

Google maps routed me up this trail out of Shelton

Google Maps then threw me another monkey wrench.  From downtowan Shelton there is a serious climb out from the sea level town back up to 101.  I’d ridden up that hill fully loaded (and with serious knee problems) on my 2007 tour) but Google Maps instead put me on a trail up.  The trail up Library Hill turned out to be a dirt path with a series of switchbacks. I pushed my bicycle up which might have been about as much effort as riding the road up the hill. At least there was no traffic.  Back on the bicycle it was back roads through this part of Shelton and then onto 101.

April Overnight Day 1 - Olympic Mountains in the Distance

Olympic Mountains in the Distance on hwy 101

It was magic hour now, with the sun dipping behind the Olympic Mountains.  101 at this point is a two lane highway and really pretty decent riding.  Its mostly downhill to Hood Canal and I made good time. I arrived at Potlatch State Park a bit after 7pm to find one other party camping, plus the campground host.  Half or more of the campground was closed for the season including the section with the bulk of the hiker/biker sites. There was one in the open loop so I moved in and setup camp. As per usual I cooked as I setup and within 10-15 minutes of completing my setup was eating Green Curry Noodles. Nice thing about an overnighter is you can put together a meal at home, ready for cooking at camp.

April Overnight Day 1 - Full moon over the Hood Canel

Full moon
shimmering in the water —
the purr of the frogs

By the time I’d finished cleaning up, it was dark and a beautiful full moon had risen over the hills. I walked down to the water and enjoyed views of the moon, reflected in the water.  It was cooling down, but it was a nice early spring evening. Soon enough I retired to my tent for reading and such before sleep.

I rode 41.9 miles on this day.

April Overnight day 2 - Campsite

Old trees in Potlatch State Park


Day 2
I was in the tent reading when another camping showed up. He came in, parked and then walked around camp looking for his spot before relocating there. With nearly the entire campground empty he chose to move into the one space between myself and the one other group of campers. Odd. I’d only taken this spot as it was the only H/B site; personally I like a little more space between campers when I can take it.  Still not so bad as there was a big space between my site and his. I slept all right though it eventually got colder than my gear is really rated for. Even though the day was in the 70s (F) the night still got down to the uppers 30s (F).  In the morning I performed my usual tour routing of cooking breakfast as I packed up.

April Overnight day 2 - Old trees

Old trees in Potlatch State Park

Doing a spur of the moment trip like this you are bound to forget something.  Well I had forgotten my coffee mug which of course also has my coffee filter in it.  So as I had ridden out here I kept stopping at stores and gas stations until I found a place that sold a metal mug.  I also grabbed a couple of coffee filters from a gas station and thus was able to make coffee is not as nice as I’m used to. My usual oat bran with dried cranberries and walnuts accompanied said coffee.  Not being at all in a rush on this day I leisurely enjoyed my breakfast, reading the news on my iPad (which I also didn’t have to worry about keeping charged).  I washed up and finished packing and now I was ready to go.

April Overnight day 2 - Beach

The tide is out in the Sound

But as I noted I had plenty of time so taking my coffee with me I walked down to the seashore.  I walked on the beach and sat in the sun and just generally enjoyed being on the water on a nice sunny day. I sat on a picnic table and worked on my journal and read from a book of Chinese poetry. This poem struck me on this day:

Passing Rushfields
-Ching An

Where the willow shade is deep…
the water chestnut flourishes.
Endless, silver sands…
where the tide’s retreated.
Thatched booths with wine flags flapping
tell me there’s a market town nearby.
A whole mountain of red leaves:
a girl child carries kindling.

April Overnight day 2 - pink flower

Wildflowers in the woods

From the beach I returned to the campground and then into the woods. There was a system of trails behind the campground, the entrance just south of my site.  I didn’t want to take an epic hike, but I did want to get out into the woods. I’d bought a pair of trail runner shoes and part of the goals of this trip was to see how I’d like them. I felt they worked well in keeping sand and stones out and were fine on the trails.  They are supper light and compact well so seem like a good addition to my kit.  The woods were pleasantly cool with wildflowers blooming.  It was getting toward noon and I wanted to get to Shelton for lunch, so I presently set off.

April Overnight day 2 - wetlands

Lowland wetlands before the climb up to Shelton

April Overnight day 2 - Porter at the Grove Stree BrewhouseIt was a lot more uphill riding to return to Shelton, but this time I didn’t have any time pressures. I stopped frequently checking out trees and streams and waterfalls. There is just an absolutely fantastic section of 101, that climbs for about 2 miles along a stream.  Old, moss laden trees surround this babbling brook and traffic aside it is just a pleasant, pretty stretch. From there it opens up and I was able to duck off the highway and take backroads to Shelton — including riding the steep road down Library Hill bypassing the dirt trail. I’d seen the Grove Street brewhouse as I’d ridden through Shelton the day prior and I made a beeline for it.  I had very good veggie sandwich accompanied by a Golden IPA which was refreshing and citrusy and a classic porter rather in an Anchor Porter vein. A nice break before hitting the road again.

April Overnight day 2 - Olympics behind Shelton

Olympic Mountains behind Shelton

Getting out of Shelton of course meant climbing a big hill on the south side, but it had a decent shoulder and at the top was a scenic overlook where you could see the while town with the mountains behind it and the sound in front of it. From here it was a short ride back to 101.  Once again I alternated with frontage roads and riding on the highway.  101 has a big shoulder and a well placed rumble strip so it really is pretty easy, if not super pleasant, riding. I was always happy when I was on the frontage roads which often wended well away from the highway and was in trees, pastureland and crossed several streams.

April Overnight Day 1 - Wending through the streets of Olympia

Wending through the streets of Olympia

I was definitely feeling the warmth and the several days of riding and was pretty tired when I made it back to Mud Bay.  The return trip has more climbing which at least for this trip was preferable – I was in a rush getting to camp but able to take my time returning. It was even hotter today than the day before, but the low 70s (F) is just perfect riding and nothing to complain about.  Soon enough though I was back at Mud Bay and the long climb back up to Olympia. I made a detour to a store for some dinner supplies and then made my way home. I was back before 6pm, a bit beyond a rigid S24O but still in the ballpark. Less than 30 hours for the whole trip and a good time was had.

36.4 miles ridden today
78.3 miles total for this trip.
Check out all of my pictures from this trip in this Flickr set: April Overnighter.

An efficient use of space

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Touring Kit - An Efficient use of space

Touring Kit - An Efficient use of space

Touring Kit - An Efficient use of space

Touring Kit - An Efficient use of space

Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 4

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 4 - Atlantis in the fog

Atlantis in the wind and rain

October 12th: In which the weather turns for the ride home
I was awoken before dawn by wind and rain buffeting the tent. I’d been pretty closely watching the weather for this trip and while it was forecasted to rain on this day it wasn’t supposed to start until later. So I figured I’d be able to pack up, make breakfast and such before it really got started. Not the case it turned out. In fact the weather forecast was pretty much wrong for every day after the first (not a huge shock that). It was supposed to be sunny or partially sunny every day and then clouds move in Thursday night and rain Friday morning. Instead it was cloudy pretty much after the first night and started raining maybe 4am.
Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 4 - View from camp

View from camp

After packing up my wet gear and making breakfast in the rain I retreated to the campground bathroom to change into foul weather gear. I set off right around 9am in a steady rain with wind off the ocean blowing me home. The route was the same that I used riding in all the way to way to hwy 107. I did ride the trails that I’d seen in Aberdeen both along the dike and then behind playfields and into suburban woods to Cosmopolis. These were nice, flat, pretty new trails. It rained steadily this whole time and was pretty chilly. However in my rain coat and pants I was comfortable enough. The route back diverged on hwy 107 – I rode north-ish into Montesano just past where my previous route had joined 107 from those backroads post the gravel section. I’d reached Montesano around noon and stopped for lunch at the ever popular Subway.
Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 4 - Bicycle Path to Cosmopolis

Bicycle Path to Cosmopolis

After lunch I struck off eastward on roads that paralleled hwy 12 for a fair piece. I’ve ridden this stretch a couple of times before but it turned northeastward after a dozen miles or so and from here it was new routes until  I finally intersected hwy 101. I’d cooled down during the lunch break and it seemed that the wind had shifted and I was riding into it a bit. This caused me to become quite cold for maybe an hour or so.  It’d been pretty flat so far but as I rode beyond Elma on backroads it began to climb a bit. This helped warm me up and I was comfortable enough for the rest of the ride.  There are a lot of low density housing out here – farms but also just houses on large lots.
Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 4 - silo


The houses thinned out and there was more farms for a spell and then I was in some hillier forestland. The rain was not just a heavy mist and as I came out of the trees into the valleys these hills were hidden behind tendrils of fog. I rode up a long valley going pretty directly north and then southeastwards on the other side of the valley! I was now quite near hwy 101 and had been on some of these backroads before. A familiar Dan Henry that marks a route that wends all around Olympia and it’s surrounding enviorns appeared and I knew I was nearing home.
Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 4 - fog in the valley

Foggy valleys near Mud Bay

The frontage roads ran out and I rode a few miles on hwy 101. I’ve ridden this stretch before and with it’s big shoulders it’s no big deal. Still I was happy to exit onto Steamboat Island Road and take backways down into Mud Bay. From there its a long, long climb up to West Olympia – a route I’ve now ridden many times. Drizzle was picking up again as I rode into town a bit after 4pm. I stopped at a grocery store to get some soup and then down into Olympia and back up toward the capitol where I live. I made it home around 4:45 and unloaded under grey, drizzly skies. I was happy to take a bath and eat some hot soup!
Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 4 - Riding down to Mud Bay

Backroads to Mud Bay

So a pretty long days ride in the rain, but mostly fine and I do enjoy how fresh it is to ride in the rain and the mysterious layer that fog adds to everything. It’s pretty steadily rained since I got back so I’m glad I got in this last trip. This year I camped in April and October – the earliest and latest camping trips I’ve done.
I ended up riding 73.2 miles today.
The total distance ridden for this trip was 172.2 miles
All my photos of this trip can be found on Flickr: Autumn Bicycle Camping

Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 3

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 3 - a line in the sand

We meet only to part
coming and going like white clouds,
leaving traces so faint
hardly a soul notices.

October 11th: Ocean
While it never did clear up as expected the cloudy weather made for a much warmer and comfortable nights sleep. The night prior I slept in a stocking cap and socks, on this night none of that was necessary.  After arising I did my usual morning routine of coffee, oatmeal and reading the news on my iPad. After cleaning up the dishes as well as completing my own ablutions I was ready for the days activities. I spent this day in contemplation, both in camp and at the ocean. I rode to the nearby gas station for some lunch supplies, but this was less then 1/2  a mile away. Otherwise I was at the ocean or my campsite the rest of the day. Thus there is not much of a narrative for the day so I’m going to focus on photographs and a few words to try to capture the feeling of this day.


Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 3 - solo gull

the seagull stands still
as water swirls about its feet

Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 3 - still life

gazing at the sea
grey upon grey –
shells, rocks, seaweed

Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 3 - flight

flying above the waves –
three black birds

Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 3 - shell

all alone at the ocean
on this grey autumn day

Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 3 - feet

footprints in the sand –
boots, paws, birds
and small bare feet

Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 3 - grey upon gray

on the beach
forgetting myself


More pictures from this trip can be found in my Autumn Bicycle Camping photoset on Flickr

Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 2

Saturday, October 20th, 2012
Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 2 - Campsite
Hiker/Biker site at Twin Harbors State Park

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
“• Aldo Leopold, as seen on the sign to the beach.

October 10th: Westport and environs
The clear skies that ended my day yesterday made for a somewhat chilly night but eventually the tent warmed up and I had an all right night.  Since I rode here with my more minimalist touring setup I didn’t have a large stock of food so I decided to ride into Westport get some lunch and shop for supplies for the remainder of my stay.  I rode up the peninsula and bypassing the actual town of Westport ended up at Westport Marina at the tip of the peninsula. I rode into Westhaven State Park and on the waterfront trails and looped around the tourist shops around the marina. Eventuallly I locked up my bicycle and walked around the marina and the shops before having lunch.


Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 2 - Lighthouse
Westport Lighthouse

I always find it interesting to visit tourist towns off season. There are usually still be a few tourists (like myself) and much of the shops and such will be shut down giving the whole thing an air of sadness. The places that remain open usually are favored by the locals and you’ll find them there interacting with the proprietors in a much more relaxed way then during the high tourist season.  I had lunch at the Big Catch Cafe before returning to the waterfront trails to ride back toward Westport proper. The trails ended at Westport Light State Park which is right next to the Westport Lighthouse which seems to be operated by the Coast Guard. This lighthouse is pretty far away from the coast and is thus quite tall, in fact the tallest lighthouse in Washington State (more info here).  It was a short ride into the town where I found a grocery store and got some supplies.

Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 2 - walking through the stunted trees to the ocean
Walking to the ocean

After all of this I finally walked out to the beach. This involves walking through the campground, across highway 105S and then through a little wooded zone to the sand dunes. You have to trudge up seriously shifting sands to get to the sandy beach. Slogging through this sand it gets firmer as you approach the water. Firm enough to drive on, which alas they actually let people do. On a cloudy Wednesday in mid-October there weren’t many people out here and I only saw a few cars on the beach the entire time I was here.


Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 2 - The Pacific Ocean at last
The Pacific Ocean

I came here to spend time at the ocean; time to contemplate, to let the constant white noise of the surf wash away the monkey mind.  And this I did spending hours each day on the beach. This day I only spent time in the afternoon at the ocean due to the errands and exploration I’d done in the morning, but I had a nice time in the hours I was down there. The sky never did clear up as it had been forecasted to; it remained cloudy all day and in fact for the rest of my time there. As the light began to dim I returned to my campsite and made dinner. It was nearly dark by the time I was done and so I retreated to my tent for the night.


Autumn Bicycle Camping Day 2 - sand waves
Sand Waves

autumn Frogs –
not so much a chorus
as a lament

Rode 11.6 miles today,
98.2 miles so far in this excursion

More pictures from this trip can be found in my Autumn Bicycle Camping photoset on Flickr