Author: Leon Matz
Our 2015 Puyallup Cyclopath Skate Creek Loop Ride was an unusual and eventful ride. At a ½ hour out of Puyallup, Dr. Nick, Conor and I get a call from John Winter saying that he had overslept and would join us, hopefully, at Reflection Lake. When we arrived at the ride’s starting point, there were already 5-6 cars there. We all started greeting each other and getting ready for the ride. Within a minute Dr. Nick shares that he forgot his food for the ride. A moment later he then shares he left his cycling shoes also. Heck! Not to be detoured Nick got ready and took off with the shoes he had worn to the ride. Shortly thereafter, Mark took off.
The remaining 12 people pulled together for a few last instructions and requests. One of the instructions was to regroup at Reflection Lake. Slower climbers were encouraged to take the cutoff road and save 2+ miles of climbing to Paradise. John still had not arrived, and Rod and Chris were not yet there either. With Conor, Craig, Mario, Lanny and a few others leading the group the pace from the start was pretty quick. Memories of us slowly riding and talking as we headed towards the park hit me. “I know Les needs to make it to this afternoon’s wedding on time, but we don’t need to go this fast”! Prior to Longmire, we caught Nick. I slowed to see how he was doing without his cycling shoes and found out he had not taken any food from the other riders. I gave him a bar and wished him good luck. In this short time, I found myself a couple of hundred yards back from the group. It was not an easy catch for me. It took about 5 minutes and harder riding than I would have liked to have done especially so early in the ride to catch up. We found ourselves at Longmire in less than 40 minutes. A few riders started getting dropped from the lead group. A little farther up the road, we caught Mark; and a little later we caught up to Tom who had started early to take it easy on his injured knee.
|Heading up to Paradise (literally)...|
Soon, Mario shot off the front and the pace sped up. Soon the lead group was rather small. Conor Dewayne, Les, Lanny, and Scott W. pursued Mario; and Tom, Eric and I followed. Soon the lead group was out of sight and the only riders Tom and I could see was Les and Scott. I arrived at Paradise in 1 hour and 49 minutes from the time that we started. The typical time to Paradise on this ride was 2:06. I told Les that after a short rest they should all head down the 1 way road and head to Reflection Lake. I headed down the two way road. Soon Eric was sighted and he continued up. I then found Mark and Bram Dally. Bram shared that he was going to go to Paradise, wait for Nick, and they were going to go back to the cars and end the ride there. Mark turned with me and headed down to the turnoff and headed to Reflection Lake.
|Part of our group at Reflection Lake...|
Upon arriving we discovered NO ONE WAS THERE! Where were Martin and Craig???? We waited about 5 min and just as I was going to ride back the other Cyclopaths arrived including John. Martin and Craig must have kept riding. Keeping a group of 15 riders together is a challenge. The ride down Stevens Canyon was fun and quick.
|Heading into the hairpin turn just above Steven's Canyon...|
On the way Conor shared that, instead of going with us around to Packwood, he wanted to do more climbing. At the bottom of Stevens Canyon, he headed back up Stevens Canyon with the plan to see us somewhere on Skate Creek Road. At the top of Backbone ridge, we caught up with Craig and Martin. After re-grouping, we headed down and exited the park. We did a single line pace line along HWY 123. It was real strange rolling back 12 bikes to get to the end of the line. When we hit HWY 12, I requested we try to do a double line pace line. At times we were somewhat proficient and others times not. It was fun to try! With a smaller group and a steadier incline or decline, it would have been easier. During this section Chris and Rod caught us and passed us. Chris commented that he “Needed to pee”. One thing for sure the rotating pace line caused most of us to focus on the rotation and as a result the time went by quickly.
We all stopped at the gas station in Packwood, ate some food, replenished our water bottles, and took some clothing off. The sun was warming us up; and - with the Skate Creek Climb ahead of us - the amount of clothing would be limited.
Soon, Mark and Martin took off to get a head start. Shortly thereafter, the rest of us headed out. The pace for the first few miles was quick but not too crazy. Before long, Mario took off; and Lanny and Scott took off after him. I had hoped we would stay together longer, but it became evident the race to the top was on. Even though Mario was already out of sight, a number of us increased our tempo. Pretty soon John and I were on the front of the group driving the pace. After about 5 minutes, I checked my mirror and was surprised to see the group starting to drift back. John and I started working together and soon saw Lanny up the road a little ways. On one long straight away, we caught a glimpse of Mario. I was pretty sure that John and I could not catch Mario unless we could add a third person. As we started to catch Lanny, I was hopeful he could share the workload with us. As we passed him, I asked him to jump on; but, after a minute or so, I saw him dropping back. We seemed to be making some progress cutting into Mario’s lead but not very fast. I started accepting that Mario would not be caught when I noticed a rider catching us from behind. It must be someone real fit, because I am giving it all I can and they are catching us pretty quickly. That fit guy was Dwaine (no real surprise). He quickly caught us and joined into the effort. Dwaine’s strength and positive attitude gave all three of us hope that we could catch Mario. The climb up Skate Creek is not very steep and is beautifully shaded. Because of the mild pitch, we were climbing at 12-15 mph not the 6-9 MPH like is typical. One difficult thing about the climb is that it is really hard to predict how close to the top you are. Numerous times I thought we were getting close to the top only to be fooled. About a ½ mile from the top, the three of us caught Mario; and we all finished together. Mario, Dwaine, and John continued on as I turned around to check on the other riders. Not too far behind were Les and Tom. I passed the rest of the riders until I came upon Martin and Mark and I road with them to the top of the climb and then back to the cars. We had fun talking and enjoying the thoughts of a challenging and beautiful ride. When we arrived at the cars everyone was sitting around talking and packing things up.
We had ridden so fast as a group that Les had plenty of time to make it to the wedding. We had covered just under 80 miles and 7,000 feet of climbing. A good day’s workout!
Some of us decided to drive to Eatonville and stop at Subway to continue our conversations about what a wonderful ride we had. To me it was a great way to finish the ride.
To see all of the photos associated with this ride, click on the following link: https://picasaweb.google.com/103821724300588557330/2015_06_06SkateCreekLoopRide?noredirect=1#slideshow/6160790468473045122