Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Cascade Loop with Valerie 2018

I completed this ride last year, thought it was beautiful and would like to ride it again with some of my SOB buddies.

I talked two SOBs into going with me.  Bob and Valerie.  In preparation we rode additional miles the months before the ride and checked our camping equipment.  Bob dropped out for various reasons so it was down to Valerie and I.  

Like last year we would start at Lolli's cabin beside Elger Bay, Camano Island, Washington.  I drove up to the Cabin for the 4th of July annual family party and Valerie arrived the 6th.

We have a couple of days to practice getting up Wagner Road which is a 7% grade to the highway.  We give it a try the first day without loaded panniers and it isn't too bad.  The next day we try it with loaded panniers and again made it which gives us more confidence for the following morning.

July 9th.

We are packed and loaded.  Lolli takes our photo as we leave the cabin.

Time to roll!

We ride around a bit on the flats getting comfortable with the loaded bikes and then shift into granny gear for our steep ride up Wagner Road.  In no time at all we are up the grade and on the highway.  The rest of the ride off the island is a series of mild rollers and then downhill to Stanwood.

We stop by the Stanwood Library.  Valerie is collecting Library cards along the way.  Then North on Pioneer Highway, a two lane blacktop road past fields and fields of corn.  At the roundabout to La Conner I take the wrong turn.  I realize my mistake so we turn around to to take the correct "service road" along the West side of I-5.

This chair is at a nursery along the way.  We stop, climb up on it and have a passing visitor take our photo.  She took three but never depressed the camera button far enough to trip the shutter!


Onward to Mount Vernon.  Riding through town Valerie spots a Library!

After some more confusion on my part we eventually get onto HWY 20, the North Cascade Highway. This is the route that will lead us up and over the Cascade Mountains to Eastern Washington.

In Sedro Woolley we see a rail trail alongside the highway but it is crushed rock and gravel.  We give it a try and soon decide to returned to the narrow breakdown lane alongside the busy highway.

We reach the turnoff to Rasar State Park; our first Hiker/Biker campsite. A total of 55 miles for the day.  Not bad!

July 10th.

Up and at em.  Packed and rolling.  The town of Concrete just a couple miles up the road.

We ride into the old part of Concrete looking for a restaurant.  Nothing open.  A lady in town tells us about the Red Apple Cafe on the highway a couple miles back towards Rasar State Park.  We ride back to it but discover it is a Red Apple Market, not a Restaurant!  A guy outside the market directs us to a restaurant back towards Concrete!  I feel we are getting the run-around but once we reach the restaurant, all is forgiven.  Valerie does find the Library.

In another hour we take a "Definite progress" photo!


The sign says no services for 74 miles but that is for folks who need gasolene.  I know there will be a store in Newhalem.

We reach Newhalem State Park and after some searching find the hiker/biker camp.  It is well hidden.  There are nice showers not too far away!

July 11.

Pack and rolling.  The town of Newhalem just up the road.  We get there and the store we are counting on is closed due to the loss of their internet connection!  Bummer!  We are short on food!  I check with the company mess hall and by golly, although they have just finished serving breakfast to the City Light workers, the serving line is still open and they are getting ready to serve lunch.  The nice lady says she will make us sandwiches.  We also grab some fruit and other snack items to see us through until we reach Mazama, two days away!

Valerie got a passport stamp

and I took a photo of our bikes in front of the train on display. 

Surprisingly, after riding all this way from the the Elger Bay cabin, we have gained only 200 feet in altitude 

but today the climb begins.  Up, up, some down and more up.  We take lots of stops to rest and drink water and refill our water bottles from cascading waterfalls using our Sawyer water filters.  Snow melt is the best tasting cool water there is!  We reach Colonial Creek Campground by mid afternoon. 

Last year I discovered the Colonial Creek hiker/biker location was way off at the far end of the campground but this year the Ranger told us there are six tent sites right across the highway by the lake and one might be available.

  There is!

with a short trail to a nice sandy beach.

A swim is enticing but my thought of a nap was even better!  We set out our solar panels to recharge, moving them now and then to keep them in the sun.  Valerie's Goal Zero works a lot better than mine. Her's is the newer model and charges and saves power a lot quicker than mine.

Fellow campers settle down and it becomes a rather quiet night near the highway.  Soon traffic fades away and so do we.

July 12

With an early start we are packed and rolling across the bridge and then up and up.  We take rest stops to catch our breath every 100 feet of elevation gain and soon make it to the overlook for Diablo Lake, stop in the shade and take a rest.  Recovered we get back to it with the road not quite so steep and even a few level places.

We stop for lunch where there are some logs to sit on and use as a table.  Making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I discover something had got into my pannier and snacked on our bread!  That's what I get for not zipping my pannier all the way closed!

Continuing on we refill our water bottles with fresh snow melt.  Excellent!

Trying to remember that daylight lasts until late evening this far north we  have plenty of time to make many rest stops and sit beside the road in the shade.

And some more rest!.

We reach the turn off to the Stealth Camp I discovered several years ago.  It is a highway borrow pit where extra gravel is stored for road maintenance.  We are more than ready to call it a day.  The campsite I used before is too small for both tents so we start setting up in a bigger location that has a fire ring but soon discover the area has been well used, the ground is uneven and there is toilet paper laying around.  We move to a flatter site in the sun. 

The tents are hot in the sun but shade finally arrives and the day cools off for a nice night of sleep.   We are looking forward to a spectacular show of stars because of the altitude, clear skies and no nearby cities but sleep right through it!!

July 13

Packed and heading down to the highway on loose gravel my front tire slips and down I go.  Knee and elbow scraped in the gravel but my helmet saves my head.  Valerie is smarter and walks her bike down.

I ask Valerie if she has had enough and would like to turn around and ride back to the cabin.

She says, "I am going to do this ride".


Up towards Rainy Pass we go.  We collect water along the way and take more rest stops.

We finally reach Rainy Pass

 and enjoy a short downhill before we start the final climb to Washington Pass.


Now that we have two passes behind us Valerie has become much more confident about doing this Cascade Loop.

It is now time for the fun part, the long downhill to Mazama for sandwiches and cold beer!!


Just beyond the pass we spot a snowbank and dig holes in it to cool our water bottles.  It is going to get a lot warmer as we coast down into Eastern Washington.

We have 3, 300 feet of down in 17 miles!  I let my bike coast and am soon up to 35 mph.  Valerie doesn't like to go faster than 20 mph so is riding her brakes.  I stop, now and then, to wait for her to catch up.  It isn't long until she gets the feel for coasting and she is soon beside me.  I tell her I will tell her daughter that her mom was riding 35 mph on a bicycle!!


We reach the Methow Valley and resume easy pedaling.

Something for city folk.

 By mid afternoon we arrive at the turn off to the Mazama Store.  Perfect!  Beer, Sandwiches and shade!  Just like we expected plus we explore the bicycle shop.   Valerie finds a Little Free Library.

Very pleased.

We take a break in the shade on a picnic bench and then buy food and more beer for evening  Back to the highway and ride seven miles to the Bike Barn or rather Barn Bicycle.  No one is there and we set up camp.

Once my tent is up I head straight for the outdoor shower.  The shower is solar heated and/or "On demand" propane.  Excellent!

The outhouse is a composting toilet.

Valerie's tent is up, she has her shower and it is time to celebrate our completion of Rainy and Washington Pass.


After dinner a touring cyclist rolls in on a Bike Friday, a small bike with 20 inch wheels.  He has a big load on the back of his bike.  He is middle age, overweight and worn out so he goes to bed as soon as his tent is set up.  In the morning, when we get up, he is gone.  He said he was heading for Glacier National Park and doesn't have a lot of time.

Bad idea.  We, meanwhile, decide to call tomorrow a "Rest day!


Perfect.  We laze around and read during the morning.  Barn Bicycle has wi-fi so we get caught up on email and facebook and then ride back to the Mazama Store for lunch, more supplies and.... beer!

Another quiet night and a cool morning.  

We pack and get ready to head to Winthrop for breakfast and then Twisp where we will leave HWY 20 and start heading south on HWY 97.

On our way to Winthrop.

Breakfast in Winthrop turns out to be a Mexican Restaurant because the one I so enjoyed last year isn't open.

Valerie orders a side of bacon.  (For Bob?)

We thought our bikes look cool parked in line with the motorcycles.

After breakfast we find the local bike shop so Valerie can buy a bicycle pump to replace the one she accidently left in her car at the cabin.  And, another library!

Today is a long, hot, gentle downhill to Pateros where I know we can camp for free in the City Park.

About half way to Pateros we stop at the market in the wee town of Carlton and discover the only ice they have is in large bags.  Valerie buys one and we load our bike water bottles and Valerie's backpack water bag with ice and then top off with water.  Valerie leaves half a bag of ice at the store as a "Pay it Forward" for other cyclists.

Out the door, across the street is a picnic table and the store owner and a guy who operates the marijuana dispensary next door are sharing a joint.  We sit with them, pass on the offering and discover today is the last day for the market!  He is closing it down but the dope store will stay open!  Carleton, the only open business in town will be the dope store!!  SAD.

Onward, into the heat.  

I show Valerie where I tried to stealth camp last year; a place by the river that was too rocky, the apple orchard where the smell of spray was too strong.  Finally, after 50 mile in the sun on a hot day we near Pateros.  Alongside the road I spot a nice fat rattlesnake.  Recently run over.  I whip out my leatherman, "Never leave home without it" and cut off the rattles.  I will mail them to the SOBS!!

Finally, Pateros.

We ride immediately to the Bakery to order a large "Italy meets Hawaii" pizza and sit in air conditioned splendor drinking IPA on tap and WiFi-ing!


The pizza is ready and I take it carefully over to the City Park.

Pizza and beer, free showers, free camping.


I walk down the boat ramp to see how cold the Columbia River is.  I slip and fall on my butt into the water wearing my bike clothes which includes my billfold.  Fortunately I didn't have my cell phone with me.  The river temperature is perfect so I just sit there and soak.  Later I set out my billfold and contents to dry.

Everything is dry in one hour!

Sure enough.  While taking a shower the park sprinklers come on. Valerie was by the tents and rushed around putting covers over the sprinklers so they would stop spraying our tents!  I had the same thing happen last year and had told her to expect it to happen.  It did and she did.

After that excitement we have a nice quiet and cool night beside the river.

In the morning we pack our gear and roll back over to the Bakery for breakfast.  This time we sit outside in their patio.  Nice.

When we leave I discover my rear tire is flat!  Fortunately all I have to do is walk across the street to the park and change out the tube in the shade over the park bench!  Nice!

Finally, we are on our way to Lake Chelan State Park.

 Long uphill and downhill grades in the hot sun beside the Columbia River.  Not a bit of shade.

We reach a tourist information center by the Wells Dam and find water and shade for our afternoon break.  We are pretty toasted.

I decide to stay on 97 rather than take the Adventure Cycling Route which last year I thought was unnecessarily out of the way and steep.  My new route turned out to be hotter

 shorter but really steep!!

Part way up the steep part we are both overheating and out of water but happen upon an orchard  maintenance building with shade and a water faucet.  Score!!

We rest over an hour before we can face the rest of the ride up the hill and into Chelan. 

In Chelan we stop at an espresso place for AIR CONDITIONING and drinks.

Only twenty more miles alongside Lake Chelan to get to the State Park.  It is really a tough day.

Arriving at the State Park we pay at the kiosk and immediately coast to our campsite, park the bikes, walk down to the lake, wade out deep enough to fall on our backs and float.  You have no idea how wonderful just floating on our backs in biking clothes; not moving, just floating can be.  


Cooled off we walk back up the hill to the bikes, grab towels out of our panniers and head to the showers.  We are now cool and rested enough to set up our tents.

And settle in.

Across the street is a restaurant with burgers, beer, shade and wi-fi.  Heaven!

Long neck Bud in aluminum!  Good enough.  We decide to call tomorrow a "Rest day"!!

I am usually in my tent by 7:00 each night.  Try a little reading on my Kindle and I am out until 7:00 the next morning.  Valerie stays up reading and I usually find her up and enjoying the morning sun and birds before I wake up.  This old man need his sleep!

Our rest day is perfect.  Rinse some clothes, read, nap, snack 

and in the evening return to the restaurant across the street for burger, beer and wifi.

Morning arrives and it is time to pack and hit the road.  Our immediate goal is up a one thousand foot climb to get over the top for a long downhill back to the Columbia River.  Valerie looks ready to rip!

Up and up.  The morning is cool so the climb is not too bad.

We reach the top!!

Valerie is so happy!

A fun and fast coast down the hill to HWY 97, take a right into another long and hot day beside the Columbia River.  This guy didn't make it.

We finally reach Sunnyslope near Wenatchee and turn off HWY 97 onto HWY 2 west towards Stevens Pass.  It is now a hot, headwind ride uphill in the breakdown lane of HWY 2 with a lot of 4:00 PM commuter traffic roaring past us.  Not fun.

Finally the turnoff to Cashmere and a restaurant I visited last year.  The "59er Diner".

It has a seating area just like my mom's kitchen!!

Good food and AIR CONDITIONING!!  There is a huge warehouse of antiques right next door.  I missed that part last year but Valerie discovers it and points it out to me.  An amazing amount of stuff!

Cooled off and ready for evening we stop by the Cashmere City Park.  Valerie finds another Little Free Library.

We wish we could camp in the City Park but no.  We must ride out of town and up a hill to the RV Park across from the County Fairgrounds.  The cat lady host of last year and her feral cats are gone so a new host checks us in and assigns us a spot without picnic table or fire ring but it is located right beside the SHOWERS!

Perfect!!  Showers and sleep.  That's all we need!!

In the morning we roll back into Cashmere to Weed's, a coffee and "strange" breakfast kind of place.  Mostly I wanted to show Valerie the floor covered with pennies.

Leaving town Valerie finds another Little Free Library.

Back to HWY 2 and up the hill we go with fast traffic roaring past.  Most of the motorhomes, trailers and trucks are heading for Leavenworth, Stevens Pass and beyond.  It gets wearing after a while and we decide to take a break and check out how the pears are coming along.

We reach the turn-off onto HWY 97, a much quieter highway.  In about a mile we arrive at the fruit stand I visited last year.  We buy a couple bags of cherries and sit in the lawn chairs to cool off and catch up on wifi.  Nice.

Time to head towards Blewett Pass before it gets hot.  A long steady uphill grade with some traffic streaming by.  We reach a roadside store that has good coffee and take a break on the front porch.

Back to work and on and on.  We finally reach the turn-off to the Alternate Blewett Pass road and in a short distance find what I think is my previous stealth camp.

 After setting up I realize we didn't ride far enough to get away from the highway noise.  Oh well.  It doesn't take long before I'm cooling off in the stream.

Relax.  I AM wearing my bike shorts contrary to what it looks like.  Ask Valerie, she took the picture!

The traffic noise tapers off as night comes on and we have a good night with the pleasing white noise of the creek along side.  The only strange thing is all the caterpillars climbing around and up our tents.  They are not a problem but there sure is a bunch of them!

Interesting looking buggers.

Up in the morning, pack and on up the old Blewett Highway which is now mostly an abandoned road.  Many twists and turns, lots of shade, quiet and very little traffic.

We take many stops to rest and drink water and finally reach the top.

We are happy campers!

Now a easy, twisty downhill to my second Stealth Camp.

It is a short day but a nice ride.  We set up our tents and kick back.

Amazingly, those little caterpillars are here too.

Another quiet, cool night of sleep. We are at altitude and dress accordingly.

  We pack and in only one mile are back onto HWY 97.

A nice long downhill in the cool of the morning.  We reach the turnoff towards Yakima and another long uphill grind out of a pretty valley

Soon we are over the top and down into the land of windmills

 with Mt. Rainier way off in the haze.

Entering Ellensburg we find a 50's style restaurant

and have a good traditional breakfast.  In the men's room someone scrapped the C off the Baby Changing Station!!

Reminds me of the "Baby Toss" beside the Noyo Headland Trail!!

This is the entrance to bar, believe it or not!


In a few more miles we turn off onto the Yakima River Canyon Road.  It is a quieter road alongside the Yakima River which has cut quite a gorge through Volcanic Basalt.  The railroad on the other side of the river has a nice long downhill grade but on our side the highway is up and down.

 Sometimes through roadcuts.

  Below we see folks rafting down the river.

We finally reach a BLM Campground.

This campground also turns out to be a river rafting take-out point for people who have been rafting the Yakima River all day.  We pose with some of them.

I start setting up my tent and discover my bag with the tent poles is missing!!  I unload my panniers to lighten my bike and head back up the highway looking for my poles. The further I go I realize I should have asked someone to give me a lift and I could have covered a lot more distance quicker.

  After five miles I spot a Highway patrol car watching for speeders.  I roll up,  he rolls down his window and I tell him about my missing tent poles.  He says he will drive up the road looking for them and for me to, "Wait here".

I wait and after about half an hour he returns and says he didn't see them but he has to "break off" because he has an "incident call" and away he goes.

I pedal five miles back to the camp.

Turns out the "incident call" was a drunk camper in "our" BLM campground.  When I get back the BLM Ranger and the cop are "on it".  The cop hauls the belligerent off.  I walk around the campsite to see if anyone will drive me back up the highway to look for my missing tent poles.  Nope.  Everyone is in party mode and half drunk!  Finally I ask the Ranger.  "Sure, hop in."

We drive about twenty miles up the highway but don't spot them.  Shit.

Back to camp.  The wind is blowing quite hard and Valerie and I cook dinner with our stoves on the downwind side of a big rock.  

I decide I will just use my ground cloth, air mattress and sleeping bag under the stars.   Good enough!  What a day!  We are just about asleep when the music starts!

The campsite two sites over not only has a big fire they also have a loud PA System, they even have a D.J!  Yep, someone is selecting the songs and the mob hollers if he selects something they don't like!!

Oh boy!

At 10:00 PM the Ranger rolls through and suddenly it is so quiet you can hear the river running.  The Ranger leaves and the party is on!  The music is all Country and Western and normally I would enjoy it but hey, we had a long hard day and we have miles to go tomorrow.  Various other campers complain but they won't and don't shut down until 1:30 in the morning!!  Ask me how we know!


Up and out of there early in the morning, the whole campground fast asleep.  Bastards!

Heading towards Yakima Valerie spots her sign,

We find the Yakima to Naches Greenway Rail Trail and enjoy riding on that away from the highway traffic.

We see how they raise apples now days, trained to wires so they can pick them by machine.

It is another long and hot day and by the time we reach Natches we are pretty well toast.  We find a nice restaurant with outside seating in the shade.  Next door is the Natches hotel.  I ask Valerie if we should take a break, it is another 25 miles to Elk Ridge RV park.  She is more than ready for a break and some air conditioning.  I check at the Hotel and they have rooms.  Perfect!

A great night of sleep.  Air conditioning, showers, quiet and comfortable.  In the morning we walk main street looking for breakfast.  Valerie finds the Library, of course.

Nothing seems open for breakfast.  I  ask a guy going into the laundromat "Where can we get breakfast?".  He points out Martha's just down the street, in fact it is right across the street from the hotel!  To us it looked like an empty storefront. 

We enter and it looks like a small swap shop but continuing on into the next room we discover a large restaurant!

The waitress, Margaret, tells us to sit anywhere and she will be right over.  She shows up, pulls out a chair, sits down and talks to us about breakfast.  Perfect!  I like this place already.

She and her husband own the place.  He cooks, she waitresses.  They don't advertise at all but stay busy enough.  Here's their kitchen.

We go back to the hotel and Valerie discovers her tire is flat!! 

Nothing better than patching a tire in air conditioned splendor!

We decide to take an easy day and just ride 20 miles to Elk Ridge RV Park.

We arrive, check in and are shown a campsite close to the river and set up our tents.  Valerie happens to have packed a long parachute cord and I am able to use it to set up my tent and clothesline!!  Perfect!

Showers are available and I shower and rinse my bike clothes.  A good night's sleep with the river nearby making white noise.

In the morning we pack and start the up and up.  We reach a campground called Hell's Crossing and call it good enough.

I find another way to rig up my tent.

It is a nice spot beside the Natches River.

What's for dinner?

I run out of fuel for my camp stove so....

back to basics!

Up and at 'em in the morning.  Along the way we spot a huge ant hill!!

It is a long slog on a long uphill but today we will reach Chinook Pass near Mt. Rainier!  We have beautiful weather with many rest stops.

By golly, I think we are getting there!

At the top of Chinook Pass (under the overpass for the Pacific Crest Trail!)!

 We take a break and enjoy Tipsoo Lake.  Last year it was overcast and drizzling and I never got to see this view.

Okay!  Now down, down and down to the turnoff to Stevens Canyon Road.  We continue past the turnoff for another three miles to the Ohanapecosh Campground so we won't have to Stealth Camp in the National Park.  The campground is full but we search anyway and Valerie finds a spot no one else has taken.  It is not a good location for cars or trailers but perfect for bicyclists who don't mind lifting their bikes up some steps.  

There is even a heart for Lolli!!

There is a crying baby across the street but that eventually passes and we settle in for a quiet night.

It is a beautiful location but we notice there's no animal life; no birds, begging chipmunks, squirrels, crows.  Nothing.  Strange?

We  discover we have cut ourselves short on food!  What were we thinking!!  There were several markets we could have stocked up in Natches or even Elk Ridge but we totally blew it.  I think we were both too hot and bothered and worried about carrying too much weight up Chinook Pass.

In the morning we combine what little food we have left and call it breakfast.  Oh boy.  Nothing like starting a big climb on an empty stomach.  Dang!

Packed, we ride back to the Entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park's Steven Canyon Road.  The nice lady lets us in free after seeing our Golden Age Passports.  Yaa!

I notice someone across the road set up under an umbrella and ride over to see what is going on.  She tells me today is the "Annual Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day" event!!  "RAM ROD".  She says there are one thousand riders entered!!

Okay.  We start up the mountain.  Pretty soon we see racers coming down towards us at a high rate of speed.  We urge them on.  I'd wave a cow bell if I had one!

After an hour or so of climbing, what's this?

It's the rest and feeding stop for the RAM ROD folks!  Oh Boy!!

Perfect!  We fit right in wearing Spandex.  Soon racers are looking at our loaded bikes and feeling sorry for us!  Thank god for the unexpected food and drink.  Score!!  Now back to the uphill granny grind.

Once again, the mountain is getting closer.

We are really starting to sag and when we come around a corner and can see two more switchbacks ahead, "Way up there...,"  That's it.  We have had enough.  I wait until I see a pickup truck coming and stick out my thumb.  Travis from West Virginia pulls over!! 

He not only stops, he picks up our fully loaded bicycles and tosses them into the back of his truck!

Oh my god,  riding up the rest of the climb in air conditioned comfort.  What a concept!!

When we reached the top and the turnoff to Paradise we decide to continue to ride with Travis on up to the Paradise tourist center parking lot.

Thanking Travis we unload the bikes and start rolling back down to the highway.  I see the sign for Longmire but think it is pointed the wrong way.  "Some kids must have turned the sign around."  We continue on but it is uphill rather than downhill and I really thought we should be going down hill.  Valerie tells me I am going the wrong way but I am convinced I am going the right way.  On and on and up and up and something just isn't right.  We finally arrive at a sign that says Paradise Pass.  5,400 feet!!  Damn!

I am wrong.  I have been leading Valerie the wrong way.  I apologize for being so bull headed.  We turn around and coast down to the correct highway and then on down and down to Longmire.  Even Longmire is wrong.  The Burger and Beer and Wifi place I have been encouraging Valerie with all day long is in Ashford, not Longmire.  Jezz.  I'm an idiot!

We finally arrive and the burger, beer and wifi is all we hoped for.  We are really. really done for the day and book rooms at the Paradise Inn.  After what we went through today, it is most welcomed!

Burgers, Beer, Wi-Fi, a Shower and real beds.  Heaven.

In the morning we stop a short way down the road in Elbe to eat in the Railroad Restaurant Car but is is closed.  We find an open place across the street for coffee and munchies with a welded Elk out front. 

We check out the train

and the church.

Valerie gets another stamp.

Next stop Eatonville.  I called Lolli last night and she said she would drive down to Eatonville and meet us at the Bakery!  Woot!  Woot!  Bye bye Mt. Rainier!!

Most of the remaining ride is downhill to Eatonville with narrow roads and fast traffic, the worst part of the whole trip but we survive.  We enter Eatonville and find the Bakery and park the bikes on the lawn.

After coffee and sweet rolls we unload the bikes and wait in the shade for Lolli to appear.

Soon, the highpoint of our whole trip arrives!  Lolli in her Subaru!!

We toss in the panniers, load the bikes on the bike rack and are soon floating in air conditioned splendor back to the Cabin on Elger Bay!


Life is good!!

574 miles in 18 days!  We did it!!