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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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