Sunday, September 30, 2018

Joy Ride’s Intro to Bikepacking Overnight, Or...

...A Most Excellent Bikepacking Extravaganza With So Many Fun People!

A week ago, Derik held an Intro to Bikepacking Clinic at Joy Ride. This weekend 11 of us went out to the forest for a little overnight field trip. For some of us, this was a new experience riding fully loaded gravel bikes. The rest of us had varying degrees of experience. On the first day, a few went the long route, four went the shorter route, and four of us inadvertently went the medium route (more on that in a moment). All of us had fun.

Day One—The Magnetic Pull of the C-Line

We met at the Skep at 10:00. I got a 9.5 mile warmup by riding there from home, as did the majority of the group. We ended up rolling out about 10:30. Weather was looking pretty good (rain was forecasted for the evening). Tim had developed the route (this way, we couldn’t blame Derik if we didn’t like it). There were two route options, a shorter one at about 32 miles, and a longer one at around 45-50. I knew from the start I would do the shorter route. I didn’t even download the longer route to my phone. Derik planned to go longer, and Jason would stay with those of us wanting to go the shorter option.

Sly waiting to get rolling.

Riders and bikes at the ready.

Our destination for Day 1 was Porter Creek Campground on the South side of Capitol Forest. This was cool because I had never been there. There would be some new roads for me! There would also be a wee bit more than 3000ft of elevation gain, but that’s the Forest. To get to our planned entrance into the forest, we had a little bit of road riding to do first. Those of us with narrower gravel tires rolled a little easier on the pavement (but we sure wanted some fatter tires on the gravel!). Soon enough, we all convened at the one and only bit of singletrack for the two days. I’ve been on this singletrack several times. I was fully prepared to have to walk most of it with the bike being loaded, and much heavier. I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself able to ride as much of the section as I do without the load. One of the new riders questioned the awesomeness of the singletrack. Derik convinced her that was it, there would be no more.  

Jana completing the singletrack.

Singletrack is never a problem for the D-man!
The first climb on the gravel began right after the singletrack. I was certainly utilizing my easiest gear (ever so grateful for changing to a smaller chainring), but I managed it. A good down section, some more up, then more down, spit us out onto Sherman Valley Rd. We headed up the road to the C-Line. A couple of weeks ago we had started up the C-Line, but cut off at D4000. This time we continued the long long climb up the C-Line. Because this was touring, and not just your normal weekend gravel ride, we stopped midway up the climb, and pulled out a variety of lunch items. I had some little mini flour tortillas with peanut butter and honey. Jason had a squeeze pack of chocolate hazelnut spread that I added to one of the tortillas. It was a very enjoyable lunch break.

Back on the bikes, we continued up the C-Line.

A nice view

Derik photo bombing on his Bombtrack!

The last time I was all the way to the top of the C-Line was on a Team gravel ride. There was snow then. This time, instead of snow, there were motorcycles, and the intersection has been clear cut (we suspect there is going to be some logging starting soon). We headed on down. At the turn for D1000, Stephanie, Ken, and Derik turned for the long route. That last time when there was snow? Karen and I, moving much slower than the rest of the group rode right past the D1000 turn. Unfortunately, no one had waited for us at the turn (it is an expected practice that someone waits until everyone makes the turn). This time, on purpose, the rest of us continued down C-Line. Not far beyond the turn, the C-Line became a very scary experience with really heavy gravel. It was also quite steep. Even though my every instinct was to brake and go really slow, I found that to be harder. Keeping a bit more speed, and letting the bike move underneath me seemed to work better. Still, at the end, we all gave a definite hallelujah when the road returned to a normal surface (well, Seaweed, who was riding a fat bike, might have actually enjoyed it). 

Down down down we went. At one point, Rosemary was in the lead, followed by Seaweed and I. Lily had stopped when she thought something had fallen off her bike. As Seaweed and I were riding along, I asked if he knew how to get to the campground. He said he could get there. About that time, Lily came flying down the hill telling us we needed to turn around. We had missed the turn for C-1000. Seaweed and her took off after Rosemary to catch her, and tell her to turn around. I turned around and headed back up. As I was riding the couple of miles back up the hill, I was reminded of the last time I had missed a turn off C-Line (that time, Karen and I ended up all the way down to US 12). I realized that the C-Line must have some strong magnetic pull. It really doesn’t want me to depart from it!

Anyway, Seaweed, Lily, and Rosemary caught up to me, and we rode back to the turn for C-1000. Along the way, Jason met us, and we all rode the rest of the way to the campground on the B-Line. We arrived at our selected campsite at close to 4:30. It was a good day’s ride. 

We all set up our tents on Sites 9 and 11. It was very nice; right on the creek. It was also in good proximity to the potty shacks. Shortly, Derik, Ken, and Stephanie arrived, as did Amy, who had ridden the road because she hadn’t been able to leave town at 10:00 with the rest of us. Once camp was set up, we all took a break and enjoyed some beverages from a cooler that had been waiting for us (Derik had dropped it off the day before, and it was actually still there).

The view from Jana’s tent Taj Mahal.

More tents!

Jana relaxing and reading her book with her bike looking over her shoulder.

Once a number of beverages were consumed, everyone began to cook their dinners. At least half of us had done our grocery shopping at REI. I don’t think any of us had the same dinner. I had the Turkey Dinner Casserole. It was pretty decent. 

Amy and Derik started a campfire, and we all enjoyed the remainder of the evening sitting around it, laughing and telling stories. Around 9:30 it began to sprinkle (remember that forecast?). Before long we all retired to our humble abodes. The rain became heavier, and continued off and on throughout the night. As tired as I was, it took me awhile to fall asleep, but eventually I did.

Day 2–Back Up and Over With a Bit of Walking

The rain had stopped by the time we all rolled out of our tents. Breakfasts were fixed, tents were packed up, and everything was packed back on the bikes. Jana’s husband, Bill, had joined us the night before (he reaffirmed his dislike for camping, but it was nice of him to come). He graciously took the cooler and all of our trash. Jana herself had to return to town faster, so Bill took her bags while she took the road back. Our numbers were still at 11 as Amy would be riding the gravel back with us.

We departed the campground at almost 9:30 (personally, I think that’s pretty good for 11 people!). Right out of the campground we were climbing up the B-Line. The climb was long...very long. Layers came off. Eventually, we got to the top, and started some nice downhill.

Here comes Ken Z!

Followed by Amy and Derik

Group shot at B4000 (the speedies, Stephanie and Ken were ahead of us). Left to right: Lily, Seaweed, Derik, Ken Z, Rosemary, Jason, and Amy (that’s Sly laying down).

We made the turn onto B4000. This was very familiar territory for me, but I hadn’t ridden it in this direction. There is a really good reason for that. The next turn is on to the KC-Line. It goes sharply up, and the rocks are pretty loose. I gave it a valiant effort, but ended up having to walk. Those of us not on mountain bikes (or fat bike) all had to walk. I told Rosemary there is no shame in walking! 

At one point when we were back to riding, but still climbing, it decided to rain. Of course, as soon as I got my jacket on, it stopped (but, you know, if I hadn’t put my jacket on, it would have continued to rain...that’s weather karma for ya). 

The remainder of the ride on B6000 back to the B-Line was a glorious 7 miles of screamin’ downhill. It was the reward for all the climbing! 

At the Rock Candy Parking Lot, we saw the cars of the Gravelpalooza ride. We had missed them on the road though. We all had a snack, then proceeded across the hwy to head to the Green Diamond property for the last section of gravel. We climbed toward the quarry with a little break to allow Seaweed to do a little yoga.

Maybe we all should have done some yoga!

We returned to the pavement at the Kennedy Creek gate on Old Olympic Hwy. All that was left was to ride 101 to the Steamboat Island exit, then Madrona Beach to Mud Bay, and back to the Skep. We arrived close to 2:00. As is the usual finish for the gravel rides, we enjoyed some food from Wally’s and beverages at the Skep.

Back where we started.

After some food, drink, and chatting with the Gravelpalooza riders who came in, I headed for home. I think this “Intro to Bikepacking” overnight was a wild success. Everyone had a great time. With all the different setups, it was proven that you can be successful riding what you’ve got. Of course, Bikepacking bags work, but so do panniers, and generous use of straps. There were no major mechanicals, and no crashes. Most of all, everyone had a great time. I really hope we do it again!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Gravelpalooza #1–Something New, Something Blue

Yay! We are back to Gravel Season! Today was the first Joy Ride Bikes Shop Gravel Ride known as Gravelpalooza. It was almost like a bride at a wedding...something new, something borrowed (if you consider a borrowed rain jacket), and something blue. 

Let’s start with the something blue. That would be the sky. The weather forecast throughout the week had not looked good for today. It was looking like thunderstorms would accompany us along the gravel roads of Capitol Forest. As I was riding from my house to meet up with Bethany for the drive up to the “Y”, I did indeed get rained on pretty good. I had my rain jacket and my awesome Vaude bike gaiters, but the space between the bottom of my jacket, and the tops of my gaiters got pretty wet just riding the 6 miles to Bethany. At least it stopped raining by the time we got to the “Y” (Waddell and Sherman Valley Rds). Twenty one of us started up C-Line. By the time we got to D-4000, the jackets had come off (it’s a bit of a climb). There was actually a few pockets of blue sky!

However, as we were descending down, it started to rain, no, make that, hail. Jackets were back on in a flash! This trend of rain then sunshine would continue for most of the ride. At least there was some blue sky! I think I took off/put on my rain jacket 3 times.

For the “something new”, it was short to longish sections of SINGLETRACK! There were a number of us who were rather apprehensive about the idea of taking our drop bar gravel steeds on singletrack trails. I, for one, have steadfastly proclaimed I am NOT a mountain biker! To me, singletrack is mountain bike territory. Those with mountain bike backgrounds seemed to think it was no big deal (and, of course, there were some who were actually on mountain bikes). Well...we managed just fine. Maybe not the speediest, but we made it without any mishaps. Dare I say, it was even a little bit fun??? It helped that there was more flat and downhill, than uphill. Also, the trails are pretty well maintained (even though there was a fair amount of mud and puddles from the rain). It was also interesting to me because, while I have been on many of the gravel roads, I have zero experience with the trails...where they start, distance, and finish. I want to learn the trails so I can do some hiking training for my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2020.

It felt like the gravel road to singletrack ratio was about 1:1, but it was really probably more gravel road...but not by much! It was a good experience. As conditions become worse on the trails, some knobbier tires would be helpful, or maybe I should just bite the bullet, and get some 650b wheels so I can run a wider tire...which would be awesome on the gravel too...

Even with the rain, it was a successful first Gravelpalooza of the season. I’m looking forward to the next one!

A couple of new women...Lia and Machiko!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

(Backup) (Backup) Colleen and Bethany’s 2 Day Bikepacking Adventure

Day 1: What a Nice Trail, Except for the Pokies!

I’ve been wanting to try bikepacking with Sly, my gravel adventure bike. I wanted to do the Willapa Hills Trail (the whole thing, not just the parts I’ve done on my road bike, and my Bike Friday touring bike...aka, the easy parts). My friend, Bethany, did the WHT last April (a day ride, unloaded). She has also wanted to do a bikepacking trip with her gravel bike. The planets aligned, and we were able to schedule a short trip this weekend. 

Bethany and our driver (aka her husband) picked me up Saturday morning at 7:00. We arrived at the WHT Trailhead in Chehalis (take the Hwy 6 exit from I-5 South, turn right, then turn left, following the signs to the Willapa Hills Trailhead), and loaded the bags onto the bikes. Here’s Sly, ready to go.

Here we are, two bikepackers ready to go! 

We had to stop a few times to make some adjustments (mostly just tightening straps), but then we were on the trail!

The first part of the trail is paved. It gave us time to get used to the weighted bikes, and warm up a bit. I continued to have problems with my handlebar pack straps loosening to where the bag would start to rub on the front wheel. I would have to stop and tighten them. It was frustrating until I tied the straps from the pocket to the straps of the Sweetroll. That seemed to do the trick. 

Back in 2007, there was a major flood of the Chehalis River. This flood washed out several of the old railroad (now Willapa Hills Trail) bridges. Up until a year or so ago, those bridges had not been replaced. Now, there are new bridges for all of the river crossings between Adna and Rainbow Falls State Park.

Such a nice bridge!

Upon crossing the bridge just after the Adna Trailhead Parking, the trail turns to gravel. It’s pretty well hard packed, and easy to ride. Before we knew it, we were passing the turn to Rainbow Falls State Park (15 miles). From here, the trail continued to be easy, and well maintained. 

We arrived in Pe El, where there is another Trailhead Parking lot with restrooms, and the Pe El Country Store just across the street. 

The Country Store is the beige building behind the blue building (which is for sale...if you are interested).

I took the opportunity to get a bottle of root beer to go with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I had packed. Although it was only about 10: 30, we were ready for a break and some food. I can’t decide if it was late breakfast, or early lunch (it was kind of lunch food...). A guy rolled up on a Dahon folding bike. He had come from the road. His son was coming on the trail. I’m not sure where they started (it wasn’t Raymond, because the son didn’t know where Raymond was). The dad had diverted out to the road. The son was riding an All-City drop bar bike with maybe 32mm tires. He was also wearing long black pants and put on a velour long sleeve black shirt when he reached Pe El. Interesting clothing choice, but the dude was doing it. Father and son continued on the path together toward Chehalis.

Bye guys!

Rested and fed, Bethany and I continued toward Raymond. The next section of the trail had a few trestles that were in various stages of decay. There was also a nice new bridge. 

Nice view of the river.

We were able to get across the decaying/yet to be replaced trestles, even though we probably weren’t supposed to go across them.

This was the most decayed trestle of the bunch. It was prudent to watch where one stepped.

I almost rode one, but thought better of it.

Okay, I’ll walk...

Watch your step there, Bethany!

Many parts of the trail were tunnels of green. It was really pleasant. 

This was fairly comfy to ride on.

At one point we spotted some wild bison! Okay...they weren’t wild, but they were bison!

Mama and calf

We knew there was a section where there is no bridge or trestle, so we would have to divert out to the road running parallel (not Hwy 6). Bethany had done this back in April, so she knew where to go. As we were riding to where she had turned to return to the trail (down a gravel road), we saw a pickup pull out. When we got up to the turn, and there was a closed gate. Bethany said there hadn’t been a gate before. Strangely, the pickup had turned around and was coming toward us (we had ridden further beyond the gated road). I said, “ Oh, there coming back.” Except, they weren’t coming back to talk to us. They started to drive by, but we had stopped, and they then stopped and asked us if we needed something. We asked about the road back to the trail. The woman said it did go to the trail, but it was private property (she was kind of snotty about it). She told us where we could get back on the trail, then they drove off. Bethany thought it was weird, since she had previously gone that way. The pickup had Oregon plates, so we thought maybe they were new owners, or something like that. Anyway, we didn’t try to see if the gate was unlocked. We came out to Hwy 6, rode for about a mile to Doyle Rd, turned there, and immediately turned back onto the trail. 

As we continued on, we were hot, and parched (for me, anyway, water wasn’t cutting it). The trail was paralleling Hwy 6. We came to the burg of Menlo. There, sitting along the Hwy, was a beautiful sight...the Menlo Market. We exited the trail immediately! I had a delicious bottle of Gatorade, and a Snickers. Bethany even broke down and had a Henry Weinhard’s Orange Cream Soda (and thought it was quite good)! 

So refreshing!

Chillaxin for a moment!

An older gentleman came and bought a large supply of Busch NA (near beer). He asked where we were headed. When we told him Raymond, he said we only had about 6 miles to go. 

Back on the trail, things started to get a bit...well...less maintained. We had been navigating around the pokie Blackberry vines pretty successfully. However, the trail was getting narrower and narrower. When we came to a cross street, and saw the condition of the trail on the other side, we opted to divert to the road.

Looks awfully pokie to me!

As soon as the trail widened again, we got back on. Then it was overgrown again. Back out to the road we went, only it wasn’t Hwy 6. Bethany looked on her phone, and we could see that this road paralleled the trail. We had ridden for just a short bit when I saw an access back to the trail. I said I would just go have a look. The trail was fine again, so we got back on. 

Before too long, we hit the bit of paved section into Raymond. We arrived at the end of the trail at about 3:30. Since we were just going to be setting up our tents at the Riverfront Park, and wouldn’t be doing so until the sun went down, we decided to go have second lunch/early dinner at Dairy Queen. Besides, we were both really hungry. After both of us consumed too much food, we made our way over to the park. Bethany opted for a bit of a lay down.

Because it was after 4:00, and the Carriage Museum and Visitor Center we’re closed, we didn’t have access to the restrooms to was the dirt off our legs. 

Dirt tan.
Bethany utilized some wipes. I went down to the river and washed off my legs. It also felt good to dip my legs into the cool water.

One of the numerous metal sculptures that Raymond is known for. This one is on the dock for the river.

We finally decided the sun had set enough that we could put up our tents. Bethany noted that the grass was pretty green, and therefore wondered if there might be sprinklers. I said I hadn’t seen any sprinkler heads...

Sunset on the Willapa (photo by Bethany)

Day 2: A Lot Harder Than Day 1!

Where was I...oh yes...sprinkler heads. We had a night of semi-sleeplessness, but no issues with anyone telling us we could camp at the park. However, at about 5:00, I was rudely awakened by an attack from...the sprinklers! Ah CRAP!!! Turns out there WERE sprinklers, and there was a sprinkler head about two feet from my tent!

See the little black round devil?

OH MY GOD! The water absolutely pummeled my tent, spraying directly up under the vent, and onto my head! As I was howling, I somehow managed to get the vent closed from inside my tent (it’s part of the rainfly). While it seemed an eternity of regular jets of water continuing to pressure wash my tent (it’s a brand new didn’t need washing!), I think it really only lasted about 5 minutes before it mercifully shut off. Both Bethany and I were wondering if the bikes had also got a washing. Fortunately, Bethany had suggested, the night before, that we park the bikes up against a small tree near our tents (instead of leaning them against the picnic table). The tree was just behind the sprinkler, so the bikes stayed dry. I retrieved my towel, and dried everything as best as I could. At least I wouldn’t have to sleep in my, now wet, sleeping bag tonight.

We packed up, and ate some breakfast. Bethany popped over to the Chevron to get a couple bottles of water to refill our bottles and Bethany’s Camelback. 

Gotta get all this back into the bags!

Shortly after 8:00, we were ready to hit the road. Instead of just going back on the WHT, I had mapped a route to Rochester via Brooklyn. Before rolling out of town, we went over to this cool bike sculpture.

Me and Larry.

We had to climb for a short section on 101 before we could turn off onto Butte Creek Rd. Unable to tell from the map, I didn’t know if Butte Creek would be paved. It was. After about 6 miles, we veered right onto Smith Creek Rd. It was also paved...for awhile.

Yay, back to gravel!

This was a pleasant surprise! The road was pretty good, perhaps a little bumpy. I figured we would be doing some climbing. Oh yeah, there was climbing! A lot of climbing! I think in one climb, we had more elevation gain than all of yesterday (although, that’s not saying much as the WHT is pretty darn flat). 

And this was the easy part!

We made it to the top at last.


The descent was long, and seemed steeper than the least sometimes. At the bottom, we popped out onto North River Rd, which took us to Brooklyn. The section to (and a bit further) the Brooklyn Tavern was paved. We enjoyed the smoothness.

Sadly, we arrived 1 1/2 hours before the Brooklyn Tavern would be open. 

Why don’t people like to start drinking before noon on a Sunday???

Still, we took a break, and had a snack. 

Who needs the Weather Channel?

The parking lot is covered in bottle caps.

After our break, we headed on along Brooklyn Rd to where it becomes gravel.

End of the pavement, back to the gravel!

Coming from Brooklyn, it’s a long climb, but fairly gradual. Neither of us required our easiest gears...yet. Soon enough the road got steeper. There were some nice views though. 

This was a nice view looking back.

Sly, looking good!

I think we had been over in those hills back there somewhere.

We finally reached the top.

You’ve got this Bethany!

The ride down back to pavement was definitely steeper than most of the up. Back on the pavement, we were both getting pretty tired, but we still had one big-ass hill to go up on Gerrard Creek Rd. We took a little break just before. I was down to my downtube bottle of water. We had about 10 miles to go. The ride down Gerrard Creek after the climb was great, of course. Onto Independence Valley, there were still a few rollers, but no more big climbs. We slogged our way the last few miles, pulling into Swede Hall (where our chauffeur was waiting) exhausted, hungry, and thirsty around 2:15. 

Today was shorter in miles (47 vs 53.6), but the elevation gain was far more (3228ft vs 669). Plus, there was no place to get something to drink or eat (we had enough food and water, but a Gatorade or something would have been nice). However, the trip, though short, was a resounding success! We both had a great time, and I really enjoyed doing this tour with Bethany. Now I should go dry my tent...blasted sprinklers!!!