Saturday, September 1, 2012

Puyallup Cyclopath Windy Ridge Climb

Author:  Mike Hassur

This ride was so much fun.  First of all, I got an email from a cyclist in Germany, Jurgen Becker, who said that he would be visiting Tacoma for three weeks and would like to ride with us in the mountains during his stay.  He had somehow found the Puyallup Cyclopaths Blog, read it, and decided that we might be the guys to guide him through the mountains in the Tacoma vicinity.  I sent an email back to Jurgen with a few questions and received a prompt reply that 70 miles and 6500 feet of climbing would not be a problem.

As the date for our ride approached, we had seven cyclists interested in going: Les Becker, John Winter, Conor Collins, Jurgen Becker, David Garate, Brent Moody, and yours truly.  Since Les was driving from Tacoma, he agreed to pick up Jurgen (who is staying with a family in Parkland). 

Mike, John, Jurgen, Conor, & Les
We met in Randle at about 7:45 AM and were surprised to see Mark Delrosario pull into the parking lot.  I had not heard from Mark before the ride, so I had no idea that he was interested in going.  When Mark got out of his car and informed us that he would be our Windy Ridge Sag Wagon Driver, we were even more surprised.  Mark had come well prepared: lots of water, chocolate milk, pretzels, etc. in a huge cooler that sat on the backseat of his car.  All of a sudden we went from trying to make it 70 miles in the mountains with just two water bottles apiece to – NO PROBLEM!!

We were going to try to leave by around 8:00 AM.  By 8:15, there was still not sign of David and Brent (who were driving together); and the cell phone reception was spotty so calling wasn’t working.  We left and had Mark stay behind in his car to see if they showed up.  Mark waited for a while and then met us 8.5 miles up the road (where the single lane National Forest Road - #26 began).  NF-#26 is a cool road: single lane, very little traffic, and climbing almost continuously for approximately 19 miles with beautiful scenery the entire way.  We asked Mark to go back to Randle and check for David and Brent one more time.  If he found them, he would make sure that they did not miss NF-#26 (as it was not well marked) and then proceed up NF-#26 to find us.

Jurgen and Conor in the distance heading up NF-#26
With Mark headed back to Randle (thanks again, Mark, this would not have worked without you), we proceeded up NF-#26.  Since the serious climbing begins right away on this road, Conor took off almost immediately.  Jurgen followed him, and we lost contact with them within the first mile.  John, Les, and I proceeded up at a brisk pace but not so fast that we couldn’t enjoy visiting on the way up.  About six to seven miles into this climb, Mark caught up with us again and reported that David and Brent were on the road about 6-7 miles behind us.  ONCE AGAIN, we asked Mark to go back and let them know that we would meet them up at Windy Ridge.  We proceeded on up our single lane road enjoying the climb (or at least most of it).  The only problem with NF-#26 is that it has one long descent that has some dangerous patches of gravel (maybe 50-75 yards long) that you could hit at high speed if you didn’t know about them.  Les, John, and I had done this ride before; so we made sure to warn Jurgen and Conor about the gravel.  Everyone made it through safely, but I was so busy talking to John as we descended this section of road that he had to remind be to slow down as we approached the first (and worst) of the gravel sections – thank you, John.  We climbed up to the end of NF-#26 where it meets NF-#99 at Meta Lake.  We then climbed on NF-#99 to the Spirit Lake overlooks (linking up with Jurgen along the way) and on up to the Windy Ridge Lookout area where we took photos and hung out until David and Brent showed up.  

Les, Mke, John, and Jurgen at Spirit Lake

Windy Ridge Lookout
It had been overcast when we began our ride with temperatures in the high 40’s.  By the time we reached Windy Ridge, it was sunny and starting to warm up; and we had enjoyed spectacular views of Mt Rainier, Mt Adams, Mt Hood, and – of course – Mt St Helens on the way up. 

Leaving Windy Ridge (Mt Adams in background)
After our stop at the Windy Ridge Lookout, we descended back the way we came to Meta Lake.  Then, instead of taking NF-#26 back down, we proceed on #99 to NF-#25 and took it back.  The road surface is rough in many places (especially on NF-#25), so we had to be vigilant; but we managed enjoy a fast and safe descent back to Randle.

This was a really enjoyable ride.  The weather was perfect, the cycling was challenging, and it was a great group of guys with whom to share an adventure.
Finished: Mike, John, Les, Jurgen, Conor, Brent, & David

Click on the following link to view all photos for all rides: 

1 comment:

  1. Nice write up Mike. Looking back now, it was an enjoyable ride even though I wasn't 100% that day..