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!