Leavenworth to Blewett Pass
October 12, 2012
After a good night’s sleep at the Leavenworth Icicle Inn, I woke early in anticipation of the day’s ride. I was packed up and ready to go by 6:00 but needed to wait as it was still dark and very cold outside. Besides that, breakfast was not served until 7:00 and I needed something other than energy bars to fuel up with. The local weather indicated rain showers at 8:00 for an hour then three hours of dry before the rain returned. It looked like I would again get the chance to wear my rain gear. I knew that this bike trip was pushing the odds as far as the weather but I was willing to deal with it if I could get another ride in. I started pedaling towards Blewett Pass by 7:50.
I rode through the slowing waking town before many local men had donned their lederhosen and headed to Starbucks to start their day of October Fest preparation. There were many tents and other structures erected all to make the hoard of sausage eating, beer swilling tourists happy. As enjoyable as that kind of adventure could be I was glad to be pedaling into the mountains.
I rode past Smallwood’s Harvest in Peshastin. As usual they had gone all out to make this an inviting for people of all ages. The farm animals were enjoying their calm morning breakfast. This tempo would soon change to a day of camera flashes, getting petted, and waiting for the next child to hop on for a ride. There were endless piles of pumpkins just waiting for someone to pick them as the one to bring home for carving or pie.
I turned onto Highway 97 and saw the smoky entrance to Blewett Pass before me. I heard the drone of a US Forest Service fire fighting tanker flying above. It was headed in the direction of the smoke and was surely returning to the front lines at they continue to battle the forest fires. The hills around me showed evidence of forest fires from previous years.
The weather forecast was wrong and it appeared I would be able to leave the rain gear in my bags. Peshastin Creek ran alongside the road and provided a very nice atmosphere.
I started seeing signs of the original road that was here before this highway was built. The original wagon road connected the town of Werner to Cle Elum and was finished in 1879.
In 1860 gold was discovered in the area and before long there were 200-300 people living in the town of Werner which was located approximately 10 miles east of Blewett Pass on Highway 97. The town name was changed to Blewett, named after Edward Blewett of Seattle. His mining company had many claims in the area. The old town site is now a historical landmark and just yards from Highway 97. I stopped to look around and found evidence of the town which had been left behind. You can still find parts of the old mining stamp mill here. The wagon road was extended to connect Blewett with Peshastin in 1896. By 1905 the main vein of gold ore ran out, the mill shut down, and Blewett became a ghost town.
As I rode on there were signs indicating current mining claims for most streams along the road. It seems that gold prospecting is still alive for some. As I got within a few miles of the pass, I saw that this highway had been a defensive line for the fire fighting.
The smoke was very thick in this area as there were still spot fires burning within sight of the highway. I made it to the top of Blewett Pass, 4,126 feet above sea level. This had been a gain of 2,932 feet which was hard but easy compared to some of the other rides I have taken.
I stopped to visit with a contractor who was taking a break. Here I was half way across the state and ran into someone who grew up in the same area of Whatcom County as I. Bill Carol had lived on Lummi Island which is the same place where my mom grew up. We had both worked in dairy-farming in the Lynden and Everson area. Bill was the type of guy that I would have enjoyed visiting for much longer but after twenty minutes it was time to hit the road.
My trip back down the hill was slowed a bit by headwind. I kept an eye on the sky to the west that threatened to bring rain. The scene at Smallwoods had changed drastically. The place was a buzz of families enjoying the carnival atmosphere and activities there. Leavenworth was fully awake and very busy with tourist action. I made it to the car and quickly packed my gear up. As I entered Highway 2 to head home the first raindrops hit the ground. I had dodged the rain bullet and count this latest trip as another enjoyable adventure. I think I may have extended this Mountain Quest as much as possible this season. With the wet and cold weather arriving I may have to ride the remaining Washington mountains in 2013.
Now is the time of year to hit the gym, tune up that bike, and get ready for the many more Mountain Quest treks. Thanks again for joining me and stay tuned for more Mountain Quest adventures.