Eastern Washington

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Friday, October 17th, 2014


On tour this summer, just outside of Yakama on a hot mid-July Day I started hearing a rhythmic thunking as I rode on an overpass. I pulled over and slowly pushed the bicycle forward looking for things dangling, or rubbing or something. And look what I found. This is why I use Marathon Plus tires and don’t even bother messing with other tires on my Atlantis. I rode over 2000 miles, fully loaded, in the Cascade and Sierra Mountains after this incident. The tire, while plenty worn now, is still in service.

Tour without a goal – 18 July 2014

Saturday, July 19th, 2014


Things spread out
rolling and unrolling, packing and unpacking,
— this painful impermanent world
– Gary Snyder

buy the ticket, take the ride
It was still windy when I woke up, still blowing south. This added some difficulty to what otherwise would be a (relatively) easy pass to cross. White Pass ascends in a couple of stages, first up to Rimrock Lake and then over the pass. The trek is made somewhat easier in that there are campgrounds, resorts and stores all the way to the end of Rimrock Lake. Thus one does not have to horde water all the way up, being able to refill at the Indian Creek Campground 9 miles from the pass.

washing my head in the frigid mountain stream
— wake up!

But then there is the wind. And the roads are bad all the way to Rimrock with no shoulders, crumbly surfaces at times and plenty of traffic, including truck traffic. The route follows the river and then the mountain sides to it really wends this way and that. So as you’d bend south you’d get a blast of the wind, which at times was intense. Riding along Rimrock Lake was the worst as that was were a lot of the recreation traffic was going, there were shear walls past the limited shoulder and was into the wind most of the time.


The scenery was fantastic though. The dry forest with its ponderosa pines and scrabbly underbrush giving away to lush Western Washington forest. At the start of he climb there are rattlesnakes, cacti and sage. Once over the pass you find ferns, mosses and a green riot of trees. Up in the passes there are mountain goats though I didn’t see one. Near the top of the pass there is a spetsular waterfall, the Clear Creek Waterfall that cascades into this big, lush, wilderness valley that runs to the east of the pass. And then it’s just a pretty easy mile or so and you are at the pass.

out of the dust
tiny lavender flowers
like an open hand

The descent was also hampered by the wind but I still kept up a good pace. The views, though scene more with stolen glances now revealed snow capped peaks curving like a crown around a valley. A few miles down and around a bend Mount Rainier hew into sight and it literally gave me chills. Wreathed in mists, still snowy but lean and dominating the landscape with thin clouds streaked around its crown.


The fast descent soon took me to the turnoff to Mt. Rainier National Park and I had a choice to make – gamble that I could find a spot here on a Fridy in July or try the campground just down the road. I hadn’t had cell phone services since Naches so I could call in. Well it was only three miles and I hadn’t gone too far (all things considered so I went for it). A bit over three miles in, mostly uphill natch, a sign told the tale: FULL. So I turned back and went to La Wis Wis which was just a half mile from the turnoff. It too was nearly full but I found a site reserved for tomorrow and was able to secure it for tonight. A USFS ‘ground it’s pretty big but the sites are mostly small, well separated and in the woods. So it doesn’t feel, super occupied and since it’s a place that caters to other activities – hiking, going to Rainier etc. it doesn’t seem to be a “party ground”.

decaying fallen trees clog
the clear mountain stream

Tour without a goal – 17 July 2014

Friday, July 18th, 2014


Even these long days
are not nearly long enough
for the skylarks to sing

with and against
As has so often been the case this tour the morning was dramatically different than the afternoon. I did some errands in Ellensberg so got out later than I’d wanted but the wind from yesterday was still present and still with me. The bulk of the mornings ride was in the Yakima Canyon which is just superb riding. Tall, barren rocky cliffs tower above and to ones side is the Yakima River and the riot of green that surrounds it. In between is the shades of tan one has become accustomed to but away from the river the landscape approached a moonscape. As I rode up out of the Canyon I found myself above Yakima and to the northwest I caught my first glimpse of Mount Rainer since leaving the Olympia area. I also ran over a nail, a rusty spike rather, that went through the tread of my tire and out the side. But it did not puncture the tube. This is why I tour with Schalwbe Marathon Plus tires.

the high drone of the crickets,
the lonely wail of the wind in the wires

The route turns north at Seleh and now the wind that had been pushing me along was against me. It picks up in the afternoons and by the evening there were crazy strong gusts. It’s the kind of wind that heralds a storm, but a storm never came. This part of the days ride was the opposite of enjoyable – hot, headwind, rolling hills. Due to there being a S. Wenas and a N. Wenas road and that you ride on both I ended up on North when I should have been on South. While not tragic it was another mile or two of “bonus” riding into the headwind. Once back on track I turned west and now had a crosswind for what is a pretty long, steep climb over the canyon walls above Naches. With the crosswind the descent was also somewhat tricky.

the evening wears on
– the summer sun still so high in the sky

Riding backroads around Naches through apple and pear orchards the occasional blast from a sprinkler was welcome in the hot evening sun. But then I was on hwy 12 riding west toward White Pass. The black rocks of the mountains towered above me and green began to reappear. Today has been the longest ride in a while and I was quite happy to reach Windy Point Campground which was appropriately named on this evening. It turned out the water pump here was busted so I had to filter water from the stream. But it is a more more empty campground which I can’t deny I enjoy.

the wind and the river-
rushing in different directions

Tour without a goal – 16 July 2014

Thursday, July 17th, 2014


O summer snail,
you climb but slowly, slowly
to the top of Fuji

crossing the dry mountains
It had actually gotten almost cold overnight which really was a relief. But I knew that today was suppose to be the peak of the heat and I had a pass to cross. I didn’t linger but ended up leaving a bit later than I’d hoped and the sun was already heating things up. The route begins on hwy 97 and was already in the midst of its long gentle climb. The Peshastin River burbled along side and mountains towered above. After about 6 miles I left 97 and took to Old Blewett Road. This was the old crossing and is now a forest road that is not maintained. Narrow, winding, cracked, pot holed, rock strewn at times but nearly car free. Also it hugs the sides of the mountains so there is a lot more shade. It’s almost like being on a bicycle path over the pass.


For the most part I simply inched my way up the pass taking occasional break for food or photos. Not too far from the summit I acquired the worst chain suck I’ve ever had – the chain had gotten jammed behind the kickstand mount and nothing I could do would dislodge it. So I laid the bicycle down and piped the quick link on the chain and thread it through. The end result was my hands were filthy. Happily Dr. Bronners and a mountain brook helped with that. Shortly after this even I reached the summit and made the long winding descent back to 97. The road was in similar condition as the ascent so there was no bombing down.


Hot now there was also an increasingly strong wind as I rode down. At times the gusts almost counted the effects of riding downhill. Happily though the route is downhill almost all the way. Except for a massive hill as the route turns south. But now the wind was with me and while not quite pushed up the hill it really helped. At the top of the hill and in the surrounding valley was a wind farm – I could see why! The route was downhill the rest of the way to Ellensberg and with the tailwind I literally blew into town.

slowly climbing under the hot sun –
summer winds shaking the trees

Ellensberg presents it’s own delima though – the only nearby camping is a KOA and it’s miles off route. And a KOA. Otherwise a bit further down the route there are these DNR fishing camps that aren’t much more than a wide spot on the river with no amenities at all – tough in 100 degrees. So on spotting a Motel 6 I stayed there. It will I think be good to have a nice cool evening and to take full advantage of the break from camping.

dusty green trees
poking out like whiskers
on the arid mountains

A selection of photos from this day can be found over on Flickr.

Tour without a goal – 15 july 2014

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014


The distant mountains
are reflected in the eye
of the dragonfly

It had been nice and cool overnight on the lake which was quite a relief I must say. Trying to get the bulk of the ride in before the heat of the day I did not linger in camp. You have to climb out of the Chelan Lake valley and it’s a stiff exposed set of switchbacks for over a mile. But then it’s a lovely descent down a shady canyon all the way down to the Columbia River. Heating up but the rover I ink helped it was a nice ride amongst the high, hills, all exposed rock, scrub and mesquite.

like twisted wire, grey remnants of shrubs
poke out of the fire blackened ground

In fairly short order I arrived at Entiat where I had intended to stay last night. Well it turns out the park there was closed for what looks like a complete renovation, so I really dodged a bullet there. Then I reached the edge of the ongoing Mill Canyon fire. All the way down to the road the brown lands are scorched black with piles of ash, and blacked dots where little plants had been. Fire crews would be seen heading up valley roads at least one of which was closed off.

when you reach Deadmans Hill
you don’t expect things to go well

It was 99 degrees (F) when I reached Winatchee and left the Columbia River behind. It wasn’t much past noon and the temps would continue to climb. The route tries to keep,you off the now busy hwy 2/97 but hy doing so takes one up and down the canyon walls. The steepest bit of climbing so far was on Deadmans Hill. In the heat this pretty much sapped my remaining strength. Happily it wasn’t too many more miles to camp, though it was in the beginning stages of he climb up Blewett Pass.

hazy from wild fires
the sky glows pink, as the sun
sinks behind the hills

The last campground before the summit of the pass is Blu-Shastin RV Park and Campground which I’ve stayed at before. I was able to camp right on the Peshastin River and once the sun descended behind he hills it cooled down nicely.

sitting on a rock
listening to the river

Check out a few photos from this day over on Flickr.

Tour without a goal – 14 July 2014

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014


like misty moonlight,
watery, bewildering —
our temporal way

It didn’t cool down much last night which certainly led to a fitful night sleep. I knew it’d be another hot day so I made an attempt to leave earlier than I have been. But just a couple miles back on the road, after a brief pit stop for a raspberry smoothie (really appreciated its iciness), it began to sprinkle. Refreshing and cool I only wish it had lasted longer. I was riding along the Columbia River today and all the way into Chelan I had a tailwind. A hot desert wind by noon it had really whipped up.


I had business to take care of Chelan – lunch, shopping and laundry and by the time that was done it was later in the afternoon and plenty hot again. As I looked down the valley I could see black threatening clouds with that thin grey sheeting that denotes rain. I decided to camp at Lake Chelen State Park which is 11 miles or so up the lake right before the route climbs out of the valley. A big, play oriented family campground it’s not what I typically seek, but it does have a hiker/biker area (an open field above the beach) and as I was setting up the storm broke. Thunder and lightening and rain,though not torrential rain. This all cooled things down and while it quickly cleared up the sun soon went down behind the valley walls and it was a pleasantly cool evening. As I went to bed the reddest moon I’ve ever seen rose above the lake casting a long orange shadow.

after the storm
a blood red moon
rises over the lake

A selection of photos from this day can be found on Flickr.

Tour without a goal – 13 July 2014

Monday, July 14th, 2014


the moon this evening,
and in the whole wide sky
not a trace of cloud

it gets hotter as you go down the valley
I lingered at the Barn enjoying the facilities and the shade of its trees. But eventually I wrapped things up and hit the road for the short ride to the historic town of Winthrop. I needed a bit of supplies so I lingered there as well. Ended up having lunch at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery. Once I finally left town it was truly hot. The route descends down the Methow Valley which is like a mirror version of the Skagit Valley I rode into the mountains. Along the Methow stream, hills and barren mountains to the sides and irrigated pasture land. Of course outside the stream and the irrigation it is all browns and tans. It was 103 degrees fahrenheit when I reached Twisp and all I can say is that thankfully the route is mostly downhill. I rode almost all the rest of the way down the valley but pulled off right at the end. Ther was a painful climb up for a couple miles and the. I arrived at Alta Lake State Park where I’d be staying the night. It was dry and dusty and the lake is like a gap in shear rock walls filled with water. And it never really cooled down all that much.

siting under the apple tree
in the hot morning sun
forgetting myself

Check out some photos from this day over on Flickr.

Tour without a goal – 12 July 2014

Sunday, July 13th, 2014


“But now that you’re in the mountains be ready to suffer.” -Gao Xingjian, Soul Mountain

pushing that rock
This the third time I’ve crossed Rainy and Washington passes and whole they’ve all been tough the heat on this day added to the overall challenge. I got up early and left early (for me) and hit the hill that climbs up from the Colonial Creek valley while it was still in the shade. This initial climb is one of the steeper grades on the crossing and after the Diablo Lake overlook it actually flattens out and is gently up and down for a number of miles. But as you leave the Ross Lake Recreation Area the steady climbing begins.


The next 22 miles or so are almost all just steady climbing with the occasional flatter bit and of course the mile descent after Rainy Pass (which of course you have to make up and then some to cross Washington Pass). I’d stop every so often to rest, or to eat some food or to take a picture. But several strange and notable events occurred in this crossing:

– a couple parked at a scenic overlook sitting on foldable camp chairs singing gospel hymns.

– a van load of people who slowed down, rolled down their windows and cheered me on as if I was on a mountain stage on the Tour de France.

– three roadies at the summit of Washington Pass who had ridden from Colonial Creek Campground to Mazama and were riding back. Thus crossing the pass on the both sides.

– a van parked at another scenic overlook with a man standing outside the drivers door, which was open and just laying into the passenger within with a heavily explicative filled harangue.


The heat was definitely a factor and as I reached Rainy Pass clouds rolled in which at least blocked the merciless sun. But the humidity, already high, skyrocketed. I was constantly wanting to just drain my water bottles but I restrained myself and still had half a bottle left when I reached the summit.


Then the descent began. It got hotter and hotter as I went down. It had been in the mid eighties on the west side of the mountains and it was now the upper nineties on the Eastside. I was happy to reach Mazama and the country stores beer garden. Even happier to reach the Bicycle Barn in between Mazama and Winthrop where I stayed the night. A cyclist only campground I shared it’s well equipped faculties that night with Ron, a touron who’d left from Camano Island and was riding the Northern Tier route on his way to a family reunion in Spokane. We talked touring of course as it tends to go when touring cyclists meet and I have to say I hope that I too am still touring at 73!

the unrelenting blue eye of the sky
pins me to the hot winding road

A few more photos from this day can be viewed over on Flickr.

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