Oct 04
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.

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Sep 23
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
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Sep 07
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
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Aug 24
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

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Aug 09


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!
 

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Jul 27

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.

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Jun 04


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.

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May 26

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.
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May 17

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.

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Apr 28


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.
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