Sunday, June 2, 2024

Another Weekend…Another Bikepacking Trip!

Olympic Bridges Overnighter-Day 1

The peeps for this trip were Piper, who organized the ride, Deb, who generously came and picked me up, Karen, Nicole, and Cathy. I only knew Piper and Deb, so it was fun to meet new friends. 

Getting ready. 

Nicole, Karen,Deb, Cathy, Piper, and me. 

The weather forecast was better for Saturday, so we reversed the route to do the longer miles in better weather. It made for a bit more climbing, but also some awesome downhill. Plus, tomorrow will be short, and mostly downhill (likely in the rain).

We started from the Vance Creek Viaduct Trailhead somewhere around 10:30. 

I was, as usual, the slowest. Billy is not the lightest, but that is merely an excuse. These women are strong riders. 

There was a brief moment of some spitting rain…enough to put rain jackets on, which meant, of course it stopped. 

Spider Lake

Almost to the campground. 

We stopped periodically to snack (and wait for me to catch up), and still arrived at Brown Creek Campground fairly early. I think we were all a little worried it might start raining, so we all wanted to get our tents up while it was dry. 

We found a spot that would accommodate 6 tents. 

And, of course, a picnic table!

There is a water pump and potty shacks. At first we didn’t think the pump worked, but it just needed more priming (pumping). No need to filter. 

Piper and Nicole went for another 10 miles for fun. Once they returned, it was reasonably late enough for dinner. 

Post dinner, we walked around the pond on the nature trail. 

And now for a hike!

Some big ol’ maples!

The mosquitoes drove most of us into our tents. Now we’ll see how long before the rain starts…

Day 2

Lo and behold, it did not rain overnight! In fact, we were able to get our tents and gear packed up, and breakfast cooked and eaten with no rain! Just as we were ready to go at about 8:15, it started raining. If there was no way to avoid it, this was perfect. I put my rain jacket and rain shorts on, along with my Showers Pass gloves at the campground. I opted to not put the gaiters on. If we had been camping again tonight, I would have put the them on because my lower legs were pretty grimy at the end. 

We had the steepest climb of the trip right out of Brown Creek CG. No one was warmed up. There was some walking. I was grateful for Billy’s easy gear, and managed to ride it, wheezing like a donkey, of course! 

We just had about 13 miles back to the cars. There was an out and back to Lake Cushman, but there was no point in doing that in the rain. Would have been awesome on a hot day. 

We made our way to the High Steel Bridge. 

Long way down!

Piper, Cathy, and Deb

The other side. 

We didn’t go to the Vance Creek Viaduct train bridge. If we were going to do that, we would have needed to do it yesterday at the beginning. I didn’t care one way or the other as I have been out there before. I don’t know if everyone else had been there before too. 

We arrived pretty wet at the cars. We were quite speedy getting bikes unloaded and on bike racks. 

This was a great weekend! While I do really like the longer trips (more bang for the packing prep), these overnights are fun too. I thoroughly enjoyed spending the weekend with these wonderful women! A special thanks to Deb for picking me up and bringing me home. If not for her, I would have likely not been able to go (or unwilling to ride the extra distance to and from the start). 

Day 1 Route. 

Day 2

Monday, May 27, 2024

Memorial Day Weekend Bikepacking Trip-Day 3

What a Great Finish to a Great Weekend!

Today would be our longest day, so we wanted an earlier start. I was up pretty early, and woke up Jana and Steph at 6:45ish. We were ready to roll right at 9:00 as planned. My phone was pretending it hadn’t charged off the power bank overnight. I hooked it back up to the power bank, and made sure it was charging before putting it into my handlebar bag. No photos until it charged. 

We started the longest climb of the day after less than a mile of warmup. It was a 5.2 mile climb with double-digit grades for the first half. A blue car went by me as I was slowly chugging up. Then it stopped. The guy asked me if I was okay, and did I want a ride! I thanked him, but told him I was fine, and didn’t need a ride. It was nice of him to offer. 

At one point, I stopped at a viewpoint. I really wanted to take a photo. Turns out my phone was already at 100% (from 8%). There’s no way it would have charged that fast if it was really at 8%. Stupid phone. But, now I could take photos. 

We had been way down there just moments before…okay…maybe a bit more than “moments”. And yesterday we had been way over across to the high prairie. 

The climb was on pavement for the majority of the steep parts. While we still had more to climb, the road turned to gravel (Long Rd).

Now gravel…

And a view of Mt. Hood!

Jana and Steph were ahead of me when I saw these signs. 

Hmmm…which ones were we? I Guess since we were going in the direction of the Jokers…

When I was creating the mash-up of the two routes, I had to draw lines (following the roads on satellite view) for the section from the end of Long Rd to Brewer Rd. According to RWGPS, there were no roads between those two points. Of course, there were roads, but not always the best. We had a fairly long section of very rutted out dirt road. We did see a sign that did “Impassable in Wet Weather”. Indeed, it would have been terrible. Fortunately, we had not had any rain, and the road was dry (and also sandy in places).

We finally got out of the dirt and back to regular gravel. We had finished the long climb, but still had three more in the climb profile (there were others, but they weren’t long enough). In between there were some nice descents, or just rolling. 


At noon, we stopped along the side of the road with this view of the meadow to eat our lunch. I even broke out my chair. 

Back to riding. 

After lunch we had one more significant climb, then it was mostly downhill. We had a stretch of downhill pavement that was quite fun, then the pavement ended, and we were back to gravel.

Took this selfie at this viewpoint on the pavement part. 

Then came the main descent on Fisher Rd. It was amazing!

Another view of Mt. Hood with freshly cut hay. 

Going down. 

If you look through the trees, you can see the Klickitat River way down there. We still had to go ll the way down back to the river. 

The views!!!

Multiple switchbacks!!!

Back to the Fisher Bridge across the Klickitat that we had crossed on the first day. 

On the Klickitat Trail for another 1 1/2 miles to finish our epic weekend. 

Some Thoughts

This was an amazing route! The weather cooperated (even the wind), and the diversity of environments made for an always changing, never boring, beautiful ride. The direction in which we did the route (particularly reversing the Schilling Rd/Swale Canyon Loop) was perfect. We all said we would do this route again. Memorial Day Weekend might have just been the most optimal time for this route. Too much later, and it would be too hot in the canyon. Too early, and there might be snow or mud. I would wholeheartedly recommend this ride to anyone who has a moderate amount of fitness (there is some significant climbing). Some might not like the idea of camping in the same place twice, but there really isn’t any where else to camp. And riding through Swale Canyon mostly unloaded was really fun. Overall, we gave this weekend 5 out of 5 stars!

Memorial Day Weekend Bikepacking Trip-Day 2

Just Going For a Bike Ride 

Because we were camping at the same campground again tonight, we opted to ride unloaded today. By unloaded, I mean still carrying a lot of stuff! The only thing we weren’t carrying were our tents, sleep systems, clothing, and toiletries. We still had to have repair kits, water (and I carried my filter), and food. Even though we only needed snacks and lunch, we didn’t want to leave food laying around (critters and such). We each carried about 2 1/2 liters of water. 

We didn’t need to get an early start. I got a photo of the Icehouse. 

The remaining structure. 

The reason the building has not been demolished. 

Still some machinery inside. 

We rolled out around 10:15. We had a bit of pavement before turning onto Schilling Road. The road turned to gravel right away, and started what would be about 9 miles of mostly climbing before dropping down to Centerville Hwy. We climbed our way up to High Prairie on a good gravel road. Although this is what I planned when I reversed the Swale Canyon/Shilling Rd loop, I had moments of regret as we were climbing up 14% grades. At least we didn’t have all our gear. 

Jana fixing her squeaky brake. 

Looking down into Swale Canyon. We would be down there later. 

Going up up up…

Still going up, but now getting to the High Prairie. 

I have friends who have a house at High Prairie. Their middle son was at the house this weekend with his wife, and some friends. We stopped by for a glass of water and to say hi. 

Could have taken a better photo…

We had another 3 1/2 miles of Schilling Rd and just a half mile until we were back on pavement. 

Prairie scenes. 

Mt. Adams. 

Arrowleaf balsam root and lupine

Mt. Hood in the distance. 

We would be heading toward that dry grazing land in the distance. 

We had a nice descent down to Centerville Hwy. Just before the descent would end up being the high point of the day. Four miles on Centerville to Harms Rd was a mostly downhill run. Then we made the turn onto Harms to go less than half a mile to the other end of the Klickitat Trail. 

Swale Creek

Even a potty shack at the end of the trail. 

We sat and had our lunch. It was a windy, and a headwind at that, but the remainder of the ride…the Swale Canyon part, would be all downhill. 

Until we got into the actual canyon, I was once again questioning my decision to reverse this loop. But then I thought it would have been a wash. Going uphill with a tailwind vs downhill with a headwind. But once we got into the canyon, the wind died down, and the downhill got steeper. Reversing had still been a good idea. The Canyon part was beautiful. 

There were patches of loose chunky gravel, as well as bumpy bigger rock moments. But, it was a double track the entire time, and like I said, downhill. When we were in amongst more vegetation it was a little buggy. Mostly flies. I used my buff to prevent ingesting extra protein. 

It was 13 miles of Klickitat Trail back to Schilling Rd. Once we reached Schilling, we had completed the loop, and just had slightly over a mile back to the campground. 

Our belongings were as we had left them. It was 2:30. The loop was a little over 28 miles and 2098 feet of elevation. It was a good day for a bike ride. 

The third member of our Adventure Posse arrived about 5:30ish. I actually saw her go by on the road above, but she missed the turn. Soon she was back. 

Woo Hoo! Stephanie made it!

And then we were three tents (Jana’s is behind Steph’s).

We also saw two other women ride in. They too had come from Lyle. They are Rhonda and Shawna. Both are relatively new to bikepacking. They asked about the Swale Canyon part. I think we convinced them it was worth doing. Shawna just ordered a new Priority ADX! We exchanged contact info. Maybe we will do some bikepacking together in the future!

The mosquitoes are out tonight (no wind), so we have retired a bit earlier to our tents. Tomorrow we ride the other loop back to Lyle.