Monday, July 15, 2013

Elk Pass at Last!

I even saw an elk crossing the road this morning (well, mostly I just saw the butt)!

It was an interesting night last night. At about 1:00am, I woke up to a bright orange light that was swinging around. I have been leaving the rainfly door open because it has been so warm. That's why I could see the light. I think it was one of the campers a few sites over swinging a large burning torch. It didn't seem to be a good idea what with all the "Fire Destroys", "Prevent Forest Fires", signs along the road. I turned over and hoped that the next time I awoke, it wouldn't be because the campground was on fire!

That wasn't the reason I woke up the next time. I woke again because a mouse was scurrying over the top of my tent. I couldn't tell if it was on the outside of the rainfly, or between the rainfly and tent. It happened twice. I would hear a little sound of something hitting my tent, open my eyes in time to see the silhouette of the mouse. Apparently, I am a light sleeper when I'm in my tent.

Another beautiful day dawned all too soon. Today I would finally conquer Elk Pass. Last time Elk Pass opened very late and I had to detour to Vancouver. 

If you want to go up to Windy Ridge at Mt. St. Helens from Cougar, you go over Elk Pass. Elk Pass sits at 4000 ft. I was starting this morning at 1000 ft. Yeah, it was going to be a long day climbing. 

I made a plan with Spencer to meet at Shady Firs RV Park near Randle at the end of the day's ride. We could split the cost of a site like we did at Eagles Cliff. Like I said, he does not get as early of a start as I do. I'm more a fan of getting as much climbing done before it gets too hot. 

I had a little bit of downhill left before beginning the long climb. The climb was actually in two sections. The first 10ish miles climbed to just before the Clearwater Viewpoint. Then there would be a short bit of downhill (I always hate losing elevation when I know I just have to go back up) before the 5 mile climb to the Pass itself.

While I was still doing the first section, I met Kyle heading south to Lake Tahoe on Sierra Cascades. He was an even earlier riser than me! He gets up at 5:00 and is on the road by 6:00! That explains why he was already done climbing the Pass by 9:30! His goal is 64 miles a day. He would probably make it to Carson--brave soul to do both Elk and Oldman Passes in one day--wait, I was planning on doing that originally--I'm so glad I didn't!

I made it to the Clearwater Viewpoint at 11:30ish. Here is a photo of the ol' gal.
This is, of course, her "back" side.

The final 5 miles to Elk Pass were not quite as difficult as the first section. Still, I was slogging along in Super Granny Gear. At one point I was able to look back and see Mt. Hood in the, seemingly, far away distance. Was I really just there 3 days ago?

I finally reached the summit only to be, once again, disappointed there was no summit sign. Just this.
Well, goody for that, but I WANT A SUMMIT SIGN!!! I think I should bring some sidewalk chalk so I can write on the road, "Summit Elk Pass Elevation 4000ft".

On the way down I stopped at Iron Creek Falls. It was just a 500ft hike to the falls.
I didn't go all the way down to the creek since the trail was not suitable for bike shoes. It was a good thing, because as I was leaving I heard a kid say, "Look, a snake!". I beat feet back to Betsy.

Further down the road I stopped for a proper lunch at Iron Creek Picnic Area. I ate two peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches and an apple!

I had 10 more miles to Randle, and then just about 5 to the RV Park. The park is right on US 12, but it is good size, and the tent area is quite aways back from the road. They charge $15 for a site and $3 for a shower. It makes me realize that Washington State Park's .50 for a three minute shower is a pretty good deal!

Now I'm just waiting to see if Spencer makes it here...
Just relaxing in my Flex-lite chair!

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