Thursday, July 7, 2016

2016_07_02 Puyallup Cyclopaths: White Pass, Backbone Ridge (east side), Paradise, Backbone Ridge (west side), Cayuse Pass, and Chinook Pass (Mike's Version)

Author:  Michael Hassur

Okay, I know.  During this ride, I made a pitch for other members of our group to do the blog post for this ride.  “We need other perspectives beside just mine when describing our rides” – I said.  Well, this ride was just too memorable for me not to ramble on about it.  In my humble opinion, it turned out to be one of the most epic rides that we have ever had.  White Pass, both sides of Backbone Ridge, Paradise, Cayuse Pass, and Chinook Pass – that’s the equivalent of doing five passes in one ride  by my calculations (though my friend, Les Becker, may differ with me a little on that assertion).  The ride ended up covering approximately 110 miles and around 11,600 feet of elevation gain!  I simply did not see this “epic-ness” coming.

This ride was not even in the “starting lineup” for this season’s rides.  It was a “substitute”.  Road closures and weather had caused us to postpone a ride or two already this year and to cancel our traditional Skate Creek Loop Ride.  In its place, we did a ride on Saturday, June 25th a portion of which took us up the Sunrise Climb twice.  This weekend (Saturday, July 2) our schedule had us doing the Triple Sunrise Climb (i.e. doing the Sunrise Climb three times when we had just done it twice the week before).  We decided that, as much as we love Sunrise and that climb, five times in a week might be overdoing it.  So, on Wednesday of last week, we decided to substitute something different for the Triple Sunrise Ride.  We decided that it might be interesting to do White Pass, Backbone Ridge (east side), Paradise, Backbone Ridge (west side), and Cayuse Pass. 

I sent out a ride announcement to everyone and got a “tepid” response at best.  Les and Dwaine were in.  Adam Abrams was a maybe.  Everyone else was going to be out of town or had other plans.  Even Leon, who generally makes it to most of our rides, was doubtful because of a long ride that he was doing on Thursday of that week.

I was a little disappointed that we didn’t have a bigger group, but I really enjoy riding with Les and Dwaine; so I figured that we would have a good ride together.  Then, I heard back from Adam – he was in.  Next, I heard from Mark – he and Mario were coming!!  Our little group had just doubled in size.

Our goal was to meet at the Grove of the Patriarchs Parking Lot which is located just inside the east entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park.  We hoped to be on our bikes by 6:30 AM.  The idea was that we might minimize our exposure to traffic by starting early.  The bad part of that idea was that it required us to get up really early as it is about a 90 minute drive from Puyallup and even longer for Les and Dwaine who live in University Place.  I had packed my bike and gear in the van the night before.  I got up around 3:40 AM and showered, had breakfast, etc. and was pulling out of my driveway by 4:25 AM.  The drive took me exactly 90 minutes.  I pulled into the parking lot at Grove of the Patriarchs at 5:55 AM.  Great, I had plenty of time to visit the restroom and to get my gear out and ready.

Aaron Gerry arrives unexpectedly - awesome!!

About 10 minutes later, Aaron Gerry pulled into the parking lot!!  I was surprised to see him and thrilled at the prospect of adding another good rider to our group.  Shortly thereafter, Adam arrived as did Les and Dwaine.  Just before 6:30 AM, Mark and Mario pulled in.  Mark has been battling some back issues which have limited his ability to get out and ride as much as he would like.  He informed me that he was just going to ride on his own up to Paradise and back.  Mario, on the other hand, intended to do the entire ride with us.

We left the parking lot heading for White Pass pretty much on time.  We headed south on Hwy 123 to its junction with Hwy 12, turned left onto Hwy 12, and began the ascent toward White Pass.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that we were climbing pretty rapidly.  In fact, given the number of climbs that we planned on doing in this ride; I was concerned that we were being a little too “generous” with our energy expenditure this early in the ride.  A feeling that was confirmed when drops of sweat starting falling from my forehead as we neared the top – uh oh, that almost never happens on the first climb of the day.  We took some photos at the top and headed back down the way that we had come.  The descent off of White Pass is fast and the road is smooth (mostly), so it didn’t take us long to get back to Hwy 123 where we turned right and headed back to our vehicles to restock on food and liquids and to shed some clothing.

The next leg of our ride was to take us up over Backbone Ridge and on up to Paradise.  Once again, the pace up the east side of Backbone Ridge was brisk enough that it was a bit of a strain, and I wasn’t feeling that strong.  I suspect that the effort of going up White Pass faster than expected was beginning to take its toll on me.  I decided at that point that I was going to conserve energy on the next part of this climb which would take us through Stevens Canyon and on up to the Paradise Visitor Center.

The Stevens Canyon portion of the climb is usually one of my favorites.  With sheer rock faces on your right and a cliff that falls away into Stevens Canyon on your left, it is pretty awesome.  It is, also, a long and tough climb up to Reflection Lake – especially if you are not feeling very peppy which I wasn’t.  Pretty soon, I was alone.  All of the other guys were ascending faster than me.  It was a little demoralizing.  Here we were less than half way into our ride, and my “motor” was sputtering – WTH!!  I’d been in this position before, so I decided to do what had worked for me in the past.  Stop, ingest a Goo Pack, and take a couple of good drinks of liquid.  After a brief stop, I was on my way.  Soon, I saw Mario headed my way.  He was coming back down to check on me- thanks, Mario.  I got into a rhythm; and, by the time that we arrived at Reflection Lake, I was beginning to recover.

I wondered how the remainder of the climb up to Paradise would feel, but it was fine.  I love Paradise – even when it is crowded on a 4th of July weekend (like on this Saturday).  Everything is beautiful up there: Mt. Rainier, the Tatoosh Mountain Range, the lodge, the visitor center, etc.  We stopped, took photos, ate and drank, topped off our water bottles and headed down.  The descent from Paradise to Reflection Lake is about a 2-3 mile descent.  It was a cloudy day, so no photos of Mt. Rainier reflecting in Reflection Lake.

View of Tatoosh Mountain Range from Paradise...

From there, it was the long, twisting descent on the roads above Stevens Canyon and down the shoulder of Stevens Canyon to Box Canyon.  We were going fast, the road was rough, and it was slightly disconcerting at times – but always fun!!

Next up, we climbed the west side of Backbone Ridge, took a couple of photos at the summit, and flew down the east side back to our cars.  Adam and Aaron had to leave after this second leg of the ride due to family obligations.  We had done around 80 miles and 7800 feet of climbing by this point of the ride, so they didn’t get cheated.

After bidding Adam and Aaron goodbye; it was left to Les, Dwaine, Mario, and me to finish the third leg of this ride – Cayuse Pass.  We refilled our water bottles, stocked up on food, and took off.  Cayuse Pass is about a 10 mile climb with a pretty consistent 6-7% grade.  It is challenging anytime, and we were fatigued from the first two legs of our ride.  We didn’t set any speed records, but we managed to make it to the top of Cayuse at a nice, steady pace which found us all reaching the top together. 

Les and Mike at Cayuse Pass - about to head on up to Chinook Pass...

Dwaine, Mike, and Mario at Cayuse Pass...

About a mile before we reached the top of Cayuse Pass, Dwaine complicated things (he’s good at that).  He said “when we get to the top of Cayuse Pass, I’m going to ride on up to the top of Chinook Pass as well”.  A very brief discussion followed (talking was sort of an effort at this point), and it was determined that we ALL were heading to the top of Chinook Pass.  Thankfully, the grade from Cayuse Pass up to Chinook Pass isn’t very steep; and we were able to maintain our pace up Chinook without too much trouble.

Now, all that was left for us to do was to negotiate the 15 mile or so descent from the top of Chinook Pass back to our cars.  I know that sounds pretty simple and it is; but, when you are a little “fried” mentally, going 35-40 mph down a mountain pass can be risky if you don’t make a real effort to be attentive.  We talked about this before starting our descent, and we made it back to our cars just fine – though the road vibrations on the way down made me feel as though I’d been put through a “blender” by the time we finished.

Mike - all done... in more ways than one...

That's an "epic ride" smile from Les...

Epic ride with a wonderful group of guys.  Can’t wait for our next ride!!

To see all the photos associated with this ride, click on the following link:

No comments:

Post a Comment