Sunday, June 24, 2012

Crossing Washington State On The John Wayne Pioneer Trail

I don't know exactly when I started planning this trip, but maybe a year and a half ago. In a nutshell, my brain hatched the idea to celebrate my first half-century on the planet by doing something bike-special. In the brainstorming phase, all options were on the table . . . even ideas like devoting the year to racing and seeing how fast and fit I could become. But there had been planted in my head a seed of a slightly different variety, and I don't know where it came from exactly, but it sprouted and took root, and whatever remaining internal discussion ensued was really just an excercise. The first time I wrote about it was here.

If I had a dime for every hour I've spent thinking, dreaming, researching, scheming about this trip over the past year-and-a-half, I could buy myself some some pretty fabulous new bike gear . . . maybe even a whole new bike of some sort. The dream would not be complete if it didn't involve a fatbike, and so there was the whole deal of figuring out which one and all the component nuances. And then figuring out the travel gear and how to haul it, which inevitably would include conceiving and fabricating new rackage. And then hours of route planning over google and paper maps, and synthesizing bits and pieces of personal and online accounts of people who had ridden or knew something about the trail. Along with dedicated recon trips. And non-recon trips that got hijacked into checking out sections of the trail. I'm not a super old man yet, but there's some wisdom that's been slowing developing and one thing of which I'm a thousand percent certain is that dreams are a very good thing and I relish every second I spent dreaming about this trip.

The dream then, finally ended and became reality this past week.

For all my planning, it took on a life of its own. Not that the planning was pointless or useless; it's just that the trail is so bold and so powerful that it's not about to let anyone, let alone some dumbass city-dweller, tame it or tell it how things are gonna be. On the other hand, it was a damn fine host - country style. It shared its spectacular scenery without reserve and insisted that I relinquish a certain amount of control over the experience . . so that I could experience! And so for that, I owe it my gratitude.

My most profound anvil-in-the-forehead type of takeaway from this trip is how little control we ultimately have over this life and what a hinderance we place on ourselves when we try to use control as a shelter. The lesson from the trail goes way deeper than that brief statement and right to some pretty powerful stuff at my core, but the tone of this blog is supposed to be more on the light-hearted side. Maybe one day we can sit down in person and do some peyote together and I will unload on you. Hopefully not, for your sake.

On a lighter note, my biggest whimsical surprise: I've never worn a cowboy hat and it's been many years since I've downed an orange soda. On this trip, me and my hat were pretty much inseparable and any bottle of Fanta in sight was justifiably in fear for its life. Righteous.

By the numbers:
380 - Total miles
42 hrs, 34 mins - Total saddle time
153,240 - Crank revolutions (Assuming a cadence of 60)
11.5 - Highest daily speed avg (Day 6)
5.5 - Lowest daily speed avg (Day 2)
64 - Trestles crossed
40 - Trestles detoured

11 - Tunnels passed
0 - Tunnels detoured
?? - Gates passed (There is such a thing as too much counting)

23 - Deer spotted (By the end of day 1. And then I quit. There is such a thing as too much counting.)
6 - Rabbits (Where are all the bunnies?)
1 - Elk
1 - Coyote (Where are all the dogs?)

I've decided that the way I'd like to tell the story of this trip is day-at-a-time, so seven posts are forthcoming. Lots of pics and thoughts to organize, so not sure about the exact schedule. Thanks in advance for your patience.

Edit/Supplement, Oct 30, 2012:

I'm adding the following index of posts covering this trip, so that information will be available on a section-by-section basis for anyone who's trying to learn more about the trail or plan a trip.  I've also included a link to an interactive map on

Interactive Route Map On
Note: To get a gpx track of the route, click the "Summary" tab and look for the "Download" box. Or email my at pat[dot]sprute[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll send you the file.

Prologue: WA-ID Border to Tekoa and Beyond

Day 1: Just Past Tekoa to A Ways Past Ewan

Day 2: Middle of Nowhere to Ralston

Day 3: Ralston to Othello

Day 4: Othello to Ellensburg

Day 5: Ellensburg to Snoqualmie Pass

Day 6: Snoqualmie Pass to Puget Sound

A Supplementary Post With Some Detail About Our Bikes And Gear

The 2015 Cow Creek Revisit


Jacque Hendrix said...

There's a bunch of us that have anxiously been waiting to live this through you.

Anonymous said...

Second that, and you pictures have really gone to another level Pat. Thanks for sharing this. Steve.

Andy D. said...

Thanks for affirming the veracity of a cowboy hat as the perfect hot weather riding lid.

As a quest to make the most of your milestone year, you've wildly succeeded. You planned and conducted an epic trip, through which you acquired new skills and honed existing talents. You earned greater knowledge of and appreciation for life and living. Truly a success by any measure.

Dave H said...

Way to go, Pat! Looking forward to reading your day-by-day posts.

Dave H (i.e. Dave from the Dave & Molly team)

Pat S said...

Thanks for your interest, guys. I'm looking forward to telling the story as best I can.

Andy, I'm all jacked up about cowboy hats at the moment. I wore mine while mowing the lawn today.

Great to hear from you, Dave. Hi to Molly and the rest of the clan.

Leedo said...

Wow, looks like you had a fabulous trip. I'm trying to plan my own adventure along that trail but plan to also cross the ferry and ride a few segments of the Olympic Discovery Trial. That would get us from Idaho to the coast (around 500 miles total).
Would you mind emailing me privately? I have a bunch of questions (rmsnwbrdr at gmail dot com).

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for taking time to write all this up and to post for others to benefit. Really appreciate it. I hope to make this trip someday.

Vicki Green said...

What an adventure - thanks for sharing!

jno62 said...

Great work!

You've inspired me.

I am planning on doing sections of the Divide Trail in the coming summers. Want to go?

I'd love to get some info on your permitting process.

This would be a great ride to do for preparing for the Divide Trail (I'm not doing the race, hope to do the first 600 miles summer of 2017.

I was looking for your email address but didn't see it.

Who do we talk to about permits?

thanks for your time and efforts.


Nick Thomas said...

I just finished riding a fatbike Rattlesnake Lake to Spokane yesterday via the John Wayne Trail/Iron Horse Trail and then connecting with the chunky, barely rideable Columbia Plateau Trail/Fish Lake Trail for the northern shot to home. I left at 3pm on Saturday 8/8/15 and arrived at my house in downtown Spokane at 4:35pm Wednesday, 8/12/15. Pat S. your wonderful, detailed blog was instrumental in my planning. Thank you! I even wore a straw "cowboy" hat in your honor. Cheers, and best to everyone doing this amazing route. Lots of wildlife, even in the dead heat of summer. (Though not a lot of water available).

Pat S said...

Right on, Nick! Well done!!!

Ted said...

Nick! My buddy and I are planning to do the same ride starting next Wednesday (fire dependant of course). Would you be available for some Q and A sometime in the next week? If so, hit me up at

jno62 said...

Can you share? I'm planning on later in Sept. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

Pat S said...

Nick posted a great write-up of his trip HERE (username rustblue2)

Swapna madhuri said...
dc event photographer
washington dc event photographer
dc wedding photographer

Derek said...

Hello, Pat.

I've been a lurker on your posts for years now, since around the time I first started dreaming of a JWPT cross-state adventure. Your posts were the first, most detailed posts I found. And they kept the flame of adventure alive. In any event, this is the year I tackle the odyssey. I've begun putting in longer miles on the commuter. I've requested and received both permits. I've planned the course and even visited two or three sections of the trail to reconnoiter. Anyway, I had one question for you. I went out to Smyrna yesterday in honor of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and tried to pinpoint goathead ground zero. (In a prior life, I had a lot of experience with the buggers and wanted to avoid a general engagement.) Can you give me a general idea of which side of Smyrna I can expect to find the goatheads? I know you rode east to west. (I'll be riding west to east.) Are the goatheads just east of the Smyrna school house or just west? My goal is to figure out where to hit the road and bypass the sealant adventures everyone speaks of.

Thanks, Derek

Byron Robertson said...

My buddy and I rode the JWT past Smyrna today (May 3, 2018). The goat heads (also called tack weeds) are very bad from milepost 137 to milepost 140. My friend had both tires go flat right across from the old Smyrna school house. My tires did not go flat because I have green slime, thorn proof tubes and a Mr Tuffy in each wheel. Switch to the county road in this section. It is very user friendly and the scenery is just as great.

Pat S said...

Thanks for the update, Byron. Great that you had your goathead defense strategy in place!