May 132017
 

Last weekend I hopped on my bike with camping gear in tow and went for a weekend jaunt out to the Snoqualmie Tree Farm. Starting at home in the Rainier Valley, I rode all the way out to the tree farm via the I-90 trail, Preston-Snoqualmie Trail, Snoqualmie Valley Trail, and various back roads. That took about half a day, and then I spent the latter half exploring the network of gated logging roads within the tree farm. On Sunday I did the same in reverse, except on the way back I decided to go around the north end of Lake Washington via the Snoqulamie Valley Trail, Tolt Pipeline Trail, and Burke-Gilman trail. Hauling the trailer over the steep hills of the Tolt Pipeline trail was no treat and I’m not sure that I would do that again. I was sore for several days after this trip.

More about the Snoqualmie Tree Farm: This is the area just west of the North Fork Snoqualmie River Road and drainage; it was owned by Weyerhaeuser for decades, but now is owned by Campbell Resources. The area is gated and generally closed to public access, but a non-motorized day use permit can be purchased for $8. Think of it as a capitalist version of a nature preserve. You won’t find pristine wilderness or rugged peaks in the Snoqualmie Tree Farm and the lakes are rather mediocre, but what is available are some fun roads to explore on a bike and relative solitude on a weekend. Many of these roads were originally logging railroads, so they are sort of rail-trails and nice to bike on. Camping is not officially permitted within the tree farm, but national forest land is available not far to the east.

Another feature is that it is relatively close to Seattle and a mere 33 mile bike ride from Columbia City to the mainline road gate, making it a perfect destination for a car-less weekend jaunt (although I wouldn’t recommend the Tolt Pipeline route).

Aug 212016
 

The top of Mt. Phelps

The top of Mt. Phelps

My Mount Phelps trip was a rousing success! Pictures are here.

I biked from SE Seattle to almost the end of the North Fork Snoqualmie Road pretty much per the Google bike directions. This route worked well except for the jaunt through Snoqualmie Ridge; the trail connecting the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail to Snoqualmie Ridge is quite steep and it dumped me into a terrible maze of subdivisions, golf courses, and gated communities. On the way back I elected to take the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and ride a short portion of SR-202 to Fall City, using 356th Dr SE, which was a much better way to go.

Once in the North Fork drainage I took the Weyerhauser Mainline Road to Gate 10 (per Google directions), which had quite a bit of truck traffic on a Thursday afternoon. At Gate 10 I switched over to the County Road, which was pretty dead on a Thursday, I think I only encountered one vehicle during the 2 or 3 hours that it took me to ride to (almost) the end. I considered camping at the confluence of the North Fork with Lennox Creek, where a bunch of roads branch off of the main road, but the place had an unsettling vibe to it and I continued up Road 5730, further towards my goal, in search of a campsite. This turned out to be a wise choice because the confluence became a shooting range on Friday evening. There aren’t any real great campsites up Road 5730, but thankfully I had my hammock with me and so I did not need a flat spot to pitch a tent. I found a spot about a mile up Road 5730 where a large washout had occurred within the past several years and there were lots of boulders to sit on and make a kitchen (complete with a water feature running through the kitchen), and some nearby trees provided perfect hammock attachments.

On Friday I took my bike, sans trailer, the last few miles up to the Blackhawk Mine site and stashed it in the bushes. As far as the scramble route up Phelps, someone has posted a route to openstreetmap.org which I pretty much followed on my GPS. There is a disconnected lower and upper portion of the posted route; once you reach the top of the lower route, the goat trail peters out then you have to bushwack and navigate to intercept the upper route. There is also some good info on the route here and here.

After finding the upper route, I was soon at the summit. I was treated to wonderful views of familiar peaks to the east, and although the air was somewhat hazy, I could vaguely make out a silhouette of Downtown Seattle to the west. It was Seafair weekend and I could see the contrails of the Blue Angles. Unlike many of the tall Cascade peaks, the summit of Phelps is quite spacious and there is room to explore and spread out. It’s like a small ridgeline oriented almost exactly perpendicular to an imaginary line between here and Downtown, which is why is has that prominent dome shape when looking at it from Seattle. I hung out at the summit for about two hours before heading back down. On the way down I instead descended a gully directly to the south of the peak, which short-cutted around most of the upper portion of the openstreetmap route; I think this was easier than the traverse connecting the upper and lower routes, but this way might be a bit tricky on an ascent because you have to find a specific spot to get through some cliff bands, and the spot is not apparent from below.

After another lovely evening in my impromptu campsite and a good nights sleep in the hammock, I packed up my bike and trailer and headed back towards Seattle. It was Saturday and there was a lot more traffic on the County Road, however this time I found a gated road that followed the east side of the Snoqualmie River between Wagner Bridge and Gate 10. This was a very nice way to go, no traffic on a weekend, better road surface, and I think less up & down than the county road. At Gate 10, I again took the Weyerhauser Mainline Road, and much less traffic here on a Sunday. From there I followed my route back home, minus the portion through terrible Snoqualmie Ridge.

Aug 042016
 

I am currently on my way to climb Mt. Phelps, using only human power to get there from home.

Mt. Phelps (incorrectly named “McClain Peaks” on Google and USGS maps) is a prominent dome-shaped peak clearly visible east of Seattle. I have had my eye on this peak for a while and it took some sleuthing to figure out what it was; there isn’t a whole lot of info about Mt. Phelps despite its distinctiveness on the skyline. The confusion over the naming doesn’t help matters.

image

Anyway, the plan is to ride with my bike and trailer about 55 miles up the North Fork Snoqualmie drainage today and camp out near the end of the road near the Blackhawk Mine. Tomorrow I’ll scramble Mt. Phelps and maybe explore around the area time permitting. Then Saturday I’ll ride home.

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Mar 272016
 

It’s never to early to start learning to Ski! Over this winter we took Elza up to Stevens Pass a couple of times to go Alpine skiing. We gave her some 80cm skis, a pair of small ski boots, and a harness, then took her up to the top of the hill and gave her a little push. Next thing you know she’s skiing like a pro (well, a 2-year old pro). We started on the Magic Carpet hill a few times and then graduated to Daisy and even one run on the Brooks Chair. Photographic evidence is attached.

Elza Ski 2 Elza Ski 1

Elza Ski 3 Elza Ski 4

We have also been taking her out on some nordic skiing adventures. On those trips, she rides in the Pulken.

Elza Ski 5 Elza Ski 6

Elza Ski 7 Elza Ski 8

Dec 282014
 

For three weeks from April 12 to May 4 last spring, Amie, Elza and I embarked on a grand road trip through California, Arizona, and southwestern Utah. Our home for these three weeks was a surplus vanpool van that my dad purchased some years ago and converted into a DIY camper of sorts. The van had a futon in the back, a secondary electrical system for running a cooler and lights, and lots of room for our stuff.

Since Elza likes to participate when either of us try to use a computer or use our phones, it has taken us quite a while to complete the documentation of our trip, also we took about 2,000 photos and going through all of them was not a trivial task. But here you go, better late than never.

Day 1; Friday April 11: Packing
We reserved an entire day for packing. I worked on some last-minute tweaks to the electrical and audio setup in the van. Then we loaded up the futon and the rest of our gear. The following three photos illustrate our van camping setup.
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Day 2; Saturday April 12: Drive to Portland
We loaded up the remaining few items into the van, grabbed the baby, and headed south towards Portland. In Portland we hung out at our friends JP and Sylvia’s house, walked their neighborhood on a pleasant spring evening, and found a food truck for dinner. We spent the night at JP & Sylvia’s place and got an early start the next day.
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Day 3; Sunday April 13: Drive to Big Bend, CA
We headed south on I-5 to Eugene as the sun rose over the Cascades, and had a nice brunch at the Morning Glory Cafe. Then, we took the scenic route through Klamath Falls and the Modoc National Forest. We wanted to stop at Howard’s Gulch campground for lunch, but we arrived to find it closed and instead we went up an unnamed gravel road on the other side of the highway and set up Elza’s high chair and used some scrap wood to make a picnic table. After lunch we hiked a bit up the road and scrambled up a columnar basalt outcropping. Along the road we found interesting obsidian and petrified wood specimens. We arrived in Big Bend just before dark; on the last few miles Elza informed us that she had enough car riding for one day.
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Day 4; Monday April 14: Hang out in Big Bend Hot Springs
Big Bend Hot Springs is officially closed to the public, but we had received an open invitation from our friend Seabrook to come visit. He welcomed us and took us on a lovely tour of the land. Big Bend Hot Springs has a collection of natural and developed hot springs, including one pool perched above the confluence of two rivers, and a geothermal well used for heating the buildings on site. The goal is to get the place up to code so that it can be opened to the public, but there is a lot of work to do to get improvements such as a fire suppression system installed, utility poles relocated, and going through permit review with the county.
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Day 5; Tuesday April 15: More Big Bend
Today we stayed in Big Bend for another day and helped out in Seabrook’s garden. this was the night of the full lunar eclipse, which we enjoyed from the Osprey Pool while Elza slept within range of the baby monitor; it was the perfect evening and a very special moment.
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Day 6; Wednesday April 16: Drive to Lafayette
We loaded up the van for a drive to the bay area to visit some friends in Lafayette, near Walnut Creek. The drive only took a few hours and we arrived in time for dinner.
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Day 7; Thursday April 17: 2nd day in Lafayette
Amie went to yoga with our friend at a fancy-pants yoga studio while Elza & Owen went on a hike in the hills adjacent to the property. It must have worked because Amie got carded while buying beer for Owen on the way home (just a few weeks before her 40th birthday).
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Day 8; Friday April 18: Lafayette Day 3
Today we just hung out and helped our friends set up for a big Easter party.

Day 9; Friday April 18: To Hemet
We quickly packed up and got a fairly early start. We would like to have taken the scenic route via Yosemite and Inyo National Forest, however that would have made for a long day and probably would have exceeded Elza’s daily driving time limit, so we found a compromise route via The 99, a nice alternative to The 5. We had an excellent lunch at an organic restaurant called Revive Cafe in Fresno. We thought it would be wise to avoid the Los Angles area on a Friday afternoon, so we took a route over Tehachapi Pass and descended into Hemet at sundown. Grandpa Dave met us at the door to the “ant farm” where he and Winnie live, and showed us to the guest quarters where we stayed for the next few days.
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Day 10; Saturday April 19: The Living Desert
We piled into Grandpa Dave’s Honda and all went to the Living Desert in Palm Springs. It was very hot in Palm Springs, but we survived and had a yummy dinner at Native Foods Cafe before heading back to Hemet.
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Day 11; Easter Sunday April 20
Elza, Amie, Grandpa Dave and I went to Diamond Valley Lake and took in the scenery. Unfortunately the Museum there was closed for Easter, so we went back to Hemet and then joined Winnie for an Easter Brunch. Elza took her first steps that evening in Dave & Winnie’s living room.
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Day 12; Monday April 21: To Arizona
We packed up the van, said our goodbyes to Grandpa Dave and Winnie, and then headed NNE into Arizona. We stopped at the Chamber of Commerce in Wickenburg, located in the old train station, and got some info on a short hike in Box Canyon on BLM land. We took a lovely evening hike down Box Canyon and saw a rattlesnake and lots of saguaros. The trailhead was pretty deserted (ha ha) and seemed like a fine place to camp, so we did.
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Day 13; Tuesday April 22: Watson Lake
We woke up to a lovely sunrise, and then continued NE towards Prescott. We went on a short day hike at Watson Lake amongst some interesting rock formations. After that, we drove to Dead Horse Ranch State Park (thankfully there were no dead horses there) and rented a cabin for a couple of nights. After we got ourselves settled down at the cabin, we hiked around the park in the evening as night fell.
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Day 14; Wednesday April 23: Verde Valley Railroad and on to Sedona
In the morning, we did some much-needed laundry in Cottonwood; Elza had a grand time running around the laundromat while we waited. Then, we took an excursion on the Verde Valley Scenic Railway. After that we set off towards Sedona. We had a fine dinner at Ken’s Creekside in Sedona, then bummed around looking for a place to camp. Finding a place to camp/park was difficult. Sedona is a rather hoidy-toidy place with no-camping ordinances and signs everywhere and few sanctioned camping options available. Finally we found a turnout on a dirt road just outside the city limits that didn’t have any threatening “no camping” signs and seemed fairly out of the way.
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Day 15; Thursday April 24: Boynton Canyon
We woke up early and went on a hike at Boynton Canyon. Boynton Canyon is a popular hike, but for good reason. The hike starts out in a narrow red rock canyon, that is, after you hike around the enormous and gaudy Enchantment Resort that sits in the entrance to the valley. The trail ends at a high point with modest views, but we scrambled a little bit past the official end of the trail and found much better views. Thanks to some info from others on the trail and the topo maps I had downloaded to my phone, we located and visited some impressive cliff dwellings. That evening we camped at Cave Spring Campground (featuring an actual spring in a cave) and cooked a delicious dinner.
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Day 16; Friday April 25: Oak Creek Hike
Today we went on a hike at West Fork Oak Creek, just a bit south of Cave Springs Campground. This hike winds through a narrow canyon with one of the area’s only year-round streams. The trail crosses the stream about 14 times before ending at a submerged canyon, where the signage encourages most visitors to turn around at this point. We, however, took off our hiking boots and waded through the canyon, with Elza on Owen’s back on the way in and on Amie’s back on the way out. This was the most beautiful and interesting part of the hike. We saw what we think was a Milk Snake on the trail too. After the hike, we drove north through Flagstaff and then into the night where we camped at a desolate location between Flagstaff and Page after the van’s headlights cut out a couple times while driving in the pitch dark (this was later fixed with an old T-shirt and duct tape).
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Day 17; Saturday April 26: Antelope Canyon
We woke up bright & early and had mediocre breakfast in Page, then we went on a guided tour of Antelope Canyon, a popular and impressive slot canyon, situated in the eerie shadow of the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station. The weather was cloudy with light rain. We took a lot of photos. After that we drove west towards Zion National park and cruised into Springdale looking for a place to stay the night. This proved challenging and we ended up cooking dinner in the town park and then parking overnight in a place on the side of the highway signed ‘no camping’ (we were simply parking…)
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Day 18; Sunday April 27: Zion
We spent this day exploring Zion National Park. The place was a zoo, even in early spring. The variety of people visiting this park was almost more interesting than the scenery and natural beauty. The most common wildlife sighting was of several species of gray squirrel, and almost every one had at least one human taking a video of it. Zion has a very nice shuttle system used to access the lower canyon area. A benefit of the shuttle system is that it allows a visitor to take a one-way hike and end up at a different trailhead. We went on a hike to Emerald Pools and then caught another shuttle to the Temple of the Sinawava at the end of the canyon. After that we returned to the van and then drove through the Mount Carmel tunnel to the east end of the park. The eastern portion of the park actually looked like a more interesting place to explore, but we had to continue eastward towards Bryce Canyon to stay on schedule. We found a very nice campsite in the Dixie National Forest just NW of Bryce Canyon National Park.
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Day 19; Monday April 28: Bryce Canyon
A dusting of snow greeted us in the morning at our campsite, a result of being at 7000+’ elevation. We quickly whipped up some breakfast, packed up, and ventured into Bryce Canyon National Park. We checked out the visitor center and then went on a nice loop hike through the Queens Garden. Bryce was much less crowded than Zion; the campgrounds weren’t even open yet. After the hike, we checked out a little bit more of the park, decided that it all looked the same, and then drove eastward towards the Escalante drainage. We camped that night at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park.
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Day 20; Tuesday April 29: Slot Canyons in Escalante
Since we were staying at the Petrified Forest State Park, we of course had to check out the petrified forest. We hiked the lovely loop trail and saw some really cool petrified logs. Then we headed to the Escalante-Grand Staircase Visitor Center to get some beta on good places to explore in the area. The rangers there were very helpful. We wanted to explore a slot canyon more off the beaten path, but also baby-compatible. They steered us to a trailhead that accessed three different slot canyons, called Dry Fork, Peek-a-Boo, and Spooky. This sounded like a fun adventure so we stocked up on supplies at the fabulous Escalante Mercantile & Natural Foods Store, and then headed down the Hole in the Rock Road. This was a horribly washboarded rough road and we could drive the van no faster than 20-25 mph without rattling our brains out; the trailhead was 30 miles down this road. Along the way we stopped at Devil’s Garden and roamed around for a bit. The hike to the slot canyons was pretty easy compared to that horrid drive. But the canyons were spectacular. Peek-a-boo had an exposed climb at the beginning that we didn’t feel safe carrying the baby through, but Spooky was fun to explore. It was so narrow that Owen had to take Elza out of the backpack and hold her above his head to negotiate the narrow canyon. Then we checked out the Dry Fork Canyon, which wasn’t as narrow but goes on for quite a ways. We had to turn around because it was starting to get late and we weren’t sure exactly where we would be camping that night. We ended up camping near Dry Fork wash just a little ways down the Hole in the Rock Road.
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Day 21; Wednesday April 30: Escalante Canyon
We started off the morning by driving back up the horrid Hole in the Rock Road; along the way we checked out some cool dinosaur footprints. Then we headed east on Highway 12 to the point where it crosses the Escalante River. From there we hiked up the Escalante Canyon a few miles to an impressive arch formation, and checked out a view of a cliff dwelling, where we turned around. We tried to camp nearby at Calf Creek campground, but it was hopelessly full. Instead we continued up highway 12 for a bit until we found a nice spot on a gravel road just off the highway.
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Day 22; Thursday May 1: Lower Calf Creek Falls
We began today by backtracking a bit on highway 12 and hiked on the Calf Creek Trail to Lower Calf Creek Falls. It was a pretty hot day, and the mist from the falls created a nice oasis where we ate lunch. Elza ran around in the sand and boulders around the plunge pool and thoroughly enjoyed herself. We saw some impressive petroglyphs along the trail. After the hike we headed north on Highway 12, stopped at the Anasazi State Park Museum in Boulder, UT, and then continued to Torrey, UT where we stayed at a nice hotel and had dinner at Cafe Diablo.
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Day 23; Friday May 2: Capitol Reef
We took a quick drive through Capitol Reef National Park, through the main road and then down the scenic drive to the Pioneer Register, stopping at several scenic turnouts along the way. We didn’t have much time to go on any day hikes, but it seemed like this park was pretty well set up for auto-touring. After exploring Capitol Reef, we headed northwesterly, through some terrible traffic in the Provo/Salt Lake City area, and then made it as far as Pocatello before the Baby’s driving time limit expired. We found an inexpensive motel in Pocatello and crashed there for the night.
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Day 24; Saturday May 3: Craters of the Moon
We started out by heading north out of Pocatallo towards Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve. We checked out the visitor center and then hiked around the Devil’s Orchard. Then we checked out the spatter cones. Unfortunately, Amie twisted her ankle in one of the spatter cones. Due to the spatter cone injury, the unruly baby, and general malaise, we decided not to explore the lava tubes. After Craters of the Moon, we continued northwesterly towards Boise, where we had an early dinner, then continued north through eastern Oregon and back into Washington State. We pulled into the Selah Creek Rest Area on I-82 late and crashed there for the night.
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Day 25; Sunday May 4: Home
A beautiful sunrise greeted us at what must be the rest area with the best view in all of Washington State. After utilizing the facilities, we pulled back onto the interstate and were back home before 9:00 AM. Then the unpacking began…
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Nov 172013
 

Appleton Pass

Small lake at Appleton Pass

Over the weekend following Halloween, Evan & I went on a 3-day backpacking adventure to Olympic Hot Springs. Elza has been keeping me busy over the summer, and this was the first backpacking trip I have been able to do this year.

Normally, the springs are accessed via a short 2-mile hike from the Elwha River Road and are a popular destination. However, due to the Elwha Dam removal project, the hot springs have been much more difficult to reach over the past 3 or so years. Currently, the only way to access the hot springs is to start in the Sol Duc Valley and hike about 13 miles over Appleton Pass. Due to the longer hike and the fact that it was November, we expected to see very few, if any, other folks at the springs. It was a unique opportunity to have the springs to ourselves and see them in a more natural state since having a greatly reduced number of visitors.

On Thursday evening after work, I met Evan on the Bainbridge ferry and we drove to Port Angeles. There we had dinner with Evan’s friends (Bridgid & Casey) and spent the night at their house.

On Friday morning, we drove to the Sol Duc trailhead and started hiking up the valley, past the iconic Sol Duc Falls, and then up the Appleton Pass Trail, gaining about 3000′ elevation. We reached Appleton Pass around 2:30pm and ate lunch. There was just a little bit of snow up at the pass on Friday, but quite a bit more dumped during the storm on Saturday.

Appleton Pass Trail

Lightly-used trail north of Appleton Pass

After lunch and exploring a little lake at the pass, we began the descent down the Boulder River drainage towards Olympic Hot Springs, losing the 3000′ that we had just gained. Along the way, we found an abundance of edible mushrooms, including Chanterelles, unusually large Hedgehogs, Hericium, and Sparassis crispa. We picked as much as we could reasonably eat in the next two days. We arrived at Boulder River camp (adjacent to the hot springs) just before it got dark. We quickly set up camp, ate a yummy dinner including wild mushrooms, and then went for a soak before turning in for the night.

On Friday night, it started raining hard. A small pool formed under our tent and we and our stuff got a little wet. Thankfully we had set up a tarp over our cooking area the night before and we had a semi-dry place to hang out and make an oatmeal breakfast on Saturday morning. We were expecting the weather to be crummy today, but we didn’t have any plans other than soaking in the hot springs, and that’s what we did for almost the whole day.

Soaking in the Springs

Soaking in the springs on a stormy day

The springs have been receiving much less visitor traffic since the road closure, and some of the smaller springs have reverted to a more natural state, with colorful algae blooms and moss covering the rocks lining the pools. We soaked in two of the better/larger/deeper pools. As we soaked in the lovely warm water, the rain poured on our heads and we watched the wind whip through the valley, making us slightly concerned about trees falling. Due to the weather, we had little incentive to leave the springs and we spent almost the whole day soaking. My fingers and toes were reduced to prunes. Around 5:00, we decided that we should return to camp and start cooking dinner.

Upon returning to camp, we discovered that the wind had its way with our rain tarp, it was all twisted up and my stove has hopelessly tangled in the ropes. After about 20 minutes carefully extracting the stove from the ropes, we began cooking another yummy wild mushroom feast.

Storm damage

Storm damage at camp

Saturday night, the rain finally began to taper off. On Sunday morning we quickly broke camp and headed out as the clouds parted and the sun came out. All-in-all, it was a highly successful trip despite stormy weather and an ambitious amount of hiking distance/elevation. The weather cooperated when we really needed it to, and we had the whole place to ourselves.

May 242013
 

I successfully rode about 250 miles from Blewett Pass to Coeur d’Alene, ID. The route I took wasn’t exactly the one that I originally planned. Unfortunately the Google directions took me through some gnarly and questionable back roads, so I ended up mainly sticking to Highway 2. Here’s the three-day account:

Wednesday

Old Blewett Highway

Old Blewett Highway

In the morning, I hopped on my bike and BOB trailer loaded with camping gear and rode to work. It was pouring down rain and I was instantly drenched. After a busy day at work, I met some friends on King Street behind my office, where I loaded my bike and BOB into their Grand Cherokee. We headed over a snowy Snoqualmie Pass, I treated them to a Mexican dinner in Cle Elum, and then they dropped me off near Blewett Pass. This was the second weekend in Apri, too early in the season to be riding over these passes; lots of snow and the Snoqualmie Tunnel is closed until May 1, so I needed this boost to get me started.

It was raining during most of the drive, but it cleared up as soon as we approached Blewett Pass, thanks to a handy rainshadow effect. It was, however, dark when we reached the pass, so I quickly found a place to camp near an old mine powerhouse, set up my tent in the dark and then went to sleep.

Thursday

Apple Orchards

Through the blossoming apple orchards

I woke up at a semi-reasonable hour and started riding downhill on Highway 97. Shortly thereafter I reached Highway 2 and then consulted Gaia GPS, my mapping app. I followed mostly local roads eastward along the Wenatchee River, occasionally having to follow the highway.

Soon I reached Cashmere. I followed signs to “Riverside Park” hoping to find a bathroom, water, and power outlet. However, Cashmere proved to not be very fruitful. The bathroom was locked, the outdoor outlets were turned off, and the taps required a water key. Thankfully I carry a water key with me, but I had to move on to meet the other two needs.

Next stop was Wenatchee. I hung out at Confluence State Park for a while to recharge myself and my phone, then headed south along the Columbia Trail. My original plan had been to ride south from Wenatchee and up through the Moses Coulee via Palisades. However due to a sort-of late start and spending too much time navigating, I wasn’t making as much progress as I had hoped. It was about 1:15pm when I rolled past the Columbia Transit Center, and I knew from my prior route research that a Link Transit bus would be leaving here for Waterville at 1:30. After some negotiation with the bus driver about putting BOB on the bus (it actually fit perfectly in the wheelchair area in the back of the coach) I decided to warp myself to Waterville, giving myself over 2000′ elevation gain for $2.50. It was kind of like using one of those warp tubes in the video game Super Mario Brothers.

Pavement Ends

Then a gravel road

Paved Road

Nice paved road

In Waterville, a strong wind was blowing from the west; thankfully this was blowing the same direction that I was traveling, which would give me a nice tailwind. From Waterville, I headed east along a Rd 3 NW, which was nicely paved initially, but then became gravel after a few miles. The gravel surface wasn’t that difficult to ride on, except for the downhill sections where I would be tempted to pick up considerable speed causing my bike and trailer shimmy back and forth in a dangerous fashion.

After a few white-knuckled descents, I decided to head back to the nice paved Highway. There wasn’t much traffic on this stretch of Highway 2, so it was actually a pleasant ride. After a few more miles of rolling wheat fields, the highway made a dramatic descent into the northern part of Moses Coulee. I stopped for a late lunch in the sagebrush at the bottom of the coulee. Then I had to gain about 1000′ to rise out of the coulee and back into rolling wheat fields.

Banks Lake

Descending towards Banks Lake and Coulee City


With assistance from the tailwind that helped me all day, I arrived in Coulee City at about 6PM. I found a local diner and had a yummy chili burger for dinner. After dinner, I rode south along Pinto Ridge Rd, intending to find a nice unimproved campsite in the BLM land located just south of Coulee City. As I was riding up the grade on Pinto Ridge Road, my left knee began to complain; I think that this was because my bike seat was set too low. I found a spur road off of Pinto Ridge Road and followed it west for about a mile until intercepting an old Railroad Grade. This seemed like a reasonable place to camp so I spent a few minutes searching out a flat spot devoid of rocks and cow poop, and pitched my tent there just before nightfall.

BLM Camp Moonset Irrigation Tunnel

Friday

Hwy 2

Back on Hwy 2

I woke up at a not-too-early hour, made an oatmeal breakfast, packed up, and headed back towards Pinto Ridge Road. My original plan for this day was to take a leisurely and scenic route via back roads through the Coffeepot Lake area, and then Camp somewhere near the Tilford Creek Recreation area about 50 miles east of here (as Hwy 2 flies). However, my knee started bothering me again as soon as I began riding up the gravel spur road. I took this opportunity to raise my seat, which helped but the knee was still complaining. Therefore I decided to take the easy route and headed back towards Coulee City and Hwy 2, with its guaranteed pavement.

A benefit of following Hwy 2 is that the route is peppered with a handful of small towns around 10 miles apart. A standard feature of these towns is a town park somewhere near the town center, and generally with water, power, bathrooms, picnic table, and sometimes even a picnic shelter. These parks provide nice opportunities for rest breaks; I took full advantage of many of these parks since I only needed to go about 50 miles today.

Govan Schoolhouse

Old schoolhouse near Govan

Lunch Spot

Lunch spot in the lava

After passing through Almira, I thought I would try a shortcut along some backroads south of Wilbur. I attempted to evaluate the road surfaces on the Google aerial photo via my phone; this technique worked fairly well, sometimes I could pick out the yellow centerline and confirm that a road was paved. The shortcut I picked out looked like it would be mostly paved with a short section of gravel. The shortcut took me through the town of Govan, then became gravel. I found a spot along this road with interesting lava formations, and stopped there for lunch. After lunch I continued down Crick Rd. After fording a creek, the road appeared to dead end at someone’s farm house. Upon inspecting later on Google Earth, it looked like the road did continue, but today there was a large truck parked on the public road and it looked more like someone’s driveway, so I turned around and headed back through Govan and back to Highway 2.

Creston Picnic Shelter

Nice Picnic Shelter in Creston

After passing through Wilbur, some rain clouds started rolling through and it started to sprinkle. When I reached Creston, the rain was coming down pretty hard and the wind blowing somewhat-fierce. It was about 5:00 pm, and I was about 7 miles from the Tilford Recreation area where I was planning to camp, but the weather conditions made me rethink my plans. I found the town park next to Town Hall, it sported a very nice picnic shelter, complete with walls to block the wind, a stone fireplace in the center, and a bunch of flat benches that could be moved around. Water was available in front of the fire station on the same block. This place seemed pretty luxurious and pretty low-key, so I decided I would camp here for the night and make an early exit before anyone would notice or complain about my presence.

I made a nice veggie tofu stir fry with curry couscous for dinner, paired with Coors Banquet Beer from the local mini mart. After dinner, I put three of the benches together behind the fireplace, making a very cozy bunk. The rain subsided as night fell and I got a good nights sleep.

Saturday

The weather forecast indicated showers after 11am today, so I figured that I should get an early start for a change. I woke up at 5:30am, ate an energy bar breakfast, restored the picnic shelter furniture back to its original configuration, and pulled out of Creston by 7:00 (before the town sheriff might come around and kick me out). The skies were clear, but it was very windy and cold. Usually I have to shed layers after I get going, but this time I had to bundle up more after riding a few miles down the highway.

Sunset Highway

Original pavement on the Sunset Highway

I reached the Tilford Rest Area within a few minutes. It was incredibly cold and windy here; so cold that my phone battery went from 100% to 0% charge after 5 minutes of use. Again I was thankful that the wind was blowing in my direction of travel. This rest area was near the Tilford recreation area where I had wanted to camp before last night’s downpour. I thought about spending some time exploring the area, but I was eager to make forward progress, plus the chilly wind was not all that inviting. The nice volunteers at the “free coffee” stand at the rest area gave me some coffee, a charge to revive my phone, and a baggie of oatmeal cookies.

Next town was Davenport, which had a small park with a gazebo and fine restrooms. After Davenport I found myself on the old “Sunset Highway” with its original concrete slab pavement with absolutely no shoulder. Thankfully there was virtually no traffic on this relic of a roadway.

At Reardan, I had a choice to make. I could just stay on Hwy 2 which would have been the easiest and most direct route to Spokane, however it seemed like Hwy 2 would become a busy 5-lane suburban arterial approaching Spokane. A more interesting and scenic route seemed to be to head north from Reardan and take Coulee Hite Rd to the Centennial Trail. I had been in communication with Amie’s sister, Wendy, and found out that she would be in Coeur d’Alene this afternoon and could pick me up there, which gave me some more flexibility today.

Muddy Road

The going got tough

I headed north along highway 231, and then hoped to take Spring Creek Grange Rd road east to connect to Coulee Hite Rd. Once again I found myself on a steep dirt road. A local resident out mowing his lawn told me that the road was pretty muddy in spots, but he assured me that it did go through, so I pressed on.

After some pushing up hills and circumnavigating around some mud holes, I made it to Coulee Hite Rd. The climate transitioned from high grassy plains to Ponderosa Pine forest as I made a lovely descent into the Spokane River Valley.

Soon I reached the Centennial Trail and began riding SE towards Spokane following the Spokane River valley. I quickly realized that I had made two miscalculations about the Centennial Trail: 1) The Spokane river flowed SE to NW, which meant that I would be riding upriver rather than downriver like I was expecting, and 2) the trail was not the railroad grade that I was anticipating, with many ups & downs along the way.

Centennial Trail

Putting the handlebars to the grindstone on the Centennial Trail

I took a shortcut through Spokane along Sinto Ave and stopped at Mission Park for lunch. Then I made the final push to Idaho along the Centennial Trail. I was running later than expected due to the Centennial Trail miscalculations noted above. Thankfully, the threat of rain this afternoon never materialized.

State Line

Success: The WA/ID border

I was riding at full throttle just shy of Coeur d’Alene when I heard a voice shout “Hey Owen!” It was William, Amie’s nephew. Wendy, William, and Anna intercepted me on the trail and we loaded my bike and Bob into Wendy’s pickup. I was whisked northward to Sandpoint and directly to a winter wonderland at Schweitzer Mountain where Amie and her family were staying for the weekend.

The adventure wasn’t quite over. As soon as I arrived, the whole family headed down for dinner at a nice restaurant on the mountain while I changed out of my stinky clothes. When I took my shirt off, Amie noticed two dark spots wiggling on my torso. Ticks! I was not amused, but everyone else was sitting at the table ready to order dinner, so dealing with the ticks would have to wait. I feasted an a fine salmon dinner while the ticks feasted on me. After dinner, Amie’s mother (a former dental hygienist) expertly and successfully removed both ticks while William and Anna observed from a distance.

Amie & I slept soundly in our own room that night.


IMG_2494 IMG_2512 IMG_2514



Sunday & Monday

We spent the day hanging out around Schweitzer, going to the hot tub, going snowshoeing, and then hung out at Amie’s grandparent’s house for a while waiting for our train to arrive. The westbound Empire Builder was on time and we boarded it around midnight. We had a sleeping car room and slept soundly until Monday morning when we ate breakfast through the Cascade Tunnel.

We arrived at King Street Station a few minutes early around 9:30AM. I had some pressing tasks to complete at work, so I walked across the street to my office, took a shower, and got caught up, while Amie took the bus home.

Unfortunately, it was impossible for me to take my bike home on Amtrak, since there is no checked baggage service at Sandpoint (and even if there was, I would have had to partially disassemble my bike and put it in a box). So I was relying on family members to give my bike and BOB a lift back to Seattle. During this period, I had only my fixed-gear bike available for transportation. It took almost as long to get my bike back as it took me to write this blog post (the bike won by about 3 days).

Apr 112013
 

I am currently headed east towards Sandpoint, ID with my bike and BOB trailer. It’s a little early to ride over the mountains, so I coerced some friends into dropping me off near Blewett pass. From there I’ll head north and then east, following backroads through the channeled scablands of Eastern Washington. The plan is to arrive in Sandpoint Saturday evening or Sunday morning, where Amie will be hanging out with family.

I’m hoping for dry spring weather, but the forecast is looking a
little iffy on Saturday. I might need to bail in Spokane and have Amie come pick me up.

You can view the route I have planned to take in Google Earth by downloading this KML file:

toSPT.kml

Jan 062013
 

Quarter Circle Bridge

Snowshoeing on the Quarter Circle Bridge


Amie & I returned from a family vacation in Whitefish, MT, over New Years, where we embarked on a trifecta of winter activities. In attendance was Dad and Beth, Jack, Jain and Moira, Shawn, Amie and I.

First, we went snowshoeing in Glacier National Park. We followed the Quarter Circle Bridge Road for a few miles along the Middle Fork Flathead River, near the Apgar Visitor Center, ate lunch at a stand of convenient logs near a creek crossing, and then returned. On the way back, Amie spotted a growth of Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), a fungus known for its medicinal properties, on a Birch Tree. I attempted to harvest some with a small knife, and was able to get about a half-cup.

Four Nordic Skiing

Four Nordic Skiing at Stillwater


The next day, New Year’s Eve, some of us went nordic skiing at Stillwater Mountain Lodge. Stillwater has a semi-extensive network of trails that are nicely groomed for track skiing. Amie & I had to rent nordic skis in town since we don’t own this equipment. We went up the longest trail, the “Hellroaring Highway” and had a lovely time. My thighs were sore after that activity.

On our last day we went skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort at Big Mountain, more colloquially known as just Big Mountain. Amie and & telemarked while Jack and Moira went alpine. My telemark skills are slowly improving; I can get down the intermediate runs using so-so telemark technique, but on the advanced runs or steeper areas, I resort to cheating with mock-alpine technique.

Frozen Goat

Frozen Goat at Big Mountain


To get to Whitefish and back Amie and & took Amtrak’s Empire Builder. We splurged for a roomette in the sleeper car, which is a great way go because the train leaves in the evening and you arrive at your destination the next morning, going both directions. Both trains arrived on-time, which is a minor miracle, however we had to take motorcoaches between King Street Station and Everett, due to recent landslides across the tracks.

We returned to Seattle on January 2, where we were greeted with sunny and clear skies. That evening, I took a lovely soak in the outdoor clawfoot tub.

You may have noticed that my blog has been pretty neglected as of late. I have been working on something bigger related to my online presence, which will be revealed as soon as I actually get it to a somewhat-finished state. Stay tuned…