Wenatchee to Mission Ridge
October 11, 2012
With my bike and gear loaded on the car I headed towards Wenatchee from home at o-dark-thirty. I realized that this likely would be my last mountain ride of the season and I intended to make the most of it. As I hit Highway 2 towards Stevens Pass, I relived the August Cascade Loop trip which started this Mountain Quest adventure. This area was now painted with fall colors. The hillside was a brilliant orange, yellow, and red. I made a few quick stops on my road trip to take photos.
The drive was enjoyable with so much beauty and great memories around me. Before I knew it I was nearing Wenatchee. I found the city park I planned to start from and quickly prepared for my bike trek. I was starting at an elevation of 800 feet but knew that would quickly change. For what this trip lacked in distance it would make up for it in elevation gain. I was headed up 12 miles to the Mission Ridge ski area which was at 4,600 feet. Based on the mostly clear sky and favorable weather forecast, I left my rain gear in the car. There was cold fall crispness to the air which necessitated that I wear several layers of clothing. I was rolling up the hill before 10:00 am.
It was uphill from the moment I left the parking lot which would not change until I reached the top. The road wound through the residential area which quickly changed to orchards. The cherry, pear, and apple orchards were surrounded by the eight foot tall elk and deer fence. I saw many tracks and sign that the deer and elk had tried to find a weakness in the orchard perimeters. Many years ago I lived west of Yakima in a house surrounded by orchards. I saw then how an elk herd can quickly devastate the trees when they break through the fence. Beyond the trees the terrain changed to rugged rock outcroppings and dry hillsides. I stopped to watch an eagle ride the air currents above one of these huge rocks.
Farther up the road I ran into road construction and was stopped until a pilot car led us up the hill. The road surface changed to crushed rock for a little over a mile. With this type of road and an uphill grade, the pilot car pack was quickly out of my sight. I passed many heavy equipment operators that all gave me that same “You have got to be insane” look. Once I was past the construction area I found fresh and smooth asphalt. An additional perk was that I had just seen my last car until I would return to this spot later in the day.
As I rode on the scenery changed to evergreen trees with the scent of pine in the air. Unfortunately there was much more smoke in the area than I had experienced in the last couple months of biking. Many trails and roads were temporarily closed to all but the forest fighting crews. Half way up the hill I had warmed up and was down to wearing bike shorts and two lightweight biking shirts.
The last four miles of road to the top increased in grade. I stopped to remove a few bike tire killer size rocks from the road. These softball size little joys would surely ruin my day when I bulleted back down the road. I reached the ski lodge area which I had not seen since 1989. The last time I was here was when I took a ski trip up here with my brother Larry, his wife Brenda, and some friends. I took a short break in the sun on a ledge that looked down onto the valley.
My trip back flew by until I saw the road construction stop sign. I talked to the flagger Celine for the next twenty minutes. She had many questions about my biking adventures. The conversation turned funny after I saw her can of bug spray. Tawnee has also worked as a flagger. I shared a story of her’s about the hazards of flagging when you are trying to swat at bugs.
Celine turned the sign to “Slow” and I headed back down the hill. This time it was the pilot car that slowed me up as I followed it back through the unpaved section. It was clear sailing and a quick trip back to the car. After loading up my bike and gear I headed towards Leavenworth.
I checked into the Icicle Inn in Leavenworth and prepared for the next day’s trip to Blewett Pass.