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.
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.
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.
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.
Entering the Willapia Hills Trail
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.
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.
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.
The planned route: Olympia WA to Rainbow Falls State Park
More photos on Flickr: Day 1 Photos, complete May Micro-Tour photo set.