Camano Island to Marblemount
The first leg of my trip was 75 miles from my home on Camano Island to the west base of Cascade Mountains. Camano Island is accessible by road as there is a bridge that connects it to Stanwood. The first 25 miles of this trek was very familier turf to me as I’ve made the ride to Mt. Vernon many times. I avoided the freeway and made my way over the back roads. I stayed at the Buffalo Run Inn in Marblemount. Elevation 325 feet above sea level.
This historic 1889 old growth cedar roadhouse was a frequent watering hole for the gold miners, mountain men, lumberjacks and mule trains traveling up the Skagit River into the North Cascade Mountains. It is now a very nice bed and breakfast. In keeping with the 1889 theme I did some laundry “Old school”, (By hand). One side of my room looked like a bicycle clothing shop as I hung my garments up to dry. After a shower and change of clothes I enjoyed a very nice buffalo steak dinner and glass of wine at the Buffalo Run Inn Restaurant. It was early to bed as I knew of the hills awaiting me the next day. If you haven’t ever traveled over Rainy and Washington Pass on Highway 20 I highly recommend it.
Marblemount to Freestone Inn, Mazama
My routine for the next week was to be out of bed at 5:00 and wheels rolling by 6:30. The weather continued to give me cool dry mornings and mostly clear skies. It took a bit or road before I worked the preceding day’s stiffness out of my legs. By Nehalem, I was hitting some grade and soon started peeling layers of clothing off. I soon hit one of the steepest parts of the ride between Diablo Lake and Ross Lake.
I found that no matter how hard I pushed my shifter there was no gear lower than 1st. The pay off was to have some of the best views of the mountains and lakes along my trek. By the time I reached Ross Lake I had already gone through 50 ounces of water. This lake brought back many fond memories of childhood camping and fishing.
Our family spent much time in this area hiking, camping, boating, and fishing.
I picked one of the many streams to pump water from. Even though my filter pump is supposed to remove all bacteria and parasites, I was very selective about my water supply. The last thing I wanted to do was ruin this trip and spend it on a toilet or at the doctor instead of in the mountains. I was soon rolling uphill again. Unlike my previous week’s test of this section of road, today there were only two riders on it. During this trek and the test ride I saw no other mountain bikes. Although I know road bikes are much more efficient, I like the versatility and durability of a mountain bike. If I decide to go off the pavement I feel confident with this bike.
As I was filling up water bottles at another stream, a fellow biker stopped to see if I was OK. He was a 25-year-old that had left home three months ago in Pennsylvania. He was near the end of his trek as he was going to Seattle. After taking a few minutes to share stories we headed off in opposite directions.
As I neared Rainy Pass and prepared for the final hump I saw this stream. I have found it very rare to be able to capture an image with a camera as seen by the eye. The light gave the water a glowing iridescent look. Sights like this kept my mind off of burning muscles and made this trip so enjoyable.
Those of you that have traveled Highway 20 know of the roller coaster ride and drop you take for the mile after Rainey Pass. Like most roller coasters the drop is followed by another big rise. After descending to 4,540 feet it was a climb back out of the hole to the top of Washington Pass, Elevation 5,468 feet. This part of the trip tested my mental and physical ability.
The incredible view of these mountains has a way of drawing the pain away and leaving one with a feeling of awe and wonder. The experience of being a part of these surroundings was incredible. Instead of passing by at 60 MPH in a car, I now felt like I was part of the beautiful nature that surrounded me. I could see, hear, and smell the fresh coolness of the waterfalls and truly enjoy the outdoors. I took a few minutes at the top of Washington Pass to catch my breath. Fueled up with dried fruit, nutrition bar, and water, I headed down into Eastern Washington. During the planning of this trek I tracked the east slope of this pass on Google Earth and knew I was in for the downhill ride of a lifetime. Once I could see no east bound traffic I took to the road. It didn’t take long before I was out of pedal, even in 29th gear. Highway 20 is closed during the winter due to very heavy snowfall. The evidence of snow and rock slides is in the form of holes, cracks, and rock debris on the roadway and shoulder. I knew that the safest place to travel was in the tire lane as long as no cars were occupying it. This was not a problem as I was traveling faster than the average car. In 12 miles I had only two cars pass me. The best investment I made was that of a mirror mounted to my left handlebar. As soon as I would see of hear a car coming up behind me I would move to the shoulder. Half way down the pass I saw that a car was in the east bound lane and going slower than me. As I was about ready to take some speed off before moving to the shoulder, it moved into the oncoming lanes as there were no westbound cars in sight. I would have loved to give them a wave of thanks but at that speed it surely would have been my demise. I rolled into the Freestone Inn at Mazama and was very glad to get off of my two-wheeled horse and park it in the stable.
You have got to check out the Freestone Inn Lodge. The main building is a huge log structure with an equally impressive stone fireplace inside. The five-star dining room looks over a lake.
I had reserved a cabin rather than stay in the lodge. The cabins are very private with all of the needed comforts and amenities. My back door and deck were within 25 feet of the creek. After a much appreciated shower and clothing change I enjoyed a huge T bone steak, potato, salad, and wine in the lodge restaurant. I spent the evening in my cabin deck lounge chair serenaded by the sounds of nature and the nearby creek.
Thanks for joining me again now let’s get some rest.