The Plan! The Plan
From Elger Bay, Camano Island Washington to Nine Mile Falls, near Spokane, Washington.
Five passes; Rainy Pass, Washington Pass, Loop Loop Pass, Wauconda Pass and Sherman Pass.
Can the ol' fart do it?
First my traditional Snivel Fest. I always have to do a Snivel Fest before a long bicycling trip.
(From my notebook:)
I am girding my loins for a West to East, North Cascade Bicycle Trip. I have the bike, I have the gear. It is just my mind that is flip-flopping. I have almost talked myself out of it.
- Too Steep
- Too Wet or
- Too Hot
- Too windy
- I'm too old
- I'm too weak
June 25th (Still in Fort Bragg, CA.)
I did a "Hump Day" ride with SOB Rose Milose from Fort Bragg to Comptche; 50 miles round trip with 5,233 feet of climbing!! The first ten miles I was reluctant. The last ten mile I could go forever! Amazing :-)
I'm glad we did it. It helped restore some badly needed confidence for the North Cascade Highway.
Packing the panniers. I bought myself a rubber ducky for a companion.
820 mile drive with the bicycle in the Vanagon from Fort Bragg to Elger Bay. (Lolli drove her car because she has other things to do while I am on my bicycle trip and her car is easier for her to drive.
July 4th Big traditional party at the cabin on Elger Bay.
July 6th. The 4th of July weekend is winding down and traffic on the highways should be thinning. It has been a fun and wonderful weekend but my "Ride" is close to hand. I have packed, fretted, worried, doubted, and waffled. Tomorrow morning - "It begins", Off for Sedro Woolly and beyond.
"Please Mr. Custer. I don't want to go!!"
7:15 AM. Lolli takes a departing shot!
Soon I ride past a display of yard art chickens and Ducky wants to join them for a photo op.
Crossing the bridge between Camano Island and Stanwood I stop to take a photo of these neat metal sculptures. Looked at one way, it is a Salmon, 90 degrees and it becomes...,
a cedar tree! Nice!
One of the nice old dairy barns along the old highway north of Stanwood.
I took this photo just because we have a Clearlake in California where the annual Konocti Challenge is held.
I am able to ride the frontage road North alongside I-5 for a while, then cross over and eventually connect up with HWY 9. Just short of Cedro Woolly I am able to take the old highway along the south side of the Skagit River and start heading East. This railroad bridge is no longer in use.
I'm not sure what this pipeline, suspended over the Skagit River, is hauling but it was interesting.
1:00 PM. It is early but I have ridden 40 miles and spot a "Gated Community"!
I park the bike and walk in a ways to see how it looks.
It looks good.
It is early but the State Park "hiker/biker" campground is another 15 miles and 6 of those miles are in the wrong direction.
Walking in I come to a bend in the road so I can be out of sight of the highway and away from the road noise. The vegetation is rampant but I erect my tent on the road; there obviously has been no traffic in some time.
The tent behind the bike.
Time for a spot of tea and then read some "Undaunted Courage" on my Kindle.
I discover daylight this time of year "lasts forever"! It doesn't get dark until almost 10:00 PM!!
Maybe I have learned something. "Slow Down!"
I can take a lot more breaks during the day to help use up the daylight! 40 miles in one day is fine but sitting around all afternoon and evening is silly!
I got up at 6:00, had my tea, oatmeal and mosquitoes.
Packed and rolling by 7:15 AM.
The ride alongside the Skagit River is nice, level, and quiet.
9:30 AM. 19 miles from the stealth camp I enter HWY 20 just West of Concrete. 73 degrees.
I stop at the mini-mart and buy a bottle of Gatorade, a bottle of Muscle Milk and a can of dinner. I plug the Goal Zero into the Garmin to charge as I wait for the next door burger joint to open at 11:00.
I have the Avocado/Chicken Burger with chocolate shake and fries. The burger was excellent!
Back on the road at 11:40.
Leaving Concrete I stop for the requisite "Concrete" photo.
1:30 PM. I stop at the Cascadian Organic Fruit Roadside Stand for a blended coffee and purchase two Laura Bars. Taking it slow today. No pulling into camp at 1:00 in the afternoon and having hours of daylight left.
Near Rockport, after some "up", I check the bike computer altitude. 600 feet.
Only 600 feet elevation? What a heart breaker! I expected it to read at least 1,500!! It is amazing how flat and how far the Skagit river intrudes into the Cascade range.
I happen upon a State Park that is closed. (Read the sign!)
Strange! I guess State Parks has finally figured out how to reduce costs by getting rid of visitors completely!!
Oh my! Are those snow capped mountains?
The ride has been so nice and level, so far!!!
Ho! Bicycle parts!! Nothing I need right now but I will keep this place in mind.
Last services for 74 miles? Ha! I know better. Newhalem has a store with "bicycle food". Lolli and I checked it out last year.
Well, hey, hey! I made it to the entrance!
And soon after....,
A Gated Community!
I was thinking I would camp at the Campground near Newhalem where Lolli and I camped last year but maybe this will work.
I park the bike and walk in to take a look.
Holy Smokes!! A small lake with a dock! Nothing else! Just a small, crystal clear lake with a dock!
I move in! That's my foam pad, pillow and my shirt hanging off the end if the dock.
And then a "refreshing" bath!!
You can see my tent and bike with the small lake beyond. A perfect end to a 50 mile day.
I woke at 4:30, first light, and pulled on my Merino t-shirt because it was a bit chilly in my 33 year old down bag. Woke again at 6:00 and decided, "what's the rush". 7:00, I finally got up.
There were a few mosquitoes but I have Deet!! The sunshine was filtering through the trees, I made coffee and oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar. I sat on the dock with the sun on my back. Blue skies and few mosquitoes.
Yesterdays ride was a snap! I had a nice tail wind during the afternoon. I didn't follow the Adventure Cycling Map route suggestion between Rockport and Marblemount but stayed on HWY 20 instead. I can see why they suggested the alternate because HWY 20 has almost no shoulder and narrow bridges but I have my day-glo orange vest and dual strobe lights on the back! One camp trailer did go whizzing by real close with their stair step hand rail still in the extended position!! Close but no cigar!
8:30 AM. Time to pack up and head for the store in Newhalem. I need to figure out my "supplies" from here to Mazama. I don't want to haul more weight than necessary but I also will need enough energy to get over the Rainy and Washington Passes.
In Newhalem I have biscuits and gravy at the Company Mess Hall!! $1.99.
I pulled my food bag out of the left front pannier and checked. I have 2 Laura bars, one can of chicken dinner, four bagels, 1/2 jar of peanut butter, 1/2 jar of jelly, 1 muscle milk, bag of oatmeal, bag of raisins, small bag of brown sugar, two power bars. Too much? Not enough? We'll see.
The required photo when leaving Newhalem!
The "up" begins.
First tunnel. Granny Gear. "Sweating like a whore on a cowboy payday!"
1:15 PM 1,496 feet elevation
Colonial Creek Campground!!!
Yippee Skippy! $12.00 hiker/biker tent site with $6.00 off with my "Golden Age" membership card!!
Perfect! My campsite is very shady so I parked the bike out on the dock with the Goal Zero and Garmin charging in the sunlight. Of course I am worrying about tomorrow. Should I call tomorrow a "rest day"? If I do I will be short of food. I really should continue on. I only did 800 feet of "up" today. Tomorrow will be 4,000 of "up"! Can I do it??
7:00 AM. A beautiful, clear, cool morning. There will be no sun on my campsite for another hour or so. I'm feeling good. I'm tired of fretting. I'm going to proceed. I figure I can always stealth camp if I can't get over both passes and down to Mazama today. Looking back it has been a perfect ride. The cool, overcast ride from Elger Bay to the Skagit River Road. The sunny ride along the Skagit; long and level. The second stealth camp with the pond and the morning rabbit visitor. The ride to Colonial Creek with the nice tailwind. Probably the most perfect weather for these passes. A week ago it was raining up here! I have nothing to snivel about!
8:00. 1,410 feet. Leaving Colonial Campground. Big Foot greets me.
8:20 1,614 feet. One mile. (I exaggerated this photo angle but not by much!)
8:45 1,889 feet. Diablo overlook.
9:15 AM 3.4 miles 2,142 feet. You may notice my bike parked just to the left of the waterfall and the white of the concrete highway below the bike.
12:45 PM. 18 miles. 3,352 elevation.
2:30 PM 23.21 miles. 4,000 elevation!!
3:00 PM 24.82 miles. 4,139 elevation Met another rider coming down from the Pass. He hollered, "Hot in Mazama!" I'm thinking, why not camp in the mountains rather than down in the heat and Bingo!
A "borrow pit" (State Highway gravel pit). Much like what we used during our drive to Alaska.
I pulled in, checked it out, found a nice shady, out of sight spot for my tent and set up.
I even have a flower! Not a trillium.
Dinner in a can. (Sirloin Hamburger-tomato-carrot-bean-pea stew) Heated up on my alcohol burner. Quite tasty!!
(From my notebook: "I cleared and leveled a place for my Hubba! I love my Hubba! The way it sets up with rain fly or not. The stitched in pockets for my glasses, Kindle and headlamp. The way the zipper works with a simple "grand gesture". I blew up my Thermorest "NeoAir" air mattress and slipped it into my silk sleeping bag liner. On warm nights I sleep on the silk liner and use my sleeping bag, unzipped, as a quilt.
What we Bloomquists call "Bear Hair", a West side of the Cascades phenomena.
I'm about six miles short of Rainy Pass. If I was smart I would call this "good enough" turn around and ride back to Elger Bay. After all, it is, like the SOBs say, "All downhill from here"!!
8:35 AM. Packed and ready to roll I leave the borrow pit.
9:41 AM. 4,600 elevation
10:12 AM 4,800 elevation. Snow in the shade!
10:19 AM 4,855 Rainy Pass!
Then a nice downhill before the climb up to Washington Pass.
"It's gettin' spectacular Ducky!"
Washington Pass next!
Cooling off my butt!!
10:57 AM 4,800 elevation
11:06 AM 4,900
11:18 AM 5,000
11:46 AM 5,310
12:04 PM 5,477 elevation!!!
Being an old fart the only way I can climb mountains is one step at a time. Riding a loaded bicycle up mountains I use the altimeter feature on my bike computer.
I pedal in granny gear until I have traveled 100 feet up. I stop and get out my notebook and enter the time and altitude. While doing that my heart rate and breathing slow down enough so I can set off and ride another 100 feet up. Bit by bit, 100 by 100, I eventually get there. Only one section did I give up and push the bike. Most of it seemed to be a steady 6% grade.
Now the fun begins!!! You can see the big switchback below!!
A long fun downhill averaging around 31 miles per hour for the first 10 miles!! From Lone Fir Campground it tapered off to about 25 mph for another 10 miles
Coming out onto the flats of the Methow Valley. Lots of deer although I didn't hit any.
Ah! The Mazama Store! First thing a Huckleberry Smoothie! Then a turkey sandwich.
Then on to the "Bike Barn".
The Bike Barn is listed on the Adventure Cycling Map and is a place some wonderful people put together for touring cyclists. There is shelter in the barn if it is raining, nice shady grassy areas for tent camping, drinking water, composting toilet and....
a solar/on demand heated out door shower! Heaven!!!
Also a small refrigerator with ice cubes and soft drinks. Perfect!
Casey, a cyclist from Boulder, CO. is already here.
I shower, rinse my bike clothes, hang them up and kick back!!
I decided to lay over a day. One of the owners came by and said it is going to be 102 in Winthrop and Twisp today, in fact it is going to be unseasonably hot all week!
I pedal back to Mazama to buy some food for the evening and hang out in the shade near the ice cream!
Back to the bike barn for the evening.
Riding to Mazama I saw this sign. Ominous!
I took this photo to check my head. I could feel I was getting sunburnt through the vent slots in the helmet and wanted to see what they looked like since I don't have a mirror with me.
A perfect way to spend a hot afternoon.
Got up at 6:00 AM. Perfect sleeping weather. It really cools off at night. Full Moon! Dry air and no condensation on the tent or ground cloth.
Leave the Bike Barn at 8:30 AM.
Bike Barn. Excellent!
Arrive in Winthrop at 9:00 after riding 7.6 miles. Time for breakfast. I ask a lady washing the windows of her store where she would recommend I go for breakfast. She told me, I went and it was very good.
Onward towards Twisp and it is really getting hot.
Almost to Twisp I spot Riverbend, RV park. My brother and his wife have reserved a spot in this RV park on their way to the reunion later this week. I pull in, take a look and decide..., good enough!
$28.00 for a tent site but since I am old, a Veteran, and it is Sunday afternoon she lets me camp for only $15.00. Showers are twenty five cents for 3 minutes. Perfect!
In no time I am set up in the shade beside the river.
Only 15 miles today.
5:15 AM. I am packed and on the road heading for Twisp. Of course I am worrying about whether I have enough food and water to get to the top of Loop Loop pass. I don't want to carry more weight than necessary but I also don't want to end up starving and dying of thirst.
5:45 AM and 84 degrees already.
A convience store is open so I get half a cup of coffee and a cold Gatorade. Back to the road. I'm pedalling along and in a couple of mile I come upon RiverBend RV Park just like the one I left!
Duh! I went the wrong way when I left the convenience store!! Four miles round trip!!
Leaving Twisp the second time.
6:43 AM 1,702 elevation
Light sprinkles, warm and muggy. There is talk of forest fires south toward Ellensburg.
7:30 2,194 elevation. I happen upon this ice chest of water bottles for bicyclists!! Well, how nice. It helps solve my "did I carry enough water" problem.
9:34 AM. 3,300 elevation.
You laughing at my weird bicycle helmet brim? I tell you what!! It's been a life saver in this heat. I first saw "Da Brim" on the helmet of a touring cyclist last year when he was working his way up and over Washington and Rainy Pass. I ordered one for this trip. His and mine are the only ones I have ever seen but, I tell you what! It is just the ticket!!
10:32 AM. 3,800 elevation.
Finally!! Loop Loop Pass!! And guess what? Adventure Bicycling's Sag Wagon is set up for lunch for the tour group that is coming up Loop Loop and I am invited to join in!!! Perfect!
Once again, all my worry about enough food and water has been taken care of by "trail magic".
The Bike Group has moved on and left me bags of grapes, tomatoes, cashews and Gatorade!!
It was a 39 mile day. After lunch I look for a Stealth Camp!
I find a place in the woods out of sight and set up. A very lazy afternoon laying around reading and then it started clouding up. Sprinkles started and by 4:00 PM it is really raining! Lightening getting closer and closer and then one just BOOMED and SIZZZZLED!!! Because of the rain fly I couldn't see anything, just ride it out. Soon the storm abated and then a chipmunk or squirrel arrived and gave me hell for being by his tree or hole or what-ever; he kept at it for almost half an hour!!
Up at 6:00 AM. A leisurely tea and oat meal and then pack up to clear blue skies. 60 degrees according to my bike thermometer.
8:35 AM Time to roll. It is already getting warm.
10:30 AM Oakanogan. 951 elevation. 97 degrees.
11:55 AM. Lunch at the "Breadline" in Omak.
Call a Warmshower Host and ask about spending the night. "No problem, come on ahead, there will be two other touring cyclists spending the night too. I will be home about 5:00 PM."
I have all afternoon to kill so shaded up in the city park where a Farmers Market is going on.
Arrived at Parker's at 5:00, set up my tent in his back yard, take a shower and rinse out my clothes. The other cyclists arrive and soon two of Parker's friends. In no time there is pasta with clam sauce and a big green salad from Parker's garden. Awesome!!
Total miles for the day, 26.98
Up at 4:30. Rolling at 5:10 AM. It is 98 degrees.
Rolling along towards Tonasket the sun finally peeks over the hill. The smoke in the air is very evident.
Omak to Tonasket is a easy ride through "Eastern Washington", sage brush. I like sage brush.
A nice old "splitty" along the way.
Oh boy, a state park. Only 30 miles round trip out of my way!!
Riding along I found a fly swatter and....,
9:30 AM. 25 miles. I arrive in Tonasket. It is getting real warm.
Parker lined me up with a host in Tonasket. I ride to his house and talk to him. He is more than happy to let me put up my tent but tells me he is taking care of his grandsons this weekend who are a handful and it might not be too peaceful. He tells me Shannon's Restaurant in town hosts touring bicyclists. I decided to give Shannon's a try.
Shannon's! Oh my!!
As I order breakfast I ask if it is true I can camp here overnight.
"Sure, no problem!"
Oh boy! Just what the doctor ordered!!
This is my spot! I spent all day sitting here drinking Ice Tea and reading my book. The "Time and Temperature" sign at the bank got up to 109 degrees by 4:00 PM! I did take a quick walk around town and found a Natural Food store and bought enough granola to see me through.
There's this baby Robin that evidently left his nest a bit early. He is chirp, chirp, chirping on the deck railing beside me. His mom shows up with a mouth full of worms, feeds him and flies off for more. She sometimes "teases" the fledgling by showing him the worms and then flying up to a branch above me; trying to get the baby bird to follow. Evidently it finally worked because by evening I could her him chirp chirp chirping up in the tree.
I treat myself to the Rib-eye steak dinner with baked potato and all the trimmings. Shannon joins me for dinner and tells me about the thousands of bicyclists she has had here over the years. Yes, she is listed on the Adventure Cycling map.
I pitch my tent beside the picnic table when it starts getting dark. The highway traffic noise soon abates and I have a good night's sleep.
Packed and on the road at 4:15 AM
Wacounda Pass before me!
Climbing starts right at the edge of town. Up, up, up!!
The fires have closed HWY 20 behind me.
6:45 AM. 2,200 elevation. Time for breakfast on the road.
Someones statement about Chrismess!
Lots of up.
I was told by the cyclists in Omak that there was camping behind the Wauconda store, "A nice old man and his son let them stay there.
It has been a long climb and I am looking forward to the Wauconda Store which my maps show to be just a couple of miles short of the pass.
Finally I see the store. Yippee! But it appears to be closed! I walk around the corner and find two ladies sitting on the porch smoking. I ask if it is possible to get some water. "Sure, the front door is unlocked".
I go back around and in through the door and it is very dark.
"I keep the window shades closed to help keep it cool in here. The cook quit this morning so I can't offer you any food."
All the aisles in the store are blocked off so I can't get to the Gatorade display or anything else! Weird! She fills my water bottles and I ask about camping. She tells me there is a RV park across the road that might work.
She is a short woman wearing a Harley Davidson "wife beater" t-shirt, lots of tattoos and the strange manner of talking to me with her eyes closed but looking around, open eyed, elsewhere. Lots of yak yak and not much substance. Seems druggie to me.
I ride across the road and check out the RV park. Nobody there. Green plots of grass, each with a hose bib and not a tree for shade!! Nope.
Nothing for it but to press on for the Pass.
12:55 PM. Made it!!
And then the down! I don't want to lose too much altitude because of the heat in the lower elevations.
In two miles I find a "Gated Community". Just a few strands of "Bob" wire compose the gate. The road has not been used in a long time. Perfect!
31.62 miles and the fourth of five passes completed!!
All downhill to Republic tomorrow!
Woke at 4:00 but didn't get up until 6:30 AM. Had my tea. Breakfast consisted of granola with chocolate Muscle Milk. Not bad and prolly good for me!
Rather cool this morning so I wear my merino long sleeved shirt under my long sleeved sun shirt.
Rolling at 7:30 AM. 4192 elevation. 61 degrees.
Pretty ride and a beaver house!!
Really quite smoky.
My first skunk!
8:41 AM. 12.8 miles, all downhill!
Where do I get my peddler permit?? :-)
9:08 AM. Waiting for my sausage and eggs.
Ended up having breakfast with Mr. Timothy. He is 79 and a wood worker. He said, just a minute, I got something to show you. went out, came back in with his "Six=Shooter". He said, "If anyone gives him trouble, he just hits them over the head with it"! Interesting and fun guy.
I decide to take a rest day and check into the Hotel. $80.00 bucks but, I'm worth it!
The office can't run my credit card...,"the lines are out because of the fire"! I write a check.
It is nice to put my bike in the room, take a shower and then wander around town checking things out. Republic was a gold and silver mining town.
There is a laundry right across the street from the hotel so I take my clothes over for a wash. The top-loaders are only $1.00 but I don't see a soap dispenser. I then notice an old lady sitting in the back and ask her if there is any soap? She points to three jugs of soap on the floor by the wall and tells me to help myself, "the tourist leave them".
While my clothes are washing I get to talking to "Sedate" (that's her name!) I mention my heroic ride across northern Washington and she digs in her desk and comes out with this photo.
"That's me and my husband. We got married in Olympia, Washington at 2:00 PM and left on our bicycles for Oakland, California at 3:00 PM. We were going to visit his dad.
This was October 22nd, 1946. We had brand new Victory Bicycles we bought with coupons because of rationing.
We picked fruit in Oregon. Went from Grants Pass down to Crescent City along the Smith River."
Sedate Bretthaur. 96 years old!
Republic. Reminds me of Waitsburg, WA., another nice old 1940's type town.
5:10 AM. Out the door. One pass to go, Sherman.
Me and my "fiasco" hitting the road.
That's a lot of gold!
There is a Rail/Trail leaving town. It is only for three miles but I take it. Elevation 2,700.
395 is where I leave HWY 20 and head south.
My first Aspen Grove.
Lots of smoke in the air.
10:50 AM. Five hours of climbing. But I did it!
Pleased as punch!!
I start rolling down the east side but want to find a Stealth Camp before I get down into the heat.
A borrow pit. Perfect!
7:04 AM. Rolling.
An Elk walks across the road and sure enough, a second one follows. I manage to get my camera out of the handlebar bag and get this shot while rolling along about 20 mph!
15 miles of rolling rolling rolling. A woman in a red Prius stops me and tells me she owns a Bike Hostel out of Coleville. Stop in, if you want.
It took me five hours to get up Sherman Pass and one hour to come down!!
Crossing over the Columbia River!
Kettle Falls, having breakfast I show the waitress my Elk photo. "That's not an Elk, that's a Moose!"
Moose? I didn't know they were around.
"Yup, thick as ticks."
Gettin' warm. Part of the sign isn't working. The time is 10:10 AM
Oh boy, HWY 395.
But at Coleville I turn off and ride six miles out of my way to the Bike Hostel.
It is SOOOO worth it!!!
Four bedrooms, two baths, rec room, kitchen, washer and dryer. All for touring bicyclists!!
Looking out over the countryside from the deck.
Airing my sleeping bag and drying my socks.
More touring cyclists show up.
A total of 10 touring cyclists, (the two owners showed up and joined in the photo).
The bike the guy from Germany brought over with him.
On the road back to 395.
395 roadkill porcupine.
Don't confuse me now, I'm almost there!!
Awww, a heart for Lolli!
My Uncle Victor had one of these, a Kaiser.
I wonder if the ducks know.
6.3 miles to go!
Nine Mile Falls.
It was a 65 mile day but I made it. 395 was rusha-rusha of traffic and trucks but had a wide "breakdown" lane. Nerve racking but, just do it.
The Garmin recommended I turn-off onto Swenson road. What a surprise. Five miles of loose gravel followed by some of the steepest grades where I have to get off and push!! Pitches only half a mile long but still disheartening when I am getting so close to my destination. One place a woman comes running down her driveway and asks if I wanted a Popsicle before the next hill; she and her family ride bicycles and she knew there was a duzy in my near future and then, here comes her daughter with a Popsicle!! I enjoyed the Popsicle but not the hill. Almost to the top a guy stops in his pick-up and asks if I need a lift?. I thank him but, no. He said I was almost to the top anyway, "just around the next curve" which actually turned out to be two curves but..., oh well.
I pop out onto Hwy 291, the last couple miles to my sister's house just in time for the Spokane 5:00 commute and narrow shoulders. I'm thinking, wouldn't it be something to get knocked off just a few miles short of my destination.
14 days. 462 miles.