Copyright (c) 1998 by Caryl L. Bergeron - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.
Chapter 56 - August 20 to September 11, 1998 Anacortes, WA to Sisters, OR 22,684 miles (36,587 km) cumulative
There are some places on the North American continent we seem to return to again and again. El Paso Texas is one as we've been through there 3 times before and will likely be through there again in November. The Anacortes/Bellingham Washington area is another. We came through Anacortes on our way to and from Alaska 2 years ago and here we were again coming down from Prince Rupert to Anacortes for the third time. We'd had a fantastic sailing on the Prince Rupert to Port Hardy ferry as the sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky. It took three inside passage ferry rides to finally get one with good weather. We immediately hopped on a bus, at 10 P.M., for a 12 hour ride down to Victoria and a 2 hour bike ride back up to Sidney. We stayed in the very same McDonald Provincial park and took the same ferry back to the U.S. Deja vue. Back in Anacortes we went over to the same car rental agency to rent what could have been the same small black Ford Escort station wagon from th! e same girl wearing 6 sets of earrings in each ear, 2 in the nose to match but she was minus the orange hair this year and we headed down the same highway to visit the same REI, AAA, Wal-Mart, and other stores we'd been to 2 years earlier. In one sense it's kind of nice returning to the same place as you get to know where everything is and it becomes a whole lot easier to get the equipment we need faster. But this is a large metropolitan area sporting the same stores we find in every metropolitan area in the U.S. A mall in Washington looks the same as one in El Paso, Bangor, Maine, Charlottesville, VA, or anywhere. We resolved quite quickly to get our business done and get outta town.
Two years ago we had taken the ferry from Whidbey Island over to the Olympic peninsula and then took the very popular route down the coast. This year, in keeping with our goal to spend as much time riding in the mountains as possible, we chose to follow a bike route that is designed to parallel the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a 2500 mile trail that traces along the ridge tops of the coastal mountain range from the Canadian border to Mexico. The bike route, described in a book titled The Pacific Crest Bicycle Trail, follows paved routes that cross and recross the PCT and the coastal mountain range many times as it attempts to stay as close to the PCT as possible. The book is impossible to find as it's been out of print for some time. Some of the Internet's most well stocked book suppliers, such as Amazon.com, don't have new or used copies and even the author is completely out. We happened to have friends who have one of the few and they kindly made a Xerox copy for us, than! k you Dave and Anne. The Pacific Crest Bicycle Trail is not a mountain bike trail as it specifically tries to stay on paved roads. Looking at my maps for the forest services we passed through I was convinced there could easily be a mountain bike route that gets even closer. But, that was not the intention of this book's author from the start. So mostly paved roads it was to be for the next 2 months.
Leaving Anacortes the PCT route begins its southerly meandering by following the first couple hundred miles of the western most end of the Adventure Cycling Association's northern coast-to-coast route. This is the route we took about 10 years ago almost to the day marking our first ever long distance bike tour. We'd been green bike tourists heading out with brand new Schwinn touring bikes, new gear, and absolutely no idea what long distance touring was like nor how to do any repairs on our bikes beyond fixing a flat tire. Quite a change compared with today. From Anacortes we wound our way along quiet country roads eastward toward the town with the quaint name of Sedro Wooley. Fields filled with crops just ready to be harvested or already picked clean lined both sides of the roads. Bordering both the roads and the fields are these bush fences that look a lot like vines piled on top of each other. A closer look reveals these are all black berry bushes. They're everywhere! . They're so pervasive, in fact, locals consider them to be a bit of a nuisance. If you don't keep cutting them back or pulling them out they'll take over your entire yard. I look upon them as a great source of delicious fruits. During the month of August, before the leaves brown and fall, these thorny branches are filled with berries in various stages of ripening. While the locals seem to almost ignore them, I can't resist stopping at every possible opportunity to gobble down a few or to pick a couple bowls full for breakfast. If I lived in this northwest I'd be picking as many as I could to make pies, jellies, jams, scones, you name it.
Now picking a perfectly ripe black berry takes finesse, skill, and talent developed only after years of apprenticeship and practice. Well, not exactly. But it does take a little practice. Pick a berry too soon and it'll be sour. Too late and it'll squish on your fingers leaving a purple stain. The perfectly ripe berry will be completely black. Actually it's more of a super dark purple, so dark it almost appears to be black. Also, as the berry ripens the little nodules tend to get just a little bit plump. Compare the neighboring berries and select those that look just a little bit fatter. Finally, the berry must almost fall right off the bush into your hand, as if the bush were saying, "Here, this one's ready." It takes puckering up to a few sour berries before you figure out just which are the good ones and which aren't. Maybe 5 minutes maximum.
Since our first few days were to be spent following the ACA northern tier route we had expected to encounter some bikers finishing the east to west tour, which we did. But we certainly did not expect to run across anyone starting out on the west to east route. After all given how late in the season it was anyone just starting out would likely see heavy frost and maybe even snow falling by the time they reached Maine. Yet on our very first day we happened across Jay, a 21 year old who'd taken a year off his scholastic pursuits to do some traveling. He was on his very first day of his very first long distance bike tour heading east from Anacortes to Maine. To his credit he is quite experienced with long distance back packing, having completed the Appalachian trail fairly recently, and he does come from Maine. So he seems well prepared for the rigors of bike touring and should know what to expect from the weather. Still, it seemed he was starting a bit late. We rode with ! Jay for one day to the Rockport State Park. The next day he got an early start while we had to delay our departure to change out a tire with a blown sidewall. Much to our surprise we met up with him later in the town of Twisp. He'd taken a bad spill and now had large road rashes across the palms of his hands. Looked quite painful and I had to wonder how he would manage resting on his handle bars for the rest of his trip. He seemed unconcerned. Jay did learn a good lesson about bike touring, though. Don't look back to check your rear load unless you're stopped or are absolutely sure you won't veer from your intended direction. He had overcorrected which caused his spill. It's little lessons like these that distinguish the experienced from novice bike tourists. Yet we can all still make critical mistakes such as this.
>From Sedro Wooley we followed the Skagit River valley through tall pine forests filled with lush green vegetation. Up and up the road climbed toward the two passes, Rainy and Washington, at elevations hovering just around 5000 ft. For some reason these passes always seem extra hard even though the elevation gain isn't all that great. It could be because of the length. The total distance from the town of New Halem where the climb really starts is about 30 miles. It could be because we hadn't done a major pass climb since Sunwapta pass in BC, several weeks earlier. Or perhaps because we'd taken several days off the bikes. But I think the real reason is because there are several big PUDs. PUD, a new acronym we learned from Jay that evidently is used along the Appalachian trail. It stands for Pointless Ups and Downs. These are those downhills you experience when you know you're in the middle of climbing up to a pass of X ft. You're not anywhere near reaching the top, y! et there's this downhill and for every foot you go down you have to climb back up each and every one. Absolutely frustrating. It's nice to have a shortened name for them now so in the midst of one you can yell, "It's another one of those friggen PUDs."
Climbing over the coastal mountain range gives you the perfect opportunity to see at close hand the effects mountain chains have upon climate. With a generally west to east flowing air stream the mountains squeeze every drop of moisture out of the air on the west side leaving nothing for the east side. So on the west side of the mountains you'll have ferns and tall trees, moss growing on the trees, rocks, and ground, and mushrooms everywhere. On the east dry grasses, brown hills, even in some places cactus. It's like night and day, rain forest versus desert, all within a few miles. I recall flying a Cessna light plane along the mountain ridge in southern California where the effect is absolutely astounding. Quite literally there'll be green on one side and brown on the other with almost a line drawn right along the very tops of the mountains. Being born and raised in the east I still find this difference truly amazing even after spending so much of my life in San Diego.
>From the peak at Washington Pass we flew downhill for a full 17 miles, into the hot brown desert. By the time we reached the tourist attraction western town of Winthrop temperatures had soared to over 100 degrees. We continued on to Twisp where we collapsed in a campground located, thankfully, by the river where temperatures were at least a tiny bit more tolerable. From that point on we resolved to get up at the crack of dawn when temperatures were still cool, to get as much riding in before the high heat of the day. It makes the riding easier, but getting up at 5 A.M. day after day does get old fast.
We were riding along the wide Columbia river which has it's cradle way up in the Idaho Rockies and it wends its way in a zigzag manner through the coastal range to the Pacific ocean. The river was here long before the mountains. As the N. American plate shoved up onto the Juan de Fuca plate creating the coastal mountains the Columbia continued to cut a deep channel into those mountains at about the same rate as the mountains rose. In 1803 when Lewis and Clark floated down this river toward their final turn around point near today's Astoria Oregon, I doubt they could have imagined a scene such as there is today. They would have witnessed a huge flowing river snaking its way through brown forbidding looking hills. The only greenery would have been the few trees and bushes that survived right along the river's shore. Irrigation was first brought to the area in the late 1800s when some Chinese miners dug a water channel for sluicing gold from their ore. Not many riches came! from the gold operations in this area. But a far more profitable "gold" was soon discovered. Giving up on gold, the pioneers who'd decided to settle quickly found this region is perfect for growing fruit trees, especially apples. Soon apple tree orchards were popping up everywhere and the the most productive apple region of the world was born. They started with the old favorites, red and golden delicious, and more recently added Gala, Jonagold, and Fuji. Today as we rode along the main highway following the Columbia we passed mile after mile of apple orchards. Individual trees are placed about 10 ft apart in rows that are at about 20 foot spacing. There'll be several rows of red apples with an occasional row of yellow apples. Being the end of August, right near harvest time, each branch was laden with huge fruits just about at their peak of ripeness. Each one looked so absolutely perfect I got the impression that someone had come along and tied wax fruit on the trees! just to fool people, they were that perfect. At least they looked that good from the road. We later learned that the recent heat wave was beginning to burn the apples and they were losing their color. They'd quickly turn brown then black if they weren't picked immediately. So the picking frenzy was on, trying to get the apples off the trees and into cold storage before the entire crop was destroyed. Ladders and enormous wooden open top crates were spaced all over waiting for the pickers to come by.
Why are the Columbia and Okanogan valleys in the state of Washington so ideal for growing apples? We stopped into the Washington Apple Commission's visitor center near Wenatchee to find out. It's a combination of dry air which allows the apples to grow without fear of mildew, a good water source for irrigation, hot days and cool nights which the apples seem to like, and mild but cold winters. It's the perfect set of weather conditions for growing the best apples. But there's a lot of other work involved in getting those perfect Washington apples. You can't just plant a tree, sit back and expect great things. First, all winter there's constant pruning, pruning designed to open up the branches to get sunlight to as much of the tree as possible. In spring when the flowers come out the bees go to work. But there are not nearly enough bees to pollinate all those trees. No problem. Just call up your local rent-a-bee agency and he'll gladly bring over a few hundred thousand! to help out. Apple trees grow small clusters of white to pink flowers. One flower, called the king, blooms first. If they allowed all those flowers to be pollinated they'd end up with 5 small apples instead of one big one. Fortunately the king comes out a few days earlier and once it's pollinated the farmer sprays a human safe spray on the rest which essentially sterilizes them. All summer there's more pruning, fertilizing, propping up the branches as they become fruit laden, and they're even starting to use bugs to eat bugs that eat apples. Finally, August hits and some 45,000 apple pickers descend upon the Washington valleys. Picking starts in late August in the lower elevations and continues well into November in the upper hills. All have to be carefully picked by hand as they bruise too easily for any currently available machine to pick. If you ever wondered how it is you can now get Washington apples year round it's because they've erected these huge refrigerate! d buildings in which to store the apples until they're needed. Keeping them in a dry environment at just above freezing evidently slows the ripening process. So those apples with a low sugar content, i.e. not quite ripe, are sent to refrigeration and those with a high content are sent right to the stores. All apples are thoroughly washed, inspected, pressure tested for proper crispness, and given a small drop of safe fruit wax to make them sparkle. Washington apples are now found round the world and are easily recognizable by that recently added Washington apple sticker. We even found them in some dusty roadside fruit stands in Guatemala, a welcome sight as we knew we didn't have to worry about getting sick from eating these. Ever wonder what makes an apple so crisp? It's filled with small nodules filled with water. The skin of the nodules is so tough that when you bite into one the bursting of the nodules makes that crispy crunchy sound you hear.
Aplets and Cotlets. Sounds a bit like the title to some Christmas song. These are actually some mighty tasty candy goodies manufactured in Cashmere, Wa. Back in the late 1800s a couple of Middleeastern men went to Seattle, we suspect in pursuit of the Klondike gold rush but our tour guide wasn't able to confirm this. Finding the wet weather in the Seattle area not to their liking they moved over the mountains to the dry side. These two men now good friends, knew of a certain candy recipe made in the "old country" that consisted of fructose, honey, and other natural stuff. They added chopped up apples and walnuts, coated the whole thing with confectioner sugar producing a yummy bit of candy they called aplets, little apples. They then tried the same thing with apricots producing the cotlets. It quickly caught on with the locals, then state, nation, and now can be found in fine candy stores world wide. Later on they added other fruits making a bunch of fruitlets which t! hey call Fuit Festives and even now have nutless and sugarless varieties for those who can't eat either.
Every bit of candy is produced in a small 4 room factory employing about 30 people in the town of Cashmere. Visitors are welcome to tour and taste. One room is devoted to a gift store where you can buy as much of the candy as you can carry, do some tasting, and even sample some gourmet mustards and jams which are also for sale. The short tour, and I do mean short, takes you to 2 rooms. In the first are 4 huge mixing bowls where the base ingredients are mixed and heated to over 200 deg F. Two burly men heft these 250 lb. bowls from their stands, add the fruit and nuts, pour it all into these flat rectangular trays. This concoction is rolled flat and then placed into a refrigerator to cool for 8 hours, the third room. After cooling the 2 ft. by 4 ft. by 1 inch sheets of sweet goo have the consistency of soft rubber, thick enough to pick up but pliable enough to bend and fold. Two more burly men, remember each sheet weighs around 200 lbs., pick them up, place them onto a ! conveyer belt, cover top and bottom with corn starch and confectioner sugar, and then roll them into the cutter machine. Each sheet is cut into rectangular pieces about 1.5X1X1 inches which are then rolled in corn starch to keep the sugar from soaking into the goo, and finally in more sugar to complete the coating. The pieces now go before 2 rows of about 8 women each who carefully pack the boxes, aplets into certain row and cotlets into others, off sized pieces go into bargain bags. The boxes roll around to more machine that add the tops, printed material, stamp the date and weight on the bottom, and wrap the whole thing in plastic. Two more men load the small boxes into huge crates to be sent to the distribution warehouse. Naturally we couldn't get too close to the most interesting machines, the ones that form and wrap the boxes. But it was fun to watch and, of course munch on some of the goodies.
September 3, 1998 we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. Well, I wouldn't exactly say celebrated as it proved to be one of the most difficult days we've had all summer. The heat wave that was searing the landscape and burning the apples on the trees continued as we climbed up 2500 ft into the Wenatchee forest for a night and then descended once again toward the hot, dry towns of Ellensburg, Selah, and Yakima. We had hoped for a short riding day finishing with a night in a pleasant motel hopefully with a pool, and a real nice dinner. None of this was to happen. First, as we headed toward Ellensburg and the coolness of the morning was rapidly giving way to 90+ deg temps Brian had his first flat tire. We'd been using these tire liners called Mr. Tuffy which are supposed to keep thorns from penetrating the softer, more venerable tube. But we'd discovered that in really hot weather such as we'd been having, the Mr. Tuffy itself causes leaks. The edges are just sharp en! ough that when the tube robber is soft from being too hot they will rub and eventually rub a small hole into the tube. This past summer we'd had more flats caused by the Mr. Tuffies than from thorns or other sources. Once again, here was a Mr. Tuffy flat. We gave up this time and took the Mr. Tuffy out before replacing and pumping up the tube.
We passed by Ellensburg and rode along the beautiful Yakima canyon as the heat of the day continued to grow. Arriving in the town of Selah, home for Tree Top juice manufacturers, we found there were no nice motels or hotels. Everything was over in Yakima. Normally getting over to Yakima would not be a problem, there's a bike path bridge going along the highway crossing the river. But as it happened, this year they were completely rebuilding this section of the interstate and at this stage of the construction they'd removed the bike bridge. It will be put back eventually and from what we saw will be a very, very nice bike path. But, for now there was no way to get from one side of the river to the other on bike. We had to turn back. Stopping in a food store to get cold drinks and have a look in the phone book for any signs of a nice hotel, there were none, we discovered Brian had his second flat tire. Again it was on the rear and wouldn't you know it just when we final! ly take out the Mr. Tuffy he would have to get a flat from a thorn. Murphy's law. At this point we really didn't have much choice but to head on down the road for another 25 miles to get to the forest service land where we could either free camp or find a campground. Having already ridden 60 miles I was not at all happy to take on another 25. We stopped for a rather humdrum dinner at a truck stop diner before pedaling the last 14 miles. Wouldn't you know it just 10 mile from the end Brian got his 3rd slow leak, this time in front. He kept on pedaling and finally we wound up walking the last 1/2 mile to the campground arriving in the dark. We've lost a vital part to our tire pump which now makes pumping up tires a 2 person job, not easy to do when you have 2 bikes to hold up. We dragged ourselves into camp, set up, and just as we were getting ready to wash up and go to bed Brian comes back with one last piece of bad news. Many of the Forest Service campgrounds are now ! being turned over to contractors. The deal is that if it cost $4 before the contractor took over the Forest Service would still get $4. The contractor now adds their profit plus some money to pay the campground host. The net effect is the price that used to be around $4 is now $10. We saw that when we rode in, we were shocked at this increase to say the least. But then we discovered that the sites along the river had been slated as "premium" and now cost $3 more. Of course in the dark we hadn't seen the premium sign when we first set up and after discovering this we decided that there was no way we'd be willing to pay an extra $3 just to be on the river. So in the dark when we were thoroughly exhausted we had to pick everything up and move it 2 sites over just so we wouldn't be charged the extra $3. You might way it was the icing on the cake of a very bad day. Happy Anniversary.
If we thought our anniversary day was awful we expected things to get even worse as the Labor Day weekend holiday approached. It's the final camping weekend of the summer for many, a long 3 day weekend, a good weather weekend and throngs of people would stream out of the cities of Seattle, Tacoma and Portland to fill every nook and cranny of Mt. Rainier National Park and the surrounding national forest lands. We expected to find the roads crowded, campgrounds full, stores picked clean, and lots of noise everywhere. We left camp not too early and headed uphill, of course, toward the scenic White Pass. Much to our surprise we discovered a small campground, called Dog Lake, just 2 1/2 miles from the top. It's not marked on any map or in any of our books so we weren't expecting to find any camping for another 15 miles or more. Even more surprising was to find that there were actually not just 1 but 3 vacant sites, it was still somewhat early on Friday so not everyone had esc! aped the city smog as yet. One was a tiny site, just big enough for our little tent and the bikes, right on the water's edge. Even though we'd only ridden some 25 miles for the day we knew we'd be foolish not to stop. Best of all, this site was still free whereas the ones on the hill cost $7, at least that's what our neighbors told us which I'd tend to take rather skeptically. We moved in, set up the tent, I went for a quick chilly swim, and then got to know our neighbors a bit. Actually they were curious, started asking the usual questions, and before we knew it had invited us to dinner and breakfast. Bar-b-qued chicken for dinner and eggs with bacon for breakfast sounded a whole lot more appealing than spaghetti and biscuits.
Tony and Art were certainly a couple of the most wild, unusual characters we'd encountered this summer. Both are of Hispanic origin, Art especially looking so with darker skin and short slightly curly black hair. Art is a semi truck driver, those big 18 wheelers, and it was hard to imagine this scrawny guy sitting behind the wheel of one of those enormous beasts. Tony is slightly taller, a bit bigger, has balding straight black hair, and deep set eyes. He's a hair dresser. Being a hair dresser means his skills are needed everywhere and he's crisscrossed the country many times taking jobs anywhere he pleased. He even at one point was sort of commuting between Florida and New York City, he couldn't make enough in Florida so he'd fly up to NY for a while, make more money, and go back to Florida. His favorite place, California. He seemed to have that California laid back sort of attitude and I could easily see him cruising down the road on a skateboard. Actually he claims! his favorite mode of transport is the bicycle which is I think part of the reason we wound up with the dinner and breakfast invitation.
What a couple of characters, almost frightening from a reasonably conscientious camper point of view. They'd been up in this very same campground last July along with Art's girlfriend, Carrie, her son, Dallas, and Carrie's roommate plus her two small kids. Carrie's roommate, a 22 year old fiery red head, had a "fatal attraction" type crush on Art and despite the fact that Carrie was with them caused all sorts of problems. The two girls were bickering and fighting, "catting" as Art called it. She caused so many problems she quickly earned the nickname "Firecracker", appropriate I suppose. In their loudest voices they told of how they tried to rid themselves of this pest by returning to Yakima for supplies. She followed them down to Yakima, to Art's house, and even somehow managed to make it back to camp, minus kid, before they did. "She beat us back." Art kept yelling as loud as possible. What made them so frightening is they went out into the woods and brought back hu! ge logs to burn, literally tree trunks, built a bomb fire and left it burning all night, started drinking early in the afternoon and by the time we went to bed had probably drunk 6 cans of beer each and the beer kept flowing late into the night, In July they'd been fishing without a license taking 100 fish when the limit was 6, and stayed up singing and arguing until 1:30 A.M. Nice enough folks, but I surely wouldn't want to spend much time camping near them. But they weren't the worst we saw that weekend. Just the next day we spent the night in a county park. One group of obnoxious campers decided that they wanted to have a fire. So they simply brought out the chain saws and proceeded to cut down not 1 but 3 trees. Granted the trees were already dead, maybe, but they felled these trees right in the middle of a crowded campground with all sorts of kids running around. Had the tree fallen on anyone or anything the county would have been liable. Why is it the summer holi! day weekends tend to bring out the worst campers?
Art and Tony were accompanied by Carrie's 9 year old boy Dallas. You could tell by the super blond hair he was definitely not of Art's blood. Now here was Dennis the Menace come to life. One minute he's climbing on a log jutting out into the lake, the next he's knee deep in the water getting his brand new, 1 day old boots soaking wet, then he's got his bike backed half way into the water, then he's got some stick with a boot on the end hanging over the fire his boot smoking and smoldering away. every few minutes Art's yelling, "Now you stop that boy." "get on up here Dallas." "Stay out of the water." Most amusing was when Dallas, feet covered in mud and sand, climbs into the tent and Art cries out, "Don't you get those muddy feet on my sleeping bag." He was a real handful and I was so glad he wasn't my responsibility.
We finished out the Labor Day weekend riding hard through the town of Parkdale. Parkdale was having their annual town wide garage sale/flea market. People from all over come to the town immediately expanding it from a small sleepy mountain town to a large tent and table city. You can buy just about any sort of junk you could want, both new and used. There actually are these people who are professional junk sales people. They go to garage sales or auctions to buy stuff in huge amounts at super cheap prices, often box loads. Separate out the better stuff, put individual price tags on them, and then sell them at these flea markets. Some poor sap goes and buys this junk, uses it for a while, but before too long it winds up back in a garage sale ready to make the loop all over again I wonder how many times one item can make the rounds before it's finally thrown out. Not being interested in buying or looking, we set our sights on getting lunch, buying food supplies for the ! next couple days, and getting out of town as quickly as possible.
That evening we had a hard time finding a campsite. Every possible descent looking camp site seemed to be already filled with large trailers. The only remaining sites were those where no reasonable tent site was apparent or where the previous tenants had left piles of trash. We see this problem again and again. Anywhere there is free camping in the National Forest with reasonably easy access there seems to always be piles of trash. We're beginning to believe that this will eventually cause the end of all free camping throughout the U.S. They need to hire someone or find the volunteers and buy the equipment to come in and take out what these inconsiderate people leave behind. Someday we'll just be able to say, "Remember when camping was free." In a sense we'll deserve it. If we can't clean up after ourselves then we'll just have to pay to have someone do it for us. The final night of the holiday found us in the very crowded Klickitat county park where that crazy guy w! as chopping down the trees. In sharp contrast to this inconsiderate camper was the park manager. When I just asked whether there was a laundromat nearby she didn't just direct me to one, she actually offered to take our dirty clothes home and wash them for us. She used fabric softener, a rare treat for us, and the formerly salt encrusted clothes came back soft and smelling so nice. What a wonderful lady. Whatever the county is paying her is just not enough.
In many year of cycle touring we've noticed that no matter where we are this feeling of fall like weather settles in immediately after the Labor Day weekend. This year and this location was no exception. Before and during the weekend we were experiencing unusually high temperatures, well into the 90s. It was swimming and sun bathing weather. The Tuesday after the weekend temperatures dropped a good 20 degrees, into the mid to high 70s at the highest. By Wednesday we'd experienced our first frost. Waking to a temperature of 28 degrees and an ice crusted tent we knew for a fact our first cold front of the season had just gone through. In addition we noticed the leaves on the trees seemed more yellow and even a lot of leaves blowing across the ground in Toll Bridge County Park just across the Oregon state line. The air was crisp and cold and coming from the north. Fall is in the air and we need to get ourselves a lot further south. If we're lucky we will make it to South! ern California before snows start to hit the mountainous regions. But as we sat in the town of Sisters making plans for the next week we read that another cold front is blowing in and our route will be taking us into higher and higher altitudes. It wouldn't surprise us if we saw snow sometime before getting to the Mexican border.
Leaving the Klikitat county park we descended a couple thousand feet to the Columbia river. We crossed at the town of Hood River where the bridge is one of the worst we've ever had to cross. Built in the 1930s it's one of those structurally interesting bridges from an engineering standpoint. But, it's narrow having just 2 lanes for cars and trucks going in each direction. It also has one of those metal grate surfaces which allows you to look down right to the water. It's not seeing the water that bothers me so much as the feeling the bike has crossing these grated bridges. The wheels tend to follow the tracks of the grate making for a fishtail feeling as the wheel slides from one grate line to the adjacent. It feels almost like riding on ice, as if at any moment the bike is going to slip right out from underneath. Add to this the fact that there was a hard side wind making the fish tail feeling even more pervasive. It was one of the longest 1/4 miles I've ever experie! nced. What a relief to hit hard asphalt road once again. On the other side we immediately begin a climb back up to the 4000 ft level. One thing we're finding about this Pacific Crest Bicycle route is it involves lots and lots of climbing. In 2 weeks we've done 5 more than 3000 ft climbs and we haven't even started on California yet.
With the holiday over and the weather starting to show indications of fall the campgrounds simply emptied. Where two days earlier we could hardly find a spot to pitch a tent we now found we were very nearly the only people in a campground. In addition the forest service roads became quiet, quiet, quiet. As we climbed and descended over the mountain range once again to spend a day of rest in the town of Sisters we counted our blessings. We're so fortunate to have the opportunity to travel and see the country in the off season, after the kids go back to school, when life as a full time camper once again becomes pleasant. Only on the weekends and in towns where there are fall festivals do we encounter crowds, pushing, and shoving. Ahhhh. Ain't fall nice. If it just weren't a prelude to cold snowy weather.
Appendix A - Route
Washington Back roads to Sedro Wooley, Rt. 20 to Twisp, Rt. 153 to Pateros, Rt. 97 to Wenatchee, Rt. 2/97 to Rt. 97 to Ellensburg, Rt. 821, (Canyon Rd.) to Selah, Old Naches Heights Rd. to Naches, Rt. 12 to Randle, Rt. 131 to FS Rt. 23 to Trout Lake, Rt. 141 from Trout Lake to Hood River
Oregon 2nd St. to Oak Ave to 13th St. to Rt. 281 to Parkdale, Rt. 35 to Rt. 26 to FS Rt. 42 to Detroit, Rt. 22 to Rt. 20 to Sisters
Appendix B - Campsites or hotels
Washington Lost the data
Oregon Toll Bridge County Park near Parkdale ($), FS Campground near Timothy Lake, Upper Arm recreation Area near detroit, Circle 5 RV Park in Sisters 2 nights ($)
Copyright © 1995-2011 by Caryl L. Bergeron - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.