Sunday, September 20, 2020

A Bike Overnight on The Willapa Hills Trail With Jana

Day 1-Green Means Go!

Jana has put out an email asking if anyone wanted to do the Willapa Hills Trail to Bruceport County Park as a bike overnight. Of course, I said yes, even though my longest ride since returning from the Appalachian Trail had been 25 miles (and that was on pavement). From Chehalis to Bruceport, it would be 63 miles, with the final 10 or 11 miles on pavement (trail and road). Understandably, I was a wee bit concerned about the distance. It’s pretty flat, but still...I was back to zero in my bikey fitness level. When I mentioned to Jana about possibly going Friday afternoon, as far as Rainbow Falls State Park, thus shortening the ride on Saturday by 15 miles, Jana said she was unable to go Friday, but we could just park at Rainbow Falls on Saturday. I thought that was a perfect solution.  

There was just one problem. The air quality from all the smoke was really bad. It was considered hazardous to be outside. Since bikepacking should not equate with smoking several packs of cigarettes, we decided we would only go if the AQI was at least in the yellow “moderate” zone. We would make the final decision Friday afternoon for a Saturday morning departure. 

Friday arrived, and the smoke forecast was looking good! The AQI would be in the green zone! Finally! We were a GO!

Jana picked up me and Sly, and we headed for Rainbow Falls State Park. We were on the Willapa Hills Trail by 8:45. 

Jana getting her new Salsa Timberjack ready. 

It was kind of misty raining, so not long into the ride I switched into my rain gear (my Gore Shake Dry jacket and hat and my rain shorts). Of course, as soon as I did that, it stopped raining. 

Jana had the unfortunate luck to ride through some dog shit. Even more unfortunate was that she didn’t realize it until she went to grab her water bottle that was on the underside of the down tube. Yep, dog shit on the bottle, which got dog shit on her gloves. Disgusting!

We stopped at the trailhead in Pe Ell where Jana was able to wash her bottle and her gloves. 

A post water bottle and glove washing photo. 

The rain alternated with bits of sun as we continued our way along the trail. 

Going through these birch trees was pretty awesome. 

After the detour on Robertson Rd, we stopped for some lunch (it wasn’t raining at that moment). I was beginning to notice a bit of fatigue in my quads at about that time (25 miles in). I did some stretching. Surprisingly, neither my butt or my neck were bothering me. 

As we made our way ever closer to Raymond, my quads were beginning to complain a bit more. We stopped and took a break at the Menlo Store where I got a bottle of Gatorade AND a Dr. Pepper (electrolytes and caffeine). The clerk at the store said there were free donuts that a woman had brought in for the customers today. I had a maple bar, and it was delicious!

Rested and refueled, we returned to the trail. The section from Menlo is not the best, although the blackberry vines weren’t too bad, there were still quite a few. We stayed on the trail except for a small section where the trail is being eroded by the river. For that we just diverted out to the highway, then got back on after the barriers. It was still fairly rough trail with creeping berry vines here and there. That, and the fact that my quads were back to burning (but at least no smoke!), had me slowing down a bit. I was looking forward to getting to the paved section into Raymond. 

I caught up to Jana at the city park in Raymond. It was 2:00, and the little Public Market and Carriage Museum were open. We took a break, and had a look around the market. We opted not to go into the museum. 

The Willapa Hills Trail continues south, and ends in South Bend. It is roughly 10 miles from Raymond to Bruceport County Park. The break in Raymond allowed my quads to stop burning for awhile, but I was definitely getting tired. It gave me a greater understanding of what it’s like to do a lot of miles with not enough fitness! But, I would make it. 

We made another quick stop on the other end of South Bend to check out the World’s Largest Oyster. South Bend is “The Oyster Capital of the World” they say. 

It’s made of concrete. 

The last three miles to Bruceport included the only real hill of the day. Sadly, I had to employ my easiest gear to climb it (it’s not that steep of a hill). I was more than ready to be done, and really glad we had parked at Rainbow Falls. I’m not sure I could have done the additional 15 miles. 

Since it was still raining, the camp host let us stay in the group area with a large shelter. 

Nice to be under cover!

Day 2-There’s More Climbing Going East

I didn’t sleep great last night, but with all the hours in my tent (we went into our tents at 7:45), I probably slept enough. I fully expected to be stiff and sore this morning, but with the magic of Ibuprofen, I felt pretty good...until I sat on the saddle. No amount of ibuprofen could have made that better. Once things warmed up it was okay (well...not really, but I pretended it was). 

The weather was much nicer today, so we were able to see what we couldn’t see in the rain yesterday along 101. 

We made it to the Menlo Store just before it opened, so we took a break, and waited. The people watching there is awesome. It is definitely the hub of the area (also the post office). One guy pulled up in his van, right in front of the door, and hollered out the window  In between hollering, he asked us where we were going. He finally said he always does this because he only has one leg, and he doesn’t want to get out of his van. Jana went into the store to tell the gal a guy was yelling for her from his van. The gal came out (apologized for forgetting that he does this), and took his order. There weren’t any sandwiches yet, so he only bought cigarettes and beer. Even at the Menlo Store they have curbside pickup (only there isn’t a curb...)!

One advantage to going east is that we did the more rough part of the trail first. A disadvantage is that there is 200 more feet of elevation gain. Normally, it wouldn’t really matter (like, it didn’t really matter for Jana), but in my current state of fitness, it was very noticeable. Sheesh! I was going slow! At least the trail was getting better. 

This stuff is good. 

Jana took some time in Frances to spruce up some graves in the cemetery while I continued my snail’s pace. We met back up at the worst of the two trestles yet to be resurfaced. 

Slow walk across, being careful of the rotten ties. 

As I came through the birch trees again, I just had to take one more photo. 

From henceforth, this shall be called Birch Alley (unless they are not birch trees, in which case it will be called what ever kind of tree it is...I’m not very good at tree identification).

We saw a few people out on the trail. There was one gentleman that Jana had seen two years ago! They spent some time catching up while I was catching up to Jana. 

We took a little break about a mile before Pe Ell for some late lunch. 

The view of the river from atop the trestle where we ate our lunch. Is it the Chehalis? Not sure. 

In Pe Ell, we stopped at the store because I wanted something to drink, and Jana wanted a salty snack for the drive home. A young guy drove up and parked at the store. This was his vehicle. 

I mean, why not take the tractor to the grocery store? I wonder if he brought his own bags???

The final push back to the car at Rainbow Falls had me singing this little ditty in my head (to the tune of the nursery rhyme My Hat it Has Three Corners).
My butt it is a hurtin’
A hurtin’ is my butt. 
And if it weren’t a hurtin’
Then that would be some luck!

At least my quads weren’t burning like yesterday (again, the magic of ibuprofen). 

Even though it was a stretch for my current fitness level, I really enjoyed the weekend. It is a great bikepacking overnight, and Jana was fun to ride with! 

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Soaking in More Than the Sun

My friends, Amy and Stephanie, planned three bikepacking overnights. This is the story of the third one...Goldmyer Hot Springs. 

First, a little history lesson. Goldmyer Hot Springs is a minimally developed wilderness area owned by Northwest Wilderness Programs, a Washington State non-profit. Their stewardship policies were established in 1976 to enable them to preserve the hot spring and the surrounding private property. Goldmyer offers visitors access to old growth forest, a crystal clear natural geothermic hot spring, beautiful waterfalls, and campsites. Access is limited to 20 people per day (regardless if camping or just day use), and group size is limited to 8 people. Reservations are highly recommended. Info says, if they are full , walk-ins without reservations will be turned away. They mean business!

When Amy and Stephanie posted this bikepacking trip, I immediately said yes (of course I did). Amy made the reservation for the four of us who right away said yes. Shortly after the reservation was made, Goldmyer was fully booked for the two days (one night) we would be there. Unfortunately, unless someone canceled, it would be just the four of us...Amy, Stephanie, Derik, and myself. 

Since it was just the four of us, we were able to all go in Derik’s truck. I took my gravel bike, Sly. Friday morning they arrived to pick me and Sly up, and we headed up I-5 to I-90. The way to the trailhead for Goldmyer is along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River to the Dingford Trailhead parking area. We arrived and bikes were loaded up by about 1:00. 

Getting our gear packed onto the bikes. 

Almost ready!

The route to Goldmyer was mostly a rocky (often big rocks) “road” that went as far as a footbridge. From there it was about a quarter mile to the caretaker’s cabin. 

Lovely waterfall not far from the start. 

Stephanie pedaling on. 

Amy rolling along. 

And, Derik too. 

Here we stayed to the right. We had directions, but there was also a small sign pointing the way. 

Goldmyer even has a bike rack!

The caretaker’s cabin (you ring the bell by the sign when you arrive). 

Although it was just 4.5 miles to the caretaker’s cabin, it took us an hour to get there (did I mention the rocks???). My Surly ECR, Mama Cass, would not have been overkill on this ride. 

We rang the bell, and reviewed the rules with Esa the current caretaker (she’s been there for 6 months and is leaving soon). 

Quite a few rules. We really wondered about the rule of “peeing on a rock” (if one could not make it to one of the two outhouses in the camping area...say, like in the middle of the night) so as to not attract the goats. It didn’t really make sense however, Amy Googled it on the way home. Turns out, it has more to do with the goats liking the salt, and if it’s on the plants, they will eat all the plants. Well, that’s not what Esa said. Regardless, we didn’t see any goats. 

Esa showed us the map of the place and suggested a couple of campsites (there are 8). 

We opted for campsites 7 and 8. Derik and Amy on 8, and Stephanie and I on 7. 

We set up our tents, then promptly headed for the hot spring. It was about a 10 minute walk from the campsites. We walked through the old growth forest, and by the waterfalls to the hot spring. 

The lower pool is the coolest (not counting the small cold pool). 

The next pool up is warmer, and the third pool is in the cave where the source of the hot spring flows. The cave goes back about 30 feet. This is the warmest at about 116 degrees. 

At the hot spring, there is a covered changing area where you can hang up your clothes. We all started in the “coolest” of the pools, then worked our way up to the cave. The water in the cave was deep enough to be able to submerge up to our necks without having to stretch out. Even though it was a very nice sunny day, it was chilly out, so the hot pool felt wonderful! I didn’t take any photos of us in the hot spring is optional, and the lens would have fogged up anyway. Goldmyer sells candles to take to the back of the cave where it’s pretty dark. It was pretty awesome! 

We soaked for a good long time. Steph and I headed back as we were both hungry, and I preferred to have a bit of daylight to walk back (still ended up using my headlamp for better depth perception). 

Derik and Amy soon joined us back at camp, and we all fixed our various dinners. I finally finished off the last repackaged Mountain House dinner from the aborted Glacier Peak backpacking trip (you can see the posts for that on my hiking blog at I also had a Mountain House Apple Crisp for dessert. It was good, but my favorite is still the Raspberry Crumble. 

After dinner, the three intrepid soakers returned to the hot spring. I declined because walking in the dark is no longer my strong point (with my less than perfect vision). Also, my toes were cold, and the rest of me was headed that way too, so I retired to my tent. 

It got pretty cold during the night, but I stayed warm enough in my quilt. I’m really liking the Katabatic Flex 15 quilt with the Thermarest Neo air Xtherm sleeping pad. 

Morning came (another sunny, but cold day), and Stephanie (who had already gotten in another soak) and I went down to the river to filter some water. 

Seriously cold water!

It was rather frosty. 

Check-out wasn’t until noon, so we headed back for another soak in the nice hot water. Several people started showing up (I guess they were right about being fully booked). A group of what sounded like Russians had also ridden their bikes (including a girl who looked to be about 9 or so). Since we needed to break camp, we dressed and headed back. 

Waterfall by the hot spring. 

So, we didn’t exactly get out by noon (we tried...sort of), but we eventually got everything packed back on the bikes. 

Starting the pack-up. 

Amy already has her tent down. 

We returned to the caretaker’s cabin, and checked out. 

The ride back was more downhill than up but the first bit after the bridge was a good heart thumping warm up. 

Selfie on the bridge just before the climb. 

We bounced over the same rocks as yesterday as we rode the 4.5 miles back to Derik’s truck. 

Amy on a bit of smoother road. 

A brief stop in the sun. 

The river is truly crystal clear! Those rocks are under water!

When we got back to the truck, Amy proposed that some of us ride the rest of the way to the parking lot (for another trailhead...another 6 miles). Derik offered to drive his truck down so us three women could do the ride. We took off for more rocky and bouncing fun. We encountered a few vehicles heading up, but it wasn’t bad, and they were all kind enough to stop to let us pass. 

Down at the parking lot, we loaded up and headed home. This was a great bikepacking overnight! Thanks go out to Amy and Stephanie for putting it together. Goldmyer is open year we’re thinking it could be cool to snowshoe (if a vehicle could make it to the Dingford Trailhead parking) there this winter! So many adventures!!!

Monday, August 19, 2019

A New Blog for Backpacking

Hey everyone! I’ve created a separate blog for my backpacking adventures. It is at:
I’ve just posted the first blog of Annette and my first two days of our Glacier Peak Wilderness hike. Check it out if you are interested. 
I will continue to post bike tours/rides to this blog too. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

OSBT Day 32-A Long Day Home

I made it home before the rain. End of post. Well, it pretty much could be the end of the post, because today was not the most interesting of days. 

I left Kelso just before 7:00. For most of the day, I allowed Siri to direct me. After riding this bike path into Castle Rock, I was on the STP Route until Vader (going the opposite direction, of course).. 

I was only on this path for slightly more than a mile before getting off to head over to the Westside Hwy, and the STP Route. 

Where the STP Route turns onto Westside Hwy from Vader, I went straight. That little section on S. Military Rd was the hardest part of the day. It was an out-of-the-saddle-in-the-easiest-gear little climb. Fortunately, it wasn’t too long. Nothing like Green Mountain from yesterday. There were some nice views along Military Rd. 

St Helens

Rainier and barn

I rejoined the STP Route in Napavine, then departed from it in Chehalis where it goes around the airport (except for one semi-major intersection, going along Louisiana Ave is fine, and cuts 1 3/4 miles). 

I remained on the STP until Tenino. Even though I was starting to feel the occasional drop of rain, I still stopped for some lunch before riding the final 12 or so miles home. I arrived home about 3:00ish and just under 74 miles. 

Interestingly, today I saw three other touring cyclists. They all stopped to talk. The second couple had started in Tacoma, and were headed to Patagonia. Their gear was all fresh and clean looking. 

One final photo...

How to get a forced break. 

This was a good tour. It’s funny, I was never more than a days drive from home, but it sometimes seemed like I was very far away. I enjoyed the Scenic Bikeways; some more than others. My favorite was Sisters to Smith Rock...well, the destination of Smith Rock was the best. The ride there was fine, but nothing overly special (especially since I had had numerous views of the mountains for days). For the Bikeway itself, I’d say Old McKenzie Pass was my favorite. Cape Blanco was another great destination. 

One thing I really liked about this tour were the hikes I did. I really enjoyed Cape Arago and Smith Rock, but Cape Lookout, Humbug Mtn, and La Pine State Park were good hikes too. 

So, even though I had done much of the route on one tour or another, I still felt like I did enough different things to make it seem mostly new. And, of course, I met some great people!

Monday, July 8, 2019

OSBT Day 31-A 12 Mile Change of Plan

I’m writing this from my room at the America’s Best Value Inn in Kelso. Yes, I had planned to just go to Kalama, and camp at Camp Kalama Campground, but it was just 38 miles there, and I really wanted to get more miles so I wouldn’t have to do so many tomorrow. Plus, the weather forecast is not the best, and I’d rather not have to ride 83 miles in the rain (because, 73 miles is so much better!). 

I left Kim and Kevin’s about 7:45. Since they live in more East Vancouver, it was pretty much a straight shot north. In La Center I stopped at Sadie and Josie’s Bakery. 

Nine years ago, I stopped here on my way home from Sierra Cascades (I had to detour to Vancouver because Elk Pass was closed). This was where the mother and sister of my brother’s friend recognized me even though I hadn’t seen them (nor them me) for 30 years. I was glad after 9 years, the bakery was still in business. In fact, I think they had expanded a bit. I got a couple of pastries and took a break. 

Back on the road, I was on the lookout for Lishan Rd. It would be before Woodland. I found it, and stopped for a photo. 

For those who don’t know, Lishan is my maiden name, and this is where my great grandparents homesteaded. Sometime, I should ride up it, and see what’s there. 

The hardest part of the day was just after Woodland. The only level road between Woodland and Kalama is the freeway. Those not wishing to go on I-5 have to go up and over Green Mountain. Green Mountain Road is a doozy! It is 5 steep bumps leveling off only slightly between each bump for approximately 2 miles. I had to stop twice between bumps to catch my breath, and bring my heart rate down from the stratosphere. Fortunately, the route doesn’t go all the way to the top of Green Mountain, but turns and makes a very steep descent back down to parallel the freeway into Kalama. 

Headed back down to the freeway (and Columbia River). 

I rolled into Kalama with a plan to eat at Subway. It was there that I looked at the weather for tomorrow, saw that it was going to rain as early as 3:00pm, and decided to push on to Kelso and stay in a hotel. From Subway, it was 12 more miles that I won’t have tomorrow. 

America’s Best is an inexpensive hotel. It’s a darn good thing I am here today, and not this coming Saturday, when the STP rolls through. This place is fully booked for Saturday. 

I’ll be home tomorrow...hopefully before the rain. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

OSBT Day 30-A Day in the ‘Couv, Hanging With Friends, and the Lil’ Man

With just two days to go, I took my first day off the bike. We went to Portland to the Columbia Company Employee Store. Because Kevin has military ID, we can get in. They have, of course, Columbia, but they also carry Mountain Hardwear, Prana, and Sorel. The prices vary in goodness, but seem to be somewhat more than half off retail. It was hard to not go crazy because I knew whatever I got, I had to carry for the next two days. I managed to limit myself to a couple pairs of capris, a couple pair of pants, a pair of shorts, and a long sleeve shirt. 

After a delicious dinner of enchiladas, the Lil’ Man (Kim and Kevin’s grandson) and I went out so he could check out my bike. 

Lil’ bike tourer in training!

Corbin got on his bike, and I got on my bike, and we rode around the backyard. 

He’s pretty good at making it roll!

We also spent some time with the girls. 

Tomorrow I’ll hit the road. Not too many miles, but one heck of a climb.