Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Bikepacking Overnight Where Everyone Had Fun Doing Hard Things

Day 1-And So It’s Been Said, We Can Do Hard Things

To back up to the day before...Bethany and I met Stephanie and Katie in Cle Elem Friday night at Eagle Valley Campground. We decided it would be better than having to leave Olympia early Saturday morning to get to Roslyn by 10:00. Steph and Katie slept in Steph’s van, Bethany slept in her car, and I slept in my tent. Since the campground charges by the tent, we only had to pay $14! 

Saturday morning we leisurely packed up and got over to Roslyn before 10:00. Amy, Jana, and Bebeth were already there, and preparing the bikes. As for the bikes, if one were to draw a Venn Diagram of the bikes we were riding, one circle would be made up of hard tail mountain bikes, one would be gravel bikes, and where the circles overlap would be my bike, Sly. Sly, with his drop handlebar and no suspension falls into the gravel circle, but his wider tires and easier gearing put him slightly into the mountain bike circle too. 

Bethany’s and my bikes. 

Katie and Amy ready to go. 

We headed out on the Coal Mines Trail. This trail runs from Roslyn to Cle Elem. We were on it for 3 miles. 

Coal Mines Trail downhill all the way to Cle Elem. 

Step one complete! Welcome to Cle Elem. 

I think there was more to the trail than we did. 

In Cle Elem, we worked our way through town, and out into the Teanaway Valley. We were on pavement for the next 21 miles. 

Nice quiet backroads. 

When we reached the beginning of the gravel, it was time for some lunch. After lunch, Amy decided to continue to a later part of the route (it was a figure 8), and work her way back. 

On the gravel, we began with some general flat to easy climbing. 

Stephanie, Bebeth, Jana, Katie (right in front of Jana), and Bethany (in the right track).

Steph warned us there was some climbing coming up that had some pretty “punchy” bits (short and steep). At one point, we were all working hard when Steph informed us this was not the punchy part!

This was a punchy part. Time to walk! 

As Amy and Jana have said, we can do hard things! And, it was hard, but we all managed to make it, riding when we could, and walking when our legs couldn’t make the pedals go around. 

We finally reached the high point of the route (4900 ft). Katie got the wild idea to ride up a side road to see if there was a view. Eventually, we all rode up. could say there was a view!

The Stewart Range

Mt. Stewart is the tall one (I think).

Definitely worth the ride up the side road. 

Here’s six women who do hard things for fun!

And...their trusty steeds!

With the day marching on, we headed down the four mile long descent to where we hoped to camp. Unfortunately, there was no place that had both tent spots and water. At the intersection where the route turned and began to climb again, there was neither camping opportunities nor water. As the sun was heading down, we decided to head down toward Hwy 97, and Mineral Springs campground, which was 2.8 more miles, but for sure camping and water (the campground was closed, but we would stay there anyway). On the descent down, we kept an eye out for a possible place to camp. Nothing was panning out. We decided to just get to Mineral Springs before it got dark. 

We lifted our bikes over the gate at Mineral Springs (no easy feat), and found ourselves some campsites. Tents up, dinners cooked and eaten, and we called it a night. We rode 36.7 miles with 3258ft of elevation gain. Yes, indeed, we can do hard things!

Day 2-Where Bethany and I Take an Alternate Route Back

It sure got cold last night! We all started rolling out of our tents around 7:00. Since I have camped at Mineral Springs before (this was the third time), and had ridden from there to Cle Elem via the Palouse to Cascades Trail (formerly known as the Ironhorse or John Wayne Trail), I proposed that, as an alternate to climbing back up to the planned route (which Amy had told us had some sandy parts and singletrack, in addition to the climbing), we could ride down 97, then up and over the ridge to the Palouse to Cascades Trail, and back to Cle Elem, then to Roslyn on the Coal Mines Trail.  Jana, Katie, and Stephanie with their mountain bikes opted to return to the route. Bebeth was not sure, but in the morning decided to also return to the route (brave soul). That left Bethany and I. We decided to do the alternate. It was more miles, but not nearly as much elevation. Also, Bethany had never been on the Palouse to Cascades Trail. 

Bethany and I began our day with a 6.5 mile descent. Since we were still mostly in the shade, and it was still chilly, we rode with our puffy jackets and multiple buffs. As soon as we made the turn to head up and over the ridge toward Ellensburg, we stripped off the puffy jackets and extra buffs. 

Heading up in the warmth of the sun!

Every time I’ve been by this barn, I’ve taken a photo. 

The previous two times I’ve ridden this way, I’ve stayed on Hwy 97 all the way to the top, and down the other side. Today, when we had gone part way up, Ride With GPS had us turning onto Bettas Rd. At first we were just going to continue on 97, but then we decided to follow RWGPS and take Bettas Rd. It turned out to be an awesome choice! The road was quiet, and went through a valley before a short climb back to the other side of the climb on 97.

A nice ride down through the valley. 

Just 8 more miles, all down, on 97, and we came to the trail. 

Palouse to Cascades Trail

Now for the gravel portion of the day’s ride. 

Not only were we riding the majority of the next 28 miles on gravel, but we also got to ride with a rather strong headwind! They don’t have all those wind turbines over there because the wind doesn’t blow! We told ourselves it was still faster than climbing. 

We met a group of three also out for the weekend. They were headed to Ellensburg. 

Emily, Craig (or Greg? It was pretty windy), and Ryan had a wonderful tailwind!

We pushed on through the wind, and took a break at the Thorp Fruitstand. Bethany decided she needed to come back when she could buy stuff that she could carry. As it was, we just bought a few snacks. 

Back on the trail, we arrived at the first of the two Thorp Tunnels. 

Tunnel 46

This tunnel is the shorter of the two. You can see the other end, once inside the tunnel. No headlight required. 

Near the second tunnel, we stopped at a picnic table for some lunch, then headed through Tunnel 47.

This tunnel is longer and darker. Fortunately, Bethany had a headlight, and I followed her. 

We continued riding along the Yakima River. It was very nice, even with the wind. 

That’s not a slip-and-slide!

One of the camping spots on the trail (used to be $6, now it’s  $12!). 

Going through a greener part of the trail. 

Not that you can tell, but the river is there. 

We were both getting pretty tired, and ready to be off the bikes. The wind was relentless until we got off the trail in South Cle Elem. Then it was a short ride back over to the Coal Mines Trail. Of course, what we had ridden down yesterday, we now had to ride back up. Sheesh, that seemed like more than 3 miles going back! We arrived back to the car at 3:00. Steph’s van was still there, so we knew they weren’t back yet. By 3:30, we were packed up and ready to head home. 

We found out when we were almost home that Jana, Katie, and Steph had quite the adventure of their own (involving some bushwhacking to find the singletrack). Bebeth had, wisely, taken the paved road before the singletrack. Bethany and I were very glad we had opted for the alternate route! Today was a hearty 46.8 miles with a less than hearty 1237ft of elevation gain. 

Overall, the weekend was a resounding success! Everyone fulfilled their desired riding experiences, and most of all, had fun doing hard things!