Wednesday, June 29, 2016

2016_06_25 Cayuse Pass, Chinook Pass (both sides - sort of), and Sunrise Visitor Center Climb (twice): Les, Dwaine, Nick, Scott, Rob, Aaron, and Mike

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.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

2016_06_04 University Place, Olympia, Tenino and Back - 100 miles (almost) with Dwaine, Les, Rex, and Kurt

Author:  Mike Hassur

After our “Westside Road on Mt. Rainier Ride” was cancelled last week due to road closure, Dwaine Trummert suggested an alternate ride for Saturday, June 4th.  Dwaine outlined where the ride would take us and said that he thought that it would be a 75-85 mile ride.  Most of the ride info was foreign to me (and we were vacationing in Whistler), so I just said “I’ll be there” and signed off. 

I showed up at Les Becker’s house at around 6:00 AM on Saturday morning thinking it would probably be just Les, Dwaine, and me and that I would just follow them since I had no idea where we were heading.  I set about taking my bike out of the van and getting my gear together.  Soon, Les was opening his garage door and coming over to greet me; and Dwaine was walking over from his house to say “good morning”.  Shortly thereafter, Kurt Maute and Rex Batson showed up. 

Our group of five got rolling around 6:45 AM.  We cruised along Grandview Drive (just above Chambers Bay Golf Course where the 2015 US Open was held), made our way down and through the coastal community of Steilacoom, climbed out of Steilacoom,

 and made our way past the Fort Lewis firing range.  It always freaks me out a little if the soldiers are actively firing their weapons as we ride by.  Intellectually, I know that they are firing at targets; but…  Les, Rex, and Kurt were really moving through this section.  Dwaine and I were riding pretty briskly as we visited – we looked up and discovered that we were 100 yards or more behind.  Dwaine took off to catch them, and I followed.  We were gradually catching them, but I was worried that we were wasting a lot of energy when we still had 70 to 80 miles left in the ride.  I eased up and let Dwaine continue his pursuit alone.  Eventually, everyone slowed down, and I was able to catch up with the group without burning too many matches.

We cruised through DuPont and began our descent into the Nisqually Valley.  This descent is long and gentle.  It is a good opportunity to relax, take a drink from the water bottle, and eat something.  

Our path through the Nisqually Valley proved to be a mystery to me.  Dwaine led us on roads with which I was unfamiliar.  We cruised along and visited; and, before I knew it, we were passing through the southern fringes of Olympia (which was a surprise because somehow we missed Olympia almost entirely).  There we connected with the Western Chehalis Trail (a rails-to-trails creation) which we followed south from Olympia.

Once again, my description of our route will be a little vague.  All I know is that we eventually left the trail and rode on country roads until we arrived a the small town of Tenino where we refilled our water bottles. 

From Tenino we headed back north toward Olympia.  It was in this section that Kurt started to have significant pain in his right foot.  He’d had this “hot foot” pain before on long rides, and our suspicion was that it was due to the fit of his cycling shoes.  Rex had some time constraints, but he wasn’t sure how to get back to Les’ house in University Place.  We decided to send Les with Rex, and Dwaine and I would accompany Kurt back.

I always carry a supply of ibuprofen on rides.  Kurt, Dwaine , and I stopped so that I could access my ibuprofen and give some to Kurt.  The three of us then made our way back to Olympia retracing most of the route we had used earlier in the ride.  Eventually, we came to a country store.  We stopped, got a plastic bag, filled it with ice, and “iced” Kurt’s ailing foot.  Before long, Kurt was significantly more comfortable.  We hopped back on our bikes and resumed our return trip through the Nisqually Valley and up through Dupont, past Fort Lewis (the firing range was “popping”), through Steilacoom, and up the final climb to University Place and Les’ house. 

That should say "Negotiating one of the last traffic circles before arriving at Les' house"...

Dwaine had underestimated the mileage of the ride a bit, and we ended up riding 97 miles.  All of us agreed that it was a wonderful and beautiful adventure, and we appreciated Dwaine’s willingness to share it with us.

Our next official ride is “The Skate Creek Loop Ride” in two weeks (June 18th).  Here is hoping that our recent hot weather is gone by then.

Can’t wait!!

Click on the following link to see all photos associated with this ride: