Sunday, May 10, 2015

Carbon River Entrance to Mt. Rainier Ride

Author:   Mike Hassur

Well… that went well!!  The 2015 Puyallup Cyclopath “Ride to the Carbon River Entrance of Mt. Rainier” is in the books.  We ended up with fourteen guys, perfect weather, and a really nice memory.

This ride is relatively short (~50 miles) with just a modest amount of climbing (~2600’), and it is billed as a “build up” for some of the more challenging rides that come a little later in the season.  We left Orting at just a little after 7:00 AM with 14 riders (Martin, Scott W., Lanny, Erik, James, Dwaine, Mark, Scott L., Conor, Nick, Kevin, Craig, Les, and myself).  It was chilly enough (probably high 40’s) that most of us had on arm warmers and long fingered gloves.  We cruised along the Foothills Trail adjacent to the Carbon River at a leisurely pace heading toward South Prairie. 


Riding next to the Carbon River...
Unfortunately, Les Becker, decided at this point that it was best for him not to continue the ride.  He had awakened with a queasy stomach that morning, and it was getting worse.  After wishing Les well, we continued on to South Prairie. 

We passed through South Prairie and started up the Tubbs Road Hill/Climb on the way to Wilkeson.  Tubbs Road Hill is about 0.7 miles long, and it is steep enough to make it a real grind.  As we moved up the climb, most of the available oxygen in my body went to my legs.  What little got to my head helped my brain to register a couple of things (barely):
1.       Conor was flowing up the hill in the way that I’m accustomed to seeing (i.e. with apparent ease and ahead of me).
2.       Both Dwaine and Craig were looking strong as they made their way to the top.
3.       I was no longer chilly…

As we crested the hill, my vest came off; and I noticed a number of pairs of arm warmers being rolled down or removed.  We made our way in smaller groups to Wilkeson where we hit the restroom and regrouped. 

Erik and Martin heading toward the Fairfax Bridge...
Next up, the 1.5 mile climb from Wilkeson to Carbonado.  This climb is longer than the one on Tubbs Road, but it is not as steep.  It gives you a chance to get into a rhythm and sort of flow up the hill (rather than just grinding like you do on the Tubbs Road Hill).  As usual, our group became a couple of sub-groups as we climbed to Carbonado.  We rode past Carbonado and on to the Fairfax Bridge.  This bridge was built in 1921 and was the highest structure (250’ above the river below) in the state of Washington when it was constructed.  We have ridden across this bridge probably 50 to 100 times, and it still is a thrill to see it. 

Fairfax Bridge
We took a left at the “Y” in the road (a right would have taken us toward Mowich Lake) and headed toward our goal: The Carbon River Entrance to Mt. Rainier.  It was in this portion of the ride that Scott Larson rode up next to me and said that we ought to take a detour on the way back to see the mural that was painted on one of the supports of the Manley-Moore Bridge – more on that later.

After more conversation/riding (along the way, I got to hear about Craig’s bicycle confrontation with a speed bump – which he lost), we arrived at the Carbon River Entrance.  We visited the bathrooms, took the traditional picture of the group on the bridge that crosses the Carbon River, and headed back.

Bridge over the Carbon River...
As we made our way back, we heeded Scott’s suggestion and took a short detour to visit the Manley-Moore Bridge (Manley-Moore Bridge Photo) and see the mural located beneath it – who thinks of these things??  The mural was interesting, but it was the bridge itself that was really cool (IMHO).

Manley-Moore Bridge mural...
After our visit to the mural/bridge, we retraced our path back past Carbonado and headed down toward Wilkeson.  This curvy, fast descent is always fun and today was no different.  Conor, Kevin, and one or two other riders led the way down and were really flying (if you were going 35 mph, you were losing ground).  We cruised through Wilkeson and, soon, found ourselves atop the Tubbs Road Hill – another curvy, fun descent.  Thankfully, the lower 2/3’s of this descent has been re-surfaced and is nice and smooth; because my Garmin registered about 45 mph – and I wasn’t leading the way.

After that exhilarating descent, we took it easy on the crowded trail back to Orting – lots of conversation.

We’ve done this ride enough times that it should be a little stale and boring, but it never is.  I think that it’s because of the group.  It’s so much fun to get together with guys that I have ridden with for years.  It’s, also, pretty cool to welcome newer members to the group, to ride with them, and to have the opportunity to show them some of the routes/places that we have loved riding over the years.

Can’t wait until the next opportunity.

To see all of the photos associated with this ride, click on the following link:  Carbon River Entrance to Mt. Rainier Ride Photos

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