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.
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.
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.
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.
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)