And here's the elevation profile . . .
You may have noticed that the total distance we would be covering is just over 50 miles. In four days. Elevation profile notwithstanding, I couldn't imagine, at the outset, how a trip that averaged just 12-13 miles a day could be even moderately challenging. But I was intrigued by the scenery and the chance to get out and bikepack in some remote areas. I packed a book, so I would have something to do during all the downtime. Heh, heh, in 20/20 hindsight, what a fool I feel like, as I type the previous sentence.
The genesis of the trip was some casual conversation with my just-acquainted fellow fatbiker Ward, at the 2nd Annual Northwest Fatbike Meet last October. At the time, it was just some dreamy brainstormy chat about possible ride/adventure/get-together ideas, as groups of bike freaks are wont to chat about. Over the winter, Ward began planning in earnest, and by February, he'd sent out an email invite to a short list of folks. I wasn't yet gonzo bonkers in love with my at-the-time vision of this trip, but interested enough that I committed. Over the next few weeks, we set the date.
In the meantime, Ward sent out a link to a video he made from footage he shot during a trip covering a part of the route last year.
The effect of the video on me was profound; I went from lukewarm to full-tilt all-in on this trip.
Ward and I had some discussion about managing the size of the group that might be interested in coming along; the trip was not going to be conducive to a large group, but at the same time he wanted people that were really interested to have the opportunity. The other aspect that had to be somewhat managed was the level of bikepacking and/or wilderness experience in general that people had. This would not be the proper trip for getting your bikepacking feet wet.
This was Ward's trip, and in light of the considerations above, I had no business "recruiting". However, I wanted to leak a bit of news, in case there were people in my circles that needed to go. So I posted Ward's video to my blog and made a coupla other references to the upcoming trip. A co-worker, Joe, bit. Hard. He committed strong and never wavered. It was good to have someone local to be going with and even better that we worked together; sharing plans and details in the weeks leading up to the trip fueled the anticipation.
The balance of the group that threw down on this adventure was an amazing collection of folks. Let me do some introducing of the All-Washington All-Star team:
Ward, from the Yakima area, is the mastermind behind this excursion. Without his planning, it would not been possible, as it involved a knowledge of the area that has been accumulated over years. In addition to his planning skills, he's an all-around great guy; his enthusiasm is infectious and his generosity is out of this world . . .
|Yep, that's a badass Salsa cap, from before Salsa was cool. Ward's not letting it go quietly. Obviously.|
Randy, from Stanwood, north of Seattle, is a long-time friend of Ward's, and the two have shared many an outdoor adventure. Randy is a master shuttle commander (explanation to follow) as well as a trail cuisine magician (trust me when I tell you there was a fair amount of envy at meal time). It was a pleasure hanging out with this super dude on this trip . . .
Spokane Joe and I have known each other for a few years and we're well aware of each others' bike passions. Despite that, this would be the first time that we had ever ridden together. Reason being, we're in different leagues, meaning, I can't keep up with him. But this winter, he had a bad skiing accident and tore up a bunch of ligaments in his knee, which drastically changed his plans and outlook for the coming year. While waiting for surgery (scheduled for next week), he was able to work his knee back into riding shape, and this trip became a worthwhile goal and an outlet for re-focusing his athletic and bike nerd passions, I think. It was great to hang out with him and finally get that ride in together . . .
Stu is from the Tri-Cities area and knows Ward because they both hang out at the White Pass area in the winter. Stu is a ski patroller up there and it was a comfort to have his outdoor emergency medical skills along for the ride. Stu is your total can-do guy and his expertise in packing a lightweight gear setup had me consumed with jealousy on many a climb. It was great fun getting to know Stu and hanging out with him on this journey . . .
Chris is from Wenatchee, and a friend of Randy's. He's a long time mountain biker and has done stints in bike shops. He's also quite involved with the Central Washington chapter of the Evergreen Bicycle Alliance. His greatest assets though, may be his "just in time" philosophy regarding bike maintenance and his totally laid back attitude and not only willingness, but enjoyment, of rolling with the punches. It was a pleasure sharing this adventure with him . . .
Megan and Steve, a.k.a. the "Beer Fairies", are from the Ellensburg area and although they weren't able to make the whole trip, they joined up with us on the trail, camped with us the last night, and we all rode out to Vantage together. They have a great knowledge of the area, and they're shuttle commanders, to boot. They're friends of Ward, and now friends of ours, as well. Flat out fantastic people . . .
So with that, I conclude my introduction. On to the telling of the actual story, then, which will be done over the course of four posts, each covering one day of the trip. In the meantime, here are some preview pics:
Day One . . .
|Randy (L), Ward (R)|
Day Two . . .
|Stu (L), Chris (R). Randy, Ward and Joe heading down into the Brushy Creek Canyon|
Day Three . . .
|Stu and Chris, taking a breather|
Day Four . . .
|Ward, cleaning a steep rise|