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Autumn ride around the sound

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013
An autumn ride around the Sound - The Mountain
The Mountain as seen from Fay Bainbridge State Park

After an unseasonable cool and rainy September the first weekend in October was one of those perfect PNW Autumn days. I’d recently gotten a new camera (a Nikon 1 J2 for you trainspotters out there) and I went out for rides on both Saturday and Sunday with picture taking as a goal but taking advantage of the beautiful weather as my primary motivation.  I’ve been wanting a bit more of a “prosumer” camera for a while with a goal of note only being able to take better photos but being somewhat forced into greater deliberation. That is I’ve done a lot of shooting “from the saddle” and I’d like to think I have a certain proficiency at it. While this allows one to easily document one’s travels it tends to generate a lot of photos and frankly I think this style of documentation just isn’t all that interesting. I’ve moved away from this style of photos in the last couple of years but I felt that having a camera where I’d have to get off the bicycle and spend time on each photo would further facilitate this.

An autumn ride around the Sound - Ferris Wheel on the Seattle Waterfront
Seattle Waterfront

I initially planned to ride down to the Seattle Waterfront and meander along Elliot Bay, perhaps into Magnolia and along the Ship Canal. But as I rode down (heavily under construction) Jackson Street and then up Alaskan Way I decided instead I’d ride around Bainbridge Island.  I turned off at the Ferry Terminal and caught the ferry ten minutes later – good timing!

An autumn ride around the Sound - Seattle from the Needle to the Smith Tower
Seattle from Space Needle to Smith Tower

It was a fantastic day out on the waters and as Seattle receded in the distance our ferry was amidst countless sailboats and other recreational watercraft.  Mount Rainer, of which I would take many pictures throughout this day, was commanding to the Southeast, particularly towering above the West Seattle Bridge. Arriving at Bainbridge Island, I quickly disembarked (always nice that bicycles are first on first off) and riding into town I quickly got onto the Chilly Hilly route which circumnavigates the island anti-clockwise.  But as I was riding I began to think that I’ve done this loop plenty of times and it would actually be more fun to strike out on a more unfamiliar routes.  I began to think that I could pretty easy cross the bridge to the mainland and ride up to Kingston and take the ferry across to Edmonds and then make my way back to Seattle.

An autumn ride around the Sound - Kite
Good kite flying weather

So I pulled over at a little store and sitting on their porch consulted Google Maps and worked out a route.  It turned out to be only 15-16 miles to Kingston from here, which seemed like a perfectly reasonable Sunday afternoon ride.  That settled I continued on to Fay Bainbridge State Park where I sat on the beach, ate a sandwich and watched the sailboats, kites and beachcombers. I didn’t linger too long as there was riding to done, but it was a pleasent break on the beach.

An autumn ride around the Sound - Sailing around Bainbridge
Sailing around Bainbridge

From Fay Bainbridge I was able to stay on nice, country roads usually deep in the woods with occasional open fields of glimpses of the water, but eventually I had to take Hwy 305 off the island.  Not a bad road as hwy’s go – big shoulder and at least on a sunday afternoon, not heavily trafficked. It crosses a nice bridge over Agate Pass after which I took an immediate right and headed north. This was a pretty busy road but again with a good shoulder and among the trees.  This road brought me to Suquamish which was right on the water. I made brief stop here primarily to take pictures and consult the map, before hitting the road again.

An autumn ride around the Sound - Totem Pole
Totem Pole in Suquamish

From here the roads became particularly fine riding. Mostly in the woods a bit away from the coast, it was just ideal riding. Winding roads, a bit of up and down, brilliant colored trees amidst the evergreens all lit by the westering sun. I left the Google Maps route , following a red Dan Henry, at Indianola Road which took me a bit in the opposite direction of Kingston for a spell but was more scenic. Once again it was just perfect riding, especially once I turned onto South Kingston Road where the climbing I’d been doing turned to descending. This route descended down Appletree Cove on twisty roads through the trees. Very nice! After Appletree Cove, there was a slight climb and I turned on West Kingston road which heads straight to the ferry terminal.

An autumn ride around the Sound - Kingston
Autumn in Kingston

However I didn’t ride straight to the ferry – it being 5pm I felt a stop at the Front Street Ale house was in order. I checked on the ferry schedule and resolved to catch the 6:10 sailing and thus spent a nice hour drinking a couple of beers and eating a couple of appetizers. Fully sated I left the pub a bit before 6 and pretty much rode right onto the ferry just before the cars began loading. It was again a beautiful trip with the sun setting behind the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier, Seattle and Edmonds all glowing in magic hour light.

An autumn ride around the Sound - Mt. Rainier in the setting sun
Mount Rainier in the gloaming

It was deep twilight as I arrived in Edmonds and I had a good 20 miles or so to get home. I’d jotted down a Google Maps route from Edmonds to the Interurban Trail while on the ferry and in the dwindling light I set out on it. There was a pretty stiff headwind now and it was definitely chillier – I wish I’d brought some socks along! Google kept me mostly on the signed bicycle route and by the time I reached Shoreline I pretty much knew my way home. I took the Interurban trail – which has a nice new cycle track along Bitter lake – and then the signed Interurban route to Fremont. From there it was a short jog on the Burke Gillman Trail to the University district and then my commute route home.

An autumn ride around the Sound - Setting sun
Sun setting behind the Olympic Mountains

I made it home by 8:45 after having ridden about 48 miles all told. It was a great Sunday afternoon ride with two ferry trips and a nice loop around a good chunk of the Puget Sound.

Check out more photos in my Flickr photoset of this ride: An autumn ride around the Sound

Today’s Picture

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Mount Rainier in the Distance

Downtown Olympia with Mount Rainier in the Distance

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 – day 17

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Tour2011 - day 17 - 10

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.

Tour2011 - day 17 - 07

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.

Tour2011 - day 17 - 11

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.

Tour2011 - day 17 - 12

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.

Tour2011 - day 17 - 18

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)


Miles ridden today:  74.1
Miles ridden total : 791.3
Check out my pictures from this day of the tour
Check out all my pictures from the tour


Tour 2011 – Day 16

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Tour2011 - day 16 - 21

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.
Tour2011 - day 16 - 09

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.
Tour2011 - day 16 - 04

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.
Tour2011 - day 16 - 06

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.
Tour2011 - day 16 - 11

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.
Tour2011 - day 16 - 20

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.
Tour2011 - day 16 - 23
Paradise 5420′

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

The flooded Nisqually had eaten nearly half of the campground with the road to its former entrance a jagged drop off. Perfect place to Stealth camp I decided.
Tour2011 - day 16 - 24

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

Check out my pictures from this day of the tour
Check out all my pictures from the tour

Tour 2011 – day 15

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Tour2011 - day 15 - 23

Friday 08.27.11: Mount Rainier National Park

This day was technically a rest day, really the only day on this tour I spent without at least a little bicycling. I spent it hiking instead which actually tired me out just as much I think. It was a beautiful day, warm but comfortable enough inside the forests.  As per tradition I won’t go into too much detail (plus hikes are sort of hard to describe anyway) but will put up a few more extra pictures.

Tour2011 - day 15 - 05


I basically did three hikes: the Silver Falls loop which I have to take to get to any of the other trails, the Grove of the Patriarchs which is a popular short hike with a parking lot and everything (including the water source I previously had to use) and then a section of the Cowlitz Divide trail.
Tour2011 - day 15 - 08

Tour2011 - day 15 - 09

The Grove, being an easy and popular destination was not really my kind of hiking: too crowded, too worn down and sort of park-lite.  There was impressive trees here and it was quick enough so worth it, but not my favorite bit of the park.I checked out a couple trails that I could easily get too and most of them were too long. At least for their destination, obviously I could just hike up a ways on any trail. But it’s nice to have a destination so I ended up hiking a section of the Cowlitz Divide trail.

Tour2011 - day 15 - 19

This trail had several destinations all about 2.5 miles apart.  It turned out to be uphill the entire time I was on it.

Tour2011 - day 15 - 18

I saw no people for most of the time I was on my way up until I finally ran into a couple of guys and their kids who were heading up to the Ollalie Creek Campsite for an overnighter.  This turned out to be as far as I’d go, as I was feeling pretty beat by the time I reached the creek.

Tour2011 - day 15 - 24

It was nice and cool at the creek, so I rested there, ate my lunch then headed back down. On my way down I ran into a lot more people most of whom asked me how far it was to the creek. A rather shocking number of these people were carrying nothing, not even water.

Tour2011 - day 15 - 25

After these hikes, which totaled up to 10-11 miles I was really wiped out and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening resting and wandering around closer to the campground.  A good day though with some really nice and varied hikes.

Tour2011 - day 15 - 14

Check out my pictures from this day of the tour
Check out all my pictures from the tour



Tour 2011 – Day 14

Sunday, August 28th, 2011


Thursday 08.26.11: Mount Rainier National Park

Tour2011 - day 14 - 01

There was indeed no internet or even phone access until I was half back to Olympia on the final day of the tour. I spent day 14 and 15 in Mount Rainier hiking around and taking a bit of time away from the bicycle.  However on day 14 I had to ride down to Packwood to get supplies. This small town was 12 miles downhill from the campground so I did end up with a moderate amount of riding on that day anyway.  I shopped, used WiFi (still no phone access in Packwood), went out to lunch and explored the town a bit.
Tour2011 - day 14 - 02

The big question at this point was could I stay in the campground with its broken water main.  Before I’d left I’d just paid for another day and put the ticket on my campsite as you normally do. When I returned would they harass me about this? I suspected not, that once I was in they wouldn’t really care. The ride back was in the heat of the day and almost all uphill, but there was a pretty stiff tailwind and of course my bicycle was mostly unloaded so it wasn’t so back.  As I pulled into the campsite they were indeed stopping people as they went in but I just rode on in ignoring them.  When I got to my campsite they had marked my new ticket with my departure date which is the sign that they’d checked out you and registered you so to speak. So I was all good.  About a half an hour later I noticed that people were coming in, in droves and it was clear that the campground was open again. Nice, no more hiking for water.
Tour2011 - day 14 - 03

So instead I went hiking for pleasure. But before I set out for that, while I was at the local river stashing a beer another touron pulled up. He asked if I was a touring cyclist and when I assented he asked if we could split the site. I agreed and he moved on in. He turned out to be from Portland and on a week long tour around Rainier and the local passes before riding back there. He had however down major tours including a three year long tour of Europe, North Africa, Tibet and so on.  Good guy. After he set up we both set off hiking on opposite sides of the Silver Falls loop.

Tour2011 - day 14 - 04

I’d done half of the Silver Falls loop the day before on my way for water so this time I took the opposite path and this time really enjoying the hike as opposed to portering water.  Really nice walk through the woods, up a bit of hill. Of course it ended at Silver Falls and I ended up just taking the rest of the loop. At the end toward the campground there is a hot springs and nature trail so I also explored those a bit. Not too epic hiking but along with the trip to Packwood, it’d been a nice day of activity. The next day would be all hiking and no bicycling.

Tour2011 - day 14 - 07

Mile ridden today: 26.6
Miles ridden to date: 671.3
Check out all my pictures from the tour

Tour 2011 – Day 13

Saturday, August 27th, 2011


Thursday 08.25.11: Windy Point Campground to Mount Rainier National Park

I again set off early in an attempt to beat the heat across the pass. Also there was the wildcard of the roadwork to contend with. It was overcast and cool and a headwind greeted me as I hit the road. The riding was fairly easy apart From the headwind with only a gentle incline for the most part. I passed several more basically empty campgrounds, so it looks like i would have had options if Windy Point had been full.


Everything flattened out at Rimrock Lake and there was also several stores that I utilized to stock up for the climb and potential delays. I also replaced the horribly rusty water from the campground with store bought (which is an expense I usually try to avoid.


It was a good long flat section along the lake and as the clouds broke up stunning reflections were revealed in it. Eventually the road turned upwards and the level of hysteria w/r/t the roadwork reached a fever pitch. After climb for s couple of miles I reached a a short back up if cars and the flagger just as the pilot car arrived. They insisted I load my bicycle into their pickup and ride with them through the construction. I demurred but they said it went safe so I went along. Only about 1.5 miles and then I was back climbing again for another 5 or so.


Post the roadwork the pavement was in great shape and there was little traffic (there had been trucks for the construction about every 5 minutes going up). I took it easy stopping to view waterfalls and lakes as I went. The road was always uphill but never much of a grade. And then I reached the summit. Really the easiest of the passes even without the short ride in the pilot car.


White Pass 4500′

The Pacific Crest Trail crossed the pass as well and there was a store up there where thru-hikers could get packages sent. I ate my lunch outside the store and talked to a south to north hiker for a bit. His package was filled with Baby Ruths and sports pages. He was in the last section of his three month hike, quite impressive and puts it all into perspective.


It was all downhill from here and St first it was a blast, but then I hit grooved pavement as they prepped the road for paving. Thus slowed me down but was still easy enough. Then another lime if cars and a flagger. Again I had to ride in the pilot car this time about 6 miles. This was downhill but grooved rhe rule way do not much if a loss. The lady driving really whipped through it leaving the RVs and trucks following far behind. It was about quitting time and it showed.


Back on the bicycle it was a short downhill ride to the turnoff to Mount Rainier National Park. It was early enough that I decided to go for it (there is another NP just down the road I was heading got if the park was full). It was uphill in the sun for 4 miles into the park but at last I was there.

At the entrance to the Campground a ranger there informed me it was closed due to a water main failure. I talked to him a bit and eventually talked him into letting me stay (they were letting people with reservations in do it was far from empty). Water would be a problem though but he told me there was a drinking fountain a mile away. So again things worked out. But I really needed to stay here for a few days as camping within riding range will be tough over the weekend. Will it all work out? Stay tuned!

Miles ridden today: 37.8
Miles ridden to-date: 645.6

Some pictures from the tour