May Micro-Tour day 2
There is nothing quite like waking up in your tent in the woods to the not so dulcet tones of a child bellowing through a megaphone. Fortunately it wasn’t too early and I’d slept pretty decently, but talk about a motivation to get out of bed. It was a grey morning again but would soon clear up to blue skies and warmer weather than the day before. I had another ~50 mile route to ride so I wasn’t in too much of a hurry so I made breakfast/packed up and then walked around the park a bit.
I walked to the titular Rainbow Falls, which is more an intense section of rapids than ‘falling’ water but is certainly a nice stretch of the river. I leisurely cleaned up, packed up and headed out around 11 am. The route took me on a road fronting the Chehalis for a couple of miles before it intersected with the Willapa Hills Trail and I was back to riding on crushed gravel. The trail seemed increasingly little used with grass growing through the gravel and stretch that seemed more like a foot path along the river. It was nice scenic riding with little wind and soon sunny and warm. However the trail itself was increasingly loose gravel and at times I found it more amenable to jump onto the chip seal of hwy 6. I rode on the hyw for a few miles and then came across a road grader chewing up the shoulder up ahead and right before I reached it I jumped back onto the trail.
Riding along the river
About an hour on the trail and I reached the tiny town of Pe El. Now this route I had been given from Google Maps was basically taking logging roads over the Willapa Hills down to the Columbia River. I knew I’d be in this hills come lunch time, so I left the trail and rode into town. There I found a grocery store where I picked up sandwich making supplies and various other eatables. By the time I was finished shopping I figured I’d just ride to the town park and eat lunch. This I did in a park with a WWII era tank as a memorial.
Veterans Memorial in Pe El
Riding back to the trailhead I found that road grader I’d encountered earlier tearing up the entrance to the trailhead parking lot. Strange. There is very clean, cool water at the Pe El trailhead so a refilled all my water bottles with this and returned to the trail. The trail was still gravel at this point but even less used than in the previous section (see here). I was riding a track through tall grass and seemed to be only used by local dog walkers. Now my Google Maps route had me on this for a while and then take a Weyerhauser Company road to a numbered forest road. I wandered around various unsigned roads trying to work this out and ended up on a private Weyerhauser road that I continued on for a bit until I hit a gated maintenance yard. Outside this yard was dozens of abandoned logging and earthmoving machines rusting away in the tall grass.
Graveyard of the Earthmovers
At this point I decided to give up on my pre-planned route (Google Maps: always an adventure). I knew the Willapa Hills Trail ran all the way to Raymond on the coast and I’ve ridden out that way several times. I was figuring I could stick with the trail for an easy ride to the coast and then head to one of the campgrounds out there. So back to the trail I went. Now the Willapa Hills trail runs over 50 miles all the way to the coast but from Pe El on, it is unimproved and goes from gravel, to ballast to just a dirt track along the river and through the woods. I began to cast around for way back to the road and happily there was an easy escape route to hwy 6 where the trail paralleled it for a spell.
In which the trail fades away
Now when I was on hwy 6 yesterday it was chip seal, shoulderless and rather busy. But now all of that was reversed and it was perfectly fine riding. In fact the riding at this point was quite pleasant — it was sunny and warm and the road after a bit of up and down descended into a long valley for the bulk of the days riding. However I didn’t really know how far it was to the coast and where I’d be able to go from there. After many miles of this nice valley riding along the river I hit the small town of Labam where I had a milkshake in the sole cafe/store there and was able to use the WiFi. I found that it was both a pretty fair haul to Raymond where 6 intersected with 101 and there wasn’t any ‘cutoffs’ heading NW or SW. I figured I shouldn’t linger and after finishing my milkshake I was back on the road.
The whole time I’d been riding on 6, the Willapa Hills Trail was alongside in various degrees of deterioration. Mostly ballast at this point, sometimes it looked more rideable than others. The trestles were not improved without a deck and sometimes they were wiped out by the rivers over which they crossed. I have to say though that if they could get this entire trail improved and especially if they paved the entire stretch this would be one of the epically great trails. Not just in Washington State but one of the great American trails. The wind began to pick up as I neared the coast as did the hills and the traffic. Happily after one fairly stiff climb I noticed the trail was massively improved and I jumped on it. It soon turned back to pavement (hooray) and shortly I was in Raymond.
Metal scultpures in Raymond
I had determined that it was another 40 miles or so down to Cape Disappointment which had been on my original planned tour route and at 50 miles already ridden I felt that was too much. Plus of course I’d have little other course but to ride back north along the route I’d just ridden south. So I decided I’d head north up toward Westport. I stopped at a cafe in Raymond that offered free WiFi (3G connectivity still not being available) and did some Google Mapping. I found that Greyland Beach State Park was a few miles closer than Twin Harbors State Park and as an additional plus I’ve never camped there. So I had a destination which was about 25 miles away. It was around 5pm and while the long days meant I’d arrive with plenty of daylight left it was definitely going to be a fairly late arrival.
Pastureland on the coast
As the crow flies from Raymond to Greyland is not 25 miles, but the road wound along the coast, diving into deep coves and up and down the rocky coastline. The valley interior was used for farms and pasture and eventually it was forested rocky hills that is so common on the coasts of Washington State. I was mostly riding into the fierce winds off the ocean and into the setting sun and being pretty tapped out at this point it was a tough slog. But the sights were worth it and the roads, which can be very busy, where empty at the this time of day. I was happy when I reached the western extents and turned northwards and not directly riding into the wind. It was from that point only five miles or so to the campground which I can’t deny I was relieved to reach. I rode in to the “primitive” walk-in campgrounds which oddly had it’s own parking spaces so you could park and “walk in” to them and pretty directly moved to cooking dinner and setting up. It was dark by the time I’d cleaned up from dinner and I walked the mile or so to the front gate of the campground to pay for the night. Then it was back to my campsite and into the tent for the night.
Atlantis in the setting sun
66.3 miles ridden today / 127.5 miles ridden to-date.
Today’s planned route: Rainbow Falls to Skamokawa Vista
The route I ended up taking (more or less): Rainbow Falls to Grayland Beach
Pictures from today’s ride: May Micro-Tour day 2
All the pictures from this tour: May Micro-Tour photoset