Hiking Milestone in MRNP

October 4th, 2018
View from Pinnacle Saddle Trail showing lower tongue of the Nisqually Glacier, as well as the buildings at Paradise.

Today I completed a major milestone. I’ve lived in the vicinity of Mount Rainier National Park for the last 27 years, but finally completed a major goal of hiking (essentially) all 50 hikes in the book 50 hikes in Mount Rainier National Park. By essentially, I mean that I haven’t hiked every last bit of every trail in the park, but have completed most if not all of each of the trails, with some trails like the Wonderland Trail (93 miles around the mountain) I’ve done twice now. 

The hike that I completed today was a short hike with a lot of elevation gain, going up to Pinnacle saddle. It was a chilly fall day and overcast with frost and ice over much of the upper aspect of the trail. The huckleberries were yellow to red, adding a beautiful spread of color throughout the hillside. The hike was 1.5 miles with 1150 ft of elevation gain, taking me 45 minutes to get in, and 30 minutes to descend out, not rushing it. 

Pinnacle Peak hike starts at Reflection Lake
Huckleberries provide an array of color in the fall setting.
Approaching the upper end of the trail.
A view from the saddle
Other views from the trail
Across the saddle, a view of the Tatoosh Wilderness, and Packwood way off in the distance. Mt. Adams could typically be seen but was engulfed in clouds
Snow patches along the trail. The trails had frequent ice.

I then decided to hike back up the Carter Falls trail to inspect a turnpike that I helped to create earlier this spring. We did not finish the task, leaving the lower end of the turnpike about 18 inches above a drainage gulley. I mentioned that the best solution was to add a culvert (drain) and bridge over matters, but was shot down. It was interesting to note that the final result followed by advice precisely. 

The hike to Carter Falls crosses the Nisqually River on a log
A culvert added below the turnpike, as I advised

With the weather turning, it is unlikely that I will be doing many more hikes in Rainier. I’ll have to do some sort of hiking to prepare for the PCT next spring. When I return to Mt. Rainier, I’d like to return as a volunteer, maybe walking the trails, and providing advice to the mass swarms of visitors that are loving my park to death.

Holden WTA work trip

September 23rd, 2018
Holden Lake

Holden Washington Trails Association Volunteer Vacation 15-22SEPT2018

I try to include 7-10 days/year as a volunteer for the WTA working on trails. I love to backpack, and certainly have not done it as much as I’d like over my lifetime, yet I still feel that a few days “pay-back” for all the hard work that goes into building and maintaining a trail is worth it. Even on national lands, much of the trail maintenance is performed by volunteers, and it is hard work, so I feel that I can afford to do some trail work each year. I had already spent time with the PCTA on a Goat Rocks work project, and a long weekend on Mt. Rainier with the WTA. This trip was originally full, but when an opening came up, I quickly signed up, in that I had never been into this area, save for climbing Glacier Peak 40 years ago with Hannes Zuercher. 

Holden Village is not reachable by vehicle. Either one must backpack in, or take the boat ⅔ the way up Lake Chelan to Lucerne, and then be shuttled in 9 miles to the village. It was started as a mining camp in the 1930’s, the principle focus being copper from a mountain in the vicinity. The village was abandoned in the late 1950’s and then purchased by the Lutheran church as a retreat center. Later, it was discovered that iron leachings from the tailings were leading to a 2 mile section of Railroad creek not having any fish. $600 million later, and much further destruction of the area has led to a possible recovery of the Cutthroat trout in the short creek segment, but uncertainty remains about long-term viability of the entire project. We were not at the village to help with mine remediation, but to fix and clear the trails that run into and out of the village.  Our focus was to brush the MonkeyBear trail and the Holden Lake, Hart Lake trails, while building a culvert/turnpike on the Hart Lake trail. The work was a success, though much was still left to be done. Our leader was Jackson Lee, who was incredibly delightful to work with, probably one of the better leaders that I’ve had to work under, and very motivated at the task at hand. 

In mid-week, I did a 16+ mile hike to Holden Lake and then to Hart Lake, a stupendously beautiful venture of breath-taking quality. Holden Lake sits right under Bonanza Peak, the tallest non-volcanic peak in Washington. Hart Lake was on the trail up to Cloudy Pass and the PCT, and currently used as a bypass for PCT thru-hikers owing to an Agnes Creek fire just north of Suiattle Pass. The other Ken and Carol were close behind me. On my way back from Hart Lake, I got to walk out with 3 thru-hikers who have stayed together since departing Campo. 

Holden Village is run by the Lutheran church. They have Vespers every evening for 30 minutes, starting at 19:00. I usually attended. The services were quite different from traditional Lutheran liturgical worship that I was familiar with, having a focus on personal therapy as religion and worship of  the “happy feel-good eco-artsy-pacifist-inclusive-of-everything-god”. The staff were all very nice, and it was a joy to get to know them. Most of the workers were also volunteers. The closest thing I could think of to describe Holden Village was “The Village” portrayed in the tv series The Prisoner starting Patrick McGoohan, best known as the secret agent man. 

The first work day had heavy rain, and then we had sunny weather until Thursday, when it was cloudy but without rain. Departure on Saturday had more rain. The boat ride out was late in the afternoon, and I was able to make it home by 21:15 that evening.  Photos of the trip follow…

Tam on the trip in
The boat docked in Lucerne, headed up to Stehekin
Our crew gets a shuttle bus ride up to the Village
My bed in the Village
Our cabin in the village
Mountains surround the village
More of the village
The mine remediation project
Mine remediation structures
Ditto
Iron rich crud from the runoff collected downstream and then dumped upstream in this giant basin.
Drain runoff Woman hole (gender inclusive)
Attempt to reforest tailings
Eager beaver workers waiting to play in the dirt.
The turnpike crew, with a thru-hiker included on the far right, and forest service person in yellow.
View from the village
Our day packs are dropped, tools properly placed by the trail, and work commences
MonkeyBear Falls, site of Tuesday’s lunch stop 
The beginning of the turnpike/culvert
Rod, playing in the mud, digging drainage for the culvert
The turnpike filled in with rock followed by dirt using burrito-roll technique
Day hike up to Holden Lake
Higher up to Holden Lake, Bonanza Peak in the center
Holden Lake beside Bonanza Peak
Holden Lake, glaciers hovering above the lake
The other Ken at Holden Lake
Carol and Donald arriving at Holden Lake
Wild Ken in Wild-erness 
Hart Lake from above
The completed turnpike

Culvert running under the turnpike
Drainage beside the turnpike
Completely exhausted trail workers, barely making it.
Departure at Lucerne Landing, the boat arriving in the distance
Very happy trail workers, including Jackson, Elaine, and Pat

Olympic Rainshadow Hike

September 7th, 2018
Mount Olympus as seen from the trail to Grand Lake

04-07SEPT I had planned for a 3-4 day hike in the rain shadow region of the Olympic National Park. The Olympics tends to be challenging hiking, with the trails often showing no regard for real humans, heading straight up the hills without mercy. The land is rugged and not for the faint-of-heart, yet offers some of the most spectacular beauty to be seen. Every corner of the the trail, every vista, every pass, every step offers an ever unfolding realm of majesty; new snow-clad peaks, new valleys, new lakes and meadows, all discovered by the sweat of one’s brow and the toil of aching muscles and limbs… but, it was all very much worth it. Sometimes it could be a challenge to get permits into the Grand Valley basin. Fortunately, it was after Labor Day, and permits were quite easy to obtain. Even though the weather was spectacularly beautiful without a cloud in the sky, the campgrounds were quite empty. On the 8 miles or so of trail from the Grand Pass junction to Three Forks Campground, and the next day back up to Deer Park, I never saw a single other person of the trail. One needs not go to Alaska for solitude!

Day zero started by me leaving from home about noon, and reaching the Port Angeles ranger station where I was able to obtain my permit to hike, and camp at Moose Lake. I decided to start at Deer Park, which I didn’t realize was somewhat of a crazy drive up a VERY narrow gravel road 8 miles to the campground. I spent the night there.

One day one, the hike went from Deer Park to Moose Lake via Obstruction Point, roughly 11.5 miles and 3500 ft of climbing. Much of the trail to Obstruction Point was on a crest overlooking Port Angeles and the Puget Sound on one side, and a broad panoply of mountains on the other. The trail to the Grand Basin also followed a ridge overlooking Mount Olympus (see above) before steeply dropping down into the basin. A short further hike put me at Moose Lake, where I set up camp. There I met a retired chemical engineer named Ray, my same age, and we spoke of our joy for the mountains. I was just getting over a week-long bout of gastroenteritis, so a bit worried about eating. I tried some Loma Linda spaghetti bolognese, which tasted absolutely awful. The meal was remedied with pecan sandy cookies and Snicker bars.

Day two went further up the Grand Valley, beyond where most people do not go, up over Grand Pass. While the lower Grand Valley is V-shaped, the upper valley has a distinct glacial appearance as a large U-shaped cirque. The valley curves to the left, not seen from below, so the top of the valley as seen from Moose Lake was much lower than where Grand Pass actually was, a climb of about 3500 feet. The trail did not seem too difficult, until I had to descend on the other side. On the maps, the trail becomes a dotted line, suggesting not quite a trail. It was not terribly challenging to follow the route down, now with mountains on all sides of me. The hard part was that the trail condition was poor and not maintained. I was unable to hike any faster descending than when ascending the north side of the pass. I encountered three people on the trail, including middle aged lady, a younger man carrying a large tripod on his pack, and an old geezer slowly working his way up the pass… all were solo, like me. Once I reached the Cameron Creek trail, I decided to make this a three (rather than 4-5) day adventure and go down Cameron Creek. Everybody suggested that the trail was okay, and quite beautiful. It was a beautiful trail, though one was now in dense forest without views. The trail here was both poorly designed as well as poorly maintained. It was about 7 miles to Three Forks campground, which took me about 4.5 hours to achieve, much slower than my usual hiking speed on manicured trail. I am not sure why this trail is so neglected. It needs to be re-routed over many segments, and desperately needs a modicum of maintenance, after which I’m sure it would become a very popular trail. For dinner, I had my own specialty, where I combine freeze dried hamburger and vegetables into Top Ramen. It tasted great. The day was roughly about 12 miles, and 4500 ft of climbing.

The last day was a return to Deer Park on a trail that went straight from Three Forks Campground to Deer Park, about 4.4 miles with about 3500 ft of elevation gain. It was a persistent climb, but the trail was in stellar shape, making it not a terrible challenge. There was no available water on the trail, and knew that Deer Park had no water, so my CamelBak was filled with 3 liters, and I went through most of it. Toward the top, the vistas again opened up in their glorious beauty. Though this has been one of my more challenging hikes, I did not feel overwhelmingly spent or exhausted on ending it. I reached Deer Park by 10:30 in the morning, almost 3 hours of climbing. 

On the trail to Obstruction Point
Looking south toward the mountains
Grand Lake
My tent with the Bear Vault at Moose Lake
Moose Lake in the Grand Valley
The view from the summit of the Grand Valley
Grand Pass
Looking down the Cameron Creek Valley
A view in the upper Cameron Valley
My tent at Three Forks
The structure at Three Forks

A few more notes need to be added here. Equipment-wise, I tried out a new pack, the Exos 58, most of which I loved. It was a very comfortable pack, even though I didn’t take sufficient time to fit it to me. There are a few things I didn’t like about it. First, I liked the pockets in the brain, but didn’t like that they competed with an additional optional flap. I would have liked to be able to remove the flap. The long cord on each side that was to help compress the pack seemed more troublesome than good. There were no hip pockets to place little things. Yet, it held everything nicely, including the mandatory bear canister, which one must have when camping in the Olympics. I liked the two very large side stretch pockets and large back pocket. This will probably be my go-to pack, though I might eliminate the “brain” and find a pocket to hold all my loose-ends in in the pack. 

I also tried out two other things, including Dirty-girl gaiters and OP hiking gloves, both of which I loved. My feet were so comfortable in the Altas that I didn’t even bother taking them off at the completion of the hike… they just felt great, without blisters or soreness. The gaiters worked perfect at keeping out dust and rocks and sand from the shoe. I wore my pants over the gaiters, providing a secondary round of protection. The OP hiking gloves also were perfect, as my hands had no soreness while holding onto the hiking poles, didn’t become hot, yet allowed me access to my cell phone for gps purposes. 

I also tried out the MSR pocket rocket mini-stove. Before this, I was very happy with my JetBoil stove, but many reviews and recommendations suggested trying this out. I did, and didn’t like it. It takes at least twice as long to boil up 0.5 liter of water, and requires a lighter to get the flame started. It offers no weight advantage.  I’ll probably go back to my JetBoil Flash Lite system, and use the above stove as a back-up when I’m camping with a group.

Dirty Girl gaiters on my Altas
OR ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Gloves
Final View on leaving the trail

Goat Rocks Work Party with the PCTA

August 24th, 2018
Camp with my tent

PCTA Work Party Sasquatch Volunteer Vacation-Goat Rocks 16-23AUG

I had signed up for this trip early in the year, having hiked the area we would be working on in the recent past.  I enjoy doing trail work, and it is quite educational to experience how much work it really takes to maintain a trail in the wilderness. Though I had expressed a desire to hike the PCT in 2019, this had little influence on me wanting to actually contribute to the maintenance of this trail. 

I arrived to the starting trailhead at Waptus Lake the evening before on 16AUG, and some of the fellow participants were already there. I had a great night’s sleep, and the next morning, was able to meet the entire crew for our endeavor. The leaders, Justin and Dave, explained the rules of engagement, we did some stretching exercises, and off we went to a campsite (as seen above), 4.5 miles up the Waptus Lake trail. It was an easy hike, even with our packs loaded heavier than usual, and with a short steep uphill climb. The food, tools, and other provisions were being brought in by horse and mule through the agency of horse riding volunteers. The horse team passed us on the way into camp. 

We helped set up the community cooking tent, then hiked about ½ to 1 mile further to assess the trail segment on which we would be working. On return to camp, we set up our personal tents, and then had dinner, cooked compliments of Justin and Dave. Each night, two of the crew were assigned to do the cooking and kitchen clean-up. Even with our help, Justin and Dave had to do the lion’s share of coordinating the food efforts, and putting out the food for each day’s breakfast and lunch. 

On day 2, we commenced operations. I was involved in a team that did brushing on the trail below (south of) the Waptus Lake trail junction. The remainder of the crew went north on the PCT and started cutting down cedar trees, debarking the trunks, and installing check steps along the trail. Various portions of the trail would form large “ruts” from rain run-off, but drainage channels and check steps helped to slow the process of erosion of the trail. In the following days, I performed a combination of more brushing, installing check steps, de-berming (removing the outside edge of the trail in order to allow water run-off), and de-sloughing (removing the build-up of slough from the inside edge of the trail acquired my material coming downhill onto the trail). Perhaps Justin and Dave grew a little weary of my constant inquiry as to what and why we were doing things, but little did they know that I had a nickname as a kid of “twenty questions”. 

The very last day, we worked on the trail for only a few hours, adding polish to our work. We had installed 21 Steps (sounds like a Hitchcock film!!!), and did a massive amount of brushing, and de-berming/de-sloughing/drainage structures of the trail. It was a satisfying experience.

I really enjoy all the people that I get to meet in the work party. I felt like the  old goat (Alter Knacker) or (Blöde Ziege) of the group, though I believe there were 1-2 people older than me. There was Jacob, a sixteen year old kid, hoping to thru-hike the PCT next year. Beverly was a wonderful resource and a joy to work with, who had done many work parties in the Olympics. Joan was a very pleasant spirit, who shared a common occupation in the medical field. Julian, of whom I accidentally called “Marcel”. (Unfortunately???), the name seemed to stick, had hiked the PCT four years ago as “Back-scratcher”, and was most helpful in offering pointers in strategies of doing the PCT. Evan was delightful, a person I wish I could have spent more time with. Then there was Sterling, a gregarious personality who hails from North Carolina, who had an affection for finding the Sasquatch, and with whom I had many delightful interchanges. Sadly, his knee began acting up during our week of work. I hope that the knee is an easy to fix. Lastly (but not least), I mention Anne. She hails from Ingolstadt (in Bavaria, Germany), and was a true delight to get to know. I admire her willingness to come to America to get dirty working on our trails. It really touched my heart. She also was a doctor, and I felt a strong kindred spirit with her. I truly hope that we might meet again. . . vielleicht in mein Heimatland, Deutschland. Ich ehrlich liebe Deutschland!!!!! 

I left our fearless leaders last, but only because they deserve special mention. They made an awesome team, and set a tone within the work party that helped everybody on the team have a great time.  Justin was our fearless leader. He walked with a sprightly stride, and radiated the joie de vivre. Particularly, Justin was able to maintain qualities of a leader, such as not forming favorites within the group, and spent time interacting with each and every of the work party members. He behaved like he truly enjoyed what he was doing, which was infectious among the worker bees. Dave was a thru-hiker veteran, trail named Spatula, a bit more quiet personality, but also manifesting excellent leader skills. I loved interacting with Dave.

Several items need to be mentioned. The weather was perfect, but forest fires in the Northwest caused much haziness in the atmosphere, and leading to blood-red moons every night. The dew was quite heavy each morning. Besides my trips with a gourmet chef (John Pribyl), I have never eaten so well on a backpack trip. Superb planning by Dave and the assistance of the horse team allowed that to happen. Finally, my shoes died. I was personally attached to those shoes! They were the first shoes I had ever hiked in with which I had not gotten a blister after a multi-day hike. They took me around Rainier twice on the Wonderland Trail, and many, many other places. I had quit using them for hiking in the last few years, going to Alta shoes (light-weight hiking shoes), but needed them for WTA work parties. Thankfully, I had already purchased an exact second pair, fearing that they would some day die. They died. I noticed that the soles were coming off of both shoes the first day in. Several days later, I took precautionary measures by duct-taping the soles in a circumferential fashion to the boots. That partially helped, but by the time of the hike out, the soles were barely attached to the upper portion of the shoe. The padding of the shoe entirely decomposed, offering no cushion to the terra firma. I acquired my first (but small, non-painful) blister in many years. The shoes were in such pitiful condition, that I threw them away at the tail-head.

In the drive home, I had to make a stop at Scale Burgers in Elbe. Cora, the owner, was my cancer patient many moons ago, and over 25 years later, remained free of cancer. She came out to have a long chat with me. It’s hard to believe that Cora is in her mid-eighties and still kicking strong. The hamburger was also quite awesome. 

As I finish writing this post, I finish the last of five “Tristan und Isolde”s that I have serially listened to. The opera ends with the Liebestod, an extremely demanding soprano solo forced on poor Isolde at the end of five hours of intense singing. I mention this, in that the opera ends sadly, but the trail work also has a sad ending, in that good-bye’s need to be said, and a new set of circumstances need to be engaged. Many are returning back to work. Justin and Dave, after a week of rest, must prepare for yet another work party in the Mt. Adams area, and I must seriously make a decision about whether I should thru-hike the PCT next year. My leaning is in the strong affirmative, though I hate the thought of leaving my wife for 5-6 months, and staying dirty for that length of time. I’m used to sterile operating suites that had no hint of dust. I fear river crossings. But, I love God’s great earth, and share with Bilbo and Frodo the reluctant joy of an epic adventure. 

The cooking tent
A hazy sky from forest fires
Geriatric boots, ready to die
Some of the 21 Check steps that we installed
God’s beautiful world, created for our delight
Looking down from the PCT on the lake by which we were camped
The camp. Sterling rests his knee.
Beverly and Jacob take pride in a proto-typical check step
Joan shows off a step check in creation
Horses and mules saved our backs
We are most grateful to the horsemen that ferried our supplies to and from camp
Adios, my beloved boots

Dewey Lake with Sam

August 9th, 2018

Dewey Lake with Sam

I had planned on hiking into Snow Lake MORA (Mount Rainier) with Sam, purchased the reservations, and then at the last minute realized that I had the dates wrong. Panic and planning led to a longer hike (3.1 miles rather than 1.4 miles), but I’m glad we did it. Sam had an awesome time. He led the hike both ways, and kept a reasonable rate without any complaining. At the lake, I set up camp, did some swimming, loafed (I brought along an ultra-light camp chair), and did the cooking. Sam’s appetite was voracious. Here are some photos…

At the start, Sam is quite fresh

Sam at an overlook to Dewey Lake, half way in. It is about 800 feet down.

An eager backpacker

Sam had a voracious appetite, and ate almost all the food I brought in.

Sam, chilling out at the lake.

The amount of bugs were moderate, and Sam counted 14 bug bites. I had about the same. Our only mishap was that Sam realized at camp that he forgot to pack the sleeping bag. Ooops! We made do by opening my sleeping bag and using it as a quilt. We did not use the fly to our tent, and the stars were most beautiful. With the hike out, Sam did a wonderful pace, even though the climb made him a bit tired. He didn’t feel like he could do another mile. Because the hike was entirely on the PCT, several thru-hikers piqued Sam’s interest, though Sam adamantly remarked that he would not take off five months to do the PCT if that meant skipping school. Oh well… we’ll see!

 

Northern Loop (sort of) Mount Rainier

July 27th, 2018

Northern Loop of Mount Rainier 23-25JUL 2018

I had signed up for the Northern Loop on Mount Rainier in April, as it was one of the few hikes remaining on my list to do in Mount Rainier NP in order to complete all of the major hikes in the park. Besides, I was quite curious about the northern aspect of the park, which is somewhat less accessible than most other areas of the park. The year was mostly spent bicycling, and so to get my hiking legs in shape, I focused on some peaks in the Snoqualmie/North Bend area, doing Mailbox Peak, Mt. Si, and Rattlesnake Ridge. Mailbox Peak was definitely the hardest and Rattlesnake the easiest, but all are demanding climbs.

Russ A. with me on the summit of Mailbox Peak. Guess why it is called “Mailbox” Peak?

I have never done the summit scramble on Mt. Si, but always stop at the overlook several 100 feet below the true summit.

The summit of Rattlesnake Ridge does not afford any views

I had planned to do the hike with Russ A., but various circumstances prevented that from happening, so, not being able to find another hiking partner on short notice, I set out solo. Because the Carbon River Road inside the park is washed out with no intention of the NP service to repair it, an extra 5 miles is added to the hike, which is not challenging, since it is basically flat, with easy gravel road conditions. I camped at the Ipsut Creek campground that night.

Ipsut Creek Camp

Views of the mountains from the Carbon River Road

Waking up the next morning, I headed out, knowing that this would be the hardest day, entailing over 4000 ft of climbing in the space of about 4 miles. The weather could not be more perfect, and I headed across the Carbon River, then working up Chenuis Mountain to the Yellowstone Cliffs. It actually went easier than I thought, though it was a steady climb all of the way through, without relief. Fortunately, it was in dense forest, which kept the hike cool. The Yellowstone Cliffs were most spectacular, and the beauty even intensifying as one reached the Windy Gap, where several alpine lakes, still with some surrounding snow and snow-clad mountains, contributed to the scenic ambience.

Yellowstone Cliffs

Yellowstone Cliffs

Windy Gap View

Windy Gap flowered meadows

Top of Windy Gap looking eastward

Natural Bridge. Below, Lake James is to the right and Lake Ethyl to the left.

Yes, I also did the side trip to see Natural Bridge, which was cool, but a bit of a grunt to get to. Descending about 1300 ft, I arrived at Lake James camp. After setting the tent up and having my celebratory brandy and cigar, I realized that the flies and mosquitos were to intense to enjoy a cooked meal, so settled for a Snicker bar and granola bars. It worked.

Lake James camp

Lake James

The next morning was more descent, about 1400 ft more, to the west fork of the White River. The trail passed by a small burn area before reaching the river.

Burn area, down from Lake James

Upon reaching the White River, I saw rock cairns where the park service suggested doing a crossing of the river. It appeared very unsafe to pass and so I spent about an hour going up and down stream, looking for more safe areas to cross. The particularly warm weather tended to fill the stream and the water was both deep and very rapid moving. I know that others had been able to cross, but being alone and unsure about the crossing decided not to take my chances. On returning from the hike, I checked out other WTA trip reports, and noted that the crossing in the past week was described as perilously risky, or the “most frightening experience”, which to me means it should not have been crossed by those people. I won’t be surprised if I hear of an accident or death of somebody attempting to cross the river there. The park service really needs to offer a substantive warning to those attempting the Northern Loop. I decided to head back. It was a 2.2 mile descent from Lake James to the West Fork of the White River, so I calculated about 18 miles to hike out. I had completed about half of the loop, and except for a couple miles, had hiked the rest of the loop at various times before, so considered my trip a success. I was a bit tired and sore on reaching the car, and my 27 lb pack felt like it had just doubled its weight, causing me to re-weigh it when I got home to confirm that the boogie man did not sneak some stones in my pack on the hike out.

Bike Travel Weekend 2018

June 4th, 2018

Bike Travel Weekend 2018

The first weekend in June is bike travel weekend, and I had signed up many moons ago to do this. Originally, I thought that I’d still be on the TransAm, but my TransAm sorrows are already well documented in other blog pages on this site. I won’t resurrect a sad episode(s) in my life journeys on a bike. This current ride is one I’ve thought about many times, but not being completely informed as to the nature of the road, figured that an adventure would best reveal what was up. Originally, I wanted to do a ride out of Eugene, OR, traversing the Aufderheide Drive, but I discovered that a portion of the road was closed due a landslide, so a potential disappointment was avoided. For this ride, I was quite sure that three days would be necessary to complete the ride, having a fear that I had lost some of my mojo, and wishing to go lazy. Well, I did go lazy, but other factors were a problem. The weather was beautiful, and the natives were out in droves. Every campsite, or even, possible campsite, were occupied. It would have been easiest to do this during the week, but then I would have missed the “official” bike travel weekend.

I started my journey from Lew and Carol’s house in Happy Valley, OR. Lew is my brother a year older than me. I wished to bypass Estacada by going on backroads from Carver past McIver Park on Springwater Road. Interestingly, I had ridden this as a cycle tour in the early 1970’s with a friend, Ron Hansen. We had no clue what we were doing, and on discovering (at that time) that no overnight camping was allowed in McIver Park, stealth camped in some dude’s front yard a bit down the road from the Park. The next day, we got up to the dam on the Clackamas River, and realized that we were too exhausted to go on. After all, we were overpacked, and not knowing about panniers, were wearing traditional 1970’s framed backpacks. It was not too cool. Contrariwise, this current adventure had all the amenities of current technology, and travel was a joy. Already I could see the mountain (Mt. Hood) in the background.

Leaving Lew and Carol’s

Mt. Hood from Springwater Road.

I continued to ride up the Clackamas River road, discovering what a joy it was, with wide shoulders, courteous drivers, and tons of cyclists, most being road bikers, out for a beautiful day. As a kid, we used to frequently go rafting down the Clackamas, and I didn’t recall any of the rapids, but noted that many expedition guides were out conducting this clients down the river. It was a bit different in the 1970’s, when we would use smaller rafts, expecting to be flipped in the most challenging rapids, yet never wearing life vests. It’s surprising that we survived.

Very nice road shoulders on a beautiful river.

Rapids on the Clackamas River.

Ripplebrook Store and Ranger station

I arrived at Ripplebrook at noon, wasn’t tired, and wasn’t ready to give up for the day, so opted to start up the road to Timothy Lake. It was a beautiful forest road. Nearing Timothy Lake, I discovered that some of the road was NOT paved. There were 7 miles of gravel road, minus ½ mile several miles in that were paved. Regardless of that, there wasn’t a lot of loose gravel, which made travel fairly easy, even though it was steadily a 3-6% uphill grade. Sixteen miles out of Ripplebrook, I finally arrived at Timothy Lake, an artificial lake created by Portland General Electric.

The dam is currently being rebuilt

My tent and bike at Gone Creek campground

Timothy Lake, with Mount Hood rising up in the background. Lots of boats were out on the lake.

I arrived at Timothy Lake at about 4 pm. There are 4 campgrounds circling the south portion of the lake, and like the last time I tried camping at Timothy Lake, the campgrounds were totally full. Like last time, I needed to beg somebody to let me mooch off of their campsite and take a small portion to set up my tent. You can see the tent of my gracious host behind my tent. I could have gone 2 miles further to a horse camp frequently utilized by PCT hikers, but it still ruffled my dander that these campsites do not provide hiker/biker sites. The horse camp did not have a supply of water, which I desperately needed. Oddly, the “drinking water” of the campground had a cloudy white appearance, and so I still used my water filter to clean up the drinking water.

I slept well, and woke up at 5:20 the next morning with nearly cloudless skies. I was on the road to a very chilly morning by 6:20, knowing that I had some serious climbing ahead of me, and thinking that I might make it to Zigzag with some effort. Highway 26 out of Timothy Lake has a pass to go over, that is actually slightly higher in altitude than Government Camp. There is a significant drop, before you start climbing again up to Government Camp. After Government Camp, it is mostly downhill, with just one climb of about 2 miles of 6% grade as one nears Sandy, OR. I arrived in Zigzag by 9:30 in the morning, much earlier than I anticipated, and then Sandy, OR at 11 am. Stopping in Sandy for lunch, I then arrived at Lew and Carol’s house before 1 pm, passing through Boring and Damascus.

Blue Box Pass

Government Camp

The road out of Government Camp, with wide, ample shoulders for bikes.

So, what have I learned on this trip.

  1. Go light!!!! Reconsider everything that is packed for necessity.
  2. You haven’t lost your mojo… but, be real when you plan your adventures.
  3. I’d love to return to this area. It is VERY favorable for cyclists.
  4. I need to discover better ways to combine hiking and biking. This will possibly include day trips on foot, so need to bring actual hiking shoes. On thishis trip, I brought my Walmart special sandals for camp, but which are horrid to walk with around the camp.
  5. I’m ready for another adventure!!!!! I haven’t had soreness or discomfort as was so typical in the past after long ventures.
  6. I’m always ready for others to join me. It just is more fun with somebody else. Sign up!
  7. I really, really, really love the Northwest. The only other places that tempt me is western Canada/Alaska, and Idaho, Montana, Colorado. I might also be tempted with Cafilornia, like riding the Pacific Coast/Sierra Cascades loop.
  8. I still love backpacking. I have a number of backpack trips on the works this year, a few with either Jon (son) or Russ (friend) or…. YOU!!!!!

ps, remember, you can click on the photos for a full view.

Continuing the Adventure…. ?????

May 26th, 2018

The last post left you dangling. The photos remained much too large, even though I went to extreme measures to try to reduce their size. What is a simple chore on my iMac is a nightmare on my iPad. Brother Dennis suggested a Microsoft product, which doesn’t work on an iPad. I have come to believe that Apple, or perhaps WordPress, expects all photos to be taken by an iPhone. I could not think of a more disgusting proposition. The turmoil of trying to be a competent bloggist with incompetent software rankles my gizzard, to say the least. At home, I was able to correct the image size on my iMac, so you can review the previous post with real images. All the images are clickable, and will either enlarge or shrink to become viewable on this post.

18-21MAY—But, now, on with the story of our adventure. We left off in Dillon/Silverthorne, planning the continuation of our adventure, reconciling my brother’s desire to camp in remote but free locations, and my desire to ride a bicycle, caring the least whether the night was spent in a tent rather than a hotel room. I had my tent and sleeping bag, so either approach to sunset to sunrise made no difference to me, as the journey was the most important. We opted for driving to a campsite, located along the TransAm route, and that I would start riding again in a day or two. Several state campgrounds were located on a reservoir north of Silverthorne, and off we went. We knew that the campgrounds would be open on the 18th, but we didn’t calculate into our plans what time they would open on the 18th. Our first, second, and third state park campsites were all locked shut. Finally, on the fourth campsite, we found some poor codger with his massive RV trailer waiting to be let in, claiming that he had been waiting for two days, but that he was assured that in 4 hours the gates should be opened wide for all to enter. We could not take it anymore, and sought the campground registries for a campsite that would suit us and also assuredly be open. We ended up at Stagecoach Lake, an artificial reservoir just south of Steamboat Springs. Much to both of our chagrin’s, the site was infested with RVs. We found a somewhat quiet spot in one of the higher camps off of the lake. I slept with Gaylon in his tent, a premium 4-man Walmart special. It worked ok for the first night. We decided to stay a second night, in order to do some hiking around the lake, which was duly accomplished. That evening, the daily thunderstorm decided to dump more than the usual amount of rain on us, and most of the rain was half frozen. Gaylon enjoyed the affair while sitting in his car. I suffered through the event inside the tent. Rain leaked in everywhere, and the bathtub floor was most effective at serving as a bathtub to hold the water in. Though most of my stuff in the tent got soaked, by miraculous intervention from the Almighty, my sleeping bag stayed mostly dry, partially by me keeping elevated on my air mattress, and partially by me putting my fleece coat over the sleeping bag to keep the spray of rain from soaking the bag. The squall ended soon enough, but by then, Gaylon had learned that inclement weather and more snow were due along our path in Wyoming in the subsequent week. I had learned that many of the campsites would still not be open. I was STILL WAY TOO EARLY!!!!!!!!! Gaylon desperately wanted warmer weather, as we woke up with all of our stuff outside now frozen in ice after being coated in rain. Compromise and negotiation led to pushing another abort button. We loaded everything up, hopped in the car, and headed out I-70 to Provo, Utah. Our intention is to hit the beaches of northern Cafilornia (not a spelling error!) and do some beach camping. When we get back, I’d then strain my brain for more adventures.

Campsite in Colorado, with the Walmart special 4 man tent. Gaylon loves to start campfires, which he did every night.

Stagecoach reservoir.

22MAY- today, the drive was through Utah and Nevada on I-80, ending in Carson City. Uneventful, but we drove a short distance on the loneliest road, which looked very appealing for bicycles, a possibility early some Spring.

23MAY- Cafilornia! The drive up to South Lake Tahoe was beautiful, and the descent to Sacramento was stunning. The road was VERY busy with no shoulders, explaining why the ACA Western Express route avoids this pass. We experienced price shock as the price of gasoline went up by a dollar to over $4/gallon. We hit the beach at Bodega Bay, and kept our eyes open for birds. The drive up highway 1 was treacherous. There were many bicyclists, most on road bikes, but a few with touring bikes. Highway 1 also was very busy, with no shoulders. I’m surprised more cyclists are not killed on this road. We finally found a camp at Van Damme state park, just south of Mendocino. It was probably one of the worst campsites we stayed at, but worst was the sticker shock… $45/night!!!! It made me totally hate Cafilornia.

This is for brother Dennis. We noticed a Bilderberger conspiracy company masquerading as a hamburger stop.

Van Damme camp. The most expensive camping night that I’ve ever done.

24MAY- Oregon! On reaching Oregon, the roads became VERY bicycle friendly. The remainder of Highway 1, and 101 were very busy, and very bicycle adverse. I notice that the ACA Pacific Coast bicycle route frequently attempts to get off of 101, and for understandable reasons. Oregon was just as beautiful, but sooooo bicycle friendly. If I ever do the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route, I’ll be tempted to just skip Northern California. Our drive took us to Florence, and we stayed in Honeyman state park just south of Florence, but after having dinner at Mo’s. What an awesome seafood restaurant! The campsite was not expensive, and we absolutely loved it, especially after our Cafilornia experience.

Honeyman State Park. It was so nice, Gaylon was tempted to spend another night there.

25MAY- Gaylon was now eager to get home. We headed over to I-5 via Eugene, Oregon, stopped at Bike Friday to check on the bicycle I ordered from them, and then headed back to Puyallup. It was bittersweet arriving home. I love to see Betsy, but there were thoughts of regret. Should I have parted ways with Gaylon and simply continued the TransAm? He had absolutely NO interest in going any further north, though he would have should I have insisted in my pursuit. I’m not sure it would have been proper to treat my brother like that. So, multiple thoughts run through my mind in planning new ventures.

  1. Epic ventures (really long trips) should be done with somebody accompanying. Unfortunately, not too many of my friends ride, and the ones that do are NOT interested in epic ventures. I would consider doing the TransAm van supported on my road bike with the ACA, though the only thing deterrent is that I hate to cook when camping, especially for other people. Perhaps I should look for other companies that do rides across America?
  2. There is no doubt that I love the Northwest more than any other place around. I have yet to explore the northwest as well as I’d like. I am currently planning at least two bicycle tours this summer of 4-14 days length this year. One is a loop that crosses east over White Pass, and then comes back over the North Cascades highway. The other is to take the train down to Eugene, OR and ride a loop of the Aufderheide. Anybody want to go with me?
  3. I have a number of backpack trips scheduled already this year, several with the WTA on volunteer trail maintenance activities, and two are in Mount Rainier National Park, one with Russ doing the northern loop, and one with Betsy, backpacking in to Snow Lake.
  4. My failures with the TransAm were never due to physical inability, as I always ended feeling great after long hard climbs. Weather was my worst enemy, and desire to be riding with somebody my second worst enemy. Strategic issues were a problem, as parks generally don’t open until Memorial Day or later, and I prefer earlier rides, so that I could miss hot weather, which kills me. It suggests that maybe the southern tier in spring would be a better option for me that the TransAm.
  5. Weight is a vital issue. I still way overpack. I will be working feverishly on coming up with lighter solutions. Many people plan on staying in hotels through their trip, which I don’t want to do.
  6. I am left wondering about what I am going to do regarding backpacking the PCT next year. It has its appeal, yet there are several thoughts on my mind…
    1. I certainly won’t be alone, as 50 people a day will be starting the trail. It is not a social trail like the Appalachian Trail, but it is also not a lonesome trek, like hiking across Alaska.
    2. It is still an epic venture, which I wonder if I’m psychologically prepared to do.
    3. Physical issues become a more serious concern here, which I don’t have when cycling. I do not have the balance that I used to have. Crossing streams is indubitably my overwhelming greatest fear. I’ve never done more than 25 miles with a pack on my back in a day. I detest super-hot weather, like when one traverses the Mojave desert. Yet, other less physically capable people are able to do the trail, so I should also be able to.
    4. I need to sign up on November 1st in order to get a permit to hike the length of the trail. I will be doing a moderate amount of backpacking this summer, and so should be able to assess whether I’m up to the task by 01NOV.

Resuming the TransAm

May 17th, 2018

The plan was for Russ A. and I to ride the train together to Denver, and then bicycle down to Cañon City, and resume the ride of the TransAm in Colorado. We spent weeks preparing this, and I had purchased Amtrak tickets for both of us for this event. Unfortunately, late last week, Russ informed me that he had to have urgent hand surgery, and so had to cancel out. Multiple decisions needed to be made but I ultimately decided to not seek a train ticket refund, though I was able to get a partial refund for Russ’s portion of the ticket. In the meantime, my brother Gaylon seemed very interested in meeting up with me in Colorado Springs and sagging me from there. So, I’m a mixture of very sad that Russ could not ride with me, but also very happy that I am able spend time with Gaylon.

Just a comment is offered first on posting. I wish that I could post more regularly, but I haven’t figured it out yet. I use WordPress, take photos with a Cañon M100, and import the photos to my iPad. WordPress would love to use the Photos images, but they are too large, and Photos doesn’t have a means of converting from RAW TO JPG while reducing the overall size, so I’ve tried using Affinity for that. This post will reveal if I am successful.

09MAY—Betsy was able to get me to the train station. The train runs from Tacoma to Sacramento, then I transfer to a train that will take me to Denver. Because both legs involve overnight travel, I will be riding in sleeper cars, though sadly without Russ. The sleeping car roomette is small, but very comfortable. It’s only disadvantage is that you can only see out of one side of the train. As I write this, the train is currently going over Willamette Pass, and the view is awesome. Sorry, but I do not take photos through windows of moving vehicles. For sleeper cars, the meals are complementary, and thus it is a little bit easy to overeat; the train dining car food was quite good. Note*** be sure to click on each photo to see the full view

 

Amtrak Train arriving in Tacoma

Inside a sleeper cabin

 

 

10, 11MAY— One can sleep quite well on a train, when one utilizes the sleeping cars. The train to Denver was the California Zepher, which goes up over Donner Pass, on the original route of the first transAmerican rail line. I slept from just past Winnemuca to just past Salt Lake City. The train then heads south to Grand Junction, Colorado, and follows the Colorado River for an extensive distance, showing me part of the route that I will soon be riding. Denver implied a complete change in body activity and mentality, as I will soon be connecting up with Gaylon, as well as spending most of the day on my bike. The train ran nicely through Colorado, and I was even able to see about 20 miles of the road I would be on east of Kremmling. The train was running up to an hour late at various stops, but arrived in Denver on time. After quickly assembling my bicycle panniers, I was off. There were a few minor misturns, even following the Garmin gps unit, but there were also unexpected detours on the bicycle trail that neither Garmin nor Google knew about. I arrived at my hotel 13 miles later, and after sunset, but feeling great. One thing I might mention that I’ve never experienced before were massive thick swarms of tiny bugs like fleas. They were thick and frequent, and coated my arms with black specks, and forced me to hold my breath. They were just absolutely horrid. I saw one cyclist wearing a fine mesh face mask 😷 and it was easy to see why. The hotel was interesting in that it was a total dive, though the price was right. The place was run by a Bangladeshi family.

12MAY—First full riding day. There were a lot of people out on the trail, jogging and cycling. I got started early, forgoing coffee, and having only a granola bar for breakfast. It started out with cool weather, slowly warming up to uncomfortable. The Google route ended up being frankly horrid, taking me on gravel trails, which was sort of okay but a bit more work. At one point, the gps took me on a gravel bike path that ended at a gate with a no trespassing sign—that caused me to have to retrace about 1.5 miles to a busy highway to get around the obstruction. The climbing was also much greater than suggested by Google, so by the time I got to Monument, I was totally beat. Fortunately, Gaylon arrived in Monument at the same time, we loaded my stuff, and drove the remaining 15-20 miles to our hotel in south Colorado Springs. Inspecting the bicycle trails that I would have been on, there would have been considerable gravel path riding, and a moderate amount of more climbing, so I was happy to call it a day. I was in Colorado Springs 20 years ago at a medical conference, and the town seems to have grown immensely since then into a major metropolis. Yuk!

13MAY—easy day to Cañon City. Today was Mother’s Day, necessitating a call home to the love of my life, dearest Betsy. We got a late start out of Colorado Springs, poked our way over to Cañon City, hit the Walmart on the way into town, and stocked up on food and a few other supplies to last us for for the next few days, since we will not be in any large towns. We ordered small meals at the Mexican restaurant next to the hotel, but even that was too much. It’s funny how my appetite falls off profoundly while on adventures. We visited the state prison in Cañon City, and mostly laid low. It was fairly hot, as a temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit just seems a little too hot to my Northwestern acclimatization. A swimming pool, or floating down the Arkansas River just seems to make more sense than pedaling a bicycle. Hopefully, as we achieve higher elevation, we experience cooler weather. Tomorrow–Guffey, and maybe some photographs.

Cañon City prison facility

14MAY—Guffey. I was able to head out at 7 am, and enjoyed cool weather. It was a beautiful climb out of Cañon City, the road had wide shoulders, and 10 miles up, hit the tourist traps. Turning onto route 9, there was some roller coaster riding, but the road went mostly upward. It was a delightful high steppe environment, with minimal wind. I was able to stop frequently for photos! Gaylon caught me right at the turnoff to Guffey, another 300 foot climb with some 9-10% grade, bringing me to the most delightful town of Guffey. The proprietor Bill put us up in a cabin, well over 100 years old, and built as a gold claim office. The land around Bill’s place was practically a museum, with old buffalo carcasses, automobile carcasses, and even an ancient fire contraption. We had dinner in the Rolling Thunder Cloud Cafe, good food at a great price, the owner/waitress being from the Seattle area. We were able to finally put out chairs and chill out in the outdoors. Bill also gave us a tour of the town, including the “city hall”, which was really nothing more than a small auditorium with a stage, but also containing a lot of Bill’s collections of things.

The road to Guffey

Bill and his garage

our cabin

 

 

15MAY—FairPlay. We were up a little later than yesterday, had coffee cooked on the camp stove, and I headed out of Guffey. It was quite chilly, and I had to keep riding in order to stay warm. After crossing Current Creek Pass at 9400 ft, there was a small descent and then slow, constant 1-3% grade from 8900 ft up to 9900 ft. There was a little trouble finding a campsite in FairPlay, but Gaylon located a site that he fell in love with, so there we stayed. It was at the Middlefork RV resort, and the owner and employees were super nice, and easy to see more cyclists. Several other places mentioned on the ACA maps either did not exist, or they were terribly unaccommodating to cyclists. Meanwhile, we called ahead for reservations in Frisco at the national forest service campsites, but none of them opened until May 18. Super bummer!!! Gaylon really didn’t want to stay in a hotel in Frisco, so a few quick decisions needed to be made, though our options were limited.

 

16MAY—Lazy day in Fairplay. We woke up late, had a light breakfast, and reorganized all our “junk” to be workable without me having to always haul a bunch of panniers into every campsite or hotel. On the western edge of Fairplay is preserved a portion of town called South Park that was preserved just like when it was built. All the buildings were original, and inside each building was a preserved atmosphere that was very well done, from the bank, the doctor and dentist’s office, the mine works, etc, it was very well done, and most everything was accessible to the visitor. What we thought would be a quick hour tour ended up being over 3 hours. Afterwards we had lunch at the highest bar in the USA, with a great view overlooking the mountains. A relaxing afternoon was then spent and preparations for me riding again tomorrow.

Gaylon at our tent in FairPlay

South Park Train

Street of South Park

 

17MAY—On the road again. Hoosier Pass was the big agenda for today. I had wanted to camp out at one of the state campgrounds close to Frisco, but they don’t open until 18MAY. In addition, they didn’t look quite as appealing as I had thought, I.e., too many people, not remote, etc.. So, I took off early, fearing the possibility of a hot day, and less performance ability due to being at up to 11,500 ft. The day did start to get hot, but I was able to roll into Dillon to our hotel by 11am. It actually did NOT seem terribly challenging to climb over Hoosier Pass, which incidentally is the highest point on the entire TransAm. The last four miles of the climb were not difficult because of incline, which was brief and never over 6%, but because the road had no shoulder and traffic was extremely heavy, even though I was riding early morning. The descent was easier, in that I followed a large dump truck which I could have passed but felt wiser not to. The hardest part of the day was wending my way through the towns of Breckinridge to Dillon, with occasionally perplexing route finding (even with a gps unit), and the ever scary traffic. We stayed at another Super 8, recommended by the ACA and an EXCELLENT choice. This gave Gaylon and I the ability to have showers, charge all our devices, have a sane breakfast in the AM, and actually be able to take time to see the town. We also drew a quick sketch as to the remainder of our adventure. Specifically, I will not be riding for a few days, as Gaylon wishes to introduce me to his style of camping.

 

Hoosier Pass

Approach view to summit of Hoosier Pass

Breckenridge – the place where Betsy first tried on skis

I anticipate being ex communicato for a while, so no more posts for at least another week. It won’t be all bicycling, since Gaylon wants to do some remote camping. Don’t worry, as I’m not done cycling yet.

StCRAP

April 28th, 2018

This is like the Seattle to Portland (STP), except that it is much more beautiful. Specifically, S=Spanaway, t=to, C=Chehalis, R=Raymond, A=Astoria, and P=Portland. I intend to do this is 4-½ days, and then hop the train back to Tacoma.

Day 1—Spanaway to Chehalis (Monday 23APRIL)

The weather started out cool, but absolutely beautiful. I was going to start riding right from home, but Betsy suggested that riding through Puyallup would be the worst part of the entire adventure, and so she dropped me off where the Mountain Highway splits off from the Pacific Highway. The ride was fantastic, and I stayed in a cheap but nice hotel a mile off of route in Chehalis. A bikes-forbidden bridge in Centralia forced me to take a bike lane used by the STP but which parallels I-5, not long, but not real nice with the freeway traffic adjacent to you. I suddenly realized that this is why the ACA has some strange routing on their Pacific Coast route.

Day 2—Chehalis to Bruceport County Park (Tuesday 24APRIL)

This was a long but beautiful ride, following a previous rail bed, now called the Willapa Hills Trail. The first few miles were paved, but then turned to gravel. At first, the gravel was nicely packed and easy to ride on. Later, it began to turn into loose gravel. I stayed on the gravel road most of the way to Pe Ell, owing to the beauty, solitude, and ease of travel on that road. Even once I was on paved road, it was never uncomfortable in spite of occasional logging trucks, owing to a broad shoulder on the road. There was a climb past Pe Ell before dropping down to Raymond. All along the way, I could see the rail bed of the trail waiting to some day be paved. There were a lot of large meadows occupied by farms. I didn’t notice any appealing restaurants in Raymond, so rode on to South Bend on a paved bicycle path, where I stopped for lunch at a cheap Chinese restaurant. The food was ok but it gave me the shits. Fortunately, the Bruceport campground was only six mostly easy miles on roads with wide shoulders. This was a relatively easy day which was warm enough to ride in shirtsleeves. The weather is predicted to be warm without rain the next few days, which is VERY odd for the Northwest.

View of stream along the trail

Start of the Willapa Hills Trail

View of Willapa Bay from camp

Day 3—BCP to Astoria (Wednesday 25APRIL)

Somehow, I always sleep wonderfully in a tent, and pretty much sawed logs all night. This was the first time this year I woke up in a tent and actually felt warm, even though the temperature was in the low 50s. Breakfast consisted of two granola bars and two cups of coffee, and I was off by 7:31. The day was absolutely glorious, and on reaching the junction to highway 4, 20 miles into the ride, decided to take a longer course and stay on highway 101. The road had mostly excellent shoulders for riding, though once getting to highway 101 past Ilwaco, I had to contend with very busy traffic and occasional poor shoulders. Crossing the Astoria-Meckler bridge wasn’t quite as bad as I had imagined. The shoulders were only about 12 inches and sometimes a bit cluttered with debris, but I never felt uncomfortable, as the traffic wasn’t too heavy. I would have liked to ride on, but there wasn’t any convenient places to stop without making it an unduly long day, so I terminated the ride at a cheap hotel just beside the off ramp of the bridge. Dinner was at a brewery, which had an incredibly excellent tasting lager beer. The day remained beautiful, and the weather report notes that tomorrow will also be nice. This portion of the ride was unbelievably beautiful and needs to be counted as a prime alternate for the Pacific Coast route, going from Elma to Montasano and then south on 101 to Raymond.

Broad expanses of meadow heading toward Astoria

Wildlife sanctuary along 101 in Washington

First view of the Astoria-Megler bridge

View of bridge from my hotel

An awesome beer at a brewery in Astoria.

Day 4—Astoria to Stub Stewart State Park (Thursday 26APRIL)

Today was an early start, owing to a long climb 11 miles into the ride. The hotel did not have a coffee maker in the room, and didn’t start serving coffee until 7am, so I used my camp stove to make coffee in the room! The weather started as quite foggy, eventually turning into a hot cloudless day. Getting up over the pass out of Astoria was a little bit easier than anticipated, and the remainder of the ride was short roller coaster hills or flat, with occasionally needing to dodge lumber trucks. In both directions, the ride was beautified with babbling brooks. For brother Dennis’ sake, as I passed through the town of Mist I kept special watch for clandestine government activity, since Google had perhaps once blacked out a small area around Mist, though that it now no longer true. There was nothing but farms and logging activity. Perhaps a silo in a farmyard 1 km west of Mist was a secret missile silo, but I doubt it. I arrived in Vernonia just a little after 1pm and had lunch there before jumping on the start of the Banks-Vernonia trail, a paved bicycle path 22 miles long, mostly nice, but with occasional 10% grade, and often torn up by roots. Fortunately, the trail was short to camp, and I was able to easily settle in for the night. The campsite was quite primitive, but it didn’t matter, since I knew that only 22 miles away, I would be in Hillsboro, and able to hop the MAX to the Union Station to ride Amtrak home. Oddly, though in remote woods, I was able to get excellent phone reception to talk with Betsy. It is supposed to rain tomorrow, so I will probably get an early start into Portland.

 

A VERY delightful view of the summit of a long climb

The land around the town of Mist. Somewhere in those hills is HIGHLY secretive government projects

Day 5—SSSP to Hillsboro, and then home (Friday 27APRIL)

I woke up anticipating rain. It was very misty, which turned into a misty rain as the morning got on. I got up slightly earlier than usual, packed everything including taking the tent down, had a cup of coffee with a granola bar, and then hit the trail before 7am. The misty rain became a fine persistent drizzle, and cold. It took me 2 hours to reach the Hillsboro MAX Station, and then another hour on the blue line to downtown Portland, and yet another half mile of bicycling from the Chinatown MAX stop to the train station. Sitting on the MAX, I didn’t realize how cold one got, when wet and not pedaling. Thankfully, the Amtrak people were very friendly and I was able to get a ticket for 12 o’clock noon back to Tacoma. I changed my clothes, felt warm and comfortable once again, and gave Betsy a heads up that I would be arriving back home sooner than expected. The train ride was delightful. I love taking Amtrak, especially since they now make it so easy to take bicycles.

A bridge on the lower Banks-Vernonia trail

Union station in Portland

Summary

This was an awesome five day loop that turned out better than I ever could have anticipated. I’ve been doing cycle touring for a number of years now, but each time I hop on the bicycle I again feel like an amateur. My style is constantly changing. What has helped the most is the ability to get out alone in order to learn what works and what doesn’t work. All my other riding has been with Russ, Jon, or with the ACA, and I am constantly learning and unlearning things. Example: with Jon, our bread was attacked overnight by chipmunks, so I started using a soft bear bag. This ended up being too heavy on the TransAm, and sent it home a week later. This trip, I am grasping that you don’t need to carry a lot of food along (especially bread), unless there truly is nowhere to pick up food. So, a few more details…

  1. I hate to cook on the road, and always appreciate once a day making a formal restaurant stop, if possible. If not, prepared foods that can be heated in the pouch in boiling water seems to work best. As mentioned above, it is best to carry minimal food.
  2. I brought along a down puffy (coat) instead of my usual fleece coat. It was great for camp when there was no rain, but awful for rain or misty weather. A suitable coat needs to be dual-purposed, and work as insulation on the bike in really cold weather. The fleece coat worked well for this on my failed TransAm when I was freezing to death, since it stayed warm even while I was sweating on the bike. A down puffy will not serve this purpose. I prefer the comfort and packability of the down coat, but need a better solution for rain.
  3. Friends… yes, I would enjoy the bike rides much more with friends. There was a perfect example on this trip, where I bypassed Pacific Beach and Ilwaco. If a friend were along, there would have been no problem going the extra two miles and enjoying lunch on the beach in Ilwaco.
  4. Weight is a serious issue that I need to reduce. There is a fine balance between being prepared and being over-prepared. It’s just that at the end of the day, I would be so much happier with less weight on the bike. It would be wonderful to have life reduced down to the PCT backpack standard base weight of under 18 lb. I have just a week to work on this, since in 10 or so days, Russ and I head out to Colorado to work on a portion of the TransAm from Cañon City (Denver) to Missoula (Whitefish), taking Amtrak both directions to and from home.

Hit and run

April 18th, 2018


Today, I knew that I needed to get back on my bike after my VERY abrupt pause in the TransAm. In training for the TransAm, I mostly rode by road bike. While on tour, I realized that the riding style between a road bike and a touring bike might use many of the same muscles, but the style is radically different. One rarely stands to pedal on a touring bike. One rarely powers up an incline on a touring bike, preferring to shift down and maintain a constant cadence and force on the pedals while seated. I realized the importance of training on my CoMotion, rather than the Trek, a bike that weighs half the weight of the CoMotion and with much different handling characteristics. It’s about the difference between a Ferrari and a Mac truck. So, off I rode, as happy as a lark on the CoMotion, wanting to get close to the Rainier NP entrance, until………..

I was sideswiped by a speeding car at the junction of 165 and the Carbonado Road, by the old hotel. The car swiped by me, hitting my upper lateral thigh which knocked off his right rear view mirror. He swerved, and an oncoming car was also swipped by him causing damage to the car over the rear fender and rear driver hubcap. The offending car slowed a little, and then sped off. Neither the girl that was hit nor I were able to get exact positive identification of the driver. After waiting an hour for the police, we registered our reports, who informed us that even if the car was apprehended, pushing charges could be a challenge since we didn’t exactly see the driver. The law sometimes (usually????) really sucks. I bicycled home ok, but wondering whether a GoPro would be a good idea. I thank God for His protection in that I could have been hurt much worse. It’s good to be tough, but even better to have guardian angels.

TransAm—the start

April 8th, 2018

Day -1 02April

I left Washington on 02April on a shut-eye flight to Charlotte, NC, and then up to Newport News. I slept very well on the plane,compliments of Halcion. Also compliments of sleeping pills, it’s all a vague memory, but I am up and running today.

 

Day 0—03April

My friends Randy and Leslie Neil picked me up from the airport, and I then got my bicycle all assembled. Randy and I then went for a 7 mile jump ride around the base, and the bicycle seemed to be working well. Our entertainment for the day was a squadron of F-22 Raptors taking off, chased by T-38s. That afternoon, we drove around the Yorktown battle site, and it was most interesting. The area was larger than I anticipated, and many of the fields are now overgrown with woods. We had dinner on the waterfront at the Yorktown Pub, on the spot where I would be starting the route today. I slept again like a baby.

Rany and I enjoying a good cigar.

A quick drive around the Yorktown battlefields, and a second surrender.

A super-good pub right at the start of the TransAm

Day 1—04 April

Yorktown to Chickahominy, 39 miles. Randy and Leslie dropped me off at the Victory Monument at about 11:20 am. I performed the obligatory dip of the rear wheel in the Yorktown River and started riding. By chance, there was an older gentleman, Rick, who was also starting, so we rode for about the first mile together. I then recognized, to my horror, that I did not have my helmet mirror. Anyway, on I rode. I arrived in Williamsburg, and wasn’t quite seeing what the map showed, so I finally turned on my Garmin for guidance. It directed me an odd direction, but, trusting the Garmin, I rode on. Eventually, my trust waned, and I realized that the Garmin was short-cutting me back to the start of the trail. It was 10 miles and an hour lost, but good lessons learned. The remainder of today was facing a very strong Gegenwind (headwind) making it feel like I was climbing a 5% grade. All I could think about were what things I could eliminate from my panniers to lighten things up. I already know a few things, but will wait a few more days before finding a post office to mail them back home. That’s ok, as I’d rather over- than under-plan a trip. So I did finally reach Chickahominy, intact, feeling great, but a little tired. After the sticker shock of paying $31 for a bicycle only campsite, I called Betsy, that sweet angel of a lady who gave me permission and support for this trip, am whom remains ever in my thoughts. I then called R & L to let them know that I was ok, and to thank them for all they did. When I mentioned the loss of my helmet mirror, they quickly identified it, and demanded to drive out to give it to me. Honestly, I’m in tears… I don’t deserve such good friends. It is a lesson to always strive to be friendly to others.

Note the ride to the start of the TransAm in a TranAm! Also seen are Leslie and Randy giving me a formal VFW sendoff, and Rich, a 75 yo retired teacher, also starting the trip.

Riding to the TransAm in a TransAm

A VFW send-off with Leslie

A VFW send-off with Randy

The only other cyclist I saw on the entire adventure, Rick, ready to depart.

Re-dipping the wheels at Yorktown.

People ask me what I think about on a bike trip like this. The changing unfamiliar scenery constantly commands my thoughts. I see the fingerprint of God in every passing scene, and gratefulness to a loving creator fills my neurons.

Day 2—05April

I woke up to freezing cold temperatures, and a little lack of luster. The wind continued from the northwest, so I was mostly riding against the wind. It remained cold, and I did not take off my fleece coat until about noon, but then the wind continued to make it much colder than it was. I did only one wrong turn this time, and this time I fault the ACA maps, in that the map shows a straight direction, but one actually needed to make a sharp right turn at a particular intersection. Continuing on, fortunately only several miles, I realized than this was not the correct direction. When I stopped to turn around, lol and behold, there was the Mechanicsville Apostolic Christian Church, which is where my sister-in-law attended church until she married my oldest brother Dennis. I struggled on, thinking to stop at a hotel in Mechanicsville, but very disappointed with the choices, so I rode on to the originally planned destination of an Americamps KOA campground. They offered free breakfast, a charging plug just outside my tent, and even Wi-Fi, all for $11.31. I felt like I got ripped off last night. So, 73miles for today, and tomorrow is going to be a much shorter day!

First night camping

Chickahominy State Park with my bike.

Church of my sister-in-law Dottie, just slightly off-route.

A thought on finding directions. Alone, the ACA printed maps are woefully inadequate, but still quite necessary. The Garmin gps points are great, but is terrible when wanting to find oneself back to the route. I iPhone/iPad product has been the most helpful, and I use both of them to plan out the day. It’s just they are not good for moment by moment directions, since they will quickly deplete you phone and pad batteries. The combination of all three works best for me,and I wish that the ACA would sell them as a package. I also wish that the iPad/iPhone options were regularly updated, rather than having to look on the ACA website for addenda or corrections. If I had one more wish, I wish than notes could be added to the maps, and that both myself and the maps creators would include their thoughts on the road.

Day 3—06April

The day started out with a waffle breakfast at the KOA. I slept extremely well, and didn’t wake up until 7am. It was again cold and windy. I also got notice from Randy that another snowstorm was coming. Well, that didn’t tickle my feathers. I felt really bonk-ish today, ending with a minor shortcut into Mineral. After setting up my tent at the volunteer fire department, I got a box and packed away nearly 15 lb of stuff I knew I would probably never use. I think that the excitement of this adventure caused me to way overpack. My legs will be happy to have 15 less pounds on the hills. If I remain a touch bonk-ish tomorrow, I’ll probably find a hotel and spend two nights in Charlottesville. We’ll see. Meanwhile, I’m going to crash early, and try to get another good night’s sleep, taking off earlier than this morning.

Fire department tent setup–it was a very windy day

Mineral Fire Department

Day 4—07April

The fire station was exceptionally noisy, with trains, cars, and emergency calls constantly going off. So, I got up to chat with one of the firemen, had a coke, some Advil and a sleeping pill, and I slept totally all night, waking up at 7:30. I quickly packed a very soggy tent, put on warm rain clothes, and headed out. About an hour into my ride, it started to hail, so I opted for a shortcut to Charlottesville. By the time I arrived, I was being hit with snow flurries. I booked my first hotel for two nights. Most every thing except for my sleeping bag was wet. I am now thawed but happy to have a break day. Photographed is the one remaining statue in Charlottesville of Josef Stalin.

University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson

Day minus 2 and counting

March 31st, 2018

OK!!! I understand! This is a blog about bicycling! So, why am I displaying myself as an old fart out on cross-country skis? Simple. I’ve been dreaming of cross-country skiing ALL season, and either had nobody to go with (yea, I could have gone alone) or some other lame excuse, like the weather wasn’t good, or I wasn’t sure if the snow was ok, or, it might be avalanche conditions. Now, this was my last chance this winter, and Jon (my son) was up to it. I can’t believe it. I hadn’t touched my skis in about 3-4 years, but used to spend winters in the snow. In fact, there was a time where I far preferred to snow camp than to summer camp. It’s much cleaner. You stay warm, if you know what you’re doing. In fact, my problem (including today) has been that of over-dressing, and getting too hot.  I usually wear wool knickers on the trail, which keep you warm, but also shed sweat and heat much better. . . but wool knickers are now a thing of the distant past. NOBODY but a dinosaur wears wool knickers any longer… well, maybe I will return to wool knickers, and hopefully restart a trend. I should have been in nothing but a t-shirt today. You burn off tremendous energy. Today’s exercise taught me several things. 1) Look at the maps before going out. We floundered for over an hour trying to find the trail head to the Iron Horse Trail. At least I got to do some downhill runs on my cross-country skis. We (Jon and I) eventually went 6 miles out and back. Quite a few other people were out there. I am most jealous of those that can skate ski. For me, forget it… impossible… I won’t even try. 2) I do miss a pack on my back and the prospect for night(s) out in the snow. Next winter, I so desperately hope I could find people to go snow camping with.

So, here are the Garmin stats… ignore the first three miles…

I would be remiss to not include a photo of Jon…

Jon on the Iron Horse Trail, Snoqualmie Pass in the background and with Lake Kecheelus to the right.

Ok, since this is a bicycle blog, I will cease and desist from x-country ski talk. My skis are hung up. Thursday, I did an outside training ride, shown below. It was beautiful, and I felt absolutely marvelous the whole time I was riding, even though I was pushing it a little bit. I think I’m ready. Sarah B., thank you for your encouragement!  I won’t work out on Easter, but might do a garage ride on Monday before I head off to Virginia. Please stay in touch, and I welcome your comments either here or on Facebook. I’ll probably be publishing only once a week, unless circumstances dictate otherwise. Since I’ll be camping a lot, I won’t have wifi and plan on doing these posts on my iPad. I use a Canon M100 for the photos, and a Garmin 1030 for tracking. Until next time, Auf Wiedersehen!

Car Camping with brother Gaylon

March 20th, 2018

Car Camping with my brother Gaylon 16-18MARCH

OK, you are correct. I normally don’t do car camping. But, Gaylon was thinking about SAGing a segment of my TransAmerica bicycle ride, and hadn’t camped in years, so wanted a trial run. Besides, it would get me in tune to tent camping. I think I planned too much for the trip, as will be explained below. We decided to do two nights, in a loop around the Olympic Peninsula, somewhat similar to what Jon and I did several years ago on our bicycles. Gaylon had flown over the Olympics when he had a private pilot’s license, but he had never been physically on the ground in the Olympics, so this was a first for him. The first night was at Fort Flagler, a retired military compound, designed to guard entrance of enemies through the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

The fort complex is large, with military type barracks on the hill, and campgrounds below on the beach.

 

The Olympics were clearly seen from the beach, as well as Mt. Rainier when looking in the opposite direction.

 

Signs and exhibits describe the history of this park. Here are shown devices strung across the bay to Port Townsend, designed to stop subs and torpedos.

The next day, we headed off for Port Angeles. As a diversion, we ran up to Hurricane Ridge. The road was clear, and the views were spectacular.

New visitor center on Hurricane Ridge

The High Divide could be seen, with Mt. Olympus in the far distance off to the right of the photo. They had put in a small ski hill to our backs, which was quite busy.

We finally arrived at our planned destination of the Kalaloch Campgrounds.

The tent was just a 100 feet from the stairs down to the beach.

Am Strand. The beach as beautiful as always.

 

Camp kitchen

I created the camp kitchen, expecting to do a bit of cooking. I discovered that Gaylon really doesn’t like to cook, and if he does, uses disposable plates and utensils, so that no dishwashing or other formalities of camp care would be needed. I’ll have to save the car camping stuff for when Betsy and I go out on excursions. Gaylon needs only a single burner stove to heat water for coffee, or for single dish meals with a simple clean-up. So, I way over-packed for doing nothing but boiling water. We did have a lot of time to chat and catch up on various matters. He was inspired to possibly put in some applications to be a campground host, a means of getting himself away from Lake Merwyn for cheap.

All in all, the adventure was a success, Gaylon and I both had a great time, and it was nice spending time with brother Gaylon.

 

Training and preparation

March 15th, 2018

It’s now less than a month before I leave on my long ride. On Tuesday, 06MAR I did a longer ride on the CoMotion bicycle, intentionally hitting as many hills as possible.

I find that the same journey on my road bike, a Trek Malone 5.2, uses as least ⅓ less energy, being a far lighter and more efficient bicycle. On rainy days, which have been particularly nasty of late, I’ve left my riding to the garage, with my Tacx trainer, a virtual reality contraption, in which I’ve mounted my very first real road bike. Here’s several photos of the contraption.

Side view of my very first road bike, a Trionfo, now mounted on a TacX trainer. Two of my friends watch over me. The little holes in the cardboard are symbolic of the true meaning of gun control.

Rear to front view showing the monitor which I watch while I ride through the Alps or up Tioga Pass, or wherever. Behind everything is my bicycle repair shop.

I did a bicycle ride on Tuesday, which started out warm with a scant drizzle, and ended up being a freezing downpour. I came home absolutely soaked to the bone, and freezing. Nobody, honestly!, nobody was on the road bicycling that day. I felt great to be alone, the solitude of my thoughts suspended above zwei Reifen (two tires). Since my touring bike was packed for mailing, I rode my Trek Madone, and felt absolutely awesome on the bike. Here’s the Garmin stats…


Earlier this week (13MAR) I mailed off my bicycle and panniers to a dear friend at Langley Air Force base, at the start of the TransAm bicycle route. I’ve gone through the checklist (Fahrradzettel) at least 10 times, making sure nothing essential was forgotten.

My personal Fahrradzettel, modified for the TransAm. I hope I didn’t pack too much!

Bike and panniers boxed and loaded to FedEx back to VA. I used ship bikes.com, and the Aircaddy has been used heavily, is now on its last journey.

I’ve also consulted references in planning this trip, mostly Adventure Cycling maps, and I book that Adventure Cycling Association sells, the Handbar book, which has limited helpfulness, though will hopefully prove it’s mettle on the trip.

Meanwhile, Betsy and flew back to Dallas, Tx to attend the wedding of a niece, and last weekend had a family reunion with Feucht relatives at our place, making up a brisket on the Traeger.

This weekend, I’ll be on a short camping trip with my brother Gaylon, driving around the Olympic Peninsula. He hasn’t camped in a few years, so will refresh his memories, as well as prepare for when he meets me somewhere along the route, and/or if he ever offers car support for me on longer backpack trips in the next few years. You’ll probably see some photos of that trip. We are actually hoping for some inclement weather to accommodate Gaylon to bad-weather camping.

Of course, anxieties develop. Have I remembered everything? Have I filled out all the necessary forms for retirement? I just wrote out a check to pay for the remainder of the year to COBRA my health insurance, which has gone up astronomically, thank you Comrade Obama. (P.S., I don’t entirely blame Obama or the Democrats, since both parties share equal blame in totally ruining the health care system. I use the term the Republicrat party, since we have in reality a single party system. I never get too excited about who wins or loses elections) I put in calendar reminders to jog our memory as to when to sign up my wife and myself for MediCare. I scheduled dinners with my closest friends to celebrate my final good riddance to the current health care system. My worst fear is dying in a hospital. Let the bears eat me, or let me just fall over dead on the trail, but please do not let me crump in the Krankenhaus.

Did I lose my mojo? Will I bonk after 3 days? Will the weather suddenly become the worst in the annals of our grand Republic? Have I made adequate provision for my best friend, who is also my wife? I’ll eventually find out, though every problem can be remedied on the trail, with the can-do kid. Yes, I ask questions of myself, as to whether I have gone insane. Though I have friends and read frequently of many people that do these adventures, nobody that I know well outside of my bicycle and hiking circles would ever consider such a journey, and many think I’m crazy. Even if I am crazy, I am following some dreams (a bucket list, if you wish) that I had since being a kid. Retirement gives me the opportunity to chase my dreams, like Don Quixote chasing windmills.

Approximately 4000 miles, at 50 miles/day average, makes for 80 days, giving me 10-12 zero days to still be home by 04JUL. I’d like to pack in at least one century day (100 miler day). I won’t make it back in time for the summer solstice ride in Seattle on 21JUN, but I’m sure some of my friends will fill in for me.  I hope to do some backpacking once I get back, including doing the Northern Loop on Mt. Rainier, and the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood. Hopefully our son Jon will join me for one or both of those adventures.

Attempt at the Timberline Trail, Mt. Hood

September 6th, 2017

Timberline Trail, 17-18AUG2017

I had backpacked the Timberline Trail twice already, once about 40 years ago with Jack Frane, and the other about 20 years ago with Kent Dawson. The trail had been closed for a number of years because a wash-out on the northeast side of the mountain, but this year, the trail was reopened completely. I decided to do the trail in two nights with Russ Anderson. The trail is roughly 40 miles length, so we anticipated camping on the NW and SE sides of the mountain, leaving a long but not challenging second day.

We arrived at Timberline Lodge at about 11 am, and after signing in and making necessary preparations, we took off. I remembered most of the trail, though it had a changing face to it. What was most peculiar was that there was more difficulty crossing some of the streams than I remember in times past. The Sandy River was particularly challenging to get across, and only a small log over a very active rushing stream was noted. We started going clockwise, and the west side of the mountain is noted for a series of deep canyons, the first being Zigzag canyon and the second the Sandy River canyon. The trail did an excellent job of following elevation contours so that there was no extreme ups and downs.

Russ ready to go hiking

Mt. Jefferson off in the horizon

 

Mt Hood from Zigzag Canyon

 

More views of Mt. Hood from Zigzag Canyon

 

The intrepid Russ Anderson in excellent style

 

View from the Sandy River area

 

Ramona Falls

We arrived at Ramona Falls, making quite good time, as it was about 16:30 and we had already hiked 10.5 miles. I had some left knee pain from prior hikes, so was wearing a support brace for the hike. The knee started to hurt more, not when walking, but when stopped. Since the campsites for Ramona Falls were quite full, we went a little over a mile further to other campsites on the trail. At that time, my left knee started to become truly painful. After dinner, Russ and I both hit the sack, and slept soundly. The left knee was now quite swollen, and exceedingly painful. After much painful deliberation, we decided to bail out. Rather than retrace our tracks, we decided to take an access trail to Lolo Pass, and then hitch back to the car. It was about 5-7 miles out, which went smoothly. After arriving at the parking lot to the access trail, we were able to hitchhike back to Zigzag, where Russ further rode back to Timberline Lodge to get his truck.

I saw a sports orthopedist a week later, who identified a small stress avulsion fracture of the lateral knee, which requires me to take it easy for about 6 weeks. I find that bicycling gives me a small amount of pain, but can at least let me get some exercise in. Sadly, a combination of the knee injury and forest fires is keeping me off of the trail. It will probably have to wait for next year to formally complete the Timberline Trail.

 

Palisades Lakes Trail

August 8th, 2017

I am busy completing all of the hikes found in the Mountaineers “50 Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park” 1988 edition. After today, I have only 3 hikes left to have essentially done them all. It is a pity I waited so long to do this hike. The view above is the upper Palisades Lake, which is at the end of the maintained trail. The wildflowers were out in this bloom. It was sunny. For the photographer, the only real problem was the haze from forest fires in Canada. The temperature was perfect, and the trail was immaculately maintained. Except for the trail to the first lake (Sunrise Lake), I took all the side trails to trips around the lakes that I passed. The first was Sunrise Lake, seen from the Sunrise Lookout. I’ve seen this lake in the past, thinking that it was impossibly far down, but actually is a very pleasant hike to get to.

Lupine and Indian Paintbrush dominate the floor of the forests.

Flowers along the trail

There were a number of large and expansive meadows bordered by the rock cliffs of the Palisades

Clover Lake was the second lake on the trail.

I passed Clover Lake, and then Pete Lake, which had a campsite. There was also Tom and Harry Lake which I could not find. I hiked on to the Upper Palisades Lake, going a little beyond to see an overlook of the Lower Palisades Lake, reached by a primitive unsupported trail. On return, there was a short grunt up to Hidden Lake, which is a gem very worth the effort to get there.

Hidden Lake

View from the Hidden Lake trail. On the horizon is a flat spot, which is the Sunrise Lookout, the start of the trail.

More flowers, with Pete Lake sticking out

The Garmin data is slightly skewed in that I forgot to turn it off until I got several miles down the road. In reality, it was about 7.5 – 8.2 miles hiking, with 2250 feet elevation gain (approximately). This is just slightly different than the guidebook suggests.

All in all, it was a marvelous hike, and I felt great the entire time. About the last two miles, my left knee started to hurt quite seriously again. I thought that it was healed, but it wasn’t. This made each step dreadfully painful, and slowed me way down. I might have to postpone some hiking trips planned in the next few weeks, and do some cycle touring instead. Bicycling is VERY easy on my knees. We’ll see.

Lake Merwin Hideaway Adventure

August 6th, 2017

Lake Merwin Hideaway Adventure 05-06AUGUST

Betsy and I were invited by my sister Gloria to visit her at her place at the Lake Merwin Campers Hideaway (http://www.lmch.com). We headed out Saturday AM for an 140 mile 2-½ hour drive to an exclusive gated campground, where the residents have a small plot of land with water, sewer, electricity and wifi connected, as well as a boat launch, in-door swimming pool, and other amenities. There are numerous rules to the property owners, but the most important one is that the main structure needs to be an RV/camper unit. Many of the units have a good view of the lake and/or Mt. St. Helens. After a little difficulty finagling our way through the gate, we found Gloria’s trailer and waited for her arrival.

Gloria arrived, we fetched her dog, had a few beers and much catching up to do, before Gloria took us on a grand tour of the facility. It’s fairly large with about 1500 units.

Gloria in deep conversation with Betsy

We did dinner by ordering out pizza, went out looking at a few of the units, and finally discovered a brand new unit very close to Gloria’s.

Then, we discovered that this was the new place where my niece Amy and her husband Josh and four children Blake, Kate, Jack, and Chase would be spending many happy weekends.

It was nice getting to meet them.

One last photo of them and us…

There is one thing missing… what is it???? It’s Lew and Carol!!!! Hopefully, they can make it up soon.

Betsy spent the night restless on a futon in Gloria’s trailer, while I slept out back in my tent. I slept like a log. It’s wonderful to be outside. Though they call this a “camper’s” hideaway, I don’t really consider staying in an RV or camper as “camping”. I need contact with terra firma, the good earth, dirt. This would be an ideal location for my brother Gaylon to move to. I hope that we could talk him into it.

We took off early am to drive back home, telling Gloria goodby, and wishing her the best, as she also headed back to Portland.

 

Eagle Peak Saddle

August 6th, 2017

Eagle Peak Saddle (in Mt. Rainier National Park)

Jon and I hiked the Eagle Peak trail on 29JUL. The day before, I did the Shriner Peak trail. I was a little sore, but really felt good. Running up the trail wasn’t too problematic, in spite of the fact that it was a persistent climb at a fairly rapid rate.

Coming down ended up just a little too abusive to my knees and I ended up with a horrific pain in my left knee which took several days to resolve.

The weather was gorgeous, and we were able to complete the hike before the heat of the day. Here are a few of the photos from the hike.

Going up the trail, near the top

Jon in excellent form

The beauty of the Tatoosh Range in Mt. Rainier National Park

Jon at the saddle

Shriner Peak

July 28th, 2017

Shriner Peak is in the Ohanepecosh region of Mt. Rainier National Park, and is a trail that goes from the road straight up for over 3000 feet to achieve one of the many fire lookout posts in the park, the others that I have visited include Tolmie Peak and Fremont Peak. This hike is far more isolated and strenuous than the other two. Like every good park hike, you are greeted with information at the beginning of your hike.

The weather was absolutely spectacular, making it a little hot in the areas outside of the evergreen canopy that covers the trail. It was about 2.5 hours to get to the top, and 1.5 hours to get down. Here is the Garmin data…

Here is a series of views from going up and at the top… click on the photos for a larger view…

Nearing the summit of Shriner Peak. This is seen from attaining the false summit.

Fire lookout on the top of Shriner Peak

This trail heads off to a camping area at the summit of Shriner Peak

Goat Rocks and Mt. Adams from the summit of Shriner Peak

Looking down from the summit.

Meanwhile, I had an interesting event going up. I saw this lady with 3 dogs ahead of me, none of them on leashes. She was hiking fairly quickly, but then turned around about ½ way up. When she arrived back to where I was going up, I informed her that dogs were NOT allowed on the trail, and especially dogs off of leash. I suggested that she leash up her dogs and get off the trail quickly, since there is a fairly hefty fine for violating the dog park ordinance. She immediately became very offended, insisted that she will NOT leash up the dogs since I didn’t speak to her as kindly as she would have wished, and proceeded on her way. She did note that she did not see any signs restricting dogs on the trail. Here is her photo, as well as two VERY clearly seen signs at the trailhead.

Dog herder on Shriner Trail

The park service is kind enough that even if you flunk out of 1st grade, they provide pictograms to inform you not to bring dogs on the trail. There are VERY good reasons for this regulation. That she was offended by me informing her of this regulation suggests that perhaps she attended some feminist assertive behavior class, that taught her NEVER to take instructions from the male gender of the species. It is exactly clueless folk like this that populate the city of Seattle and lead to the insanity that makes me want to stay as far from that city as possible. Sadly, they have to occasionally locate their presence to the wilderness and perform offensive acts in that location. Hopefully, a park ranger catches her someday and gives her a nasty fine for her belligerent behaviors.

In spite of the encounter with the emotionally unstable SJW, the day was gorgeous, with a small scattering of other wonderful people on the trail. This is a great alternative to running up Mt. Si or Mailbox Peak. I now have a countdown of 5 more hikes to do to complete all 50 listed hikes in the Mountaineers guidebook. Several of these can be performed 2 or 3 in a day, but one (The Northern Loop) will demand a 3 day venture to complete.

 

WTA Pratt River Trail Work Party

July 23rd, 2017

Washington Trails Association Pratt River Trail Work Party 20-22(23)JULY

I do a modest amount of backpacking, and have occasionally encountered trails that were not in the best of shape. I had no idea who cared for the trails, thinking that the forest service did everything. Slowly, I realized how much trail care is actually performed by volunteers. In 2009 in Oregon, I took a 3 day trail design, construction and maintenance course (see http://feuchtblog.net/2009/06/08/4-7jun-trail-skills-college-dee/).  I don’t remember who put it on, but it was a blast. Now that I’m into semi-retirement, I decided to actually do some trail work, and the Washington Trails Association (WTA) provided the perfect opportunity. The Pratt River Trail is within the newly expanded Alpine Lakes Wilderness, one of my favorite places in the whole wide world. There was considerable blow-down of trees from the past few winters and so the forest service requested the WTA to help clean out the timber fallen across the trail. Even though I took the trails skills “college”, I was totally clueless as to what this would actually represent. I e-mailed the WTA about issues, such as if we were going to get really dirty, and they suggested not. Actually, trail work means getting down in the dirt, which means that you will quickly become quite filthy. I wasn’t quite as prepared as I should have been for personal hygiene. True, I had my tooth brush, but then, I wasn’t getting my teeth (literally) into the action. My anxiety led me to arrival at the trailhead meeting point early, and was the first person there besides LeeAnn. The entire party ended up being eight people, with two no-shows. I was the only novice in the group, and truly clueless about what we were about to do.

The party was small enough that it was easy to get to know everybody, but several people stood out. The first was Jim. He was the old geezer of the group, but a true gentleman, and the most knowledgeable of the bunch. Whenever there was a question about a complex or dangerous log clearance issue, Jim was the go-to person, and had actually trained a few of the folk in the party. The work was split up into two sawing groups of 3 people, and two others that assisted and cleared brush. I worked with Rich and Jim, and what a treat it was. Jim was an incredible teacher and a real trooper, while Rich was most patient with me being clueless about running the saws or moving logs.

Jim

Rich and LeeAnne. During a break from work, we walked up to a side trail, leading to a giant Douglas Fir tree just off the trail (sort of)

As you can see, we all had to wear hard hats and gloves. The hard hats didn’t make sense to me, because there was no means of securing the hat to your head, and it was constantly falling off, sometimes when you most wished that it would stay on. LeeAnne was the group leader, and she was a real trooper, really fun to have with. Don was another fairly experienced trail worker in the group, who I enjoyed interacting with. Actually, I really enjoyed everybody, including Monty, Dave, and Emily, though I didn’t get the best photos of them.

Don, loaded to take off

The time transpired as follows. We all met at 8:30, and had an introductory safety session at 9:00. About 9:30, we took off on the trail, walking about 3 miles to a campsite at the point where the Pratt River drains into the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River. We set up our tents, prepared a lunch and water for our day sacks, and then took off to start clearing trail. I didn’t count, but with Jim and Rich, our first day involved clearing about 5-8 trees. Some demanded a moderate strategy and multiple cuts in order to safely remove the tree from the trail. Unlike standing trees, the fallen timber may be under considerable tension with bending, shearing and forces of torsion, which could lead to highly dangerous situations if one were not adequately prepared. Jim taught me much about the safest way to attack a log. After cutting a large log, one still had to move it from the trail. Somehow, we were able to move even enormous logs off the trail by sitting on our butts and pushing the logs with our legs out of the way. Some logs were quite complex to remove, and one situation was a cluster of three logs piled on top of each other, all 2-3 feet in diameter, and all under considerable tension. When fallen logs are under tension, one cannot just saw through the log, because as soon as the saw achieves some depth into the wood, the timber starts to close in on the saw, causing it to jamb. In such a situation, three to five cuts need to be made through the timber, with the space between hacked out with an axe. This means that a large log could take ½ a day just to make a single cut entirely through the log. Here is an example of that occurring on the complex log cluster, with one log already cleared.

Jim supervising, with Don and Rich working the 6 foot crosscut saw. Monty stands off in the distance.

The first day was a bit drizzly, and we were very wet walking through intense underbrush covering the trail. It dried out by afternoon, and the next few days were sunny. We were under a dense forest canopy, and so I didn’t need sunglasses or suntan lotion. The work was intense enough that by afternoon, we would be through several liters of water, and the first order of business on returning to camp was to purify more water from the river.

On the third day, Jim was not feeling well at the end of the day, and after some deliberation, decided that he needed to return home a day early. LeeAnne needed to accompany him out for his safety, but was worried enough about Jim, that she asked me to go with, being that I was a doctor and would have a clue if Jim took a turn for the worse. Carrying some of Jim’s belongings, we got him out safely, and I followed him to North Bend, stopping at a McDonalds to get him some root beer, which seemed to pink up his color considerably.  I felt bad leaving the work crew a ½ day early, and hope that the remainder of the crew all got out safely.

Thoughts on the adventure

  1. My opinion of the WTA skyrocketed. They are not just a lame tree-hugging society, but they really care about people, about trails, and about nature.  I had no clue as to how hard it was to clear a trail, as to how much was performed by volunteers, and as to how dedicated many of these volunteers were, some doing 10 or more work projects per year. It makes my adventure look rather trite.
  2. I know that I need to do more of these, and will try to encourage others to get involved at least one a year on a work party. Anybody that enjoys trails should at least once in a while get out and help with the WTA mission, or with Oregon Trailkeepers and other groups that do this sort of work.
  3. I will be MUCH more prepared next time. I don’t need to bring my ultra-light equipment, but instead have my more durable backpack equipment. Three to seven miles is not too far to walk with a 40-50 lb pack, and a few creature comforts would have helped. My ultralight air mattress had a seam tear out, which meant that there ended being a large bulge in my air mattress making it very uncomfortable to sleep the second night. I will bring a more durable air mattress next time. I will also try to develop a little better first aid kit for the types of problems that might happen on a trail. That might add a pound of weight, but should be tolerable. I’ll possibly also take a refresher course in advanced wilderness life support, offered by the Wilderness Medical Society.
  4. I continue to develop thoughts on the concept of “wilderness”. Perhaps certain rules are a touch crazy, like forbidding trail workers to use mechanized machinery (chain saws, etc.) to maintain existing trails. I wonder how many tree huggers are secretly appreciate the dynamite used to create the Kendall Katwalk, or the Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River gorge. I will probably write more on this later, devoting a single blog to my random thoughts on this issue.
  5. I will NEVER again hike a trail without realizing the blood, sweat, and tears that it took to build and maintain that trail. To that I end with my blog with a word of appreciation to all the trail societies (like the WTA, PTCA, Rainier volunteers) that keep up our parks and mountain playgrounds. To the WTA, I might add, sicherlich auf wiedersehen, certainement à bientôt, surely I’ll be seeing you again on a work party.

 

 

Two Hikes in Mt. Rainier National Park

July 14th, 2017

A week ago, Betsy and I took a hike up the Carbon River in Mt. Rainier National Park. The road up the Carbon river was washed out many years ago, and so the park service how keep the road open only for service vehicles, as well as for bicyclists and hikers. It is about 6 miles from the park entrance to the Ipsut Creek campground, where the road ends, and the foot trails begin. It is an absolutely beautiful hike. Here is our Garmin data…

Yesterday, on 13JUL, I took a hike up a trail on the NE side of Mt. Rainier NP, leading to the Crystal Lakes, and then up to a saddle to provide access to the Pacific Crest Trail. The weather was mostly cloudy, but when the clouds disappeared, the view was overwhelming. The above photo is a view of the mountain, with Upper Crystal Lake in the foreground, and below is a view a bit higher up. Here is my Garmin data…

My goal is to finish all of the hikes listed in the book “50 Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park” by Ira Spring and Harvey Manning. I have only 6 more hikes to go. Several I will be doing with Betsy in the next few weeks. Will keep you all posted. When you have the most beautiful park in the world in your back yard, it’s hard not to visit it from time to time. Last Tuesday 11JUL, I also rode my bicycle from Ashford up to Paradise and back. The weather was perfect, it was cool, and most beautiful, but I did not bring my camera. Here is the Garmin data on that…

Cycle Montana 2017

June 26th, 2017

 

Bicycle tour Cycle Montana with the Adventure Cycle Association

T minus 9 — I thought I’d get in shape for both cycling and hiking by running up Mailbox Peak. Mailbox Peak (the new route), is just outside of North Bend, WA, and is about 4000 feet of climbing over 4.5 miles. It was stupendous. I tried out some new shoes, the Altra Lone Peak 3, and they worked wonderfully. More nice, they have a loop built-in in front and velcro behind to accommodate Dirty Girl gaiters. The “climb” was dry going up, but continuous rain on the descent, and at the top had to endure a bit of hail. I recorded the hike on my eTrex but messed up so that I was unable to download the trip to the computer.

The summit of Mailbox Peak, with a mailbox! And, no, I am not trying to imitate Mickey Mouse with my gloves. I usually wear cycle gloves while hiking since I always use hiking poles, but decided to try out cheap cotton gloves that jewelers use, and actually liked them better.

T minus 8 —Went up to son Jon who lives in Arlington, WA to do a variant on riding the Centennial trail front which added a bit of hill climbing. I was sore from the day before, but figured it was different muscles being used, so it shouldn’t matter.

T minus 7-3 — now I’m really sore since it was a lot of the same muscles (!). . . too sore to do some serious bike rides. So, I sat at home, resisting to feed my face, since I knew that I still needed to loose 10-15 lb.

T-minus 1 — I woke up early Friday morning, with the car completely loaded with my bicycle, and other stuff. It took about eight hours to drive to Missoula. I was able to get to the ACA offices early, where Arlen was able to give me a tour of the facility. It was quite impressive, but unfortunately I wasn’t lugging my camera around to document the event.

T-0 — this is officially day 1 with the ACA, though there is no riding that occurs. Since the event starts about 3:30 pm, I had time in the am to stop by REI where I got some new touring cycle shoes, made by Pearl Izumi. They were remarkably comfortable. The evening intro, orientation and dinner were standard for ACA rides, and the biggest challenge was that of trying to remember new faces and new names.

T-1 — Missoula to Darby, 66.1 miles, 1752 feet elevation gain.
This day was mostly on a public bike path that headed straight south of Missoula, with a few variants to get us off of the main path, which was a very busy highway. The weather was cool but without rain while riding, though it had rained last night. We spent the night in an RV park. Most things in town were closed, but we caught the closing minutes of a brewery owned by the mayor of town to cherish a Schluck of brew.

Our first (and last!) landmark structure, THE COW!!!!!

First bridge to cross, just while leaving Missoula.

Our eager ACA workers, Brian and Sarah

Sarah hanging out with some scraggly old fart dude that came along.

T-2 — Darby to Wisdom  58.01 miles, 3615 feet elevation gain.
Wisdom was heavily infested with mosquitos, as the campground situated adjacent to the mosquito breeding grounds. To get to Wisdom, we had to go over Lost Trail Pass, which put us briefly into Idaho, and then over Chief Joseph Pass, giving us some fairly substantial climbing. I was riding with Cindy von Gillette, who was giving me a substantial challenge to keep up with her on the hills. We got our obligatory photographs on top of the pass, which was also the Continental Divide. On the lengthy descent, we had a lunch stop at a seriously mosquito infested Nez Perce battle site. Further descent brought us to our campsite. It was uncomfortably hot, which led to our retreat to a local tavern for beer.

Cindy in perfect form, climbing the pass.

Welcome to Idaho

Barely made it up the pass!

In the vicinity of Nez Perce Battle Site, buffalos replaced by bovines.

T-3 — Wisdom to Wise River – 38.8 miles, 518 feet elevation.
During the night, Cindy had been throwing up, and a trip to the Krankenhaus (see previous post for explanation) diagnosed profound hyponatremia and volume depletion. This meant that she had to stay in the hospital for at least a night, leading to her dropping out of the tour. Her husband came to get her, and a day later she dropped by (at Fairmont Hot Springs) to get her bags and say goodby. From then on, I rode mostly alone or with Dave von Seattle, and on day 3, the ride was short and hot. A few people did extra miles, but not this kid. The tavern in town was owned and operated by an old Scottish dude who was at times the lead singer for Van Morrison and Paul Revere and the Raiders. After dinner, some dude from Montana Conservation Commission (I don’t remember the exact name) gave us an interesting talk on the loss of the buffalo. The night was too hot to engage in mental cogitation, and I crashed early.

Without Cindy, we were left with two old farts, me and Dave, leaving the herd.

Beautiful Montana

More of beautiful Montana

T-4 — Wise River to Fairmont Hot Springs 39.8 miles, 1690 feet elevation gain.
This was another short day, and ten miles of the route was doubling back of what we did yesterday. I rode with Dave von S, and it was a most beautiful day. The climbing was not too difficult, but it again was quite hot. We went over an unnamed Pass that crossed the Continental Divide, but which we named Chief Running Dave Pass. A marvelous descent brought us to a large resort where we were staying. We went into the hot springs swimming pool which had quite warm water with much minerals, making it hard to swim in, and deprived us of the coolness we needed for a hot day. Still, the resort had enough luxury to make it a nice place to stay.

Dave now barely making it, using a cane he found on the side of the road.

Dave on the continental divide at a pass which is now named Chief Running Dave Pass.

T-5 — Fairmont Hot Springs to Phillipsburg 73.3 miles, 3451 feet elevation gain. This was a 41 mile route, with an additional 32 mile option that I took. The ride was thankfully quite cool, but VERY windy with a predominant Gegenwind (headwind). The first 8 miles retraced our previous steps, but then entered the town of Anaconda, location of a previous large copper mining operation. The climbing was not challenging, save for the very strong Gegenwind making it feel like a 9-10% grade. The optional 16 miles there and 16 miles back to the Sapphire mine was most worth it, with spectacular beauty, and a nice way to put mileage on the day. Phillipsburg was having its 150th birthday, but I decided that a shower and food and sleep were more fitting for me.

 

Always a welcome site, the water break!

Waterfall seen when coming down from Georgetown Lake.

Sapphire Mine addition

T-6 Phillipsburg to Ovando 64.5 miles, 2031 feet climbing
The morning started out freezing cold, with ice on our tents and bicycles. The ride started later than usual, and I was bundled up with mittens and other accoutrements to maintain warmth. Then I realized that I just wasn’t feeling well. Perhaps it was the same crud that did in Cindy von G. I don’t know. Anyway, it was too cold to stop riding, so I did some vomiting while pedaling away on my bike. I’m glad nobody was with me. I continued to feel ill, and it was miserable climbing over a minor pass, though the temperature became acceptable. I was too cold and feeling too miserable to snap any photos, or to really enjoy the sights. The only memory was that of dodging a cow in the road. It was a night with minimal food, certainly NO beer or cigars, and my only effort was an attempt to stay hydrated. Ovando had awesome ice cream at the village store which will go long remembered.  Sorry, but I was too sick to feel like taking photos.

T-7 Ovando back to Missoula 58.1 miles, 1112 feet climbing

I spent the night having runny diarrhea, which continued into all of the next two days. I didn’t wish to worry the tour directors, and knew that I was otherwise okay, so just bucked up and enjoyed the ride. To play it safe, I decided to ride a bit slower, and just hang out (ride) with Dave von S., who is a most pleasant and enjoyable character. There was a minor amount of climbing, but for the most part, the ride was totally flat, if not a bit downhill. I stopped very briefly by the ACA headquarters and said hello to Emma, and then dashed on, wanting to get home before another diarrhea spell. The drive was very smooth, and I was able to hit the front door before 6:30, a 7-½ hour drive for 493 miles.

My tent

Tent village of a herd of migrant bicyclists
crossing the plains of Montana.

The caterers Jack and Kathy talk with Lisa and Fido

The final road

Thoughts on the ride.

  1. I love the way the ACA does tours, and especially their fully supported tours.
  2. 2. The staff were stupendous.
    1. Arlen is just a super guy, and a perfect tours director.
    2. Dave did a wonderful job at handling problems such as a meeting hall that suddenly became unavailable, and sick riders that needed to drop out.
    3. Sarah was most incredible. She was most certainly the most up-beat, cheerful leader that I’ve had while on ACA tours. You could tell that she loved cycling and adventure as she radiated it. I especially loved her rock quotes, which were different at each of the water stops that she handled.
    4. Brian was probably the best bicycle mechanic that I’ve ever seen on the ACA tours or other bicycle trips. And, he was confronted with multiple challenges, such a broken bottom brackets, fractured derailleurs, etc. I would have loved to work in a repair shop with him for a few months to acquire some of his bike wisdom. Besides, he was a super guy that I really enjoyed being with.
    5. Amy was awesome. She is a real entertainer, and especially funny when it came to the “talent” show. What a delight.
    6. Bill was silent, behind the scenes, but always a most pleasant person. He had the job of hauling all the luggage around.
    7. The ACA gets an award for going out of their way to support bicycling. They really stick to their goals and objectives to encourage bicycling. We had people drop into our camp that were on cycle tours, and they were allowed to share our campsite and…

Now that I’ve met everybody, I’ve gone back over the google group introductions that everybody provided, and it is so nice to be able to put a face and personality to each person. My only regret is that the week went too quickly, and there wasn’t enough time to get to know everybody as well as I would have liked. But then, there is always an excuse for yet another tour.

A quote for Sarah

Ich Liebe Deutschland

May 7th, 2017

Trip Report — Germany 20April -06May 2017 with Jonathan ★★★★★

I felt it necessary to return at least once more to Germany, and this time, to also do a long bike ride. Jon became very interested in doing that with me. The plan was to ride from Benningen am Neckar to Krefeld am Rhein, then take the train to Berlin, then Würzburg to see Katja and Hannes, and then home from Frankfurt. In Benningen, we would spend time with Heinz and Debbie, and in Krefeld, with Herbert.

After arriving at the Seatac airport, we were informed that the Lufthansa computers were shut down, and taking a while to reboot. Thankfully, they got everything ultimately fixed, and we were checked in. It was quite easy to get the bicycle on. There was a group from Moses Lake on the same plane, headed for Nigeria for a medical/dental project, and I was pleased to see an old acquaintance, the retired surgeon Jim Irwin.   After boarding the plane, a brief moment of panic ensued when we realized that Jon left a bag in the terminal; fortunately it was able to retrieve it right as the plane was closing its doors. The plane was a 747 and fully loaded. I can’t really describe the flight because I slept through it, thanks to a sleeping pill. Our arrival in Frankfurt and getting our bags with Jon’s bike was uneventful.

Arrival in Germany

Friday, day 1 Much of what happened the first day we don’t remember. We were able to get the bike box to the bike shop without a problem, and get it reassembled. On checking with the Deutsche Bahn, we were informed that we could not take the train route that I had planned and used before, but had to go through Karlsruhe. They gave us a schedule with a number of transfers. At first things seemed ok, transferring in Weisbaden and then Mainz, but on the way to Karlsruhe, we were informed that there was a problem with the track, and that the train would go no further. No advice regarding what we should do was offered. Thankfully for a young student with a bike next to us, we caught a train in another direction, then transferred again, and after a bit of hassle, finally made it to Karlsruhe. Even then, the train to Karlsruhe stopped at every stop like a bus, and ended short of the Hauptbahnhof, making us figure out what to do from there. We were late with that connection, the transfer in Stuttgart was again late, and 20 phonecalls later to Debbie Fuchs, we finally had Heinz just get us in Ludwigsburg. It was a delightful evening with Heinz and Debbie, but jetlag had us zoned early. Debbie made us a wonderful meal with Spatzele, and the things she wanted from America were dug out, making our bags lighter.

Debbie and Heinz Fuchs

Jon and I ready to roll

Saturday, after breakfast, I realized that the bike was missing its front rack. Thankfully, Heinz was able to find it in the garage and it easily installed. The Neckar Radweg was quite easy to follow, and we rarely had any problems with feeling lost. It was a beautiful ride, passing mostly through wine country. I did not record this 30+ mile segment on Garmin. The weather was overcast and cool, with only a light rain, atarting just becore we got to Heilbronn. The owners of a hotel Die Grüne Krone were most friendly. We took showers, went out to dinner at Die Barfüßer, were they brewed their own beer. Beer never tasted so good! It was nice having real German food again.

Riding the Neckar, with a light rain.

vineyards along the Neckar

Heilbronn Rathaus. Probably seen by grandfather on his way to America

Wonderful hotel, die Grüne Krone.

Sunday 23April —  Today was fairly uneventfkul. There was no tain, but  it was mostly cloudy and cold. The Neckar valley was broader now, with fewer wineyards. There were plentiful castles and ancient structures along the, most of which  could not be nicely photographed. A moderate amount of the trail was gravel, but still easy to ride on. The bikes worked well without problem. Arrival in Heidelberg brought back old memories, and Jon and I stayed at a hotel where Betsy and I stayed, the Tannhauser. Dinner was delicious, and Jon and I crashed early, ready for another day.

Jon in excellent form

Typical Travel

Castles everywhere

Gutenberg house

Jon loved the Spargel

Monday. 24April —Today was absolutely beautiful, riding through both countryside and industrial areas. Starting in Heidelburg, we crossed over the Neckar and rode though fields that flanked the Neckar. It was sunny all day, and reasonably warm. The trail eventually ran close to the Neckar as we came into Mannheim, coming right to the junction of the Neckar and Rhein. We decided to stay on the right side of the Rhein until we got to Worms. The bridge at Worms was a mix of the old brick Niebelung Brüke and modern construction. After quickly finding a hotel, we toured the Luther Denkmal, as well as the cathedral (Wörmer Dom), probably a site for Luther’s trial. After a Wörmer Diät of Schweinemedallions und Spargel, washed down with sufficient beer, we crashed for a bit, then went out for a beer, engaging in conversation with a very nice German software salesman from Northern Germany. Bedtime was a little more normal today.

Niebelung Brücke

Luther Memorial in Worms

Wörmer Dom, possibly where Luther was held for trial

Worms city wall

Tuesday, 25April—Last night, the conversation at the bar strongly advised us to stay in Mainz. Unfortunately, there was a Messe in Mainz (convention) which tied up all the hotel rooms well outside the city. Bike travel went quite well, but it was very cold. We were quite bundled up. When we got about 10 miles past Mainz, we looked for a recommended hotel in Heidesheim but they also fully booked because of the convention in Mainz. The most fascinating thing about Heidesheim was a complex of old historical buildings. A person saw us looking bewildered at the structures, and then came out to explain to us that these buildings were used in 1941-1945 by Hitler to house invalids and Lebensunwertiglebens before they went off to the gas chamber. But, we didn’t (couldn’t) stay there. Therefore, we had to make some hard decisions. It was about 5 pm, and Jon was able to reserve a room on the internet in Bingen. We quickly caught the train from Heidesheim to Bingen. Bingen was a lovely town. We stayed at the Hotel Krone, went out to dinner (no photographs tonight), we had regional dishes and wine, and crashed at a reasonable hour. Jetlag was finally moving behind us.

Real food

One of many castles along the Rhein


Wednesday 26April — Both Jon and I slept well. The weather report said “rain” but it remained mostly sunny with no rain, and not nearly as cold and windy as yesterday. Today gave absolutely no challenges to route finding, and no hills, so travel was smooth. We got to see many castles, as well as the Loreley. I also saw a hint of several Rheinmaidens poking their heads up out of the water. Lunch was in the Roman colony of Boppard, also a part of the Hunsrück region of Germany. Koblenz came soon after. We quickly found a lovely hotel in Koblenz, feeling great about our travels.

Die Loreley

Real food


Thursday 27April — The hotel in Koblenz was a fairly small mom and pop operation of an elderly couple, and very friendly. We found our way back to the Rhein, took note of the Deutsches Eck (where the Mosel flows into the Rhein), and rode on. We stopped for lunch in Remagen, after inspecting the remaining support structures of a famous bridge. Lunch was our first Döner in Germany. After arriving in Bonn, we found our hotel, dumped our stuff, and then hurried to the house where Beethoven was born. It was a small but nice museum, but unfortunately, we were not allowed to have cameras in the museum. We had a late dinner before retreating back to our hotel. Tomorrow means a new phase in our travels, in that we will not be bicycling any more. We had to make a change of plans since Herbert was needing to be in Würzburg on an urgent basis. We will spend two nights in Hamburg and then three nights in Berlin.

Deutsches Eck

Bridge at Remagen

First Döner in Remagen


Friday 28April—today makes it one week in Germany. We woke up a bit late, had breakfast, and then checked out. We had a few hours to spend before the train, so drifted around the downtown area for while before heading to the train station. We got to Hamburg late in the afternoon, it was rainy, and the hotel was a bit removed from the downtown area. It took us about an hour to reach the hotel. It was a Holiday Inn, we were able to stow our bikes in the room, and they upgraded us free to an executive suite room. Nice.

Beethoven birth house in Bonn

Saturday 29th April—Hamburg; the walk back to the train station now took us only 40 minutes, and we spent all day walking the city. We went to the Rathaus, Alster area, and the Brahms museum. Jon was able to actually play on a piano that Brahms played on. We had a Hamburger hamburger in the St. Pauli area, and then went to the Speicherstadt area, hoping to get into the model train museum. The wait would have been over two hours, so we skipped it. We saw the new Elbphilharmonie building, a fairly impressive site. Lastly, we slowly wended our way back to our hotel. All in all, it was a successful day.

Hamburg Rathaus

Entrance to Brahms museum

Jon plays on a piano that Brahms actually played on

Jonny eating a Hamburger hamburger in the Reeperbahn Burger King

Typical train station site

Sunday, 30April—This was a busy day for us. We woke up at 4 am in order to catch the 6 am train to Berlin. This train had almost nobody on it, so were able to catch up on the sleep we lost waking up so early. Berlin was mostly sunny but cold. Even though our bikes were loaded, we were able to work our way around the city, visiting many of the usual sites that are in Berlin, like the Seigesäle, the Gedachniskirke, the Brandenburgertor, Checkpoint Charlie, Alexanderplatz, Hackeschermarkt (where we had lunch), and finally checking into our hotel (Ibis) across from the Hauptbahnhof. I zoned out and hit the sack early. Jon wanted to enjoy a cigar, but it was just a little too cold out for that. We were prepared for a big day tomorrow.

Jon didn’t want this photo with Marx and Engels

Brandenburger Tor

Berliner Dom

Inside the Berliner Dom, the largest Protestant church in Germany. The Beatitudes are displayed in the Dom ceiling.

Jon high on the Dom

Monday 01May—Today was supposed to be museum day. We discovered that only a few of te museums were open owing to today being a holiday. So, we toured the Berliner Dom, an awesome work of reconstruction (see photos above). We walked around town, and then hit on the Naturkunst Museum (natural history museum) which held the worlds tallest dinosaur, a trex recently uncovered in Montana, countless stuffed animals, illustrations on how the animals were prepared, rocks, insects, and slimy creatures in glass bottles of formalin. It was a huge but most fascinating museum. Coming back to the hotel, we discovered the Medicine history museum founded by Virchow, a must to see tomorrow. We did a late dinner at a Bavarian style restaurant, and hit the sack afterwards.

Berlin Döner

Berlin Currywurst

Stuffed Knut in Natural History Museum

Tuesday 02May—This was a little lazier day, but for the best, since the weather was cold and drizzly. Jon and I did some more walking around the city, then visited the Neues museum of Egyptian artifacts, as well as the Pergamon museum, which had some major walls and gates brought back from the mid-east, including the Ishtar gate from Babylon, which Daniel from the Old Testament surely would have frequently walked through. It is incredibly beautiful. We had lunch again in the Hackescher Markt, then hopped the train back to our hotel, freshened up, and ran to the train to meet Marike in the Zoological Garten area. Marike pointed out where the recent terror attack occurred. We had coffee, then all three of us went back to the hotel. I showed her my bike (she really needed a new bike), and she decided to take it. We went out to dinner, and finally had to bid her farewell. It was nice to see Marike again.

Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis Kirche

Isar Tor

Schweinehaxe

Marike enjoys her new bike

Wednesday03May—no pressure today. We caught the 8 am train to Magdeburg, and had three transfers, all of which went well. The last was a little strange, since the train was marked differently from what was indicated, and it was packed to the brim… Sort of. By the train doors, a large group of young students aggregated, blocking entry and exit for everybody else. Then, the train poorly indicated next stops, making us think we might have been on the wrong train, or gone past our stop. But, we ended up correctly, and met Hannes. I rode the bike up to their home, while Jon went with Hannes and the bags. It was pouring down rain, so I arrived a bit wet. It was nice to see Katja and Hannes again, but we expected Herbert to be here. He wasn’t. A phone call to Herbert suggested that he had never left Krefeld, but would come tomorrow. So, we spent the evening chatting with Katja and Hannes.

Thursday 04 May—today was another lazy day. Originally, the Wagners wished to take us to Bayreuth, but then we heard that Herbert would be coming, so we laid low. After breakfast, we went to an area that was a walking path up in the vineyards above the Main. Gustav came along for exercise. It was a beautiful site overlooking the river valley, and we could also see the Radweg that Peter and I had done a few years ago. Coming down, we went through the old city of Karlstadt, and then spent a quiet afternoon waiting for Herbert to come. No Herbert. So, we went out to a phenomenal restaurant, where we went when Peter and I were with the Wagners. The food was incredibly good, and the ambiance was an arched cellar. Once we got home, we finally found Herbert waiting for us. The Wagners (and I) were not too happy that he showed up so late. But, it was good to see Herbert again, and to talk with him. He did not appear in the best health though he had not had medical encounters of a serious nature. The time with Herbert was all too brief before we needed to hit the sack.

Walking with Hans-Jurgen and Gustav

View of the Main from above

Marienweg

Wege Wein – well marked routes through the vine yards

Old city street, with Hans-Jurgen

The restaurant Keller

Herbert at last!!!!!

Friday 05 May—it was an early wake-up and breakfast, and a quick goodby with Herbert. I rode the bicycle down to the train station, and Jon came with the Wagners. The train ride was smooth, but the bicycle car was loaded with young school students, apparently on an overnight field trip. We didn’t get to sit down for most of the trip to Frankfurt. On arrival in Frankfurt, we first had our last Döner, took the bike again to the bike shop, and then went for a walk around Frankfurt. We were able to check in early to the hotel, leaving us free to roam without luggage. We had a very small dinner, repacked al of our goods, picked up the boxed bike to bring back to the Ramada Inn hotel. Bedtime was early.

Saturday 06May—last day in Germany! Neither Jon or I slept well, as there was too much noise outside. We got up by 6 am, completed packing, and headed to the train station. We decided to make two trips to the airport, since we both had heavy luggage, plus a large bike box. That was successful, though we probably didn’t need to get up quite as early as we did. We were able get checked in very easily, and got some duty free shopping done before boarding the plane. We slept on the plane. The only strange event was the transfer in Chicago. I knew that we only had a little over an hour to accomplish the transfer, so ran like mad, dashing through customs, collecting our bags and bike, re-loading our bags and bike, then dashing through security again, and finally making it to the terminal about 2 minutes before the plane was supposed to leave. At the counter, the man told me that I had an hour to go. I had NO idea where that hour came from, regardless of how many times I rechecked our schedule and timing. Anyway, we got home, lovely Betsy was able to pick us up, and was able to get unpacked that evening. Of course, with jet lag, I couldn’t sleep all night, but that’s another story.

Germany was great and it was so nice seeing wonderful friends. My only regrets were being unable to ride the bike more, see the Kretschmars, and spend more time with Heinz and Debbie and Herbert. I would maybe do it more in the summer or fall with a foldable bike, and spend a month or two again at the Goethe Institute.

Fremont Lookout with Enkelkinder

September 5th, 2016


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Labor Day 05SEPT2016 Hike with Flanagan Boys

The Flanagan kids were under Betsy and my care for Labor Day since Sarah was involved and Andrew had to work. We decided that they needed some excitement, so took them for a hike. The hike started at Sunrise, and we took one false turn onto the Huckleberry Creek trail, which led us about a mile and quite a few 100 feet elevation loss, which we had to retrace. The kids were very reluctant to pursue our goal, but the promise of Snicker bars at the Fremont Lookout Tower spurred them on. We did achieve the Fremont Lookout, as can be seen from the above photo. They were rather tired on return to the car, so we awarded them with a trip (at their choosing) to McDonalds.

A gaze down the valley of the Huckleberry Creek trail

A gaze down the valley of the Huckleberry Creek trail

The saddle where the main trail and Huckleberry Creek trail split. The children are squinting from the sunlight.

The saddle where the main trail and Huckleberry Creek trail split. The children are squinting from the sunlight.

Another view from Mt. Fremont. There were many dozens of mountain goats that can be seen. Click on the picture to blow it up.

Another view from Mt. Fremont. There were many dozens of mountain goats that can be seen. Click on the picture to blow it up.

Looking back at Mt. Rainier and Burroughs Mountain from the Fremont Lookout

Looking back at Mt. Rainier and Burroughs Mountain from the Fremont Lookout

The kids a bit colder in the thin air of Fremont Mountain. Sammy discovers here the infamous Stone of Fremont

The kids a bit colder in the thin air of Fremont Mountain. Sammy discovers here the infamous Stone of Fremont

Here are the Garmin hiking stats and route we traveled, just in case you are curious.

White Pass to Crystal

August 24th, 2016

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White Pass to Crystal Mountain on the PCT, 21-23AUG2016

The last trip report had Pete, Russ and I going from Waptus Lake to White Pass. This is now a continuation with just Russ and I from White Pass to Crystal Mountain Ski Resort. It was also two nights, and along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Both Russ and I are now packing a bit lighter, and a bit wiser. To coordinate matters, I dropped my car off at Crystal Mountain, and then Kim Andersen drove us to White Pass and left us to our own devices. The start of the trail was a touch obscure, but we were soon on our way. The first day had beautiful weather with a few scattered clouds, but cool, and no bugs. There was much up and down along the trail, but with lighter packs, we seemed to handle it quite well. We passed multiple lakes, and what I thought would be somewhat monotonous scenery (the long green tunnel) was everything but that. We finally set up camp at Snow Lake.

Day 2, we traversed from Snow Lake to Dewey Lake. It was cloudy the entire day, and most the time, we were hiking in the clouds. We would have had views of Mt. Rainier, which were clouded out today. The scenery persisted in being totally spectacular, and much of the trail actually went through Mt. Rainier National Park. During this hike, I am still experimenting with my Garmin eTrex 30t, and was informed at the end of the day that the battery ran out. Thus, I do not have a complete record. We hiked between 16-17 miles, and climbed about 3000 feet.

Wolkenbergwanderung

Wolkenbergwanderung

Russ waking up at Snow Lake and disorganizing his stuff.

Russ waking up at Snow Lake and disorganizing his stuff.

A hike in the clouds

A hike in the clouds

Russ chilling out at Dewey Lake

Russ chilling out at Dewey Lake

Day 3, we got a little later start of 7:30, and started immediately with a climb up to highway 410 (Chinook Pass). On the way, we encountered Smiles, and then two girls, Old School and Mama Goose, all thru-hikers from Campo. All were putting in 25-30 mile days, carrying packs under 25 lb, and looking as fresh as the first day on the trail. I’m deeply jealous. Maybe 2018? Past Hwy 410, we had another 1800 ft of climbing, reaching Sheep Lake and then Sourdough gap. At Sourdough gap, Russ took off like a jack rabbit chasing the bunnies, and then took a trail off of the PCT, perhaps thinking it was a short cut to Crystal. Fortunately, I caught him quickly enough to correct our course. We continued on the Bear Gap, where there were several trails that took us back to our car. The Crystal Mountain portion of the hike was a little less enjoyable. We stopped at Wallys on the way home, where Russ was able to experience the Waltimate Burger.

Looking down on Dewey Lake

Looking down on Dewey Lake

Heading toward Hwy 410

Heading toward Hwy 410

The never-ending trail

The never-ending trail

From Sourdough Gap, looking back on Sheep Lake with Mt. Adams in the distance.

From Sourdough Gap, looking back on Sheep Lake with Mt. Adams and Goat Rocks in the distance.

From these two hikes, Russ and I both learned the value of going lighter. We were able to talk to many of the thru-hikers and glean knowledge from them as to the methods of their journeys. The common theme was to go lighter, from the pack, to the food you carry, your tent and sleeping accommodations, to your clothes and food. I remain puzzled how many thru-hikers carried cell phones, and yet kept them charged. I saw only a few carrying solar chargers on their packs.

I’ve used the Halfmile maps, and they were extremely helpful in planning the route, and finding your way once on the journey. I was using two year old maps, and the mile markers for this years maps are slightly different by 10 miles. I never needed the Garmin to determine my location, though I’m sure it might help in the Sierras where the route isn’t as clear.

The first hike this year was into Rachel Lake with Peter Tate, and I forgot to bring my trekking poles. It was a totally miserable hike, and I was unstable, falling a lot, and unsure in any sort of tricking footing, like stream crossing. These last two hikes were now with my hiking poles, and what a difference they make. You can hike faster because you can easily catch yourself when you become unsteady. You can lessen the impact when descending. Stream crossing is still slow, but far less unsure. I will never forget my hiking poles again!

Family Fun Idaho Trip with Patrick Flanagan

July 23rd, 2016

I had signed up to do a bicycle event ride with my oldest grandson Patrick Flanagan last fall. After anxious months of waiting and a few training rides, it is finally coming to fruition. For readers, click on images to see more detailed views.

Day 0 — Sunday 17July — we woke up fairly early, Patrick staying over at our house in order to get a jump on the road. The day before, we did a short ride together on the Orting trail, and Patrick was having a lot of trouble with the bicycle. I was able to determine that a few things went out of adjustment and fix them. We drove out I-90 all the way to Coeur d’Alene and then south to Plummer, which was the start of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. Everything checked out ok, and we were able to meet a broad span of ages for kids doing the ride, with children as young as 7-8 doing the ride independently on their own bikes. That seemed to help Patrick think that perhaps he could also do it. *Nota bene-the ACA considers this to be day 1.

Patrick beside our tent, eager to start riding

Patrick beside our tent, eager to start riding

The cooks preparing fabulous food

The cooks preparing fabulous food

Part of the staff, including Mark, Bronwyn, Tom and Don

Part of the staff, including Mark, Bronwyn, Tom and Don

Day 1 — Monday 18 July — This was the biggest day, with 43 miles to ride. The trail had a mile downhill grade for about 5 miles, and then remained mostly flat. The morning was quite cool, but it became moderately warm by 11 am. We left about 7:45, and arrived at the campground in Cataldo at 12:30. Patrick was doing quite well, even eager to go swimming, in spite of this being his longest ever ride.

Patrick at the beginning of the first day

Patrick at the beginning of the first day

Approaching the step bridge

Approaching the step bridge

Opa and Patrick on top of the bridge

Opa and Patrick on top of the bridge

Flat! Beautiful!

Flat! Beautiful!

On the banks of the Coeur d'Alene.

On the banks of the Coeur d’Alene.

Terry instructing Bronwyn in the fine art of watermelon surgery.

Terry instructing Bronwyn in the fine art of watermelon surgery.

Patrick at the end of his longest ever (43 mile) ride

Patrick at the end of his longest ever (43 mile) ride

Day 2 — Tuesday 19 July — This was an easy day, with a short 20+ mile ride to Kellogg. Our first stop was the Old Mission, built overlooking the Coeur d’Alene river just outside of Cataldo. The Jesuits were spreading their influence to the indians. The ride was short from there to Kellogg, and Patrick was exceptionally motivated, being that there was a water park in town. He spent four hours in the water park, and had a grand time.

The Cataldo Mission - oldest existing building in Idaho

The Cataldo Mission – oldest existing building in Idaho

The Snake Pit?

The Snake Pit?

Day 3 — Wednesday 20 July — This was another easy day with lots of shuttling. At 08:30, we boarded ourselves and our bicycles, hopped on the bus, and traveled across the Idaho-Montana border on I-90 to the east portal of the Hiawatha Trail. It is an old section of the Milwaukie line that has been turned into rails to trails. We proceeded 14 miles down this trail, which included a 1.7 mile tunnel at the start, which passed from Montana back into Idaho. After lunch at the base of the trail, we we shuttled back up to the tunnel, in order to go through the long tunnel in reverse. We were then shuttled to the town of Wallace, and rode back to camp, 11 miles away.

The first Hiawatha Route tunnel

The first Hiawatha Route tunnel

Other riders eager to enter the cave.

Doug and Dane eager to enter the cave.

Trestles on the trail

Trestles on the trail

Day 4 — Thursday 21 July — Ride from Kellogg to Harrison. This was our second longest day, but it seemed like one of the easier days, being almost perfectly flat. The total distance was 38.5 miles, which Patrick did without any difficulty, save for the heat. We arrived in the camp at Harrison by noon, taking some time to get our tents set up, and then enduring temperature well into the 90’s. It was a lazy afternoon, waiting for the map meeting followed by dinner. In the evening a few of the boys (and girls) went out for a beer, bringing the event to a nice close.

Camping in Harrison. A hot day beside the Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Camping in Harrison. A hot day beside the Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Day 5 — Friday 22 July —Harrison to Plummer and then home. This retraced all that we had done the first day for the first 15 miles, going 7 miles to the step bridge across the lake, and then a very gradual 5 mile climb up to Plummer. Though the grade was never over 3%, the persistence became a little challenging for Patrick, who was quite happy to make it to the top and achieve the end of the trail. The drive back home got us to the Seattle/Tacoma area right at rush hour, which took almost as much time exiting I-90 and driving back to Puyallup as the time to drive as the rest of the trip.

Back across the step bridge

Back across the step bridge

Eager participants (and Bronwyn) preparing for the climb back to the finish line.

Eager participants (and Bronwyn) preparing for the climb back to the finish line.

Patrick at the completion of his 5 day journey.

Patrick at the completion of his 5 day journey.

Day 6 — Saturday 23 July — North Bend to Hyak and Back. Wait a minute! This isn’t a part of the Family Fun Idaho trip, and I didn’t do it with Patrick, but I did it with family, my son Jonathan rode this with me. It seemed only natural to do it, since this rail-to-trail on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and John Wayne (Iron Horse) Trail is simply a continuation of the old Milwaukie line, just before it ends in Tacoma, WA. This is the last big pass that the trail must encounter on its journey west, and includes large trestles, a very long tunnel as well as smaller tunnels (east of Snoqualmie Pass), and a grade/appearance very similar to the route of the Hiawatha. In fact, the tunnel is 2.3 miles long, more than ½ mile longer than the long tunnel on the trail of the Hiawathas. I knew that I would be riding the Iron Horse Trail in two weeks for the Courage Classic, all the way from North Bend to Cle Elum, about 64 miles, so did this 56 mile jaunt as a warm-up. We were able ride at a considerably faster pace than with Patrick, and a considerably longer distance, climbing over 2000 ft from North Bend to Hyak, which is just on the east side of the Snoqualmie Pass tunnel. Oddly, this trip left me a little sore in the buttocks, which usually doesn’t happen to me. I also got my first flat on a mountain bike, though it was quite easy to fix with a spare tube. The bicycles returned home VERY muddy, and with very dirty but happy riders. The Iron Horse trail goes all the way across the state of Washington to the Idaho border, and ends about 20 miles from the start of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.

Historical sign in North Bend

Historical sign in North Bend

Jon eager to ride on his Mountain Bike

Jon eager to ride on his Mountain Bike

The Milwaukee Line info-board

The Milwaukee Line info-board

west end of the 2.3 mile long tunnel

west end of the 2.3 mile long tunnel

One of the six large trestles on the route

One of the six large trestles on the route

Trestle view from above

Trestle view from above

Mile marker (from Chicago). On the route of the Hiawathas, the mile markers were in the 1700's.

Mile marker (from Chicago). On the route of the Hiawathas, the mile markers were in the 1700’s.


Summary of the Trip:

  1. The ACA gets an A+. They are an extraordinarily great group to ride with, especially as you get to know the staff.
  2. The people on the trip are awesome. I regret that I could not get to know better more riders. It was a little hard avoiding politics, and didn’t wish to contend with those who wished to make profound political statements which were farther left (and thus much stupider!) than my conservative approach to life, politics, religion, and things of that sort.
  3. The route was superb. I wish there was a better answer to the Hiawatha trail day — too much shuttling, but still not a day to be missed.
  4. Once again, the cooks were awesome
  5. My thanks to Tammy Schurr for making this a wonderful and special event for Patrick.

Columbia River Bicycle Loop with Jonathan

June 20th, 2016

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6/16 (Thursday) — Jon had come down to Puyallup the night before, and we headed off to Portland just before 7 am, arriving in Portland about 9:45. Our bikes were quickly unloaded at Gaylon’s house,  and Gaylon followed us for 15 miles. Our track went down Division St. to the 205 bicycle path. This we took up across the Columbia River to start the Washington portion of our adventure. We started on the old Evergreen highway until we got to Camas. Two miles before Camas, Gaylon left us to go back home. We were following the Washington alternative to the ACA Lewis and Clark bicycle route, which was not terribly clear. We ended up going through downtown Camas. Just before Camas, it began to rain torrentially. With rain gear on, we pushed forward. There was one significant uphill stretch, but other than that, most of the first day was rolling hills. The worst part was the persistent lack of shoulders to the road, and it was a very busy road, with about 30% trucks that would come uncomfortably close to us.  About an hour of heavy rain led to clearing and sunshine, so the decision to push on and camp out was made. Our camp was in the city park of Home Valley. This worked out well, save that the showers did not work, and that it was close to the train tracks. A train passed through about every hour, blaring it’s horn, which was loud enough to wake us. We did not get the best sleep.

Entering Washington with Gaylon

Entering Washington with Gaylon

Still fresh, ready to ride

Still fresh, ready to ride

View on the Washington side of the Columbia River, west of the mountains

View on the Washington side of the Columbia River, west of the mountains

6/17 (Friday) — We were up at 5:30, had breakfast, and were on the road by 7 am. The road on the Washington side started to have better shoulders, but it was still uncomfortable in some parts, especially in the seven tunnels that we needed to go through. Eventually, we got to the Dalles bridge, which did not have a bicycle lane, but was not to uncomfortable to get across. The weather was cool and cloudy, making for some good timing on the ride, and we got into the Dalles just before noon. Jon decided that he wanted to stop, so we found a cheap dive of a hotel to stay in. After some walking around town, we went out to dinner and prepared for the next day.

View of the Columbia River, Washington side, east of the mountains

View of the Columbia River, Washington side, east of the mountains

6/18 (Saturday) — Taking off on the road a little after 7 am, we were able to get onto the historic old Columbia River highway. Jon and I were now headed westward. Once we arrived in Rowena, we realized that a major bicycle event was occurring to raise money for completing the gorge bicycle trail. The climb up the Rowena curves to the lookout was fairly impressive, and immensely beautiful. The road immediately dropped down to Mosier (pronounced Moe-zure) and then started climbing on a bicycle only trail. There were the Mosier twin tunnels to go through, a bit more climbing, and then a descent into Hood River. Hood River was a rather hilly town, but on the western outskirts, the map put us onto I-84 for 11 miles. Getting off at Wyeth Bench Road, we stopped for lunch at the state park, only to have heavy rains start again. We had some additional and substantial climbing to do on Herman Creek Road, but it nicely dropped us into Cascade Locks. It had only temporarily stopped raining, and so considered seriously a hotel. They were either way too expensive, or full, owing to an event going on in town the night we needed to stay over. So, we stayed in the Marina, along with other cycle tourists, and also a SoBo PCT hiker. We enjoyed dinner with her at the brewery in the Marina, and then crashed early, sleeping well, but with episodes of quite heavy rain. The tent kept us dry, but things were quite wet.

Rowena Crest

Rowena Crest

A look down on the climb up to Rowena Crest

A look down on the climb up to Rowena Crest

Entering the Mosier tunnels

Entering the Mosier tunnels

Camping at Cascade Locks Marina

Camping at Cascade Locks Marina

6/19 (Sunday) — We got a slightly later 7:30 start this morning, but there were only a few clouds in the sky, and it was quite beautiful. This section I’ve done a few times before, but never on the touring bike headed in a westward direction. The climb to Crown Point was long but rarely more than 6% grade, and we made it back to Gaylon’s house by slightly after 12 noon. After chatting a bit with Gaylon, we loaded our bicycles and bags and took off back to Puyallup, and Jon back to Arlington.

Bonneville Dam from the bicycle trail

Bonneville Dam from the bicycle trail

Goodbye to a beautiful river.

Goodbye to a beautiful river.

All in all, it was a fantastic ride. I did not like the Washington side, and will never do that side again. The Oregon side was quite impressive. It was a total delight to be able to do this with Jonathan. I look forward to more rides with him.

 

Bike Touring and Bikepacking

November 29th, 2015

BikeTouring

Bike Touring and Bikepacking, A Falcon Guide, by Justin Lichter and Justin Kline ★★★★

I recently reviewed several books that Justin Lichter had written on ultralight backpacking, and so found this book of interest since I also love bicycle touring. It is easy to read, and very well illustrated. The emphasis seems to be mostly on cycle touring off of the pavement, and often in unusual situations, such as through the snow, or in remote foreign countries. The book has helpful advice on food, camping, and how to maintain your bicycle. Much of the advice was repeated from his other hiking textbooks. Though he has several chapters on choices for bicycles and panniers, these are insufficiently detailed to be at all meaningful. I appreciated the book since it is taking bicycle touring to further levels, with off the road or gravel road excursions. I find the book not entirely satisfying since it is very cursory on bicycle details, and the camping aspects could be found in any backpacking book, including his own books.

Four Books on the PCT and backpacking

November 2nd, 2015

After visiting Stehekin and seeing groups of thru-hikers on the last segment of the PCT, a long desire to some day hike the PCT has again resurrected itself. This may be problematic, in that a) I’ll need to find somebody to do it with, b) I’ll need to get Betsy’s support, c) I’ll need to find 5-6 months from April through September to take off to do this. Possible? Yes. Probable? I don’t know. I also wish to do some long-distance bicycling in the near future. There is a bicycle route (called the Sierra Cascades route) that roughly parallels the PCT, which I would do first, and have already talked my kid brother into doing it with me. After that, we’ll have to see if I still have the flame for grand adventures. Let me know if you are interested in joining me!

PCTGray

The Pacific Crest Trail, by William Gray with the National Geographic Society, published in 1975 ★★
This book was read by me mostly out of historical interest in the trail. It was written when the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) was still under development, and many sections of the trail had not been fully carved out. I believe that the entire trail happens to now be intact, and often different from where Gray hiked. From reading the book, it sounds like he did not do a “thru-hike”, that is, a solid hike from Mexico to Canada, but hiked in sections, mostly to glean photographs and stories for the National Geographic Society. He also engages about ¾ of the book in detailing character sketches of people he met on of the trail, or in proximity to the trail. Thus, it fails as a description of the PCT itself, but is typical of the writing and journalism that one would find with National Geographic Society publications. It’s cute to see that the people in the photos are all typical for 1970’s hippies.
Yogi'sPCT

Yogi’s Pacific Crest Trail Handbook 2016-2017, by Yogi (aka Jackie McDonnell) ★★★★★
This is the best book that I’ve read so far on the PCT, and is much a reference book (the entire last half of the book is intended to be torn out of the book to be taken with you on the hike) as it is a how-to book and book detailing what to expect on the trail. Yogi (her trail name) includes comments from other thru-hikers regarding how they did the PCT. Yogi covers diverse actions as to what to carry in your backpack, what to wear, how to do camp, how to plan, how to resupply, and how to stay out of trouble. Because she includes comments from other hikers, you realize that there will be no one set way to do the PCT. Most importantly, one learns what NOT to do, like overpack, under hydrate, or not be prepared. She writes well, and seems more connected than any of the other PCT advice books that I’ve seen. The reference section is absolutely invaluable, and is exactly what one needs to know. As an example, she has rough maps of the resupply towns, so that one doesn’t need to wander aimlessly to find where the local hotel, restaurant or grocery store might be located. Reading the book is almost like having Yogi actually there, giving you advice about how you might survive and succeed on your first thru-hike. Long-distance through-hiking has a completely different style than a 2-14 day backpacking trip, including what you eat, how you camp, and how you treat yourself. Yogi gives great advice on these differences, and how to have a comfortable and good time while doing that. Hopefully, I will meet Yogi on the PCT. She’s a real inspiration to get out there and just do it!

TrailTestedLichter

Trail Tested, A thru-hiker’s Guide to Ultralight Hiking and Backpacking, by Justin Lichter ★★★★
This book is very similar to a book I reviewed in 2013 by Andrew Skurka on ultralight backpacking. Similar to Skurka, Lichter is a “professional” hiker, i.e., he seems to spend more time hiking than working at a “job”, and has thru-hiked the Triple Crown (Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and PCT) with repeats of those listed, as well as other long distance hikes, foreign and domestic. Justin (Trail name “Trauma”) details style of thru-hiking, as well as offering equipment recommendations. Many of these recommendations seem to have a sponsor influence, but at least he lets you know that. The book is well written and well illustrated, with many personal anecdotes. I acquired it as a package deal from Yogi.

UltralightLichter

Ultralight Survival Kit, by Justin Lichter ★★★
This book repeated much of what was in the book Trail Tested. It is a small, short book on many of the problems and dangers one can encounter on the trail, and how to deal with them. Hopefully, one is moderately aware of everything in this book before they set out alone on the trail, as I’ve encountered many of the issues that this book brings up. If you own Trail Tested, this book is mildly superfluous. It was also part of the package deal from Yogi.

Wonderland Trail 2015

August 9th, 2015

WonderlandTrail2015-17

Wanderlust 2015

Ich hebe meine Augen auf zu den Bergen von welchen mir Hilfe kommt.
Meine Hilfe kommt von dem HERRN, der Himmel und Erde gemacht hat.
Er wird deinen Fuß nicht gleiten lassen; und der dich behütet schläft nicht.
Siehe, der Hüter Israels schläft noch schlummert nicht.
Der HERR behütet dich; der HERR ist dein Schatten über deiner rechten Hand, daß dich des Tages die Sonne nicht steche noch der Mond des Nachts.
Der HERR behüte dich vor allem Übel, er behüte deine Seele; der HERR behüte deinen Ausgang und Eingang von nun an bis in Ewigkeit.
Psalm 121

The lead photo is taken from Mirror Lake, in the Indian Henry Hunting Grounds region of Mt. Rainier

Jon and I did the Wonderland Trail about 9 years ago, and even then we discussed the possibility of doing the trail in the opposite (counter-clockwise) direction. For those who don’t know, the Wonderland Trail is a hiking trail that circumnavigates around the timberline of Mt. Rainier. It is 93 miles long, with additions that generally make for a 100 mile walk. A few people have run it in a day or two and some killjoys hike it in 4 days, but most will spend 7 – 14 days. A distinct aspect of the trail is that it is typically either going up or down, and rarely is flat, so that by the time one gets all the way around the mountain, they will have climbed at least 20,000 feet in elevation. The trail was built in 1915, and so this year was special in being the centennial year of the trail. The trail has changed much since 1915, and is constantly being revised, as weather and mountain dynamics do not leave for a totally stable walking surface. To do the trail, one must obtain camping permits in order to stay at the camping spots along the trail, and this year, they were particularly challenging to get, in that there were a record number of applicants, and 80% had to be turned down.

We felt blessed in that the weather was near perfect. A week before the trip, the weather was very soggy on the mountain, and the night after we came back, there was heavy rain. We experienced only a few drops on our tent the third night, and had intense fog on the 6th day, coming up the Cowlitz Divide to Indian Bar and over Panhandle Gap. The trail was in exceptionally good condition, with all bridges intact, and no major diversions. Our feet never got blistered, and we got home feeling quite good, with minimal soreness.

On such a long hike, daily routines are necessary. I would usually get up at sunrise (05:30) and Jon soon after. We’d have two cups of coffee and some breakfast bars for breakfast, get the tent down and the packs loaded, and were usually on the trail by 06:30 to 07:00. We would do lunch about 10:00-11:00 in the am, and finish hiking between 13:00 and 15:00. We would quickly set up the tent and unpack our sleeping bags to dry out, pump water for drinking and cook dinner. Several days were special, in that at Mystic Lake and Indian Henry’s, Jon and I took special time to enjoy cigars and wine, while bathing in the beauty around us. At Longmire and Sunrise, we were able to stop into the cafeteria to have real food, which meant a hamburger and Rainier beer at those locations.

One of the delights of such an adventure as this is in meeting people. Now, when you are many miles remote from any road or civilization, the number of people you meet are few and far between. On the Wonderland Trail, there are four types of folk that you encounter, which include…1) the day trip wanderers, many of whom have never set foot in the woods before, and typically found close to the main tourist access points, including Mowich, Sunrise, Paradise, and Longmire. These people tend to be unsociable. 2) Trail runners: these are super-skinny (cachectic) people doing a long distance point to point run, usually 35-50 miles, frequently female, getting picked up distant from where they started, 3) sectional hikers, usually people who are seasoned hikers on a limited time schedule, and 4) complete trail hikers. The complete trail hikers became easy to detect, some of them being on their first day, some on their last, and many in between. The in betweeners were often seen twice if they were going in the opposite direction from us. There were many solo hikers (often female), some quite old hikers (like a solo lady at age 70), and a few large groups. The one large group we saw had a person distinct as a girly-man (man in a Scottish kilt). There was a father-son team consisting of a mainland Chinese man with his 8-10 yo son, a 35-ish female with her 8 year old son, and a 40’ish female with her 20’s daughter, all of them successfully managing the trail. Among the complete trail hikers, there tends to be a fellowship, where you would often stop and chat for while, getting information on the trail, and the best campsites, water spots, etc. for where you were headed. You would concomitantly share advice with your fellow travelers.

The way in which you pack and what you wear on the trail make all the difference in the world. I remember my very first backpack trips as a kid, using backpacks and equipment from a local military surplus store, wearing waffle-stomper shoes, wool coats, and total disregard for weight. We also tended to return home miserable, sore, and with feet heavily blistered. Nowadays, I use an Osprey Atmos 65 pack (to limit how much I can put in), an Osprey hydration unit, summer Feathered Friends down sleeping bag and pillow, a small propane gas stove and titanium pot, high tech jacket and rain coat, and carry nothing that would be frivolous. My boots were Vasque leather boots, the same I used 9 years ago for the Wonderland, and once again, they held up well, with no blisters or foot problems. I did spend much time attending to my feet, using a sock liner underneath REI CoolMax socks, as well as applying an anti-friction ointment to the feet every morning. I used a egg-crate style foam mattress to sleep on, which was a mistake, as the ground was extremely uncomfortable, and will probably go with a Therma-Rest NeoAir pad for future ventures. We used the Big Agnes Copper Spur 3 which was just roomy enough for two people and light. I used REI UL hiking poles, which prevented any falls the whole trip, and was great security for crossing streams and treacherous ground, as well as protecting the knees up and downhill. Things I might do different would be that I would consider bringing a bear vault rather than worrying about hanging your food all the time, and consider bringing an iPad with a lightweight solar charger. I’m tempted to get a Garmin eTrex 35t to record my activities, like I do with bicycling adventures. I would also explore different foods, that would be lightweight, cheap, and efficient, and easy to make on the trail, with minimal dishwashing. Freeze dried foods are popular but not overwhelming filling or tasty. I’ll probably bring more cheese (heavy!!!!) and sausage. Pepperoni sticks oddly don’t last well, but Landjäger (German sort of pepperoni) does quite well in the woods, as well as summer sausage. I’d truly love to find how to bring sauerkraut on backpack trips, but would have to ask my German friends/relatives how well sauerkraut keeps in an unrefrigerated environment after being opened. Gummibären remains the best trail snack food, though Good-and-Plenty’s were easily devoured, slightly different than my impression on cycling trips. It’s odd how tastes differ so radically at home, on the trail, and on the bike.

Day to day events.

Day 1 – Mowich to Golden Lakes. This was a simple downhill, followed by a very long uphill. The campground was next to a beautiful lake where Jon went swimming. There was moderate anxiety still at this time as to the weather, and whether were still capable of a 9 day venture.

Day 2- Golden Lakes to South Puyallup River. Our permit stated that we were to go to Klapatchee Park, which is high up, and unusually beautiful. We were warned that there was no water at Klapatchee Park, so Jon and I both carried about 10 lb extra water up about 3000 ft climb from the North Puyallup River, only to find ourselves before noon at Klapatchee Park. Wishing tomorrow to be a shorter day, we took the risk of going on to the South Puyallup campsite, and stayed in the group camp site, only to be joined in pitch darkness by a solo lady hiker from New Zealand. There was plenty of room in the group site, and it was not problem for us.

Day 3- South Puyallup River to Devil’s Dream. This day took us up yet another very long climb to Emerald Ridge, and then around to the marvelously beautiful Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground. We had lunch, wine and cigars at Indian Henry’s, took a short side hike into Mirror Lakes, and then collected water at a lake on the way down to Devil’s Dream. The sky turned cloudy, and so for the first time, we put a fly on our tent, and got about 20 drops of rain that night. The clouds went away the next day.

Day 4 – Devil’s Dream to Paradise River. This was 11 miles but with minimal climbing, making it a very easy day, and wishing we had books along to read. We arrived at Longmire in order to pick up our first cache, had lunch at the Longmire Inn, and headed up to our campsite, which was unusually quiet, with us as the only occupants that night.

Day 5 – Paradise River to Nickel Creek. The was also 11 miles with minimal climbing, and thus quite simple. This took us over the entire south side of the mountain, following the road that goes along the south side of the mountain up to Paradise and then over to Ohanepecosh. There were numerous day hikers and kids on the way.

Day 6 – Nickel Creek to Summerland. This was a hard climb day, first ascending the Cowlitz Divide, running up the Cowlitz Divide to Indian Bar, and then going above the timberline to Panhandle Gap. It was cloudy all morning, and so there was minimal visibility, but very comfortable for a hard climb. The clouds parted at the Panhandle Gap, and we descended into Summerland in beautiful sunshine. During this section, we thought that our friends Russ and Pete would meet us on the trail, but never saw them at all.

Day 7 – Summerland to Sunrise. This was a long low-grade descent to the White River, and then on a trail paralleling the road to the White River campground. Approaching the White River, we saw a search and rescue team going up, thinking they might be going after Russ and Pete. There was a slightly treacherous crossing of the White River, followed by a long steep ascent from the campground to Sunrise. The mountain was spectacular, and we were able to pick up our last cache at Sunrise, as well as have another burger and beer. Being rather high up on the mountain, the night was chilly, with a slightly cold sleep.

Day 8 – Sunrise to Dick Creek. Our original plan was to stay at Mystic Lake, but I knew that the lake was beautiful, but the campsite was quite inconvenient, with a long distance from the lake, and no close sources of water. Dick Creek is a very small campsite, but overlooks the Carbon River Glacier and very beautiful, so, we changed. The hike was with perfect visibility of the mountain, and we were able to spend over an hour having lunch, wine, and cigars at Mystic Lake, while Jon took another swim in the lake. There was still a moderate amount of climbing before we descended onto the Dick Creek campsite.

Day 9 Dick Creek to Mowich. This was our last day, but with probably the second most amount of climbing, since we decided on the Spray Park alternate, which takes one from the Carbon River all the way up to the top of Spray Park, over 3500 ft of elevation gain for the venture. The day started out cloudless, and as we got to the high point of the trail, clouds started moving in, so that by the time we were down through Spray Park, the mountain could no longer be seen. We arrived back at the car completely intact and ready for another adventure.

To end (before the photos), I need to include my favorite wandering songs…

Wem Gott will rechte Gunst erweisen… with Heino.

Joseph von Eichendorff, 1788-1857

Wem Gott will rechte Gunst erweisen,
Den schickt er in die weite Welt,
Dem will er seine Wunder weisen
In Berg und Wald und Strom und Feld.

Die Trägen die zu Hause liegen,
Erquicket nicht das Morgenrot,
Sie wissen nur von Kinderwiegen,
Von Sorgen, Last und Not um Brot.

Die Bächlein von den Bergen springen,
Die Lerchen schwirren hoch vor Lust,
Was soll ich nicht mit ihnen singen
Aus voller Kehl und frischer Brust?

Den lieben Gott laß ich nun walten,
Der Bächlein, Lerchen, Wald und Feld
Und Erd und Himmel will erhalten,
Hat auch mein Sach aufs best bestellt.

and also

Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann

(note: there is an English version which does tragedy to the song)

Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann,
Und mir steckt’s auch im Blut;
Drum wandr’ ich flott, so lang ich kann,
Und schwenke meinen Hut.

Refrain 1:
Faleri, falera, faleri,
Falera ha ha ha ha ha ha
Faleri, falera,
Und schwenke meinen Hut.

Refrain 2&3:
|: Hei-di, hei-da, hei-di, hei-da!
Und schwenke meinen Hut. 😐

Das Wandern schaffet frische Lust,
Erhält das Herz gesund;
Frei atmet draußen meine Brust,
Froh singet stets mein Mund:
Refrain:

Warum singt Dir das Vögelein
So freudevoll sein Lied?
Weil’s nimmer hockt, landaus, landein
Durch and’re Fluren zieht.
Refrain:

Was murmelt’s Bächlein dort und rauscht,
So lustig hin durch’s Rohr,
Weil’s frei sich regt, mit Wonne lauscht
Ihm dein empfänglich Ohr.
Refrain:

D’rum trag ich Ränzlein und den Stab
Weit in die Welt hinein,
Und werde bis an’s kühle Grab
Ein Wanderbursche sein!
Refrain:

Photos

Fresh at the start of the hike

Fresh at the start of the hike

Golden Lakes

Golden Lakes

Typical VERY smelly outhouse

Typical VERY smelly outhouse

Meadow heading out of Golden Lakes

Meadow heading out of Golden Lakes

headwaters of the Puyallup River

headwaters of the Puyallup River

Jon at Klapatche Park

Jon at Klapatche Park

Me at Klapatche Park

Me at Klapatche Park

St. Andrews Lake above Klapatche Park

St. Andrews Lake above Klapatche Park

Stiff climbing out of the North Puyallup Drainage

Stiff climbing out of the North Puyallup Drainage

West side of Mt. Rainier

West side of Mt. Rainier

Jon looking quite fresh

Jon looking quite fresh

Treacherous trail heading up to Emerald Ridge. This trail was being reconstructed.

Treacherous trail heading up to Emerald Ridge. This trail was being reconstructed.

Suspension Bridge across Tahoma Creek

Suspension Bridge across Tahoma Creek

The mountain from Indian Henry's Hunting Ground

The mountain from Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground

Jon relaxing at Indian Henry's

Jon relaxing at Indian Henry’s

Most of the wildflowers were gone by now. This is at Indian Henry's

Most of the wildflowers were gone by now. This is at Indian Henry’s

Burger and Rainier Beer at Longmire

Burger and Rainier Beer at Longmire

Reflection Lakes on the south side of Mt. Rainier

Reflection Lakes on the south side of Mt. Rainier

Climbing up the Cowlitz Divide toward Indian Bar

Climbing up the Cowlitz Divide toward Indian Bar

Clouds engulfing us on the Cowlitz Divide

Clouds engulfing us on the Cowlitz Divide

Above Indian Bar headed toward Panhandle Gap

Above Indian Bar headed toward Panhandle Gap

Jon taking a breather at Panhandle Gap.

Jon taking a breather at Panhandle Gap.

Coming off of Panhandle Gap toward Summerland, the Gap kept the clouds back so that we could see the mountain

Coming off of Panhandle Gap toward Summerland, the Gap kept the clouds back so that we could see the mountain

Summerland, in competition for one of the most beautiful places in the world

Summerland, in competition for one of the most beautiful places in the world

Afternoon mountain view from Summerland

Afternoon mountain view from Summerland

Early morning alpenglow at Summerland

Early morning alpenglow at Summerland

View of the mountain ascending toward Sunrise

View of the mountain ascending toward Sunrise

Jon enjoying a burger and beer at Sunrise

Jon enjoying a burger and beer at Sunrise

High on a ridge out of Sunrise on the north side of Rainier

High on a ridge out of Sunrise on the north side of Rainier

The terminus of the Winthrop Glacier

The terminus of the Winthrop Glacier

Mystic Lake

Mystic Lake

Meadows below Mystic Lake

Meadows below Mystic Lake

Mt. Rainier above Seattle Park and north of Spray Park, clouds beginning to move in.

Mt. Rainier above Seattle Park and north of Spray Park, clouds beginning to move in.

The end of our journey and ready to do it again.

The end of our journey and ready to do it again.

 

Cougar Lakes 2015

July 6th, 2015

Cougar Lakes-5

Cougar Lakes Backpack – 03-05JUL2015

This is the annual backpack trip that I do with the Flanagan grandchildren. This trip included Patrick and Sammy, as well as Andrew, Jon, and myself. We originally considered doing Rachel Lakes/Ramparts in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, but decided instead on Cougar Lakes. I had been here 3-4 times, the first with Aaron Hughes, and afterwards with Tim Schmidt, later with family. It is just outside of Rainier National Park, but demands a lengthy drive to get to the trailhead.

The drive to the trailhead was a bit unnerving. The road was gravel for six miles, and in much worse shape than I ever remember. Andrew’s Corolla barely made it, and probably bottomed a few times. It wasn’t nice. The trail, after ¼ mile, demands that one walk across a shallow, but swift flowing stream, which we accommodated by switching into water shoes. The trail is a total of six miles, with about 1600 feet of climbing. At 4 miles, the trail passes by Swamp Lake, which is actually a beautiful lake surrounded by rocky cliffs and forest. The trail to Cougar Lakes is unmarked and unadvertised. I had trouble finding it on previous backpack trips. There is no mention of this trail in the most recent guidebooks. I guess the forest service would like to limit the number of people visiting this lake. We saw 5-6 other groups, but for the most part, were completely alone, without anybody else in the near vicinity. Cougar Lakes is pleural because it is actually two lakes, separated by a narrow isthmus, a smaller Little Cougar Lake, which you first see, and the most picturesque, as illustrated above. The second lake is larger, where we camped. Both have much fish, and are great for swimming.

Cougar Lake from our campsite

Cougar Lake from our campsite

House Rock from the larger Cougar Lake

House Rock from the larger Cougar Lake

Early morning view from our campsite

Early morning view from our campsite

Happy backpackers

Happy backpackers

The camp

The camp

Dishes out to dry

Dishes out to dry

Little Cougar Lake

Little Cougar Lake

We spent two nights at Cougar Lakes. The intervening day was restful, with the kids going on a short exploratory hike, but mostly spending time skipping rocks, and swimming, or relaxing in the tent. The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold. Both Patrick and Sam stated that they wished they could have stayed more days.

Frodo and Samwise

Frodo and Samwise

Jon and Andrew

Jon and Andrew

Me with the hobbits

Me with the hobbits

To celebrate our hike, we stopped at Wallys in Buckley, where Samwise got his first Waltimate burger, measuring about 8 inches across, with probably 2 lb of meat. He did get some help eating it. Frodo got his Waltimate burger two weeks before after another hike.

The Waltimate burger

The Waltimate burger

Portland to Puyallup Cycle Tour

June 17th, 2015

Portland to Puyallup-10

 

Day 1 (13JUNE2015)


After a calm morning of knowing that I had packed everything, Betsy and I headed off to the Amtrak station to meet Russ and ride the Amtrak from Tacoma to Portland, where we would begin our grand adventure. We had done much recent roadbiking together, but our last tour was a few years ago. At the train station, I had discovered that I forgot my touring cycle shoes, which are bicycle shoes that had a mountain bike style clip that attaches the foot to the pedal. After a quick decision, I left my bicycle with Betsy and dashed back to Puyallup to get my shoes. I could have easily made it on time, except that this was the first day of the US Open golf tournament in Tacoma, and traffic was suddenly horrid. Finally arriving just five minutes late to the train station, Betsy and I decided we would outrun the train in our car, and catch Russ at the next station. Each station, we were just a few minutes late, and ended up going all the way to Portland to catch Russ. Finally, at 3:30 in the afternoon, we were on our bikes. We decided to skirt Portland by taking the bike route on Marine Drive, which follows the Columbia River. We got to Troutdale by 5:30pm, where we settled in at a cheap hotel, and went out for Chinese food at a very marginal diner.

Russ riding along the Marine Drive Trail, with the Columbia River and Mt. Hood in the distance

Russ riding along the Marine Drive Trail, with the Columbia River and Mt. Hood in the distance

Day 2 (14JUNE2015)


This was our most beautiful day, and we were soon on the Old Historic Columbia River Highway. It was not a challenging ride, but we had not been touring with fully loaded bikes for a while, so it was getting the legs used to this sort of riding. This was a Sunday, and every beautiful spot was over touristed, so we rode on and stopped only briefly at the more popular places like Multnomah Falls. There were quite curious onlookers who had numerous questions about cycle touring. We crossed the Columbia River at the Bridge of the Gods, a hairy-scary experience riding on a grate high across a large river, with a car right on your tail. We finally decided to go as far as possible that day without having to camp, and to remain in civilization, which led us to the sleepy town of Carson. There was actually a great restaurant- brewery in town for dinner, but the accommodations were a slightly run-down set of cottages next to a golf couse about a half mile off the road. We were actually quite content, as the owner manager was a most friendly and informative fellow, and the accommodations were more than adequate. See http://sandhillcottages.com.

Russ and I posing at the  Women's Forum Viewpoint.

Russ and I posing at the
Women’s Forum Viewpoint.

Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls

Overlook of the Bridge of the Gods from the Washington side

Overlook of the Bridge of the Gods from the Washington side

Our cottage in Carson.

Our cottage in Carson.

Day 3 (15JUNE2015)


We headed out early, and there were no restaurants open for breakfast at 7am in the town of Carson. Russ and I ended up eating breakfast at the local Carson market that had coffee and breakfast sandwiches. This was actually a great deal since it allowed us to chat with more locals. The ride demanded climbing over a 3000 foot high pass, appropriately titled Oldman Pass. It wasn’t too challenging and we arrived in Swift Creek Reservoir right when the temperature was starting to get too hot to ride. It was my first granny gear day. The granny gear is the smallest gear in the chainring, in which are the three gears in front on a triple chainring. It is called the granny gear since you can gear way down for long fatiguing climbs with a heavy loaded touring bike. There was no restaurant in the area, but a convenience store that had cold beer and frozen pizza. The cabins had no electricity and certainly no WiFi or internet. https://www.eaglecliffcamp.com Lighting was with propane gas lamps. We met a couple, George and Megan, who had been on touring bicycles the last three months, riding from Florida in a meandering path through the US, and enjoyed some pizza and brandy with them, accompanied with delightful conversation (sorry, but no photos of them). Note that the Garmin for today and tomorrow are not accurate, since they will understate our time, feet of climbing, and distance. This happened since we were in dense forest with tall mountains on both sides, preventing the Garmin from getting an accurate gps reading.

Old man Andersen at the pass.

Old man Andersen at the pass.

Old man Feucht at the pass.

Old man Feucht at the pass.

The cabin at Swift Creek Reservoir, called Eagle Cliff Store and Campground.

The cabin at Swift Creek Reservoir, called Eagle Cliff Store and Campground.

Day 4 (16JUNE2015)

Today was another early start day, with another significant pass to cross. Elk Pass was more of a grunt than Oldman Pass, but we felt great at the top and continued on. This was another granny gear day. At the summit of Elk Pass, we saw an RV with a guy that was obviously a bicyclist getting out of the RV. We stopped to talk, and he offered us a coke and a large piece of cold watermelon, asked if we would stay for lunch, and explained that today was his day to sag a group of seven cyclists doing the Sierra Cascades route from Canada to Palm Springs. Once we left these folk, the ideas with Russ and I discussed fast and furiously how we could also do such a thing. The ride was spectacular. Russ and I decided to do a variant of the Sierra Cascades route by riding Cline Rd. and avoiding much of route 12. Cline Road was quite spectacular, though a bit more hilly than route 12. Later on route 12 we met a young man, riding without a helmet, heading home to Eugene, Oregon. He had been on the bike for 5 months, going places like to Hanoi, Viet Nam. I was amazed at how long distance cycling has taken off in the US. Later, after we pulled into Packwood, got a hotel, went out to dinner, and then stopped by the grocery store, we again met George and Megan, and talked them into staying at our hotel. It was the same hotel that Russ and I stayed at several years ago when we did a touring loop around Mt. Rainier.