Author: Mike Hassur
The plan was to be in Randle at 6:45 AM which dictated that Leon and I were leaving our neighborhood by 5:15 AM. I hopped into my van and backed out of the garage at 5:15. Leon was waiting just outside. He hopped in, and we were on our way (the bikes and gear had been loaded the previous evening). As usual, the drive to our starting location went by quickly – we visited about all manner of things. We arrived at Randle at 6:45 AM to find Les and Dwaine pulling in just ahead of us. We hopped out of the vehicles, used the “Johnny On-The-Job”, and began to discuss how warmly we should dress (the temperature in Randle was in the mid to high 50’s, but we were sure what it would be like up at Windy Ridge). Eventually, I settled on the following: short sleeved t-shirt, long sleeved t-shirt, long sleeved jersey, and vest - which turned out to be too warm for the climbing portion of the ride but just right when descending from Windy Ridge.
We were on the road by a little after 7:00 AM. The road leaving Randle is flat for the first couple of miles. It then climbs fairly steeply to a plateau which again is fairly flat for 6-7 miles until you reach the turn off for Forest Service Road (FSR) #26. That climb up to the plateau made me take off my vest and deposit it in the back pocket of my cycling jersey. I always forget how much work that first climb demands.
|Riding the plateau above Randle...|
|More of FSR #26...|
Riding across the plateau was peaceful and beautiful. Before long, we took the right fork onto FSR #26. From this point on, it was mostly uphill until we reached Windy Ridge. FSR #26 is a one lane road (really more like a lane) that ascends through the trees with almost no traffic for about 8.5 miles. It is really beautiful, peaceful, and deceptively hard. You are climbing consistently on this road for about 5.5 miles before reaching the high point lookout on FSR #26. The constant climbing is somewhat tiring; and, just before you arrive at this lookout point, you encounter two really steep climbs that take you up to the lookout. I went up the first of these two climbs pretty hard (having forgotten about the second). The second climb is short, but it was long enough to demoralize me when I saw it. We got to the high point with me bringing up the rear.
|Dwaine and Mike: FSR #26 high point...|
|Les and Leon...|
We stopped, briefly, at this lookout to take some photos. From there it was probably a half mile of downhill, followed by some flat road and small rollers which took us by the trailhead for the Norway Pass Trail. The final mile or two of FSR #26 included a couple more gut-bustingly steep climbs before we got to hwy #99.
|Les, Dwaine, and Leon heading toward Spirit Lake on Hwy #99...|
We took a right onto hwy #99 (by Meta Lake) and started the final 7 mile portion of the climb up to Windy Ridge. The weather was cooperating (alternating clouds and sun with no rain), the road surface was fine, and there was still very little traffic. Once again, we were constantly climbing. It wasn’t steep, but it was tiring. Not long before we arrived at Spirit Lake; I was following Les, went to stand up, lurched (not gracefully) to the right, caught his back wheel, and found myself lying in the gravel on the shoulder of the road before I knew what happened. After silently cursing myself for my carelessness; I hopped up, inspected my bike (everything seemed to be fine), and inspected myself (again all was well except for a couple of minor scrapes). We resumed our ascent, and everything seemed to be going well. As we rounded the next corner and began a short downhill, I clicked my left shift lever to go to the larger chain ring – AND NOTHING HAPPENED. Crap. A quick inspection revealed that my crash had damaged the ratcheting mechanism, and I could no longer shift to the larger front chain ring.
We headed on up to one of the turnouts overlooking Spirit Lake, took some photos and headed on to Windy Ridge.
At Windy Ridge, Les and I went to work on my bike. Since we knew that it was mostly downhill on the way back (about 1200 feet of climbing in those 36 miles or so), we re-adjusted my front derailleur cable to keep me on the big chain ring in front for the trip back to Randle. While we worked on my bike, Dwaine decided to climb all of the steps leading up the rather large hill at Windy Ridge – in his cycling cleats! Leon, stayed on his bike and kept moving.
|Dwaine and Mike at Windy Ridge...|
|Mt. Adams as seen from Windy Ridge...|
We had a blast flying along the curving descent of hwy #99 to FSR #25. The few uphills we encountered were negotiated fairly easily in the big chain ring (Dwaine rode all the way back in his big chain ring as well to show his empathy for my situation – thanks, Dwaine!!). Because the roads were tree lined, the sun had not completely dried out the road surface from the night before. As a result, Les and I were a little more careful on this long descent. Dwaine and Leon, on the other hand, may have been equally careful; but they did it at a higher speed than we did!!
We got down the FSR #25, turned left, and took off for the last 20 miles of our trip back to Randle. Again, most of this was downhill or flat. There were a few uphills, but they were not steep and were short. This is a fun section. It is easy to paceline and go fast. The problem is the road surface – it is not good. You have to be very observant and careful to make sure that you avoid the areas in the road that could create problems. Thankfully, we negotiated this section safely (and fairly quickly) and made it back to Randle in one piece.
I always tend to underestimate this ride. Each year I think, “I’m in good shape this time of year – this ride will be easy”. Each year at the end of the ride I’m thinking, “how did I forget from last year how much work this ride is – I’m tired”!! The ride ended up being about 70 miles and about 7200 feet of climbing. In addition, our relatively small group had good riders who were well matched; so we cruised along pretty quickly (which I suspect added to my fatigue).
This is a great ride. Climbing up the single lane FSR #26 is just so cool. The views on the way to Spirit Lake and Windy Ridge are spectacular (Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood (on a clear day), and the residual damage from the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption, etc.). The ride back from Windy Ridge to Randle provides lots of opportunities for fast, curving descents as well as riding in pacelines (on the lower portions).
Even though I am always tired at the end, this remains one of my favorite rides.