Camano Island Loop

Camano Island Loop

November 24, 2012

38 miles

1958 Camano Island Tourist Map

1958 Camano Island Tourist Map

I decided to pull my bike off of the trainer in the living room and hit some pavement.  With much rain here in the northwest and snow in the mountains,  my workouts have been in the gym and on the bike trainer inside.   The weather forecast was good today and I thought maybe I might even see some sunshine.  I feel so lucky to live on the island and have this great ride at my doorstep.

Mt. Baker

Mt. Baker from Camano Island

I took the photo above today, January 11, 2013.  It was taken from the north end of Camano Island looking past the town of Mt. Vernon to Mt. Baker.  

Camano Island has a rich history of logging and was known as a great fishing and resort destination.  The exterior loop roads that take you around the island for the most part follow the paths made by those early pioneers and loggers. I hit West Camano Drive and headed south around  2:30 pm.  The tree filtered sun was  very welcome and the temperature was around 46 degrees and dropping.  Even though I had several layers of clothes on,  I knew that it may be a bit uncomfortable by the time I made it through the east shaded side of the island.   I have read many posts from cold weather riders but have not purchased the proper clothing yet.  I’ve done this same ride a few times before but those were during much warmer months of the year. The peek-a-boo views of the Saratoga Passage and Whidbey Island were great.  The air quality was much improved from the smokey atmosphere caused by the summer forest fires of Eastern Washington. To my southwest,  I could see the Olympic Mountains which brought back fond memories of the Hurricane Ridge Ride I made two months earlier.

Whidbey Island and the Olympic Mountains

Whidbey Island and the Olympic Mountains

I passed the Camano Inn which is a very nice place to stay.  This  five star establishment offers fine dininer and a massage after your bike ride.

Camano Island Inn

Camano Island Inn

  I continued south on West Camano Drive and took a detour at Cama Beach State Park.  This state park was one of the many resorts that used to dot the island.     

Cama Beach looking north

Cama Beach looking north

 Most of the original cabins and building have been restored.  Durning the summer months you can rent a cabin or one of the more upscale bungalos.  The origial store and cafe will ensure you are fed and watered.   The old boathouse is also restored if you feel the need to hit the salt water in a wooden boat.  For those that arrive here on four wheels there is an upper parking lot where you will park before being shuttled to the beach.

Cama Beach drop off area

Cama Beach drop off area

  

Cama Beach firewood saw

Cama Beach firewood saw

                                                                                                                                                         

I took a little too much time checking out Cama Beach but the climb up from the beach to West Camano Drive warmed me up quickly.  It wasn’t very far down the road where I took W. Mountain View Road to South Camano Drive. 

Cama Beach Gas Station

Cama Beach Gas Station

 If I would have gone right ot S. Lowell Point Road it is a short ride to Camano State Park.  The beagles often take me to the park for a walk.  They love to root along the shore and run the logs as they find lovely little treasures to munch on.

Beagles on the Beach

Beagles on the Beach

 I’ve attached a few photos so you can get an idea of how nice it is there.  There are a variety of camp sites, cabins, day use areas, a boat launch, and beach side picinic shelter to enjoy.  If you look to the west as you go down the hill toards the boat launch you may see a bald eagle or two.  They often roost on a branch above the picinic table .

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

 I shifted down several times and ground uphill for for a bit as I neared the south tip of the island.  There are several property lots for sale which offer an incredible view of Hat Island and Possession Sound.  

In approximately 1820 there was a major landslide here during which a chunk of this southern tip fell into the sound.  This caused a tsunami which hit Hat Island killing many of the Indian tribe living there.

Hat Island

Hat Island from Camano Island

 Three eagles were putting on an air show for me as I stood on the south bluff.  If the clouds would not have moved in you would be able to see Everett to the left of Hat Island.  The road turned into East Camano Drive as I pedaled north.  The sun was now too low in the west and shaded by the trees to give me any warmth.  I spured my horse to get some more speed.  On this side of the island you also have views of Port Susan and the Cascade Mountains.  The temperature was now at 42 degrees plus biking wind chill factor.  I Passed through Terry’s Corner and neared the north end of the Island.   

Check out the book “75 Classic Rides, Washington” written by Mike McQuaide.  I highly recommend this book as it will take you through some great rides around the state.  Mike did a great job of describing the rides so you know what to expect and can enjoy the ride to the fullest.  You’ll find the Camano Island Loop ride on page 54.

Bosman Gardens rose path

Bosman Gardens rose path

 At the end of your ride stop by my place and I’ll open a bottle of Bosman Gardens red wine for you.  You can tell me about your adventures as we are surrounded by flowers, birds, and the bubbling waterfall of the pond.  I’ll see you then.

Bosman Gardens Pond

Bosman Gardens Pond

  

Water Hyacinth in our pond

Water Hyacinth in our pond

                                                         Thanks for following me.

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Posted in Bicycling, Bosman Gardens, Camano Island, Photography, Washington State, Washington State Parks, Wine | 3 Comments

Blewett Pass

Leavenworth to Blewett Pass

October 12, 2012

52 miles

Hwy 97 Roadside Stream

Hwy 97 Roadside Stream

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.

Smallwood's Harvest

Smallwood’s Harvest

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.

 

Hwy 97 Hillside

Hwy 97 Hillside

 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.

Hwy 97 Roadside Stream

Hwy 97 Roadside Stream

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.  

Old Blewett Bridge Site

Old Blewett Bridge Site

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.  

Blewett in 1911

Blewett in 1911

Blewett Gold Mining Stamp Mill

Blewett Gold Mining Stamp Mill

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. 

Blewett Pass Fire Break

Blewett Pass Fire Break

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.

Spot Forest Fires

Spot Forest Fires

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.

Posted in Bicycling, Blewett Pass, Forest Fire, Ghostown, Mountains, Photography, Washington State | 2 Comments

Mission Ridge, Wenatchee

Wenatchee to Mission Ridge

October 11, 2012

24 miles

Hwy 2 to Stevens Pass

Hwy 2 to Stevens Pass

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.

Eagle Rock

Eagle Rock

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.

Smoke Filled Wenatchee Valley

Smoke Filled Wenatchee Valley

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.

Mission Ridge with December snow

Mission Ridge with December snow

I checked into the Icicle Inn in Leavenworth and prepared for the next day’s trip to Blewett Pass.

 

Posted in Bicycling, Mission Ridge, Mountains, Photography, Wenatchee | 2 Comments

Snoqualmie Pass

Twin Falls State Park to Snoqualmie Pass

 October 5, 2012  

40 miles 

Moss covered trees on the trail to Twin Falls

Moss covered trees on the trail to Twin Falls

The week before this next ride I kept checking the weather forecast which looked great.  I was so happy to see that the fall rains and winter mountain snow had not arrived yet.  Most of the state has seen nothing but dry weather for the last two months. 

Unfortunately the Eastern Washington forest fires still burn.  The smoke creates a beautiful red toned sunrise but dulls the views and affects the air quality. I plotted a path that I hoped would help me avoid a large section of Interstate 90.  The only part of this plan I wasn’t sure of was that of the National Forest road conditions.  If they were too rough or closed I would turn around and stay on I-90 for the entire ride.   I researched Twin Falls State Park and was intrigued by the water fall which looked impressive on the Google Earth computer program. I packed my bike and gear the night before and headed out in the car around 6:00 am.  The 405 freeway traffic was slow and ugly as expected.  Many of my friends and family have been concerned for my safety as I take these bike trips.  The real danger is being in a car during rush hour traffic such as this.  I successfully swerved and braked to avoid more than a few frantic, distracted, or unskilled motorists.  It is truly horrifying to see how many of these drivers text, talk on the telephone, put on makeup, or read while working through this crazy traffic.  Once I made it a few miles east on I-90 I felt a bit more relaxed.  I pulled into the Twin Falls State Park lot by 8:45.  Even though the blue sky promised nice weather a fall chill was in the air.  I was dressed for the cooler environment and motivated to start pedaling to get warmer.  I worked my way back to I-90 and stayed on it for two miles.  I took The SE Homestead Road Exit.   This road is south of the freeway.  I had the Olallie State Park between myself and the road noise of I-90.  The first couple of miles of the road was very rough as the concrete surface was so worn it was like riding on a cobblestone street.  I stopped to take a photo of the creek that ran next to the road.

Old Homestead Road Stream

Old Homestead Road Stream

After a few miles I had to jump back on I-90 for four miles.  I was not sad when it was time to leave the many semi trucks that barreled past me on the freeway.   I entered Tinkham Road which was named for a railroad surveyor who crossed the pass on foot in the winter of 1854.   This National Forest road is graveled with many potholes and a washboard surface.  I stopped to unlock my front shocks and was very happy to have this mountain bike and not a road bike.  I considered taking down my tire pressure from the 85 pounds but elected not to as it was only for six miles more of this surface.  

Roadside Stream

Roadside Stream

The only vehicle to pass me was a King County Sheriff K9 Deputy.  I caught up to the deputy as I crossed under I-90.  I stopped and talked to him for a few minutes and found we had a few friends in common.   I headed back up the road on the final push to Snoqualmie Pass. Forest Service Road 5800 runs between the East and West bound lanes of the freeway and until now had been undiscovered by me.  I found several great photo opportunities along the road.  I took a little side trip and explored the Denny Creek Campground.  For most of this road I had an evergreen canopy above me which created a very cool feeling.  As I entered a clearing I stopped to capture the photo below. 

Snoqualmie Pass From the Woods

Snoqualmie Pass From the Woods

 Hop into your time machine and go back to 1917.  If you were in the car pictured below, you would be looking at Snoqualmie Pass as seen above.  Both photos were taken from virtually the same spot but looking in opposite directions.  This road was the original wagon road that was first opened 145 years ago.

Snoqualime Pass 1917

Snoqualime Pass 1917

 As I neared the top I stopped at an old stone wall to take photos of the water below. 

Snoqualmie Pass Summit Stream

Snoqualmie Pass Summit Stream

These two photos are of the same area of Forest Service Road 5800.

Clearing Snow from Snoqualmie Pass, 1936

Clearing Snow from Snoqualmie Pass, 1936

I made it to SnoqualmiePass summit before noon and enjoyed the break.  I rode past the Summit at Snoqualmie ski lodge and stopped at the gas station store down the road.

Snoqualmie Pass Summit looking NW

Snoqualmie Pass Summit looking NW

 I sat outside on the sidewalk and visited with three hikers that were also taking a break.  They started their hike on the Pacific Crest Trail at the Mexico border in April and were headed to Canada.  We shared stories for a bit and parted ways to continue our journeys.  I enjoyed a snack and water as I sat at a picnic table in the soon to be bustling ski lodge area.  I headed back down the hill and again traveled on Forest Service Road 5800.  Of course, this time I traveled a bit faster than on the way up.  With very few open areas I kept my eyes peeled for any deer or other hazard that may attempt to alter my path.  Before I knew it I was back to I-90.   If you are traveling over the pass on I-90 and have an extra 30 minutes, I highly recommend taking this detour route.  There are many day camp and picnic spots along the way as well as great photo opportunities. I decided to stay on the freeway rather than take the gravel road I had taken earlier.  My speed and the fact that the commercial truck traffic was minimal made the freeway travel more enjoyable than it had been in the morning.  I made it back to the car at Twin Falls State Park and loaded up the bike and gear.  Compared to my treks I had taken recently today’s ride left me with energy to spare.  I took advantage of my early return and decided to take a hike to Twin Falls.  For the first time today I lost my lightweight jacket and pullover polar fleece.   The 1.1 mile hike follows the south fork of the Snoqualmie River.  The trail turns a bit steep but then dips back down to the river’s edge.  At this point I got my first glimpse of the falls.

The first glimpse of Twin Falls

The first glimpse of Twin Falls

 I couldn’t help but say, “Oh my God” out loud.  With every turn in the trail the view of the falls increased and revealed an incredible sight.  I saw that the best view and photo opurtunity was on the other side of the river.  I took advantage of the many huge boulders that were now partially exposed above the water.  With more than a few hop, skips, balancing on logs, and jumps,  I made it to the other side.   I took a bit of time to walk near the falls and marvel at its beauty and power. 

Twin Falls

Twin Falls

 The truely amazing fact is that as awesome as the falls were now,  there is a fraction of the amount of water that would pound over the rocks come spring.    This sixty plus foot water fall is a must see if you should ever be in the area. Today’s trek was very rewarding.  My Mountain Quest bucket list is getting shorter.  If the good weater holds I hope to whittle that list of Washington mountains and passes down to half a dozen. I think I’ll finish out the summer rides with a two day trek and head to Wenatchee for Mission Ridge then ride over Blewett Pass. See you then.

P.S.  Please let me know if you experience any trouble viewing the photos.  There has been some issue with this recently since WordPress made some changes this program.

Posted in Bicycling, Mountains, Photography, Snoqualime Pass, Twin Falls State Park, Washington State, Waterfall | 4 Comments

Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge

September 28, 2012

36 miles

Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge

I researched this trek the week prior as it was touted to be one of the hardest rides in the Washington State.  I usually add mileage to the mountain ride to ensure I get a good workout.  Based on what I read on the various web sites about “The Hurricane”,  I elected to do the mountain only.  This brought the total mileage to about 1/2 of my average Mountain Quest rides.  If this mountain was half as hard as people described it, I would need all the strength I could muster up to finish it.  After my last ride I now paid very close attention to the elevation changes throughout the entire route.  This one was very up front.  You start uphill, continue uphill, then repeat step two for the rest of the trip to the top.  

I was very happy to see that the weather forecast indicated partial clouds with clearing in the afternoon.  I left the house in the car around 6:30 am with my faithful horse hitched to the rack on the back of the car.  I entered the Edmonds area and was greeted by a beautiful double rainbow.   As much as I wanted a photo of the rainbow,  I would have had to take it while driving which was not an option.  I had just enough time waiting for the Kingston Ferry that I was able to send off a few text messages updates and emails.  One of the perks of living in the northwest is being able to experience the many different ferries that connect the islands to mainland.  Kingston was framed by the impressive Olympic Mountains that rose to the sky behind.  I felt a sense of excitement as I anticipated the challenge that lie ahead.

Kingston Ferry

Kingston Ferry

It was a pleasant drive as I made my way through several small coastal towns on the way to Port Angeles.  I found the Olympic National Park Ranger Station Visitor’s Center which is on the appropriately named,  Race Street.  I was  happy to see that the threat of rain had all but disappeared.  It was a very comfortable temperature but I resisted the temptation to pull the rain gear and some extra clothing out of my bags.   My Dad’s voice in my head ensured that I always had “Backup systems.” 

I left the parking lot at 10:00 and was immediately greeted by a road that had a good uphill grade.  By “Good” I mean hard.   After sitting in a car for many hours my legs were not a big fan of this jumping right into it thing.  The advantage to having some miles of moderate grade to start a ride is that it gives your body and mind a chance to adjust to the pain.  Many years ago I trained with former USMC Sergeant Jerry.  He was a SWAT instructor at the National Academy in New Mexico.  Many time I had heard him bellow the phrase, “Pain is just weakness leaving the body”.   That phrase now helped me drive on.  It wasn’t long before I lost my biking pants and enjoyed the freedom of wearing only shorts and light clothing above.  I stopped after about 90 minutes to drink some water and enjoy the view of Port Angeles below.  

Port Angeles

Port Angeles

There was very little traffic to deal with.  As people drove past me they all seemed to have that “Oh my God do you need help” look.     The trees began to thin as I ground up the hill allowing an ever increasing view of the surrounding terrain. 

I stopped to admire the view and take some photos of the ancient Lake Morse.  It was so amazing to think that this entire section of valley had been underwater so many years ago.  The Glacier that had once moved into position to dam the valley has since melted away.

Ancient Morse Lake

Ancient Morse Lake

It seems that the mountain beaver population is doing well in this area.  The hillsides are dotted with evidence of their countless burrows and paths.  Occasionally I would see a flash of one are it ran from an open area to the safety of the nearest hole.  

Butterfly Hitch Hiker

Butterfly Hitch Hiker

About ¾ of the way up the hill I was surrounded by butterflies or possibly moths.  I had to slow my speed and move back and forth to avoid having them run into my spokes.  It was a pretty cool feeling having so many of them floating around me in this incredible mountain view environment.

 

 

After over three hours of grinding on the pedals, I crested the hill.  As I made the last turn into the observation point parking lot I was greeted by the amazing Olympic Mountain peaks.  From this vantage point I was surrounded by over a dozen mountain peaks.  Center stage is held by the appropriately named Mount Olympus.  In keeping with the Greek mythological theme, Zeus’ throne has Mt. Hermes and Athena by it’s side to help rule the Olympic Mountain range.

Mt Olympus

Mt Olympus

I was sad to see that Blue Glacier on Mt. Olympus has shrunk to almost nothing.  There were comparison photos displayed from 1909 which showed how much  these glaciers are disappearing.

Hurricane Ridge with bike

Hurricane Ridge with bike

I met and talked to quite a few people as I sat at a picnic table and refueled my body.  I find it interesting to see where others are from and to hear their stories.   The still burning Eastern Washington forest fires left a haze throughout the valleys.  Unfortunately the smoke did not allow the photos to bring out the true beauty of this area. 

Olympic Mountains

Olympic Mountains

I put some warmer clothes on in preparation for the fast ride back down the mountain.  In no time at all I found my pedals worthless due to my speed.  I kept a tuck position and was ever vigilant looking for any road hazard which could disrupt my happy.  I covered the first ten miles in approximately 11 minutes.  I say approximately as I didn’t dare move my hands to check the time.  At about 11 miles down I saw a big deer run across the road.  It was approximately 50 yards ahead of me.  As she looked back over her shoulder from where she came,  I realized there likely was another one on the way.  I took some speed off and uttered a word that I will not write down out of respect for my sensitive readers.   I was glad to pass the deer hazard without mishap.  I hit my pedals a few times on the way down but seldom could use any but the top few gears.  I reached the Ranger Station parking lot in 31 minutes and could not believe how fast the trip down had gone.

After packing up my bike and gear,  I headed for home.  The Ferry ride back to Edmonds was very nice.  With the sun shining off of the waves behind me I reflected on the day’s events.   This had been a very enjoyable trek and another step closer to my Mountain Quest goal.  I contemplated the next ride I would do.  Maybe something closer to home like Snoqualmie Pass.

Ferry Ride from Kingston

Ferry Ride from Kingston

Thanks for joining me.

Posted in Bicycling, Hurricane Ridge, Mountains, Mt. Olympus, Olympic National Park, Photography, Port Angeles | 4 Comments

Mt. St. Helens

Castle Rock to Mt. St. Helens

September 21, 2012

92 miles

St Helens the day before

St Helens the day before

The May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens removed 3.7 billions cubic yards of material and lowered the mountain top by 1,314 feet.  This debris buried 14 miles of the North Fork Toutle River Valley with an average depth of 150 feet.  I had just graduated high school the year prior.  I remember my father telling of his experience of being enveloped by the ash cloud as he was in the Eastern Washington area when the mountain erupted.  His photos and hearing of his struggle to make the long drive home made quite an impression on me.

Mt. St Helens Eruption

Mt. St Helens Eruption

This bike trek would mark the first time I’ve been to Mt. St. Helens.  I was pleased to see that the weather forcast was good.  Partly cloudy and 10% chance of rain, they said.  Thursday, the day before my planned ride, was a long workday.   I left Everett southbound at 8:30 pm.   It seems that I found that 10% chance of rain.    I finally hit the pillow at 11:00 that night in a Castle Rock motel.  I started my mountain climbing earlier that I anticipated.  The bed’s mattress came to a peak in the middle so it was a fight throughout the night to stay on the summit.  I was up and preparing for the day’s journey by 6:30.   I peaked out the motel room window and was greeted by a very wet parking lot.  I mustered up some optimism and thought that maybe the day would bring that 90% chance of dry weather for me. It was a short drive to the Seaquest state campground where I parked the car. 

I hadn’t even made it out of the campground before the rain started.   After carrying my raingear over 500 miles of mountain over the last month,  I would finally get a chance to put it to the test.  Under the cover of the campground check in station,  I donned my rain gear.   I recognized a weak point in my rain armor.  My shoes would soon been soaking wet.  I used two quart size freezer bag that had held my rain gear.  With a couple rubber bands holding the bags on my shoes I started pedaling towards Mt. St. Helens on the Sprit Lake Highway.  I found that the rain gears efficiency at keeping the rain off me was equaled by its ability to keep the moisture in.  I was a moving, human terrarium.   My rain pants worked well but made me work harder to pedal as they were tight and restricted my leg movement.  I was very glad when the rain lightened up 90 minutes up the road and I packed my rain gear back in my bike bags.  It was still cold enough that I wore several layers of clothing over my bike shorts and shirt.   

I passed through the town of Toutle and followed the river of the same name.  There is still much evidence of the 1980 eruption.  The river cut back down through the very thick layer of volcanic ash that appeared to be over 40 feet thick in some spots.  It was amazing to me how life had returned to these devastated areas as trees and wildlife flourished around me.  The road was a slowly increasing grade and I found it manageable to maintain a good pace.  I knew it was important to maintain that pace due to my delayed start.  I had 92 miles to cover and did not want to get back home too late.  I stopped to take a photo of a bridge and saw that I would soon be in the cloud layer which was barely above me.

Bridge into the clouds

Bridge into the clouds

I was passed by two of the only other bikes out this day.  These two Portland women were on road bikes and wore typical bike shorts and a thin long sleeved shirt.  Even though working hard to climb the grade will keep a body warm I thought that they were very underdressed for the elements.  I caught up shortly afterwards and joined them for a break at the 2,000 foot marker.  We were now in the clouds and it seemed that is where we would be for the rest of this trek.  I parted ways with my fellow bikers five minutes later.  Even though our destination was the same I would not see them again.  I have to admit that I was tempted to quit several times myself on this trek.  

Riding in the thick cloud layer can be a very strange experience.  There was very little traffic and other than the sound of my breathing and tires on pavement it was eerily quiet.  There were times when the cloud layer was so thick that I could barely see across the road.  It seemed that I was floating in the cloud as I traveled over many very high bridges that had short sides.  

I was glad to see a 3,800 foot marker as I knew I would be at the top at 4,210 feet.  What I didn’t know before this point was that the road dove back down to 2,500 feet over the next several miles.  When I was planning this trip,  I traced the route on Google Earth and checked for significant elevation changes.  It seems that I had skipped past this very significant five mile section.  As I descended very rapidly I muttered, “Oh crap.”  This phrase was repeated as I gained momentum and realized this hill would be a very big obstacle upon my return trip.  The road bottomed out in the area of Coldwater Lake which is approximately six miles below the Mt. St. Helens National Park Visitor’s Center.  For the next mile the roadway was covered with very small frogs.  I stopped to drink some water and was greeted by a chorus of the little hoppers.  I found it impossible to avoid them all as I rode through though this froggy area.  I was thankful that I had fenders between my bike tire and my face. 

I gained 1,710 feet of elevation over the next five miles which tested my mental fortitude.  The temperature dipped substantially as I reached the visitor’s center.  Other than a few short stay tourist visitors I had the place to myself.  The visibility was still 50 feet at best and I was unable to see any of the mountain.  I sat down to enjoy a meal of beef jerky, dried fruit, and Gatorade.  I seemed that the spot I chose to sit down and take a break was the ideal spot for people to use as a backdrop for photos.  It gave me an opportunity to some interesting people.  I find it entertaining to see how differently people react when they realize someone rode a bike up a mountain that they found hard to do in a car.  Older women typically have a look of concern and pain as they talk to me.  I usually get the good job look from guys.  Little children and drawn by a desire to check out this guy dressed in funny neon green and the need to touch my bike. 

St Helens from Johnston Ridge

St Helens from Johnston Ridge on a Clear Day

My break was very short as it was almost 3:00 and I had a lot of road left to do on a bike and in the car before I was home.

Giving my Bike a Rest

Giving my Bike a Rest

I pulled out my snow boarding style face mask and throat protector.  Once I was bundled up I hit the hill.   The low temperature and wind chill made it a bit uncomfortable.  I tried to pedal in an effort to generate some heat but I was traveling fast enough to render the pedals useless.   I was a little concerned that my body shaking from the cold was causing my bike to wobble a bit.  I was glad to get to the bottom five miles later where it was a bit warmer and I could work my body into a warmer state.  I made the climb back out of Coldwater Creek bottom and was soon comfortable again.   This climb that I had dreaded earlier was now the reason I was warm again. 

I stopped halfway up that hill as I heard an inviting sound.   It was the distinctive bugle of a bull elk.  He was down in the Toutle river basin.  The clouds had parted and thinned enough that I could see the canyon area where he was.  This brought back many fond memories of chasing elk through the mountains with a muzzleloader in my hands.   I wished that I would have had a reed and bugle tube as I would have loved to call the bull in for a closer look.  I was content to hear him and another bull farther down the valley challenge each other for the right to run the herd and rule this mountain.  It must be sign of getting older that I would now rather capture the elk on a camera rather than with a firearm.  Moments like this are what drives and inspires me on these treks.  

I picked up the pace after passing the 3,800 foot maker.  I made it back to the car at Seaquest Campground just before 6:00.  I had logged 92 miles on my bike this day which is a bit too much when you add in the elevation gains that came with it. 

After over nine hours of bike seat time I was very glad to be off of it.  I cleaned up, changed clothes, and started the long drive home.  I will definitely have to go back to Mt. St. Helens again so I can enjoy the views when the weather is better.  Next time I think I’ll check out this nountain on four wheels.     

Mt St Helens

Mt St Helens

Posted in Bicycling, Mountains, Mt. St. Helens, Photography, Volcano | 3 Comments

Mt. Rainier, Paridise

Alder Lake to Paradise, Mount Rainier

September 14, 2012

73 miles

Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier

My week at work after the Artist Point ride flew by.  As soon as I would get home from work each day,  I planned my route for the next bike ride.  The weather forecast was good as I packed by bike and bags into the truck the night before I headed out for Mount Rainier.   I left the house at 5:00 am in hopes of avoiding some of that lovely I-5 and 405 commuter traffic.  Mapquest indicated 2 hour, 30 minute drive.  It took a little more than three hours to get to the Alder Lake boat launch off of Highway 7.    I was on two wheels rolling up the road shortly afterwards.   After my Mt. Shuksan trip I purchased some colder weather gear.  I had a nice pair of gloves and face protector.  As it turned out, I didn’t need them this day.  With a later start and thin cloud cover the temperature was much more comfortable that the week prior.    Adler Lake was to my right side and with very little traffic this was a very nice start to the trek.  I found the quaint town of Elbe at the east end of the lake.  Elbe is the home of the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad.  This place is one you will want to put on your NW travel bucket list.  They provide a look into and an interactive experience with steam locomotive history.  The Hobo Inn is housed in old railroad cars and caboose that have been refitted for lodging, dining, and shops.  

Hobo Inn in Elbe, WA

Hobo Inn in Elbe, WA

I continued towards the mountain and passed through the small town of Ashford.  I found that this was the last place I had a reliable cellular telephone signal so I sent a location update text message to Tawnee and others.  The town people were busy preparing for some sort of outdoor festival as they set up booths, tables, and exhibits.

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park

When I entered the Rainier National Park Entrance it was as if entering a world in a fantasy story.  The road wound through the huge moss-covered trees as it followed the Nisqually River up the canyon.  The river was now a fraction of its spring size.  I looked peaceful and inviting but there was much evidence of the torrent it would be with the winter snow thaw of spring. 

Nisqually River and Mt Rainier

Nisqually River and Mt Rainier

I stopped to photograph several streams and waterfalls along the way.  This was an excellent excuse to catch my breath as it had been a steady climb ever since I entered the Rainier National Park. 

Christine Falls

Christine Falls

Christine Falls at the bridge edge

Christine Falls is one of those must stop locations.  When you are on the bridge you cannot see and appreciate how the water has sculpted and bored a hole in its attempt to find the center of Earth.

Narada Falls

Narada Falls

 Another photo break point was up the road at Narada Falls.  The view from the roadway bridge and the trail below provide a great photo opportunity.  As I continued pedaling uphill I was surprised with how difficult it was.  Each of these mountain treks presents its own unique challenges.  This one was a long steady uphill climb for many miles without a break in the grade.   The percent of grade slowly but surely increased from the park entrance to the Paradise parking lot. 

Mt Rainier from Paradise

Mt Rainier from Paradise

  The air quality was poor due to the Wenatchee area forest fire smoke that was being pushed west over the Cascade Mountains.   I turned the last corner and saw the Paradise Inn framed by the immense Mt. Rainer glaciers.   This lodge has been a tourist destination since being built in 1916. 

Paradise Inn a Few Years Ago

Paradise Inn a Few Years Ago

I found myself a nice little corner of the Inn’s outdoor deck and kicked my feet up on this wonderful sunny day.  I was very comfortable in my shorts and light shirt.  I enjoyed my meal of beef jerky, dried fruit, and Gatorade.   I met several nice people and visited with them for the next 45 minutes.  I met Skip who is now retired and living in Spokane.  He told me stories of his many experiences as a soldier in Vietnam and working as a deputy and forensic technician for the Pinellas County, Florida Sheriff’s Office.   A trio of retired women from the southern states shared their excitement and joy of this experience and their anticipation for the Alaskan cruise they would start the next day.  A man from Scotland and woman from Colorado told of their world travels and shared mountain biking in the Colorado Rocky Mountains stories.   On each of these bike trips I have new and interesting people.  It was a little after two o’clock before I headed back down the mountain road.  The moss-covered trees and waterfalls I had enjoyed and photographed on the way up were now blurred as I sped by.  It had taken me a little over four hours to climb from the 1,200’ Alder Lake boat ramp to the Paradise Inn at 5,450’.  I was back at the truck in a little over two hours on this downhill ride. This trek is another great memory that will stay with me forever.   Now it’s time to rest up and plan my next trip.  Will this great weather hold?  Maybe I’ll hit Mt. St. Helens.

Posted in Bicycling, Mountains, Mt. Rainier, Paridise, Photography | 3 Comments