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Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5 - Olympic Mountains Reflections

The last day of this all too short tour was another perfect summer day.  Blue skies, streak with thin white clouds, the temperatures warm but not too hot.  It was going to be a pretty short day, so there wasn’t much of a need to rush. However I wanted to be in Bremerton for lunch so while I didn’t rush I didn’t linger too long either. My companion in the hiker-biker site hadn’t caused any trouble and we only exchanged pleasantries before he rode off for the day. He had told the ranger yesterday that he’d pay for another night after returning from town today.  I never asked but I can’t deny some curiosity as to what this guys story was.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5 - Looking back up Hood Canal

I’ve certainly noted in these page how much I enjoy riding on Hwy 106, especially on a weekday morning when there is little traffic. Well today was one of those ideal days on this canal side highway.  Beautiful views of Hood Canal, the Tahuya hills across the water and in the distance the Olympic Mountains.  The blue sky was streaked with thin white clouds.    Things were still, there wasn’t much wind and the canal was calm, allowing for the reflections to have a high degree of fidelity to the original. Which is the original anyway?

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5 - Seattle Ahoy!

Highway 106 ends at Belfair, of which there is nothing to write home about.  However the Old Belfair Hwy, is a nice route rolling gently through farmland and woodland all the way to Bremerton.  I was on track to get to the city by 12:30 or so, so it was able to really enjoy this ride.  Old Belfair turns into West Belfair Valley road at a certain point and then there is along descent where it is near highway 3, which is the direct route between Belfair and Bremmerton. I’ve ridden 3 as well and while there is a huge shoulder and it’s relatively flat, it is just punishing with all the traffic.  West Belfair valley is much more preferable and while I oft hit 3 for the final segment into Bremerton this time I took the Adventure Cycling route which has a punishing climb up the valley walls and into hills west of Bremerton.  From there you descend into town just past the Navy Shipyard turnoff.   I arrived in town a bit before 1pm stopped for lunch and then rode that last hill into downtown Bremerton and the ferry terminal. I caught the 1:45 ferry to Seattle.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5 - NFE on the Ferry

This crossing was less eventful then the one that began this trip.  I mostly stayed inside and journaled, but as many times as I’ve been on the ferries I have to go outside and take in the views.  It remained a lovely day with just enough clouds to keep things interesting.  It was the end of my trip and it felt to me like it was just getting started.  I’d like to spend more time in Olympic National Park, but riding the forest roads and hiking the many trails.  This trip was a good survey of at least one part of the park. I’ve ridden all around the peninsula on several occasions and I have a good sense of the ride out to all corners.  It is past time that I begin to make forays into the interior.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5 - Farewell to the Olympics

Photos from this day: Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5
All photos from this tour: Olympic Mountain Dreams

Posted from Seattle, Washington, United States.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Small little waterfall

It was a lovely morning and tempting to spend another day in the Olympic’s, but it is a fairly long and rough road home. I didn’t want to just repeat the route I took here, so my return trip was going to go south and east to Bremerton and the ferry to Seattle. Thus I’ll have done a nice Hood Canal Loop in the course of this short tour. Since I didn’t have too far to ride on this day I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and time by the Dosewallips before I set out.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Dosewallips Falls detail

When I rode up to the campground I was chasing daylight so I didn’t linger. Well on my trip out I took the opportunity to checkout the several waterfalls, explore the Elkhorn campground, take little side trails and of course capture plenty of images. The trail being mostly downhill as well as not trying to push through as quickly as I could meant it wasn’t nearly as exhausting as the trip in had been.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - The "road" is basically just a trail up here.

There were numerous other hikers returning on this day, it being the end of the weekend and all. But also as I got closer to the trailhead I encountered numerous mountain bikers just out to ride the on the old road. They still had to get past the first two (and in some cases third) major washouts but I suppose pushing a mountain bike when you only have a daypack isn’t nearly so hard. But as a there-and-back route it didn’t strike me as that exciting of a mountain bike route. Beautiful scenery of course, but not very technical.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Beautiful little waterfall in the woods

There were two little waterfalls just off the trail that were well worth parking the bicycle and tramping off to see. This one, with it’s two free falling sections cascading down moss covered rocks was especially lovely. There is a hike off of the road to Lake Constance that is two miles in length but gains 3300 feet! It is mostly a scramble up a riverbed and I image it is like the terrain below this waterfall.  But once you get up there, there is a hike in campground with only six sites.  Would love to get up there sometime for an even more secluded Olympics experience.  A lot more to do up here; I will be back

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Ob. NFE in the National Park

The other campground along the road, Elkhorn, features numerous sites on the river, but also a set of sites in the woods.  It seemed even more overgrown than Dosewallips Campground, perhaps it is less visited as it is pretty close in.  Just past it is the other end of the major washout. I walked down to the end of that and found that there is basically a short drop-off that one could scramble up with the help of a fixed rope, but it would have been impossible to get the loaded touring bicycle up. Glad I hadn’t tried that route.  I backtracked and once again took the steep switchbacks above the washout.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Looking north from the big washout

Most of the way down the other side of the washout I took another little side trail that give you a good overview of the washout. You can see from the above picture that basically the whole riverside just sloughed off. No sign that a road had ever been there.  From this point on it was an easy ride back to the trailhead, which of course was the first washout but wasn’t nearly so hard to bypass.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Looking west up the Dosewallips

This day had dawned cool and overcast, but it had pretty well cleared up. But clouds and mists kept pouring over the hills and like the day before I was sure that it would cloud up again toward evening.  But as I rode out of the National Forest on Dosewallips River Road it became increasingly clear.  By the time I reached Brinnon and returned to Highway 101 it was blue skies with big pillow like white clouds.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - The Dosewallips makes it to Hood Canal

It was near lunchtime now and I pulled of at Dosewallips State Park and in the day use area had lunch. The park was right at the end of the Dosewallips River where it flowed into Hood Canal.  The wind had picked up blowing the big clouds around.  My route on 101 would wend along Hood Canal, always going up and down, with small little tourist areas in the rare flat spots.  It being the end of the weekend and all these spots were jammed with people trying to get in a last bit of recreation on their way home.  There was a line out the door at the Hoodsport Coffee Company and I’ve never seen so many people at the Union General Store.  Both times I would have stopped at those places for a break, but just too long of lines.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Summer clouds hovering over Hood Canal

I was going to camp at Twanoh State Park, which has a very limited Hiker/Biker area but I figured Sunday evening wouldn’t be too bad.  There was a stiff wind heading East on SR106 and I was feeling the end of the day.  When I got to Twaoh there was  tent in the h/b area but no sign of it’s occupant. I’ve shared the space before so I went into the campground proper to register.  They thought it was “full” but checked their records and found that no-one was registered for tonight. This was good as the main campground was full.  I mentioned there was the tent there and they sent a couple of junior rangers down to check it out.  When we got their I began to setup and they investigated the tent.  They kind of ripped it open and reported not much inside. They said it looked abandoned and headed out.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Sunset over Hood Canal

I finished setting up and had begun to cook dinner when the tent’s occupant arrived on a folding bicycle. He said “hi” and sat down to eat some take out food.  A bit later he checked out the tent and asked me if I’d seen anybody messing with it. I mentioned the rangers had been looking in it.  He said “Well they basically destroyed it!”. He had a beer and then set out. I ate dinner and washed up and went out to watch the sunset over Hood Canal.  I heard raised voices from camp and the ranger was there trying to talk with the guy. He accused them of destroying his tent and got pretty shirty.  There was some words from the ranger, basically noting that he wasn’t actually paid up and shouldn’t be there and such and eventually he left.  I was sitting in my tent a bit later when he retuned and squatting down at my tent entrance asked me to verify the guys story. I confirmed that the junior rangers had inspected the tent but I didn’t see them rip into it or anything.  He asked if I felt safe with the guy there. I said he seemed okay and I didn’t mind that he was there.  The ranger went and gave the guy some duct tape so he could do some field repairs and then left. The evening ended uneventfully. The guy repaired his tent the best he could and retired as did I.

Photos from this day: Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4
All photos from this tour: Olympic Mountain Dreams

Posted from Union, Washington, United States.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3

Friday, September 1st, 2017

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - Water through the moss

patches of moonlight
wavering through branches —
watering an ancient tree

I awoke a few times through night to an exultation of stars peeking through the canopy and very late a thin moon made it over the valley walls. After a my nights sleep with the ever present white noise of the river, I woke to a grey morning with mist streaming down the valley walls.  Over the course of a morning spent in contemplation down by the river and making breakfast in camp, the mist burned off to mostly clear blue skies. While I was breaking my fast a volunteer ranger came by and gave me the skinny on day hikes in the area. He also let me know that most of those washouts I had to clamber over one the way here were from this year.  It had been the rainiest winter on record in Washington State and it brought down a lot of rocks.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - Crossing Station Creek

I lingered in camp until after lunch and then hoisting my daypack I set out to checkout the local trails.  Past the campground is the old ranger station and then past that begins the trails.  There is a the remnants of an old nature trail which does the traditional loop, with a branch off of it into the broader trail network.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - Money Changers in the temple

The trail heads off up the river valley to the Dose Forks campground. This is a true backpackers campground, a few miles from the Dosewallips Campground, which was the furthest in you could have driven back before the washouts.  There were a few people camping at Dose Forks though I didn’t seen any of them there.  I was continuing up to what the ranger had described as the High Bridge at the West and North Forks of the Dosewallips.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - Wasp

Between the two campgrounds I was up the valley walls a ways and primarily hiking in the woods.  There were numerous creeks to cross — Station Creek, Pass Creek and named trickles — but I was far enough away from the Dosewallips that it was only a very distant rushing sound.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - Looking back

At Dose Forks Campground I was back right on the river and had to cross it to continue on the the High Bridge.  The character of the hike there was subtly different.  It was more rocky and I was clearly on a sort of spit of land between the two forks of the river.  There were a couple more little stream crossings which the trail often descended to cross and then had to climb back out.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - Flowing water

This part of the Olympic National Park, cut off from the car campgrounds, seems to be slowly returning to nature.  Rangers have to hike anything in and the old car campgrounds are slowly deteriorating.  Nobody is going be be packing in a replacement picnic table!  Out here though it is the trail crews that keep falling logs off the trails, bridges from collapsing and the trails generally clear.  Past the high bridge there are trails deep into the Olympics and it hooks up to the cross park — and state! — Pacific NW Trail.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - High Bridge

There was sign of these trail keepers all through these hikes, cut logs, repaired bridges and general trail clearing.  This corner of the park feels pretty abandoned. I’m sure it was never was the draw that the Hoh, Hurricane Ridge, Lake Quinault etc have been, but with no car camping now, it feels pretty remote.  The High Bridge is well named, a solid wood bridge on a rocky promontory crossing the West Fork of the Dosewallips.  Looking east you can just see where the North Fork cascades in and merges with the West Fork.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - North and West Forks of the Dosewallips River

I spent some time on the bridge and around the branching trails just past it. I rested, ate a sandwich and just existed.  A wind had picked up and there were ragged trails of cloud reaching into the piercing blue sky. I just sat and listened for a spell until finally I retraced my steps back to camp.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - Blue skies over green valley walls

the tiger swallowtail
returns again and again
dancing over flowing water

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Photos from this day: Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3
All photos from this tour: Olympic Mountain Dreams

Posted from Brinnon, Washington, United States.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017
Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Onward into the woods

NFE in Olympic National Forest

out of the dense green canopy
the sound of a lively stream

I awoke to a sunny and clear day in the woods outside of Port Townsend.  On this day I planned to ride all the way to Dosewallips Campground in Olympic National Park but I also wanted to spend a little bit of time in Port Townsend. So I quickly packed up and rode down the Olympic Discovery Trail, through the marina and into downtown to my favorite PT coffee house: Better Living Through Coffee. There I enjoyed sumatra pour-over and broke my fast.  I had a few more errands I wanted to take care of and so I ended up staying in PT through lunch. It was nearly 1pm by the time I finally rode out of town.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Pirate Ship in Drydock

Clearly a pirate ship here in dry dock

I had about fifty miles to do this day, but this included a pretty long climb into the State Park and about 16 miles on trails, so I felt I was leaving pretty late.  It was also all backtracking for the first 15 miles (and then on pretty familiar roads) so I mostly just pedaled through it.  I couldn’t resist a quick stop at Finn River Cidery once I was back on Center Rd. I’ve ridden past them many a time but I’ve always been pushing through to PT and never stopped.  I figured on this day, with long summer nights and no riding planned for the next day, though I could spare the time.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Finn River view down Beaver Valley

The view from Finn River looking down Beaver Valley

I’m glad I stopped — good cider and a lovely locale with long views up Beaver Valley. But after leaving I knew I had it maintain a steady pace to get where I was going by nightfall.  The wind was with me as I rode down Beaver Valley and through the hillier section the lies beyond the intersection with 105.  There is a good climb up into hills above Quilcene followed by a long descent to the intersection with Hwy 101.  I stopped in Quilcene at the market there where I bought a Blackberry Ice Cream cone where they must have put near a pint of ice cream on it.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - NFE at sea

NFE in Quilcene

The next stage was a stretch on Hwy 101 from Quilcene to Brinnon.  This includes crossing Walker Pass, which at 741′ barely qualifies as a pass climb, but it is a gap between Mount Walker and you do climb up for most of the five miles between it and Quilcene.  Once you descend there is a stretch along the coast a few ups and downs and then you come onto Brinnon.  Right before you cross the Doeswallips River is the turnoff to Dosewallips River Road, which begins my journey into the National Park.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Dosewallips River Valley

Dosewallips River Valley

It was stretching into late evening now and I was hoping that I could make this last 16 or so miles in relatively short order.  At first the road was paved and it climbed steeply nearly immediately. I was following the Dosewallips River, which was pretty active with sections of rapids, but also these beautiful coves and pools.  There were houses and then farms and what kind of appeared to be a cult compound before the paved road ended and became gravel.  I was in the National Forest now and after a mile or two the road ended at the washout.  There were a number of cars parked here for those hiking in to the campground, day hikers and dog walkers.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Dosewallips River road after a car has passed

Dosewallips River road after a car has passed

I walked the bicycle through this first washout and then it was just like the gravel road had continued on. The trees were a little closer and the road was less washboarded and of course there were no cars. So pretty nice.  Then I came to the second washout.  This one was as if an entire hillside had washed down into the Dosewallips River.  There was a goat path on it, clinging to loose rock on the hillside and also a path that steeply wound above it.  I park my bicycle and explored along the hillside route first.  That clearly became impossible to push  bicycle through so I returned and checked out the path above.  It had a series of switchbacks and was pretty steep but seemed passable.  So I pushed my bicycle up which I have to say was pretty difficult. At the top it was like I was on a hiking trail for a spell until it descended in a similarly steep set of switchbacks.  Then I was back on the gravel road.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Dosewallips Trail 2

Dosewallips Trail

Past the second washout the trail narrow and was a lot more overgrown. This was really great riding, as it was fairly flat, empty and yet deep in the woods near a rushing river.  There were several more rocky washouts, but these were small and I just had to dismount and pick my way over them.  But I was pretty tired and hungry now and ready to reach the campground.  When I came to the Elkhorn Campground, the first of two, I was really tempted to stop.  I gone a long way, it was right on the river and looked nice.  But since I planned to spend the next day exploring the area I knew that the Dosewallips Campground would be better and it was my destination after all. So I pressed on.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Further up Dosewallips Falls

Dosewallips Falls

The trail immediately began to climb at this point and was much closer to single track.  Apart from the multiple washouts and a couple of bridge crossings, it pretty much was uphill the rest of the way.  I could ride most of this, but I was pretty hard work.  There were numerous washouts, again usually of the big rocky types.  I passed a couple of hikers during this stretch, one couple commented they had passed me riding on the road a ways back. “I managed to catch up!”, I quipped.  The highlight of this stretch was Doswallips Falls, which was a rock falls with a short free fall section. The road alongside was super steep and there was an old sign informing vehicles that they shouldn’t stop on this section.  Apart from all the washouts it was pretty hard to imagine cars ever driving this road.  I had to push the bicycle up this section and I was pretty close to bonking. It was after 8pm and I was tired and hungry.  Happily it wasn’t too much further from the top of the falls and it was a flatter stretch with only a couple more washouts.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Dosewallips River Valley walls at sunset

Sun sets behind the valley walls

Finally I arrived at the campground which probably half a dozen of the sites — all along the river — were occupied. I pretty quickly settled into the last really viable site at the north edge of the park. The river was an all encompassing presence here and looking up above the trees, the high valley walls were golden with the magic hour light. I filtered water, cooked dinner and setup.  As I was about done for the day one of the hikers I passed on my way in stopped by and told me he had forgotten a key part of his water filter.  I was using my new gravity filter that I bought after my stint on the Sierra-Cascades where I found I needed to filter a lot of water so I was able to filter a gallon or so of water for him in short order.  It was fully dark now, so after he departed water bags in head I retired to the tent and a well earned nights sleep.

Photos from this day: Olympic Mountain Dreams day 2
All photos from this tour: Olympic Mountain Dreams

Posted from Brinnon, Washington, United States.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1

Sunday, August 27th, 2017
Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - NFE on the stoop

NFE on the Stoop: Ready to Ride

a blue dragonfly
flies backwards down the path
watching

When a retreat that I was going to take part in fell through I suddenly found myself with five free days in mid July. Within a couple of days I worked out a trip I wanted to take that would maximally use those days and take me to a place I hadn’t been to before. I had found out that a road had washed out on the eastern side of Olympic National Park cutting off two campgrounds, but that you take your bicycle on the old road.  This was technically within a days ride, but would, I thought, be a pretty long hard day. I planned to ride to Dosewallips State Park, on hwy 101 which is around 20 miles from Dosewallips Campground, in the Olympic National Park.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - Ferry terminal to BI

Ferry to Bainbridge Island coming in

My touring setup is pretty much set in stone these days, all kept in one bag in a closet. I can pull it out and be pretty much ready to tour within a couple of hours.  Buying and packing some food and selecting appropriate clothing is about the only variables not preset.  Of course I do have several options depending on length or type of tour and for this one, where I’d be camping and then day hiking in the woods, I adjusted things accordingly.  I swapped out my Rando bag for my basket and put on my old Baggins Hobo bag for the rear facing pockets.  This gave me enough space for the supplies needed for time in the woods.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - In which we leave the city behind

In which we leave the city behind

I made it to the ferry terminal by 10am which is pretty good time for the first day of one of my tours.  But I had just missed a boat and when the next one came in there was a crew change and the hauling off of a dead motorcycle.  When we finally departed it was about a quarter to eleven.  I was in the cafe buying a coffee when the woman next to me in line asked: “Is this the bar?” It’s happy hour somewhere… At one point during the crossing the boat slowed and the engines stopped. There was an announcement over the PA for a crew member to come to ‘Fan Room 2’.  Was this going to one of those trips?

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - Coming up on Bainbridge

Crossing the Puget Sound

As I made the crossing I contemplated my preparations and realized I had neglected to bring my headlamp.  That a bit of food I still needed sent me to the little town of Winslow on Bainbridge Island where I also was able to get lunch.  I found my forgotten supplies and proceeded to ride across the Island a bit after noon.  Now his route is one I’ve done several times: Bainbridge to the mainland via Hood Canal.  There are several options and several highways but of course the goal is to stay on backroads.  However right after crossing Agate Pass off of Bainbridge I failed to take a turn and thinking Google Maps had just put me on a different crossing of the Kitsap Peninsula I continued on the hwy.  As I came up on Pouslbo I knew I was off route but I also knew this busy road would get me where I was going. I peeked at Maps on my phone and found an alternative backroad option that I didn’t have to backtrack to.  This road, Big Valley Road, turned out to be just top drawer country riding.  Much flatter then the normal cross Kitsap route I’ve taken, but equally low traffic and scenic.  Nice.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - Waiting on the bridge

Waiting on the Hood Canal Drawbridge

Big Valley Road intersected with Hwy 3 at Four Corners and from there it wasn’t too much further to Hood Canal Bridge. As I climbed up the last hill before I’d descend to the bridge, cars were backed up — the bridge must be open.  I was able to easily wend my way down to the bridge and along the nice shoulder all the way to the barriers.  The drawbridge was indeed up, but for no discernible reason.  There are long views both north and south of the bridge and there was no sign of any boats. Even when submarines come through here — which is often — there are jamming boats along with them.  So perhaps just some sort of test or safety check.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - Clouds over the Canal

Dark clouds down south

There was a stiff wind blowing south, which happily was the direction I was going. But things were dark and forbidding that way whereas the wind was blowing the clouds away from the north.  Once the bridge finally opened I continued west, mainly on Hwy 104 but taking side roads when I could.  Once you climb up from Hood Canal to the north is Beaver Valley which I’ve ridden many time to and fro Port Townsend.  All the sudden I felt a pang of desire to go to Port Townsend. It was almost cold now under dark clouds and there was even the slightest of sprinkles.  As I crossed Center Road which goes north up Beaver Valley to Chimicum and then PT and South to Quilcene where it intersects with Hwy 101 I saw a handprinted mural that read 24 miles to Brinnon. Brinnon was just outside of Doswallips State Park, my destination.  PT on the other hand was 14 miles to the north up Beaver Valley.  To the south was Walker Pass (not an epic pass, but a couple mile climb) and dark menacing clouds.  To the north it was blue skies, easy valley riding and PT with restaurants and pubs.  I went north.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - Mount Rainier looms beyond Marrowstone Island

Mount Rainier looms beyond Marrowstone Island

There are three roads that run down Beaver Valley: one on the west wall, one down the center and one at the foot of the east wall.  I was on the middle way, Center Rd. which is the easiest of the three (the west wall is the hilliest fwiw) and the valley protected me from that northerly wind. So I made good time to Chimicum and then to Fort Townsend State Park. This park sits about 5 miles south from PT proper and it is a favorite of mine to camp at. Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - At the PourhouseThe Hiker/Biker site is a bit away from the rest of the campground and is basically a clearing in the woods. Of the half-dozen plus times I’ve camped there only once has there been another touron there.  Once!  It is about a mile from the Olympic Discovery Trail so you can easily ride into PT which after setting up I did. I had dinner at a very busy (and just okay) Thai joint and then retired to the Pourhouse for an after dinner pint.

As I rode back to the campground, the sun had set and a light purple glow lit up the Cascade mountains far to the east.  A truly lovely evening.  It was dark in my wooded campsite when I arrived, but I only had to lock up my bicycle and retire to my tent for the evening.  I was happy to be here.

Photos from this day: Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1
All photos from this tour: Olympic Mountain Dreams

Posted from Port Townsend, Washington, United States.

A Rainy, Winter Ride

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Rainy Winter Ride - Rain

As I noted in my Solstice Ride post, I’d set out with the thought of walking along the shore and making some coffee (or tea) in the out of doors.  That did’t end up happening as my wandering nature got the best of me and the lure of exploring new territory proved stronger.  With the weather predicted to turn clear and much colder over the next week, plus frankly I’ve been feeling a bit sedentary these days, I set out yesterday amidst heavy clouds, wind and threatened rain on a second attempt at making coffee out of doors.

Rainy Winter Ride - Looking back at Seattle from Mercer Island

I’ve been contemplating taking part in an organized ride (!) next year that begins in the AM in Redmond so I thought I’d ride there and gauge the miles and and time that would require. But the straight shot there isn’t super scenic so I decided I’d ride to and around the east side of Lake Sammamish. There I’d be able to stop at the park and make my coffee.

Rainy Winter Ride - North Fork of Issaquah Creek

There were gashes of blue sky amidst the layers of grey clouds and low black clouds blowing in on the wind. This rainy weather coming in was warmer, if not warm, and the hilly route over Mercer Island kept me warm enough. Exiting Mercer Island I continued on the I-90 Trail to Issaquah. Here I encountered Lake Sammamish State Park, but decided I’d stop a bit further on, on the east side of the lake. From Issaquah I was able to hop on the East Lake Sammamish Trail which pretty quickly took me to the Lake Sammamish State Park and boat launch where I’d planned to stop. But there were no picnic tables there so I decided to press on to Marymoor park.

Rainy Winter Ride - North Fork of Issaquah Creek, detail

Back on the trail, which is newly paved inside Issaquah city limits, but the moment you cross into the city of Sammamish it reverts to the old hard packed gravel. At which point I returned to the road. I hadn’t been on the road long when I saw a cyclist pushing his ride up from the trail and he yelled out to me. I looped around a turned out he had a flat and had neglected to bring 5mm allen wrench to remove his front wheel. I of course had my multi-tool and helped him out. He was a pretty fast tire changer so it wasn’t that long before I was back on the road.

Rainy Winter Ride - Waiting out the rain in Marymoor Park

Following the edge of a lake the road has it’s ups and downs. The wind had shifted too, so what had been a cross/tail wind was now more of a head wind. But I was in trees enough that the wind wasn’t much of a problem, but it had blown in low, dark grey clouds and as I pulled into Marymoor Park, it was quite dark, though still an hour and half before sunset. I wanted to make my coffee on the lake so I made an executive decision that I’d ride a loop around Lake Sammamish and make my coffee at Idylwood Park just on the west side of lake. But as I pulled into the main parking area of Marymoor park the skies open up and a real downpour began. I rode to the park concession building which had large eves. There were two other cyclists sheltering there along with a couple arguing in Russian. We all waited out the worst of the downpour but set off one by one as it slackened.

Rainy Winter Ride - Sunset over Lake Washington

At this point I abandoned my plans to ride around the lake – not a bad road but in twilight and pouring rain I figured a more direct route was advisable. Plus I ended up taking that direct route I had wanted to judge the timing of. This route follows the 520 Trail to the outskirts of Bellevue and then takes more out of the way roads to where it intersects with the Lake Washington Loop route which then connects to the I-90 trail. During this ride the rain slowed and there was just showers on and off for most of the rest of the way. I was about to cross onto Mercer Island the sun set and through gaps in the clouds at the horizon I could see the orange, purple and yellow glow.

Rainy Winter Ride - Atlantis on Lake Washington

I was back on the I-90 trail and simply reversed my earlier route across Mercer Island and then onto the Beacon Hill Greenway. It was after five pm, just fully dark and my odometer ticked over to 41 miles as I rolled to my front door. Once again I failed in my making coffee out of doors, but it was a satisfying ride on a gloomy winter day.

Check out my photos from this ride on Flickr.

Posted from Bellevue, Washington, United States.

Tour without a goal – 21 July 2014

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

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I have all the vestment I will ever need,
not gauzy silk nor twill,
and if you ask about the color,
neither red, nor purple . . .
In the summer it’s light as wings;
in the winter it’s my quilt.
Winter or summer, of use in both . . .
Year upon year,
just this.
-Han Shan

the grey mountain
It had been a peaceful night in my little spot in the woods and while I had to filter my water from Iron Creek I really appreciate being able to camp in the woods. I was very close to the junction with FR25 and was soon back on the climb to Elk Pass. Four miles in the woods on this chilly yet clear morning. The pass itself is unmarked, demarcated only be a sign warning of miles of steep grades ahead. This was a fun descent, without much traffic I was able to take advantage of the full winding road and ride it down. Distractions from the pure descent was the mountains that began to reveal themselves, first Mt. Adams and then finally Mt. St. Helens.

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St. Helens dominates the landscape in a similar, if in a less dramatic fashion than Mt. Rainier a bit further north. The the fresh snows melted off In the summer warmth only the old glaciers remain, which are all grey with impacted ash. There was a succession of viewpoints throughout the day each revealing more of the mountain and the surrounding landscape. Em long descent finally concluded and I was in the usual river valley you find below these passes. This time though the route turned and began the climb toward another pass.

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The climb to Oldman Pass was among the most unforgiving of the passes I’ve done. Not an epically high pass at only 3050′, but it does all of its climbing in just over four miles. It’s initial section was the steepest grade yet on any of these passes. Around three quarters of the way up there was an overlook with a final view of St. Helens, perhaps the most volcanic looking view. Once Oldman Pass was surmounted it was a steep, toasty descent down to the Wind River. The Wind River valley gently descending for many miles through moss strewn trees along the rocky river. Eventually I left the Gifford Pinchot National Forest which I left feeling there was a lot more to explore here. I will be back. I ended up,in Carson and after days in the mountains felt odd to be back into civilization (as it were). A few miles off route is the Home Valley County Campground where I stayed for the night. A pretty beat down ‘ground right on the Columbia River I was rewarded with a shrinking sunset that evening.

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coming down from the mountains
among ordinary people again
I can’t seem to see what they see
or say what they expect to hear
my eyes have been rinsed by mountain streams
my tongue thick from lack of use
they ask me where I’ve been
and I don’t know what to say
vaguely flapping my hands northwards
I point toward high peaks.

Posted from Stevenson, Washington, United States.

Tour without a goal – 20 July 2014

Monday, July 21st, 2014

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The white dome peak whacked lower down,
open-sided crater on the northside, fumarole wisps
a long gray fan of all that slid and fell
angles down clear to the beach
dark old-growth forest gone     no shadows
The lake afloat with white bone blowdown logs
scoured ridges round the rim, bare outcrop rocks
squint on the bright
ridge top plaza packed with puzzled visitor gaze
– Gary Snyder, from Blast Zone

the road to Helens is lined with stinging nettles
It was actually rather cold this morning, fully overcast, damp with streamers of mist throughout the forest. I do ten miles on route this chilly, misty morn, most of it the climb up to Elk Pass I’d complete tomorrow. Turning off at FR99 I head west toward the mountain. I ditched my front panniers in the woods after a couple of miles as this road is all steep up and downs and of course won’t need the camping Gear at the top. Unburdened it was now merely a hard climb instead of a feat of strength. Winding forest road for six miles or so and then the first lookout which reveals the clouds are breaking up but the mountain is still hiding behind clouds.

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At the next overlook I emerge from the forest into the blast zone. Ghostly remnants of trees protrude from ground like sticks poked into sand. The downed trees, white, strangely undecayed scattered like pickup sticks after a child’s temper tantrum. But down the other direction, Green River Valley, rich, striated between the lush returning life and the managed forest outside the National Monument.

In a great swath around the lake basin, everything in direct line to the mountain is flat down: white clear logs, nothing left standing. Next zone of tree-suffering is dead snags still upright. Then a zone called “ashes trees” blighted by a fall of ash, but somehow still alive. Last, lucky to be out of line with the blast, areas of green forest stand. A function of distance, direction, and slope. Finally, far enough back, healthy old forest stretches away. – Gary Snyder, To Ghost Lake

Stopping at every overlook really helps to break up the climb. FR99 ascends to 4100′ and then descends several hundred feet, a process which repeats multiple times until Windy Ridge at 4200′. The sky became increasingly clear and sometimes it’s warm in the sun, but when your destination is “Windy Ridge” you know what to expect . Indeed the wind was fully present and it was strong and cold coming right over the ridge to the west. Always blowing more clouds over the mountain.

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Spirit Lake, this blue oasis in the blasted landscape with a huge mat of dead trees that were pulled into the lake when the massive landslide from the eruption pushed up the valley walls hundreds of feet and then trammeled back down. These logs were all, pushed to the far end of the lake – opposite of the relentless wind. One of the viewpoints is a Miners Car which a family had left at a trailhead and hiked to where they had a cabin on the supposedly safe “Green Zone”. The lateral blast went right into that portion of the green zone flattening their car and killing the miners. It’s paint stripped off my the blast, it sits there, flatted, rusted with fireweed growing out of it.

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Windy Ridge has a tremendous view of Spirit Lake, the plateau below the mountain – with mounds made up of the top of the mountain strewn about –
and views right into the crater an the lava dome. But it never cleared up on this day and only the bottom of the crater below the lava dome was visible. A good part of the sky was clear but in the direction of the ever present wind was a stream of dark clouds all the way to the horizon. This is the Pacific Northwest and we always make do.

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The descent was cold and punctuated with climbing at those spots where it had descended on the way up. The road is crumbling on this side as well so it had to be a careful descent. Still it was a lot faster – the wind was also with me. Soon enough I reached where I stashed my panniers and re established them to their rightful place. Then I rode another couple miles down and almost at the junction with FR25 I found a dirt road that went down to Iron Creek. I rode down there and found it was a well established camping spot and stayed there for the night right above the creek.

sitting in the forest
the twilight birds calling
filtering water for tea

Posted from Cougar, Washington, United States.

Tour without a goal – 19 July 2014

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

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This present moment
     that lives on
 
to become
 
long ago
-Gary Snyder

a ride in the woods
When I arose it was overcast and chilly. It’s hard to express what a relief that was: back home in Western WA. After the steep climb out of the campground I was back on 12 to find the winds out of the south – i.e. the direction I’m going – to still be present. It was a short mostly downhill ride to Packwood where I spent some time at a cafe taking advantage of their WiFi. In the cafe a local asked me about my rig and where I was heading and when I said Mount St. Helens his companion piped up and noted that the roads might be closed. They are doing seismic testing there she said and I was advised to check in at the ranger station in Randle.

a zebra swallowtail ran into me!
or did I run into it?

The road to Randle was in a green hill lined valley that reminded me of the Nooksack valley way back at the start of the route. This time though the wind was against me the whole way which was not quite as pleasant. The sun came out and it warmed up and was rather humid. I crossed the Cowlitz River which was this striking milky blue-green color. At the Randle Ranger Station the rangers got a lot of laughs out of the seismic testing concerns. “We’re going to blow up the mountain!”, they joked. Of course they were doing some seismic testing it just would be unnoticeable. I did get good advice on camping in USFS land which you can pretty much do if not indicated otherwise.

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I resupplied for the next few days in Randle and then headed out on Forest Road 25 upon which the wind was finally with me. I soon entered the woods and began climbing this steep forest road. Paved, but narrow and winding, this road was right in the trees some of which were strikingly large. Moss hung from everything and the riotous undergrowth was endless shades of green. But it wasn’t long until I came on the Iron Creek Campground where I was contemplating just getting water and riding a bit further and wild camping. But the camp host came out and after inquiring after my intentions said he’d let me in on a secret. I could just pick a spot here and camp. “We figure you cyclists are already working hard enough.” Well I could resist that offer so I founda. Ice spot near Iron Creek and set up camp.

like a butterfly
mind flits from place to place
– who is listening?

Posted from Randle, Washington, United States.

Tour without a goal – 18 July 2014

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

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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.

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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.

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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

Posted from Packwood, Washington, United States.