Author: Michael Hassur
Well, for a last minute ride; this one turned out pretty nicely. Originally, the plan was to do our traditional “Skate Creek Loop Ride”; but weather forced us to postpone it for a week, and road construction between Longmire and Paradise on Mt. Rainier caused us to decide to cancel it and substitute the ride that we ended up doing.
The new plan was to meet at the turnoff to Sunrise from Hwy 410. There was decent parking at this junction, and it was the starting point for each of the three legs of the proposed ride:
1. Leg #1: Up the north side of Cayuse Pass à up the west side of Chinook Pass à 3 miles down the east side of Chinook Pass à turn around and retrace our path back over Chinook and Cayuse Passes and back to the vehicles where we could restock food and liquids and shed clothing (if needed).
2. Leg #2: Enter Mt. Rainier National Park through the Sunrise Ranger Station à ride the 4-5 miles of fairly gentle climbing to the base of the 10 mile climb to the Sunrise Visitor Center à climb to the Sunrise Visitor Center à retrace our path back to the vehicles.
3. Leg #3: Was supposed to be a ride up to the Crystal Mountain Ski Area and back to the vehicles, but we changed plans. Due to the fact that no cars were allowed on the 10 mile climb to the Sunrise Visitor Center (only cyclists and a few hikers) until July 1st, we decided to repeat that climb after descending.
Normally, Leon Matz and I would be driving up together to the starting point of the ride; but Leon was in Costa Rica with his daughter which meant that I was driving alone. I arrived early (around 6:20 AM) which was a good thing; because Aaron Gerry pulled in soon after I did saying that he wasn’t really certain where our meeting point was supposed to be. By 7:10 AM, all of our group (Rob Critchfield, Les Becker, Dwaine Trummert, Nick Iverson, Scott Wagar, Aaron, and myself) were on our bikes and ready to take off. As we proceeded up the north side of Cayuse Pass the roads were wet – not from rain, but due to the fact that we were riding up through the clouds. Because of the clouds, we missed out on some of the beautiful views of Mt. Rainier on this portion of the ride. The ride up to Cayuse Pass was uneventful if somewhat unspectacular. That would be the last time that we would use the word unspectacular on this ride.
|Our starting point...|
|Ready to go...|
After regrouping at the top of Cayuse Pass, we proceeded up the west side of Chinook Pass. During this portion of the ride, we rose above the clouds and started to enjoy some of the amazing views in this section of road.
|Actually this is Nick ascending the WEST side of Chinook Pass...|
After arriving at the summit of Chinook Pass, we – once again – regrouped before descending the east side of the Pass for three miles. At that point, we turned around and headed back up to the summit of Chinook Pass. At the summit; we regrouped, took photos, and headed down to Cayuse Pass and, then, on down to our vehicles.
After shedding some clothing (it was warming up some), refilling water bottles, and restocking food; we decided that we would alter our route. Instead of heading up to the Sunrise Visitor Center once and, then, proceeding on back to the vehicles and on to the Crystal Mountain Ski Area; we would simply head up to the Sunrise Visitor Center, descend back down, and head up again. This would take advantage of the fact that there were no cars allowed on the 10 mile ascent to Sunrise. We stocked up on liquids and food accordingly and took off.
We made our way to the Mt. Rainier (Sunrise) Ranger Station. Between my National Parks Senior Pass, Nick’s National Parks Senior Pass, and Les’s Mt. Rainier National Park Pass; we were able to get everyone in without any financial repercussions. From there, it was a 4-5 miles of gentle climbing until we reached the gate for the 10 mile climb to the Sunrise Visitor Center. Of course, the gate was closed to keep cars off this section of road until July 1st – hallelujah!! The ride up was blissful – only one or two cars (government workers heading up to get the Sunrise Visitor Center facilities prepared for the onslaught of people who would head up the road after July 1st. Dwaine was feeling “frisky” toward the top. We did the last couple of miles pretty aggressively (thanks, Dwaine), with me following Dwaine (as usual) to the top.
We used the bathrooms, ate, drank and headed down. This 10 mile descent is FUN!! As we headed down, I noticed that Les was not with us. It turned out that he had dropped something and returned to pick it up. I waited for him at one of the upper hairpin turns. He arrived shortly, and we took off. I followed Les for the next 6 miles or so. It is an experience that makes me giddy. You are always going fast (and with no cars to contend with, it was even a little faster), and you are just sitting there watching this cyclist in front of you “swooping” through turn after turn. I’m getting a smile on my face just writing about it!! When we got to the bottom; we met the other guys, turned around, and headed up again.
The second time up was a little less “robust” than the first. We just rode at a steady pace and “visited our way to the top”. It was great. After a short break at the top, we took off again on the descent. This time, our group pretty much stayed together to the bottom. Dwaine was leading (which is a somewhat frightening experience), and I had the privilege of being right behind him. Just like the first time down this descent, I was in heaven. It was so much fun to watch him weave his way down the mountain.
After the descent from Sunrise; we rode the (mostly downhill) 4-5 miles back to our vehicles, packed up our gear, and headed home.
This ride ended up being about 75 miles long with about 8800 feet of climbing. At this point in my life, it’s not about the distance or the number of feet of climbing per se (though those things are important to me). Mostly, it’s about the “experience and the memories”. The experience of doing difficult things in memorable places with a group of people whom I like and admire has the potential to create a wonderful memory for me. This ride certainly did that.
To see all of the photos associated with this ride, click on the following link: 2016_06_25 Cayuse Pass, Chinook Pass (both sides - sortof), and Sunrise Visitor Center Climb (twice): Les, Dwaine, Nick, Scott, Rob, Aaron, and Mike