Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Crossing Washington On The JWPT - Day 6

I've traveled quite a bit on business and it seems that it's kind of universal that the nicest hotels are always coupled with the shortest stays. And so it was with our campsite in the Cascades.  It was such perfection, but we just didn't have any dwell time available.

Packing up, then. Sadly.

At least we had all the fresh, awesome, alpine water we could drink and/or carry. In contrast to previous days. If anyone ever tells you that MSR gravity filters suck, just punch them right in the throat, before they even have a chance to finish the sentence. These filters rule so hard.

I'm pretty sure that every photography book ever written and every class ever taught must contain the exposure-time example of  the creek. What kind of loser novice photographer would I be if I didn't take just a couple of minutes to try and finish my homework?  What your eye would see . . .

. . . vs the the magic of photography . . .

We were at around 2800 ft and were headed to sea level. Miles and miles of of descent, through gorgeous alpine terrain. It was miserable, but it was our duty and we kept a stiff upper lip.

That's I-90 again, far below us, miserable bastards in their miserable bastard cars. Even though we would be one of them in a few hours. For the time being, though, "Suckas!"

More badass trestles and awesome scenery of the mountainous kind . . .

Rattlesnake Lake. The end of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. She's a beaut.

The route from this point forward would utilize four different public access trails (one of my original goals was to stay off of roads and use trails as much as possible). The longest of these would be the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, another former railbed, and it was even sweeter than I had imagined.

We'd been in a hurry to get on the road and hadn't taken the time to fix a proper breakfast - we'd figured that since we were re-entering civilization, we'd have all kinds of fast-food calorific options. Wrong were we. By the time we reached Carnation mid-afternoon, we were ready to chew on our own flesh. I was finally in the proper state of mind for a righteous burger and fries and boy howdy, did the bar and grill there ever deliver.

After lunch, we took a few minutes to head over to the Tolt-MacDonald campground, where per our original plan, we were to have spent the night between Days 7 and 8. I'd made a reservation there and wanted to tell the camp host that we were bailing, in case someone else needed our spot. Plus, we just wanted to see it.

The campground and park is situated mostly on the west side of the Snoqualmie River opposite car access, and so you have to cross this rad wooden suspension bridge by foot in order to get to the premium campsites. Then, while you're there, you have access to miles of trails that you can ride or walk.  And you can have campfires there, which was not something we'd been able to do at any point thus-far, and Patty had planned to join us there, along with all the fixin's to cook up a radical chili-based feast. So in other words, it would have been so awesome, if it could have happened. But it couldn't and it didn't. Another time, possibly.

I shed a coupla tears that fell upon the bridge deck, but they quickly dried and we were on our way again.

The trail passed through the middle of a golf course at one point and the well-heeled, mid-week clientele did their best to ignore our salty, if only momentary presence. I won't speak for Eric, but for my part, I wished at the moment to be stabbed in the heart with the broken shaft of a nine-iron if I ever take up golf. Not that I have anything against golf. Well, okay. The bitch is, I am probably, karmically, just around the corner from taking it up, at which point I will have to justify endlessly and apologize profusely for what I just said.

It was starting to feel like we were on easy street now. Just a mellow cruise to the beach. We would be seriously wrong.

In Eric's words "The trail is not quite finished with us yet."

In my words, "Holy living mother of hell!"

It was the Tolt-Pipeline trail.  The baddest, steepest, most insane set of rollers ever. EVER.  That's Eric up ahead. I stopped to talk to a guy about my tires or otherwise I'd have been right behind him. (If you believe this, I'd like to talk to you about some property I have for sale.)

It's really hard to capture "steep" in photos, but this next one begins to get there. Try as I might to moderate the heat that my brakes were generating, my rotors would get seriously warped and 'talk' to me for the remainder of the trip.

There was no riding up these hills with loaded bikes - walking was the only option, So after what seemed like hours, we transitioned from the Tolt-Pipeline trail onto a short section of the Sammamish River Trail, which then delivered us right onto the Burke-Gilman. We were definitely in Seattle now.

I'd been rolling really well all day, but Eric had been struggling, mucking through his personal quicksand. It was his turn to deal with the ongoing wrath of flatstravaganza, apparently.  He'd been pumping up his tires all day in an effort to maintain some kind of reasonable pressure, but he was losing the battle. In addition, we'd (I'd, actually) made a tactical error . . . I thought there would be all kinds of places to grab calories along the BG and so we'd passed up some retail opportunities at the north end of Lake Washington. Turns out though, there's nothing in the way of retail services down the west side of the lake and we were getting super slow and sloggy. What I wanted, no needed,  in the worst way was a blended, iced coffee. Caffeine and sugar fairies danced in my head, taunting me. For they knew I would be denied.

It finally got to the point where Eric couldn't continue the bike-tire equivalent of bailing water from a leaky rowboat, so we stopped. Trouble was, the healthy tubes and patch kits and even the functionality of our pumps had been so compromised by the effects of flatstravaganza that even a proper flat-fixing pit stop wouldn't be enough to bring his tires back up to snuff.

We limped through the U-district at rush hour. Which was pretty awesome. The BG crowd is a pretty diverse group and it takes a lot to get their attention. They were pretty cool cucumbers as we passed each other, but for a fair amount of the time we were on this path, Eric was a ways behind me and he later told me that he heard a lot of "did you see those tires???" comments from passing riders.

Eric and I had gotten separated somewhere in Ballard . . . I had needed to stop to fuss with something and he was losing air pressure and needed to keep moving. We thought we'd hook back up, but never did. He took a different turn somewhere and I ended up finishing ahead of him.

Did I mention before how awesome Patty is?  Well, she's all that and then some.  She'd been waiting for us at Golden Gardens Park since 2:00. Because I told her that we might be there as early as 3. And she wanted to make damn sure she was there. I didn't roll in until after 6 and despite over four hours of waiting, she was all about congratulating me. Damn, what did I do to deserve her.

Eric limped in a few minutes later with a front tube and tire that had given its all for the cause.

Finishing the trip had taken some will and some luck and was therefore worthy of some satisfaction. A couple of happy cats, obviously.

The next pic is self-explanatory except for the footnote that we were pretty busy riding on this last day and so the trestles-crossed tally is probably +/- 10%.

The deer tally was as of the end of Day 1. That would be enough of the counting of the deer.

I'd spent an inordinate amount of time preparing for an encounter with a rattlesnake. I was positive that at some point we'd see, or hear, at least one.  We were skunked, though. Closest we got was these poor fellas . . .

Eric is headed out on a 2 week+ road-ish tour sometime mid-August. He's structured his life so that adventures like this are a priority and happen pretty regularly during the summer months. For him, while this trip was cool, it probably was not all that epic. In contrast, for me, it was the first tour of anywhere near this duration and of this kind. And while I've never had much desire to road tour, this crazy railbed tour vision somehow got planted in my head and took control of my being. It took a boat-load of effort to plan and carve out of my schedule and when it finally happened, it was just rippin, freakin awesome. All that I had hoped for and more. I don't have any idea if/when I'll ever be able to spend 6+ consecutive days that are totally consumed with bike passion again. Maybe, that would be sweet. But the point I want to make here is that life is short and it's all about choices. Not everyone would have a desire to do a trip like this, but I know there are those of you out there who, like me, have never had a chance to do something like this and whose souls have been stirred by this story and I guess I just hope that maybe someday, you will have a chance to spread the curtain that is your job and kids and wife and yardwork and slip through the opening and escape on your bike for a few days. I don't think I will fully understand the impact this trip has had on me until I have some perspective, but I know it's considerable and very postive and I wish the same thing for any of you who have never had it and wants it.

In the same way that I wonder where all the hours go when you're on tour, so I wonder where all the miles go.  My odometer showed way more miles than what the map said we should be at, but I guess it's all the little things - detours and side trips and all the little stuff that adds up.

This was supposed to have been a 350 mile trip but I ended up clocking 380, despite the fact that I'd skipped 35 miles through the Yakima Firing Range. Eric, who hadn't skipped anything, ended up with somewhere in the neighborhood of 415.

Day 6 Ride Stats
82 miles
7:10 saddle time
11.5 mph avg
41.2 mph max
382 total trip miles

I'm kind of sad that my story is ending, but on the other hand, I've spent hours in front of the computer, which is wearing on me, and so I'm also glad. There's a time and a place for everything and it's now time for me to wrap things up and move on. Or in simpler terms, just shut the hell up, as many of you must be thinking.

Thanks for following along - I'm super gratified by all the positive comments I've received through the blog and in person. If I could make magic happen, I would give you all a parting gift, and I know exactly what it would be: The firsthand experience of going 40+ mph donwhill on a loaded fatbike. It was rather unique, to say the least.


keithmo said...

I live less than a mile from the Tolt Pipeline trail, and I ride it fairly often. We definitely have a love/hate relationship.

Ward said...

You are the man. Love the stories, it's an inspiration.

FBC Spokane said...

Well done, Pat.

Matt B. said...

Awesome! Very much enjoyed your posts on this trip. What's next???

Riding in Reno said...

Great story (and blog in general) help keep the rest of us motivated! Ride on!

Anonymous said...


I know you did the equipment write up already but what are your thoughts about tackling this with regular mountain bike tires, say 26 x 2.2?

Also, if I could just get three days which three day section would you recommend?

Thanks for the great writing and pictures.


fixiewrek said...

This has been a great story to follow. Congrats and thanks for the entertainment!

Jonathan Eberly said...

So, so rad, Pat. Congrats.

Andy D. said...

Thanks for taking all of us along for the ride. Oh, and 41.2MPH on a loaded fatbike!?!?

I can affirm that your story has been quite inspiring, and has likely planted many seeds. To paraphrase you, if I can temporarily get through the curtain of other responsibilities, I hope to embark on my own adventure.

I'm glad that you achieved your goals and continue to benefit from your experiences. After all, experiences are the only things that really count in life. Well done.

Not said...

Sometimes I stop to talk to a guy about my tires. Sometimes, nobody else can see the guy.
Now I gotta get a week off and go ride...
- Ventura

DerrickP said...

Well done on the ride and the recollection of it. It's brought a lot of joy reading it all.

DerrickP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hank Greer said...


An extraordinary adventure that few can tell about. On top of that you tell the tale so well. Any chance you'll create a single publication and perhaps include some of Eric's observations and experiences?


Anonymous said...

I loved these posts. I looked forward to the new one each day. Thank you for writing it all down.

Some day I would love to do something similar. I'll have to study each of these chapters for guidance.

I may have missed it, but can you post your original planned maps, maybe alongside your actual route?

Pat S said...

Thanks for all the positive comments, I'm seriously humbled, man.

Matt, as far as what's next, nothing planned at this 5 minutes. But I'm a little frightened to think about what my subconscious is cooking up in the background.

Steve, 26 x 2.2 is just fine. More than fine, even. The fat tire thing was just a strong preference on my part. As far as what would be the best 3 days, it really depends on what you want . . . the west half is classic-Cascade-scenic and the trail surface is really sweet, so nothing to not love about that. But I have to tell you that the solitude and remoteness and authenticity of the eastern portion is really powerful, if you are into that kind of thing and willing to maybe suffer just a bit. Depending on what portion appeals to you, there are lots of options. But if you're looking for easy access for someone to pick-you-up/drop-you-off in close proximity to I-90, you could go between Warden and Snoqualmie Pass, or vice-versa . . that would give you the flavor of both sides and you could ride the big tunnel. And have a hell of an overall adveture, I think. The one snag is that you'd have to get someone to shuttle you across the river. Or else ride up to Vantage and ride across the bridge, which would surely boost the the adventure to a different level.

Andy, I look forward to some great re-telling of your upcoming adventures.

Ventura, totally loved this: >>Sometimes I stop to talk to a guy about my tires. Sometimes, nobody else can see the guy.<<

Hank, whereas you are an exceptionally efficient, smooth and prolific writer, I am as slow and jerky as they come. I'm not sure I have it in me. But I do love the idea of getting Scott's and Eric's impressions and somehow getting them into print. Scott will be blogging at some point, I think. Not sure that Eric is a writer. I was thinkng how fun it would be to go have coffee with them, though, and take a recorder to capture the conversation. I'd be totally up for something like that.

Anon, I tracked our route, but it's pretty hacked up. It didn't stray much from the plan though, which is here.

Stine said...

Simply Rad. Thanks so much for documenting living the dream.

Toni Lund said...

Pat, what a great write-up of your awesome trip. I really like your sentiments how life changing these kind of experiences are. That's exactly the reason why I like adventures so much myself.

Wileydog said...

Yahoo!, you made it!!

S. said...

I have a lot of favorite parts but I especially like the one where Patty is so happy to see you!! Thanks for sharing your adventure.

EvilElf said...

Pat, this was a great read, and the pictures were fantastic. I am torn between feeling inspired to do something great and taking a nap. Thanks for the precipice upon which I now stand.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. Great. Just great. Sometimes I marvel at how close we all live to adventure. I commute into downtown on the BGT, and every now and then I wonder "what would it be like if I just kept riding?" I guess I know one option now...

Anonymous said...

Amazing blog....thank you for the reviting story and great pictures. I've ridden most of the far eastern part of the trail from Idaho to the boat ramp at rock lake and some buddies and I rode from snoqulamie to vantage a few years go, so seeing the pics really hits home. Gotta say, I can't imagine your buddy heading out alone from Beverley up to ellensberg at 5:00pm by himself.....that section, is really desolate, sandy, and obviously a bugger of a climb.....we rode it down hill and that was bad enough.....of course we had 30 to 50mph head winds to deal with. wonder he was peeing blood! Thanks for the great read!! We rode about 150 miles of the KVR (Kettle Valley Railroad) up n Canada last summer. Started at Midway, BC and finished at Penticton, BC. Like the JWT, lots of beautiful scenery, wildlife and colorful folks along the part is that its very remote! Thanks again!

Lisa Conrad said...

Thank you for posting this indelible story of your trip.

I am planning to do the ride in reverse and go through Idaho as well, this June. I might like to look you up w/ questions at some point in the near future!

lisaconrad at gmail dot com

Lisa Conrad said...

Thank you for posting this indelible story!

I plan to do this ride in reverse, and adding northern Idaho rail-trails, in June of this year.

I might hit you up w/ some questions at some point(!)

Terrifically impressed.

Peg said...

I just heard about the JWPT today while searching for US bike trails, and what a treat to come across your account! Thanks so much for taking the time to write up your story and share your photos. It might be a couple of years before we get to this trail, but it is definitely on the bucket list.

I'd like to do it west to east, and continue a bit through Idaho if we feel like it when we get there.

Happy trails to you! I'm over to read some more recent of your posts and see what you're up to lately. Cheers!

Seth Steben said...

Great story! Thank you for sharing - sounds like an amazing adventure, and your story is inspirational - not sure I will ever tackle a trip that long all at once myself, but I definitely have plans for the western part of it!

Pat S said...

Seth, just do whatever portion is manageable for you, but make sure you get out at some point and take advantage of this amazing trail!

Nick Thomas said...

I am planning to embark on a JWPT/Columbia Plateau Trail riding West to East on a fat bike, from North Bend to Spokane, my home. Thanks in advance for your detailed and well-written blog, it's a wealth of info on a still relatively lost-to-the-world Rail-Trail. See ya'll on the other side. I'll post a link here to my blog upon completion of this epic ride.

Pat S said...

Have a great trip, Nick. And yeah, please post a link when you're done.

andrew.yeoman said...

Just read the whole story, fantastic reading, loved your narrative voice, and the ride seems like a blast. Thank you for sharing!!!

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Unknown said...

I randomly found this blog while looking up stuff about the Iron horse trail, but I'm glad I did, this was a great read!

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