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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.

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

Tour 2011 Reflections – Just how unexpected?

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

It’s been a couple of weeks since I returned from tour but frankly I don’t really feel like I have much of a grasp on this experience. I billed this as an “unexpected tour” and I have to say that’s not entirely accurate.  I don’t want to get too much into the whole exiting of employment but basically there was a certain amount of time where I kind of knew it was a possibility.  I was actively involved in moving and due to this uncertainty had not secured a new place.  My plan at this point was to put everything in storage and set off on tour, perhaps even a more epic long term tour.  There was a problem though, my parents were coming up for a visit that had been planned before all of this. So I arranged to stay with my friend in Olympia for a few days and then with my parents while they were here. At the same time I was trying to work out a future living situation. A lot basically was going on.

So I did end up being laid off and I had a bunch of stuff to deal with from the lay-off (severance, insurance, retirement – all that sort of stuff) which made setting off on an epic tour difficult, especially at such short notice.  So I managed to find a place to live in Seattle but couldn’t move in until September 1st, which means I now had nearly three weeks to kill before this new phase in my life.  So a tour was definitely in order.  I planned this one in about three days, deciding on my final route only the day before I left (I originally was thinking of riding to Mount Rainier and then down to Crater Lake, which I’d still like to do).

Strangely enough the first seed of bicycle touring was planted in my mind from reading a book on through-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  I was in my early teens (maybe 13/14) and was with my parents visiting some friends of theirs for a weekend up in Canada. I didn’t really know these friends, they were older and I was pretty much on my own.  I ended up reading most of this book, which was a sort of day by day description of the entire hike. This sounded like something I really wanted to do (and frankly I still do) and as a pretty avid cyclist at the time I wondered if you could do something like this on a bicycle. Flash forward twenty years later, several tours later still thinking about the PCT and I discover this book:

The Pacific Crest Bicycle Trail

Which I immediately buy a used copy of.  This book from 1990 is of course woefully out of date, but this actually is of great appeal to me.  Using old books is an interesting experience in that landmarks disappear, once major attractions become hidden curios, routes change or sometimes are completely gone.  I began thinking about doing this as a forthcoming tour and almost did it last year instead of the tour I did do up into Canada. But I wanted to do it right and it needed more time than I had that year.  A bit later I find out that the Adventure Cycling Association (of whom I’ve been a member for 8 years) had used this same book as the basis for a new route: The Sierra Cascades Route.

Now having time, though with the constraint of needing to be back before the end of the month, and a desire to return to Mount Rainier which I haven’t been to since I was 12 I decide to do a chunk of this route. As I said above I was originally thinking of riding to Rainier, spending a couple of days there and then riding the route to Crater Lake.  I wasn’t sure how much time that’d take so I ordered the first two sections of the Sierra-Cascades route maps which run from the Canadian Border to Mount Rainier and Mount Rainier to Crater Lake.  I began to have second thoughts though; Eastern Oregon can be quite hot in August and I like to ride loops when I can – getting back from Crater Lake would either take too much time or involve the train.  Being newly unemployed I was trying to keep expenses down and a pure riding tour would help with that.  So at nearly the last moment I change my mind and decide to ride the route from Sedro Wooley to Mount Rainier.

This would necessitate getting to an intersection with the route in the small town of Sedro Wooley which had two advantages as I saw it. First off I would complete a section that I ended up not doing on my Olympic Peninsula tour due to miscalculating the amount of days that trip would take. The other is that after that bit I’d be in Port Townsend/Whidby Island/Fidalgo Island/Mount Vernon which is the part of Washington State I grew up in, know very well and absolutely love. I’ve ridden in these parts on most of my tours and never get tired of it. These areas also have bicycle shops, stores and other things that at about day 2-4 in a tour you often find you need. I find it is a good thing to not be in the wilderness on day 2.  So the route settled, I worked out the sections I had no maps for and packed up.  I had put all my touring gear in my car when I had put my stuff in storage and was good to go.

 

I haven’t really changed my touring gear in years now and for this tour I only changed one, the Trangia Cookset. The bicycle on the other hand I recently changed the following: the brakes, the brake levers, the shifters and after all of that had rewrapped and shellacked my handlebars. As I outlined in my day 1 report this did lead to my one bit of mechanical failure but it was luckily discovered and fixed on day 1. It is however a testament I think to my touring setup and experience that I can just set off on a tour with nearly no planning.  No planning, not all that much riding this year with few longer rides, no home to return to, no job, no certainty.  This was the essence of this tour and would color all aspects of it.

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
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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

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