Sunday, June 21, 2015

2015_06_20 Leon's Ride

Author:  Mike Hassur

Well, it’s Father’s Day (5:30 AM), and my family has said that I am to be "ready to go” at 7:00 AM – not sure what they are planning.  Anyway, this seems like a good time to get a blog post started about yesterday’s ride (Puyallup Cyclopaths’ “Leon’s Ride”).

The ride is named after Leon Matz.  Last year, because Leon didn’t get into RAMROD, and I was less than enthusiastic about doing an altered course; we just decided to do our own ride on the day of RAMROD.  Leon proposed the following ride:  Longmire (Mt. Rainier) à climb to Paradise à descend to Reflection Lake à descend Stevens’ Pass à climb Backbone Ridge (west side) à descend east side of Backbone Ridge à exit Mt. Rainier National Park at east gate à climb Cayuse Pass à retrace our route back to our vehicle at Longmire.  The ride covered about 85 miles and included about 9500 feet of climbing.  It was sort of a “RAMROD lite” (i.e. all of the climbing in the mountains of RAMROD – and then some, but none of the slog to the mountains and back out).  The weather was great, and our ride was wonderful.

Yesterday (Saturday, June 20th), we repeated the ride; but we had a larger group this time.  The plan was to meet at Longmire and be on our bikes by around 6:00 AM.  That sounds pretty good in the planning stage, but it required me getting up at 3:30 AM.  Leon showed up at my house at 4:15 AM (we had loaded up the bikes and gear the night before), and we headed over to Conor Collins’ house to pick him up.  Everything went as planned, and we arrived at Longmire at 5:45 AM.  Shortly after our arrival, Les Becker and Tom Peterson arrived followed almost immediately by Mark Delrosario and Kurt Maute, Scott Wagar and Kevin Vilhauer, John Winter, and James Kressler.

Our group at Longmire - ready to go...

We were on our bikes and heading out of the parking lot by 6:15 AM.  It was sunny, and the temperature was around 50 degrees (though it felt chillier in the shady areas).  The ride up to Paradise went smoothly.  On the way up, Kurt and Mark decided to take the “cutoff road” over to Reflection Lake.  This meant that they would not ride up to Paradise, but it would give them a head start on us going up Backbone Ridge.  The plan was to meet them at the top of Backbone Ridge.

Mt Rainier as seen on the final portion of the climb up to Paradise...

After a short break at Paradise to take a couple of photos, we descended on the Paradise Valley Road (it had just been resurfaced which made the descent easier, faster, and more fun).  We connected with the “cutoff road” that Mark and Kurt had taken earlier and headed past Reflection Lake.  From there, it was the Stevens Canyon descent.  I had the GoPro video camera going and had hopes of getting video of the group on this wonderful descent.  Unfortunately, Les had a mechanical at the hairpin turn just above Stevens Canyon.  I stopped to make sure that he and his bike were okay; and, by the time we got going again, the group was long gone.

Les at hairpin turn above Stevens Canyon...

Mike - same place as Les...

Les and I had a blast on the Stevens Canyon descent (as usual).  We passed Box Canyon and headed toward Backbone Ridge.  Before long, we were at the top of Backbone Ridge and reunited with the rest of our group.  

Backbone Ridge summit...

From there, it was the twisting (and exciting) descent of the east side of Backbone Ridge.  Our group stayed together for this descent, and there were smiles all around as we exited the east gate of Mt. Rainier National Park.

Next up, the climb of the south side of Cayuse Pass.  We were in the shade for most of this climb which kept our temperature nice and cool.  At the top, we regrouped and headed down.  The speeds coming down the south side of Cayuse Pass can be pretty high (my Garmin topped out at 46 mph), so there wasn’t much sight-seeing on the way down – just concentrating on the road ahead and checking to see if any cars were behind us. 

The descent of Cayuse Pass went fine, and we soon found ourselves in a line of cars waiting to get into the national park at the east gate.  We had never seen a line this long before (it extended all the way back to highway 123).  We just enjoyed visiting as we made our way to the gate/Ranger Station.  Once we made it through the gate, we headed up the east side of Backbone Ridge.  This is just a constant, moderate grade for about 4-5 miles.  We just rode a smooth pace and visited; and, before we knew it, we were back on top of Backbone Ridge – what a view!!

Second time over Backbone Ridge (this time heading west)...

We descended the west side of Backbone Ridge (high speed – quick descent) and were soon pedaling past Box Canyon and onto the lower portion of the climb back up Stevens Canyon.  By this time, the day had started to get pretty warm and all vests, jackets, and arm warmers had been shed.  The climb back up to Reflection Lake through Stevens Canyon is a long, demanding effort – especially when you have already done about 65 miles and about 8500 feet of climbing.  We rode up at different speeds, depending on each person’s level of fatigue; but everyone made it.  We were soon hurtling down the descent back to Longmire and our vehicles.  This last descent has lots of curves and could be enjoyable, but there was quite a bit of traffic by this time and the road surface was rough; so just getting back to Longmire without mishap was the main focus for most of us.

Everyone made it back safely.  All done – except for the stop at the Subway Sandwich Shop in Eatonville.  That 12 inch sub and a Coke sure hit the spot.

Can’t wait for our next ride…

To see all of the photos associated with this ride, click on the following link:  Puyallup Cyclopaths: "Leon's Ride" Photos

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