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Tour 2011 – Index

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

I still need to get the rest of my non-cameraphone pics up (should be done over the next week or so) and do a pass on the earlier posts to correct the auto-correct errors and such, but here is the final Tour 2009 index to all the posts and pictures. I’ll edit this out when all is done, for those checking back.

 

Tour 2011 – An Unexpected Tour


An Unexpected Tour
Day 1: Olympia to Potlatch State Park (narrativephotographs)
Day 2: Potlatch State Park to Fort Townsend State Park (narrativephotographs)
Day 3: Fort Townsend State Park to Anacortes (narrativephotographs)
Day 4: Anacortes to Rasar State Park (narrative, photographs)
Day 5: Rasar State Park to Newhalem Campground (narrativephotographs)
Day 6: Newhalem Campground to Colonial Creek Campground (narrativephotographs)
Day 7: Colonial Creek Campground to Early Winters Campground (narrativephotographs)
Day 8: Early Winters Campground to Carlton (narrative, photographs)
Day 9: Carlton to Lake Chelan State park (narrativephotographs)
Day 10: Lake Chelan State Park to Blu-Shastin RV Park (narrativephotographs)
Day 11:  Preshastin to Ellensburg (narrativephotographs)
Day 12:  Ellensburg to Windy Point Campground (narrative, photographs)
Day 13: Windy Point Campground to Mount Rainier National Park (narrativephotographs)
Day 14: Mount Rainier Nat’l Park: Ohanapecosh Campground 1 (narrativephotographs)
Day 15: Mount Rainier Nat’l Park: Ohanapecosh Campground 2 (narrativephotographs)
Day 16: Ohanapecosh Campground to Sunshine Point Campground (narrative, photographs)
Day 17: Sunshine Point Campground to Olympia (narrativephotographs)
Post Tour Reflections – Just how unexpected?
Post Tour Reflections – Leave your travel behind
Tour 2011 photo set on Flickr

Tour 2011 Reflections – Put your travel behind

Monday, September 12th, 2011

At various points in a day of riding songs run through ones mind.  I mostly listen to instrumental music these days so the songs that come unbidden into my mind are often from my teen or college years.  A number of songs ran through my mind on this tour – the Talking Heads Heaven was one that frequently played. But numerous songs from R.E.M.’s Fables of the Reconstruction became the real soundtrack to this tour, with Good Advices perhaps being the song that would play over the closing credits.

When you greet a stranger look at his shoes
Keep your money in your shoes put your trouble behind
When you greet a stranger look at her hands
Keep your money in your hands put your travel behind
Who are you going to call for, what do you have to say
Keep your hat on your head home is a long way away
At the end of the day, I’ll forget your name
I’d like it here if I could leave and see you from a long way away

What really appeals to me about cyclotouring is that for certain periods time I become completely in the moment.  Keeping an eye on the road ahead, the road behind, the surface of the road, one’s own self while at the same time allowing the scenery all around you to flow through you in such a way that you experience it but don’t dwell on the continuous beauty.  This is the absolute best part of touring for me. Which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy most of the other aspects: the small towns,  a cold beer after a long days ride, talking to strangers about bicycle touring, reading in the tent, mountains, streams, wildlife and all the countless other things you see. But those moments when you aren’t thinking but are perfectly aware of all around you and fully experiencing all aspects of ones surroundings are just without compare.

 

And yet on this tour, I found that state hard to achieve.  Perhaps all those issues I went over in the previous post are to blame, but it was harder than normal to be in the moment. There were plenty of times where I did slip into that state, but I felt distracted, thinking too much about what was to come.  I felt a certain impatience with aspects of the routine as well – dealing with things like food and camping and all of that was somewhat of a trial at times. This was primarily around the issues of being in camp, which in Eastern WA I was reaching early as I was riding as much as I could in the cooler morning.  Frankly at most of these campsites there just wasn’t much there.  Fishing seemed to be the primary activity going on and the campgrounds were just a place you’d sleep and cook. Being around rivers and streams was of course excellent and I enjoyed exploring them but usually that was all there was.

When you greet a stranger, look at her shoes
Keep your memories in your shoes, put your travel behind
Who are you going to call for, what do you have to say
Keep your hat on your head
Home is a long way away
At the end of the day, when there are no friends
When there are no lovers, who are you going to call for
What do you have to change

 

That being said I shouldn’t oversell these points. The route was really stunning and found me riding in places and situations I hadn’t experienced much of.  Four mountains passes (five if you count crossing Rainier which was as much climbing as all but the highest of the passes), the transition from the Puget Sound to Mountains to the high scrubland of Eastern Washington. Countless lakes, rivers, streams, creeks and waterfalls, forests, desert and all in-between.  I saw a bear, I got as close to deer as I’ve ever been, I saw elk crossing the road in the fog and an owl ghosting through the trees. I took many hikes – one of my tricks is to walk on getting to camp; it seems to prevent cramping and other leg pain that I find happens if you come to camp and just sit around. Plus I love to hike anyway and usually at campgrounds hiking around is the thing to do. The days I spent at the Mount Rainier National Forest was an excellent conclusion to a highly varied tour.

So like everything else in life the tour had it’s highs and lows. I’ve mentioned the route at several points and it really was stunning.  But I feel that I need to say a bit more about Old Blewit Pass. This was hands down my favorite bit of riding on the tour and a section that I think Adventure Cycling should make the official route.  When you get your route maps from ACA they also send you a list of errata with current updates, changes and the like. On the Blewett Pass section there was a number of addenda most of which were designed to get you off the highway. The Old Blewett Pass was described as an option to get off the highway but was poor surface and winding.  But man it was great – zero traffic, roads that the flora and fauna was encroaching upon, more shaded against the hot sun and of course endlessly scenic.

A couple of words on the Adventure Cycling Maps. I have to say that while I’ve been a member of the ACA for 8 years this was the first time I’ve used their maps.  I tend to like to use books, especially out of date books like I mentioned in the previous post, or make my own routes from Google Maps and randonneuring routes. I’ve always felt that with the ACA routes you are sort of riding someone else’s tour.  But having actually got their maps I have to say they are pretty great.  The maps are divided into sections that are usually 30 to 40 miles each and simply list all the services on or near the route.  So you can ride as much or as little as you want each day, picking where you want to stay. They try to stay off the main roads and will always route you onto side roads even if they are hillier or less direct (which they invariably are).

All this being said, I still think making ones own routes, if one can, is the way to go.  With only a couple of exceptions the only time I really saw other tourons was when I was on their more major routes.  I overlapped with the Northern Tier for a couple of days and it was there I saw the most other tourons, including the only pair that I’d classify among the tour rats I saw in California on my 2009 tour. On two instances in this tour I shared campsites with other tourons, on the first day and in the Mount Rainier National Park.  Both of these experiences were good and I enjoyed talking with my fellow tourons.  But in the main I avoid other cyclotourists like the plague. Not unfriendly like but I just feel like one always falls into the same routines if you spend your time with other tourons. For the same reason I always avoid expat bars or backpacker destinations when I travel internationally – expats and backpackers all talk about the same thing, travel, and always seem removed from their immediate environs. Again I enjoyed my time I spent with the other tourons, Tim especially had some amazing stories to tell.  But of course touring is all we really talked about.

 

There really was no major issues beyond that initial brake failure, not even a flat tire (second tour in a row with no flats) – cheers to my Marathon Plus tires. I really do have a touring setup that works well for me and I have to say that the one new addition, the Trangia cook set was fantastic. It was far more efficient than my previous cooking setup (which had served me super well and is a lighter and smaller way to go) and thus my use of fuel was a lot better. In previous tours I would often have periods without fuel where on this one I kept myself stocked better and used less overall. I also did a bit more ambitious cooking, though not quite as ambitious as I’d initially thought I’d do. The one downside to my touring setup is that I don’t have much space for food.  So its hard to grab food for the night, especially when the nearest store was many miles before the campsite.  I’ve been working out a system where I’d have basically a foldable bit of netting on my rack below my rear saddlebag, where you could stick groceries that you’d use that night. That would solve pretty much the one constraint of my current current setup.  Spending more time in camp cooking would I think also be a good evening activity as well.

 

All tours are a learning experience and this one was no exception.  There are several things I’d do differently from this one I think.  First of all this is going to be the last tour that I blog as I go.  I felt I was a total slave to my iPhone, constantly trying to keep it charged, spending time sitting around while it did so, always trying to find WiFi and better signals.  I keep a pen and paper journal as I go as well though my journaling is always a mix of the blog, the physical journal and notes on the iPhone, but for my next tour its going to be the paper journal only.  In fact I think having the internet readily available on the phone is also somewhat of a downside, not allowing one to fully sink into where one is.  In a way that has been useful – it has kept me from feeling totally isolated, but I think now that it isn’t worth it. I was out of service areas quite a bit on this tour (AT&T seems to suck outside of cities) and I usually found that completely fine.  I’ll probably take a cheap cell phone with me for emergencies but I’m of the mind that the technology is too distancing. Plus journalling on the iPhone kills ones fingers and other solutions just seem to be upping the technologies with all the worries that causes.  Tim, the Portland touron who camped with me in Rainier told me that he has come to even forgo bringing a camera (which I also recently heard the great travel writer Paul Theroux say he has also done) which perhaps I’m not quite ready for, but I can understand the reasoning. Perhaps taking a film camera and limited amounts of film is an option worth considering.

As I said in the beginning of the last post, this tour is still something I’m chewing over.  I sort of think that taking it during this time of transition was perhaps not the best idea.  I was already thinking a lot about my new life in the city and sort of wanted to get on with it. It certainly was a good use of the time I had but mentally perhaps not the best. I mean I wasn’t cut completely free which I think would be the ideal touring circumstance and yet I also didn’t have a home to return to which frees a lot from ones mind.  Too much to think about outside of my current activities. This is sort of hard to explain so I hope this makes some sort of sense. But really this discontent was almost always just for a small period of each day, usually in camp.  Most of the day, whenever I was riding or exploring the areas I was riding through it was a wonderful rewarding experience.  So I’m glad I did it and will certainly be back touring again.

A familiar face a foreign place I forget your name
I’d like it here if I could leave and see you from a long way away
Who are you going to call for, what do you have to say
Keep your hat on your head
Home is a long way away

Tour 2011 Reflections – Just how unexpected?

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

It’s been a couple of weeks since I returned from tour but frankly I don’t really feel like I have much of a grasp on this experience. I billed this as an “unexpected tour” and I have to say that’s not entirely accurate.  I don’t want to get too much into the whole exiting of employment but basically there was a certain amount of time where I kind of knew it was a possibility.  I was actively involved in moving and due to this uncertainty had not secured a new place.  My plan at this point was to put everything in storage and set off on tour, perhaps even a more epic long term tour.  There was a problem though, my parents were coming up for a visit that had been planned before all of this. So I arranged to stay with my friend in Olympia for a few days and then with my parents while they were here. At the same time I was trying to work out a future living situation. A lot basically was going on.

So I did end up being laid off and I had a bunch of stuff to deal with from the lay-off (severance, insurance, retirement – all that sort of stuff) which made setting off on an epic tour difficult, especially at such short notice.  So I managed to find a place to live in Seattle but couldn’t move in until September 1st, which means I now had nearly three weeks to kill before this new phase in my life.  So a tour was definitely in order.  I planned this one in about three days, deciding on my final route only the day before I left (I originally was thinking of riding to Mount Rainier and then down to Crater Lake, which I’d still like to do).

Strangely enough the first seed of bicycle touring was planted in my mind from reading a book on through-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  I was in my early teens (maybe 13/14) and was with my parents visiting some friends of theirs for a weekend up in Canada. I didn’t really know these friends, they were older and I was pretty much on my own.  I ended up reading most of this book, which was a sort of day by day description of the entire hike. This sounded like something I really wanted to do (and frankly I still do) and as a pretty avid cyclist at the time I wondered if you could do something like this on a bicycle. Flash forward twenty years later, several tours later still thinking about the PCT and I discover this book:

The Pacific Crest Bicycle Trail

Which I immediately buy a used copy of.  This book from 1990 is of course woefully out of date, but this actually is of great appeal to me.  Using old books is an interesting experience in that landmarks disappear, once major attractions become hidden curios, routes change or sometimes are completely gone.  I began thinking about doing this as a forthcoming tour and almost did it last year instead of the tour I did do up into Canada. But I wanted to do it right and it needed more time than I had that year.  A bit later I find out that the Adventure Cycling Association (of whom I’ve been a member for 8 years) had used this same book as the basis for a new route: The Sierra Cascades Route.

Now having time, though with the constraint of needing to be back before the end of the month, and a desire to return to Mount Rainier which I haven’t been to since I was 12 I decide to do a chunk of this route. As I said above I was originally thinking of riding to Rainier, spending a couple of days there and then riding the route to Crater Lake.  I wasn’t sure how much time that’d take so I ordered the first two sections of the Sierra-Cascades route maps which run from the Canadian Border to Mount Rainier and Mount Rainier to Crater Lake.  I began to have second thoughts though; Eastern Oregon can be quite hot in August and I like to ride loops when I can – getting back from Crater Lake would either take too much time or involve the train.  Being newly unemployed I was trying to keep expenses down and a pure riding tour would help with that.  So at nearly the last moment I change my mind and decide to ride the route from Sedro Wooley to Mount Rainier.

This would necessitate getting to an intersection with the route in the small town of Sedro Wooley which had two advantages as I saw it. First off I would complete a section that I ended up not doing on my Olympic Peninsula tour due to miscalculating the amount of days that trip would take. The other is that after that bit I’d be in Port Townsend/Whidby Island/Fidalgo Island/Mount Vernon which is the part of Washington State I grew up in, know very well and absolutely love. I’ve ridden in these parts on most of my tours and never get tired of it. These areas also have bicycle shops, stores and other things that at about day 2-4 in a tour you often find you need. I find it is a good thing to not be in the wilderness on day 2.  So the route settled, I worked out the sections I had no maps for and packed up.  I had put all my touring gear in my car when I had put my stuff in storage and was good to go.

 

I haven’t really changed my touring gear in years now and for this tour I only changed one, the Trangia Cookset. The bicycle on the other hand I recently changed the following: the brakes, the brake levers, the shifters and after all of that had rewrapped and shellacked my handlebars. As I outlined in my day 1 report this did lead to my one bit of mechanical failure but it was luckily discovered and fixed on day 1. It is however a testament I think to my touring setup and experience that I can just set off on a tour with nearly no planning.  No planning, not all that much riding this year with few longer rides, no home to return to, no job, no certainty.  This was the essence of this tour and would color all aspects of it.

Tour 2011 – day 17

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Tour2011 - day 17 - 10

Monday 08.29.11:  Sunshine Point Campground (closed) to Olympia

I slept very poorly this night; I have to admit that stealth camping is perhaps not in my constitution. I got up basically at first light when there was still a few stars visible and Venus shiny brightly well into the early dawn. I quickly put everything away and then made breakfast savoring the last of my coffee. I hit the road and was immediately too cold.  It was early (my earliest start ever) and I knew it was chill so I’d put on my leg warmers but not socks and was just wearing a long sleeved seer-sucker shirt.  It was like an autumn morning here in the national park at 2000 feet and I was underdressed for it.  There was fog across the road and streaming down the foothills and little traffic most of which was heading to The Mountain. I was passed by one car which then stopped a couple of hundred feet later as a herd of elk crossed right in front of it. A large buck  with impressive horns waited at the back of the herd until all the does had crossed.

Tour2011 - day 17 - 07

I stopped at the first sign of civilization I’d seen, the little town of Ashford which is a base camp for mountain climbers. I drank coffee, put on warmer clothes and let my cell phone charge up. All around me was climbers discussing past and forthcoming ascents of The Mountain.  The road had been gently downhill all the way so far and this would continue until I hit Alder Lake where it became rollers. Alder Lake was a brilliant turquoise from glacier melt and with the fog rolling down the hills into it, incredibly beautiful. The road from the lake climbed out of the valley for a pace and then became rollers and then a long descent into Eatonville where I stopped to again warm up. It was still chill and there’d been a thick mist, almost like a light drizzle all along this road. Plus a second breakfast was in order.


Tour2011 - day 17 - 11

From Eatonville to Yelm the riding wasn’t much fun. On country roads through farmland and forest, but a lot of traffic and not much shoulder.  Not to mention a headwind most of the time. But at last I made it to Yelm and from there all the way to Olympia it was riding on rail trails. I tend to prefer a nice road to a rail trail, but I was tired and the roads here hadn’t been nice so this stretch was fine. It began on the Yelm-Tenino Trail in which I traveled directly into the wind for 7 miles. At an intersection I then jumped onto the Chehalis Western Trail which headed in to Lacey. This was now mostly out of the wind and following the currently active BNSF tracks mostly through woods. Absolutely nothing out here for about 14 miles but farms, pasture and eventually suburbia.


Tour2011 - day 17 - 12

It ended on the outskirts of Lacey and I rode city streets to an intersection with the last of the trails, the Woodland Trail (I should note that the Western Chelhalis Trail actually continues on and intersects itself with the Woodland Trail but the continuation after a street crossing was hard to find and I missed it).  I’d ridden (and written about) this trail earlier in the month, but it is a nice ride though a wooded patch next to the I-5.  It ends just a few blocks from where I was staying in Olympia so it was a simple route through nice neighborhood streets until I was finished.


Tour2011 - day 17 - 18

I must turn and go back:
Caught on a snowpeak
Between heaven and earth
And stand in lines in Seattle
Looking for work
- Gary Synder,
The Late Snow & Lumber Strike of The Summer of Fifty-Four (excerpt)

 

Miles ridden today:  74.1
Miles ridden total : 791.3
Check out my pictures from this day of the tour
Check out all my pictures from the tour

 

Tour 2011 – Day 16

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Tour2011 - day 16 - 21

Sunday 08.28.11:  Mount Rainier National Park – Ohanapecosh Campground to Sunshine Point Campground

The ride up to Paradise is basically equivalent to another mountain pass – 4500, about 2500 feet of climbing from Ohanapecosh.  As usually I wanted to hit the road early, especially as the park is crowded and the road up is a narrow two lane road without much of a shoulder. Alas it was not to be, various tasks, including needing to charge my phone a bit led to me leaving about at the normal time.
Tour2011 - day 16 - 09

The road was uphill immediately from the campground and barring a few flatter sections here and there would remain so for the next 9 miles. These first 9 miles were quite nice – it was cool, in the trees and not too much traffic. The views were beautiful, trees receding into mist, long forested valleys, foothills some with rocky summits and the occasional waterfall. At the 9 mile point though, I rounded a corner and there it was The Mountain.
Tour2011 - day 16 - 04

The Mountain
White, grey, starkly outlined against
the painfully blue summer sky

I hadn’t seen Rainier since that section of the ride to Ellensberg even though its presence looms over the entire National Park.  It would be the most prominent feature of this ride, coming in and out of view all day and absolutely dominating at the summit. Just around the corner the mountain was fully in view and there was a large pullout. I stopped there for a break and to enjoy the view.  Back on the road it descended for nearly 2 miles and then after a short tunnel began climb began in earnest.
Tour2011 - day 16 - 06

The road was now on the edge of the foothills with no shade and the late summer sun out in full force. The traffic was now steady with people leaving the campground, or heading up to Paradise. As I’d round the switchbacks The Mountain, ever larger, would hove into view. The other side was these three rock peaks with patches of snow on them. I could see the road winding above – mile long switchbacks crawling up the mountain. At 5 miles an hour you really get to linger on such sights.
Tour2011 - day 16 - 11

I was passed by a trio of roadies at one point, their unloaded bicycles allowing for a much more rapid ascent. The photo ops became so numerous it was only the attacks of the evil biting flies that’d keep my stops short. I was riding toward The Mountain now and it was truly awe-inspiring. The most beautiful perhaps being at the top of this “pass” Reflection Lake (4800′) which as the name implies is a small clear lake right in front of The Mountain.
Tour2011 - day 16 - 20

A faint wisp of cloud
twists away into nothingness
above The Mountain

From Reflection Lake it was flat and then downhill for a bit, with again just overwhelming views of Mount Rainier.  Then I reached an intersection of which going left would take me out of the park and right up to Paradise.  Paradise is the most popular place to go on the mountain and features a lodge, restaurants, the base for many of the mountain climbing attempts a bunch of trails, an alpine meadow and so on.  I was really hankering for a real lunch and a beer so on up I went.  This was less fun as the traffic was constant and it was of course a winding road uphill for several more miles.  At last I made it though and bypassing the full parking lots rode right up to the lodge.
Tour2011 - day 16 - 23
Paradise 5420′

The lodge was only doing Sunday Brunch and while I’d say one should be wary of offering all you can eat food to touring cyclists I have to say living off of food I can cook in one pot kept my trips to just a few.  One thing that is really hard to carry when touring is fruit and vegetables so I always try to eat those when I go out and was the best part of the buffet. Well and the beer. Sateted I set out to explore Paradise but it was so crowded I really just did a cursory survey and headed out.

A few patches of dirty snow
even in this summer sun
High in the mountain pass

The descent was good times: over twenty miles downhill. There was traffic but the road wound enough that I was able to keep up and use the pull outs to let them pass on straighter or flatter bits.  The trees came back and I was following the wide, shallow, rocky Nisqually river much of the time. At last it flattened out and I was fully in the woods. And then I rode through the entrance and was out of the park.  Out of the park? I was supposed to camp at Sunshine Point Campground right near the entrance but still inside the park.  I rode back in and slowly up the road seeing nothing. There was a stream crossing a mile in and I knew that was past it, so what gives? I very slowly rode back and about half way to the entrance I saw in the woods picnic tables. I pull off stashed my bicycle and walked to it. I had found the campground.

 

The November 2006 flood destroyed most of Sunshine Point campground. The future status of the Sunshine Point area is to be determined.  Located in the SW corner of the park, 0.25 mile E of the Nisqually Entrance. Elevation 2000′. – from the USFS Website

The flooded Nisqually had eaten nearly half of the campground with the road to its former entrance a jagged drop off. Perfect place to Stealth camp I decided.
Tour2011 - day 16 - 24

I found a site as far away from the rode and stashed my bicycle. I’m sure its some sort of federal crime to stealth camp in the park so I was pretty paranoid. I wandered around and read and basically killed time until dusk when I setup the tent and hung my food in the trees. Not being too much to do there I pretty much read and then hit the sack when it got dark.

Miles ridden today: 45.8
Miles ridden to date: 717.2

Check out my pictures from this day of the tour
Check out all my pictures from the tour

Tour 2011 – day 15

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Tour2011 - day 15 - 23

Friday 08.27.11: Mount Rainier National Park

This day was technically a rest day, really the only day on this tour I spent without at least a little bicycling. I spent it hiking instead which actually tired me out just as much I think. It was a beautiful day, warm but comfortable enough inside the forests.  As per tradition I won’t go into too much detail (plus hikes are sort of hard to describe anyway) but will put up a few more extra pictures.

Tour2011 - day 15 - 05

 

I basically did three hikes: the Silver Falls loop which I have to take to get to any of the other trails, the Grove of the Patriarchs which is a popular short hike with a parking lot and everything (including the water source I previously had to use) and then a section of the Cowlitz Divide trail.
Tour2011 - day 15 - 08

Tour2011 - day 15 - 09

The Grove, being an easy and popular destination was not really my kind of hiking: too crowded, too worn down and sort of park-lite.  There was impressive trees here and it was quick enough so worth it, but not my favorite bit of the park.I checked out a couple trails that I could easily get too and most of them were too long. At least for their destination, obviously I could just hike up a ways on any trail. But it’s nice to have a destination so I ended up hiking a section of the Cowlitz Divide trail.

Tour2011 - day 15 - 19

This trail had several destinations all about 2.5 miles apart.  It turned out to be uphill the entire time I was on it.

Tour2011 - day 15 - 18

I saw no people for most of the time I was on my way up until I finally ran into a couple of guys and their kids who were heading up to the Ollalie Creek Campsite for an overnighter.  This turned out to be as far as I’d go, as I was feeling pretty beat by the time I reached the creek.

Tour2011 - day 15 - 24

It was nice and cool at the creek, so I rested there, ate my lunch then headed back down. On my way down I ran into a lot more people most of whom asked me how far it was to the creek. A rather shocking number of these people were carrying nothing, not even water.

Tour2011 - day 15 - 25

After these hikes, which totaled up to 10-11 miles I was really wiped out and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening resting and wandering around closer to the campground.  A good day though with some really nice and varied hikes.

Tour2011 - day 15 - 14

Check out my pictures from this day of the tour
Check out all my pictures from the tour

 

 

Tour 2011 – Day 14

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

20110826-013232.jpg

Thursday 08.26.11: Mount Rainier National Park

Tour2011 - day 14 - 01

There was indeed no internet or even phone access until I was half back to Olympia on the final day of the tour. I spent day 14 and 15 in Mount Rainier hiking around and taking a bit of time away from the bicycle.  However on day 14 I had to ride down to Packwood to get supplies. This small town was 12 miles downhill from the campground so I did end up with a moderate amount of riding on that day anyway.  I shopped, used WiFi (still no phone access in Packwood), went out to lunch and explored the town a bit.
Tour2011 - day 14 - 02

The big question at this point was could I stay in the campground with its broken water main.  Before I’d left I’d just paid for another day and put the ticket on my campsite as you normally do. When I returned would they harass me about this? I suspected not, that once I was in they wouldn’t really care. The ride back was in the heat of the day and almost all uphill, but there was a pretty stiff tailwind and of course my bicycle was mostly unloaded so it wasn’t so back.  As I pulled into the campsite they were indeed stopping people as they went in but I just rode on in ignoring them.  When I got to my campsite they had marked my new ticket with my departure date which is the sign that they’d checked out you and registered you so to speak. So I was all good.  About a half an hour later I noticed that people were coming in, in droves and it was clear that the campground was open again. Nice, no more hiking for water.
Tour2011 - day 14 - 03

So instead I went hiking for pleasure. But before I set out for that, while I was at the local river stashing a beer another touron pulled up. He asked if I was a touring cyclist and when I assented he asked if we could split the site. I agreed and he moved on in. He turned out to be from Portland and on a week long tour around Rainier and the local passes before riding back there. He had however down major tours including a three year long tour of Europe, North Africa, Tibet and so on.  Good guy. After he set up we both set off hiking on opposite sides of the Silver Falls loop.

Tour2011 - day 14 - 04

I’d done half of the Silver Falls loop the day before on my way for water so this time I took the opposite path and this time really enjoying the hike as opposed to portering water.  Really nice walk through the woods, up a bit of hill. Of course it ended at Silver Falls and I ended up just taking the rest of the loop. At the end toward the campground there is a hot springs and nature trail so I also explored those a bit. Not too epic hiking but along with the trip to Packwood, it’d been a nice day of activity. The next day would be all hiking and no bicycling.

Tour2011 - day 14 - 07

Mile ridden today: 26.6
Miles ridden to date: 671.3
Check out all my pictures from the tour

Tour 2011 – Day 13

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

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Thursday 08.25.11: Windy Point Campground to Mount Rainier National Park

I again set off early in an attempt to beat the heat across the pass. Also there was the wildcard of the roadwork to contend with. It was overcast and cool and a headwind greeted me as I hit the road. The riding was fairly easy apart From the headwind with only a gentle incline for the most part. I passed several more basically empty campgrounds, so it looks like i would have had options if Windy Point had been full.

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Everything flattened out at Rimrock Lake and there was also several stores that I utilized to stock up for the climb and potential delays. I also replaced the horribly rusty water from the campground with store bought (which is an expense I usually try to avoid.

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It was a good long flat section along the lake and as the clouds broke up stunning reflections were revealed in it. Eventually the road turned upwards and the level of hysteria w/r/t the roadwork reached a fever pitch. After climb for s couple of miles I reached a a short back up if cars and the flagger just as the pilot car arrived. They insisted I load my bicycle into their pickup and ride with them through the construction. I demurred but they said it went safe so I went along. Only about 1.5 miles and then I was back climbing again for another 5 or so.

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Post the roadwork the pavement was in great shape and there was little traffic (there had been trucks for the construction about every 5 minutes going up). I took it easy stopping to view waterfalls and lakes as I went. The road was always uphill but never much of a grade. And then I reached the summit. Really the easiest of the passes even without the short ride in the pilot car.

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White Pass 4500′

The Pacific Crest Trail crossed the pass as well and there was a store up there where thru-hikers could get packages sent. I ate my lunch outside the store and talked to a south to north hiker for a bit. His package was filled with Baby Ruths and sports pages. He was in the last section of his three month hike, quite impressive and puts it all into perspective.

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It was all downhill from here and St first it was a blast, but then I hit grooved pavement as they prepped the road for paving. Thus slowed me down but was still easy enough. Then another lime if cars and a flagger. Again I had to ride in the pilot car this time about 6 miles. This was downhill but grooved rhe rule way do not much if a loss. The lady driving really whipped through it leaving the RVs and trucks following far behind. It was about quitting time and it showed.

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Back on the bicycle it was a short downhill ride to the turnoff to Mount Rainier National Park. It was early enough that I decided to go for it (there is another NP just down the road I was heading got if the park was full). It was uphill in the sun for 4 miles into the park but at last I was there.

At the entrance to the Campground a ranger there informed me it was closed due to a water main failure. I talked to him a bit and eventually talked him into letting me stay (they were letting people with reservations in do it was far from empty). Water would be a problem though but he told me there was a drinking fountain a mile away. So again things worked out. But I really needed to stay here for a few days as camping within riding range will be tough over the weekend. Will it all work out? Stay tuned!

Miles ridden today: 37.8
Miles ridden to-date: 645.6

Some pictures from the tour

Tour 2011 – Day 12

Friday, August 26th, 2011

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Wednesday 08.24.112: Ellensburg to Windy Point Campground

I made full use of the hotel, it’s laundry, it’s free breakfast, WiFi and power. Hence I ended up on the road later than I have of late. This was unfortunate as it was a scorcher, the hottest day yet.

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The first part of the ride was the best, through the Yakima River Canyon. Steep walls, carved out by the river with striations of color and odd textures. Some parts of the canyon walls looked eaten out like soapstone on a massive scale. The Yakima was there the whole time and fairly active.

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Along with the symphony of the senses I described the other day, there are also many great smells from time to time: mesquite, sage and I’d swear rosemary. Every do often it’d roll over you as if you riding through an herb garden.

The route wasn’t flat and there were a couple of good climbs in the middle and a long one at the end. The route skirted Yakima so I left the route for a short time a Selah to get lunch. It was really got now and the route climb a bunch to get out of the valley and into the next one.

To the vulture overhead -
I may be slow but I’m not dead

This was perhaps the most barren section of the tour yet. There was pastureland for a bit but just past it’s artificial greenery was just dead looking scrub. The route turned away and then there was no green just tan everywhere. It was deadly hot now, the hottest yet. Then the route climb and climbed until I was in the hills above Nachas.

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There was a crazy descent down switchbacks and I was in this little town. I hit the store and pressed on. I was taking another gamble here – I’d ridden about 50 miles at this point and was nearly done in with the heat. Yet the closest sure campground was back up that crazy descent. Plus it was miles of route from there. I climb White Pass tomorrow and wanted to be part way up (as has been my strategy on all the passes) and there are several campgrounds but the guide claims they are all reservation only. But looking at the NSF website there seems to be walk on sites. So I go for it. I figure I’ll camp next to the river if they are full.

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At the beginning of the river Valley up White Pass I was stopped by flagged who told me that roadwork was causing delays about 25 miles ahead. I knew that I would hit that today so pressed on. Something to look forward to for tomorrow. Thin clouds had rolled in and it was cooler when they’d block the sun but ad I went up the valley trees and the wakes would provide real relief. There was fishing spots all over which I figured at camp at if things didn’t work out. However they did and Windy Point Campground only had three sites filled (though a lot were reserved for Labor Day Weekend). So again it worked out, hopefully that’ll be the case at Rainier as well.

Miles ridden to day: 62
Miles ridden to date: 607.8

Some pictures from the tour

Tour 2011 – Day 11

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

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Tuesday 08.23.112: Preshastin to Ellensburg

Today I climbed the second pass of the tour and in light of this I again rose early to try to beat the heat. It was looking to be yet another hot day with blue skies with only traces of cloud.

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97 was pretty easy going for the first 7 miles or so though iit was primarily uphill all that time. At that point I took Old Blewit Road which is winding, empty and in the trees most of the way. The roadway was deteriorated in parts, strewn with rocks and overgrown as well. But the trees blocked the sun most of the time and I never saw a car – it was like a bicycle trail over a pass. I did see prospector camps and a genuine old grizzled prospector who asked me if I was having fun yet.

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Here high in the mountains,
the leaves have begun to turn;
down below summer holds fast.

Of course it still climbed a lot, continuously for 4 miles or so, but all in all I was happy to reach the pass at 4064 feet. From there it was an equally winding beaten down road for a 4 mile descent. This demanding a certain amount of caution but once it rejoined the 97 I was able to really let her fly.

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After miles of descending there was an additional 2 mile climb at the top of which was a windmill farm. It was breezy now and hot as well. But after that climb it was downhill into the college town of Ellensburg.

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The camping options were poor in the area and weary from the climb and heat I went for a motel for this night. This I had plenty of time to wander around the city. Eventfully I made my way to the Iron Horse Brewery and sampled their wares.

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Miles ridden today: 44.7
Miles ridden to date: 545.7

Some pictures from the tour