Entries Tagged as Washington
Toward the middle of our second day on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, we arrived at the Thorp Tunnels. Unlike the Hyak and Whittier tunnels of the day before, the state has not dedicated any funds to repairing these tunnels. It shows. The concrete at the entrances is crumbling and sections of wall inside have caved. It’s not exactly dangerous, but I wouldn’t call it safe, either. Don’t put me in one of those during an earthquake! In a surprising act of reasonableness, the state actually allows you to travel through these tunnels. There is an unsettling waiver of liability they ask you to sign before you do so, however.
For years, I’ve had the idea in my head that it would be fun to cycle the length of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, 110 miles from North Bend to the mighty Columbia River. Any plans I might have had got temporarily quashed in 2009 when state parks closed the five tunnels on the trail because of falling debris hazards. Flash forward to July 2013 … and all the tunnels are open again! Some have been repaired. Others are enter at your own risk.
As a newbie to Washington state (two years), I am amazed by the variety of cycling terrain available to explore here. Want mountains? You got 'em. Want valleys? You got 'em. Want islands? You got 'em. Want rollers? You got 'em. Want deserts? Well, you have to go over to the east side of the mountains, but you still got 'em. I know there are many other places in the world blessed with grand outdoor scenes, but this is the first place I’ve lived with such natural wonders just outside my door.
When Adventure Cycling Membership Director Julie Huck (that's her above) asked me to compile a piece about the all-time Top 5 Bike Overnights, my first thought was, "Oh, that'll be easy." After digging into it, however, I learned that it would be anything but easy.
Since BikeOvernights.org launched in February 2011, more than 100 stories have published on the site. They include tales from Alaska to Florida, from Hawaii to Vermont, from New Zealand to Holland. Stories from 35 states, three Canadian provinces, and an ever-growing number of foreign countries.
So I asked myself, Do I select the Top 5 Bike Overnights based on the quantity of comments they've received on the website? The number of "likes" they've gotten on Facebook? The number of times the blog post's link has been clicked through the Adventure Cycling home page? (If the final option were the criterion, Julie's own October 2012 post, Knitting Club Tackles Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, would come out near the top. And it definitely is one of the most entertaining and inspiring.)
Instead, I've opted to go for variety, and to pick my own favorites -- the ones I feel most directly address the goal of providing inspiration to get folks out on short bicycle tours. Not the most objective way to go about it, perhaps -- but, like I said, this wasn't easy.
1. First timer. It wasn't Heather Andrews' first Bike Overnight, but it was her first go-it-alone overnighter. And I love her description of the feelings of accomplishment she earned on her First Solo Bike Overnight: Champoeg State Park in Oregon. "It was extremely important to me to do this trip completely by myself," Heather writes, "from dreaming up the concept to unpacking my dirty socks. In the past I’ve fallen prey to messages that I couldn’t do such a thing for a host of reasons. Over the past two years in grad school I’ve proved many times over that I can get through anything. In fact, challenge usually finds me rising to the occasion and kicking it square on the bum. It was something I had forgotten about myself over the past decade."
2. Family. In Our First Ever Family Weekend of Wonderfulness, Elle Steele Bustamante writes about a ride she and her husband, along with their two young boys in tow, took from Sacramento to Folsom Lake on the American River Bike Trail. "Really, picture a nearby campground," Elle writes. "You probably wouldn't ever think to camp there as, let's face it, your own bed is much more comfortable. However, getting there by bike with all your gear strapped to the back -- that's wonderfully worthwhile." And reading Elle's story is wonderfully worthwhile, too.
3. Urban. Not all Bike Overnights take place in rural settings. Writes Byron Rushing in Atlanta to Stone Mountain Park, "Atlanta can be a tough town for cycling. In-town riding is accessible and convenient, but big roads and long distances often preclude comfortable trips beyond the city. However, the Stone Mountain Trail provides a nearly seamless connection from the inner neighborhoods to the state's most-visited park." The caption under one of Byron's photos captures what is perhaps his favorite advantage of a quick bike trip: "Overnighters mean not missing Sunday brunch with my sweetie."
4. Rail-trail. A favorite story of many readers, regardless of category, is Dreams of Herons on the I&M Canal Towpath (technically not on a rail-trail, but just about the same thing). In it, Bob Morgan writes eloquently about taking his eight-year-old grandson on an adventure: "He is a child of cities -- born in Milwaukee, living now in Chicago. He’s familiar with zoos and aquariums, museums and libraries, theaters and concert halls and galleries. His parents’ careers dictate city life at this point, so the boy’s outdoors consists of concrete canyons, city parks and playgrounds, urban rodents and pigeons. I take it as my duty to acquaint him with forests and prairies, rivers and lakes, and the creatures that crawl and leap and fly across the land."
5. Unique. Each and every Bike Overnight outing is unique, of course, but none is more unusual than A Trip to the Treehouses, by Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson. Kent and his wife ride to TreeHouse Point, located along the Raging River only a few miles from their home in Issaquah, Washington. "While some of the TreeHouses are huge and quite luxurious, our favorite TreeHouse -- the one that made Christine squeal with delight and say, 'Oh, I want one!' -- is a high perch known as the Hermitage. It's just big enough for a single chair and a small desk, and offers an incredible view of the river. The stairs leading up to the Hermitage are counter-balanced with a rope-and-river-rock mechanism that lets them pivot up for complete privacy."
Bonus #6: Off-Road. After coming up with five categories, I realized this sixth one should be included, as well. Some of the best Bike Overnights lack pavement and dish up spectacular scenery, like this New Zealand landscape in Paul Smith's story about a ride in the Rock and Pillar Range. The overnighter was so fun, so special, that it even ruined Paul for racing: "And what of my 12-hour solo race the following day?" he writes in closing his tale. "It ended after four hours. My heart was still up in the Rock and Pillar Range. I retired from racing that day and vowed to spend more time exploring backcountry New Zealand with my bike."
Indeed, a Bike Overnight can be a life-changer. Where and when was your favorite, or where and when will your first one take place?
Photo credits, from top to bottom: Julie Huck, Heather Andrews, Elle Steele Bustamante, Byron Rushing, Michael McCoy, Kent Peterson, Mike Wilson.
Start with a good weather forecast, add a room reservation at Mt. Rainier National Park's Paradise Inn and some bicycles, and you've got a recipe for a most excellent sub-24-hour Bike Overnight.
Our intention was to follow the grueling RAMROD route, but in two days instead of one. We would ride in a counter-clockwise fashion, 150 miles or so around the park, pedaling over two major hills for a total elevation gain of more than 10,000 feet. Some people call this two-day ride “wimp-rod," but with loaded touring bikes, it’s anything but wimpy!
Day 1 dawned cloudy, which was just fine by me. Riding in the summer heat can be exhausting. We rolled out of the Safeway parking lot in Enumclaw and headed toward the sleepy town of Buckley. The roads were flat and the traffic relatively light. Before long, we were enjoying the solitude of country roads near Lake Kapowsin. We took our first break at a public boat launch on the lake where we met the local sheriff and a sheriff-in-training. Both were quite friendly and advised us to ride Camp 1 Road for beautiful views of the surrounding landscapes. We agreed to follow up on the suggestion on our next ride in the area.
From the lake it was a short ride into Eatonville and the start of hand-to-hand combat to get to Highway 7. The Alder Road Cutoff is not for the faint-of-heart; there is no shoulder, and cars move quickly without much regard for bikes. But we rode defensively and made it through this section of the ride without incident.
Alder Lake and the eight-foot-wide shoulders along Highway 7 were a welcome sight.
We stopped in Elbe for the obligatory French fries at Scale Burger and were treated to the sight of the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad's steam train heading out on its afternoon tour. If you’ve never seen a steam train take off, it’s a pretty awesome. Very loud, actually. But cool. I was surprised to discover that even after it got going, we could ride our bikes faster than the train. Maybe it wasn’t at full throttle with its cargo of tourists.
We continued to roll east toward the park, and were happy to see the big log arch entrance, welcoming us to the beginning of the final 17 miles of our first day’s ride. We rolled along the twisty forested road through dappled sunlight to Longmire, where we took a brief break before what would prove to be one of the most grueling climbs I’ve ever tackled.
Beauty is commensurate with how hard you must work to find it, though. And Mt. Rainier is one spectacular mountain (even if we only got peekaboo views of the mountain itself on Saturday), offering a mix of sights to see.
We arrived at Paradise in plenty of time to enjoy a beer on the patio and chat with fellow tourists. We were both tourist attraction ("Wait, you rode your bikes here? Up that hill?!") and tour guides ("I'm from New York -- what should I visit tomorrow in Seattle?"). A ranger talk capped the evening and we dropped off to sleep, dreaming of the next day’s ride.
We intended to sleep in, but bright sunshine drove us from our beds at 7 a.m. No matter, when the mountain is out, there’s hiking to be done! After a big buffet breakfast, we headed out for a short hike to Myrtle Falls and Alta Vista. The mountain didn’t disappoint! Wildflowers, mountain vistas; this is what it’s all about!
Remembering that we had a many-thousand-foot descent ahead of us, we didn’t linger. The ride into Stevens Canyon was cold but oh-so-amazing! Twisty, mostly sans cars, and with views galore.
We stopped briefly to look at Box Canyon -- a river-carved slot hundreds of feet below the road.
Then it was on to the hardest part of the day’s ride -- the ascent over Cayuse Pass. Nick thought it was the most beautiful part of the ride. Long, winding, not too steep, and very rewarding. We were somewhat surprised to find no happy resting spot at the top for lunch. But we had another fast descent ahead, and the miles rolled quickly by until a more suitable spot presented itself.
There’s not much to say about the final 30 miles or so of the ride. Once you’re out of the park, cruising along Highway 410 to Enumclaw, it's just another busy road. We put our heads down and pedaled hard. Fortunately, it's still a bit downhill and it wasn’t long before we were pulling back into the Safeway parking lot, dreaming of a big bag of cherries to refuel us on our way home.
Was this ride worth it? Absolutely. I’ve grown up with Mt. Rainier in my back pocket, and it was amazing to experience the mountain at a different pace, on two wheels instead of two feet.
Tip for this adventure: The best (and cheapest!) rooms at Paradise Inn are in the old part of the lodge. They were renovated a few years ago and have great views of the mountain (when it's not cloudy). Camping is also available at Cougar Rock Campground, on the way to Paradise.
Favorite local bike shop: Eatonville Outdoor in Eatonville, Wash.
Martina, from Swift Industries, and I organized a group overnight to Tolt-MacDonald Park & Campground on a weekend in late June. The forecast was not looking like it was going to cooperate, but we decided “the trip must go on!” -- and gladly many of our new friends agreed. Our morning started off meeting in front of Husky Stadium, in Seattle, with eleven folks plus one (almost) one-year-old.
In mid-June Christine and I spent our "virtual weekend" (Wednesday and Thursday) on a few acres of land next to the Raging River at a wonderful place called TreeHouse Point. This place is not far from our home in Issaquah, Washington just over 8 miles as the bikes roll, and almost all of those miles traverse paths designated for non-motorized travel.