Make sure that I have enough to eat and don't kill me, were Jenny's only two request when I ran the idea of the of riding down the heart of the Washington Cascade Volcano's to the Columbia River past her. Many of my friends would cower away from such a challenge, but Jenny dived in with blind trust; thus was born the Cascadian Tour. I am a lucky man indeed.
A leisurely trail ride on the the Chehalis-Western Trail from Olympia to the town of Rainier left us some options of how to reach the town of Ashord where we would dive south for a 100 mile tour into the Pinnot Gifford National Forest and the heart of the Washington Cascade Volcanos. Google maps sent us on a wild goose chase to a bridge over the Nisqually River that had washed out in 1990. Stupidity should hurt a little I say and a 20 mile backtrack reminded me again of the limitations of technology and why I should really do my homework before heading out on an adventure. Tallboys of cold cider and salty chips for dinner at Alder Lake were a welcome treat after 25 miles of less-than-ideal road riding south on WA 7.
After a slow morning with lots of coffee and an ice cream for lunch in Ashford and we were rolling south on Skate Creek Road for twenty-five serene miles of low-traffic riding through the Tatoosh Wilderness under a canopy of thriving Northwest macro flora. In Packwood we bought enough groceries for a couple days and chatted with a local guy who confirmed my backroad shortcut into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest wouldn't dead end. Ten miles of climbing on Forest Service Road 23 in the early evening light found us bathing in the frigid waters of the Cispus River and burning piles of trash left behind by travelers who are either unconcerned, or uninformed of wilderness leave no trace ethics. For my own sanity I must choose to believe it to be later, but left this place saddened by the manner in which my people treat the wilderness that I hold most sacred.
The morning dawned bright and warm as we began our climb on to the western shoulder of Mount Adams. Pavement gave way to gravel as the incline steepened and the tree's grew shorter, exposing us to the heat of the midday sun.
Maybe this wasn't such a great tour route after all, I thought to myself as a huge pickup rolled past kicking up a cloud of fine dust and obscuring Jenny from my view just 100 meters behind me. I pulled over and waited a minute for Jen catch-up. I knew the answer to my question before I asked by the look on Jen's dust coated face, but somehow felt the need to ask anyhow.
You doing alright?
No Matt, this f&*%#^g sucks.
Not exactly the sentiment that I was hoping for on the first week of our year-long bike tour, but she had a good point. If there are two things that I have learned in my years of marriage to Jen is that food helps everything and that my wife is about twice as strong as she believes. A bottle of water, a snack and a glance at the map reassuring that the loose climbing would end in 1000 feet lifted spirits a little and delivered us over 4350 foot Baby Shoe Pass into stunning views of Mount Adams to the east. Fresh fire roasted trout, whisky shots, interesting conversations with the locals and a fine night of sleep at Council Lake refueled our tanks. An early start and a couple miles of feathering the breaks downhill delivered us to the salvation of pavement and an epic decent through Trout Lake, into the fertile White Salmon River Valley, and the mighty Columbia River beyond. A short hitchhike across the un-cyclable Hood River Bridge found us hiding from the afternoon sun sipping beers at the Double Mountain Brewery.
Sometimes no plan turns out to be the best plan, and this was certainly the case as we rolled through town that evening in search of a place to pitch our tent. I crested the hill on State Street into a strong headwind and a man called out from across the street.
Where are you guys headed?
Good question, I responded. Where would be a good place to pitch my tent?
The man turned and pointed to the house behind him, How about right back here in my yard?
After returning from a beer run to Safeway, our new friend Mac had upgraded our accommodations to the second story bedroom of his home with stunning views of the Columbia Gorge and Mount Adams to the north. The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me and renews faith in humanity.
We spent a lazy morning tooling around Hood River and did some route research at the public library before spinning west into to 35 mph headwinds ripping up the Columbia Gorge. Fifteen miles of riding on the wide shoulders of Interstate 84 into Wyeth allowed us to access the Historic Route 30 and the most magnificent scenic ride on bike paths and low traffic roads into the city of Portland.
A couple days of camping in the Bruya's backyard in Saint Johns has allowed Jen and I to relax a little, mail more unneeded stuff home, ride the city without the burden of the mobile home show and feel grounded in the company of folks we share some history with. It has been the most enjoyable visit I prepare to depart with a lasting affection for this place.
The temperatures are said to be heading into the nineties this week; guests and fish start to smell after three days as well. It is time to hit the road and head for the coast where hopefully sunshine will grace our days and fair winds will blow us south to the city of San Francisco.