San Juan kayaking

A short kayaking-camping trip in the San Juan Islands in August. Had a few companions on this one, but decided to cut my trip with the group short because of an impending storm that would be difficult to deal with in my surf ski kayak. The trip started off with a good view of Mt. Baker, and getting almost run over by some dude in a speedboat while crossing a mile-wide channel from Washington Park. I still remember his face with curly hair.

I met up with a very chilled group on Cypress Head, beautiful place to camp. There were lots of summer camp teenagers about, but everyone was quiet enough at least where I slept.

How peaceful everything looks when the motor boats are gone.

The next day, we paddled over to Gumes Island for a short rest stop and snacks, then to Vendovi Island.

Photo by C. Farrell

It was pretty windy crossing to Vendovi and we were glad once we reached the sheltered harbor.

Photo by C. Farrell

Very fancy place, actually: nice trails and facilities, with a caretaker. The founder of Fluke Instruments used to live here, complete with his cemetery plot.

I was still pretty damp from the ocean and stayed at this sunny lookout for a while.

It was a pretty rough crossing to Lummi Island, and were glad to be sheltered from the wind once we reached the tip.

We camped at the Lummi campground – perhaps the best public campsite I’ve been to.

Photo by C. Farrell

The next morning, we paddled over to Cypress by way of Viti Rocks and Sinclair.

During the crossing between Sinclair and Cypress, the current and wind were strong and at odd angles, and it was a real struggle to keep my surfski moving in the direction the group wanted to go. I decided at that point that I was going to bail on the rest of the trip, as higher winds and a longer crossing would have awaited me on the return trip. Not sure that I want to buy a different kayak, though, as I really like my Epic surfski.

While the others were getting ready to paddle to Orcas Island, I went for a hike up to Eagle Cliff viewpoint. A very noise group of teenagers was lunching there, while I tried to spy how far my kayak friends had gotten already. They are out there somewhere.

Overall, it was a very nice group trip; though I am not usually a fan of those. Hopefully, we’ll meet again next year!

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Oakridge – Bend

Way back in September 2019, I had planned to ride a big loop around the 3 Sisters Wilderness in Oregon. But, the weather forecast turned to rain and wind after the second day, so I bailed to Bend, instead. There, I rented a one-way U-haul van and drove back to Oakridge. Looks like I lost the GPX track for this bikepacking adventure.

It was a cold and wet night in the bivy…

I didn’t stay at the Waldo Shelter, but thought it would be good to take a picture for potential future trips:

Waldo Lake is really beautiful.

Some tough hike-a-bike along this trail.

North end of the lake was very scorched. Good to dry out in the sun.

Crossing the PCT by bike 🙂

Cultus Resort had already closed for the season, so in order to stock up on food, I needed to stop near Lava Lake at the end of day 2. Ants, lots of ants. This is when I saw the weather report that a cold & wet front going to come and stay for a week. No fun, me thinks.

Next morning waiting for the convenience store to open at Lava Lake.

Yup, there is lava nearby.

Seeing the storm clouds roll in over the crest from afar.

Definitely getting closer to Bend – trails this smooth are not everywhere.

No E-bikes sign:

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Sunrise in the afternoon

It has been a long time waiting for this trip, 3 years maybe, so even I was a bit surprised when the weather, timing, and snow cooperated. Sunrise is the name of a visitor center in Mt. Rainier NP. I am not a fan of National Parks in general since they usually throw bikes in the same category as motorcycles. (Oh, the horrors of a mountain bike on a trail. The world will never recover, but why not pave roads up the mountain. That’s somehow less destructive. But, I digress.) In winter, bikes are still allowed on all roads, even when the roads are closed to motorized things, except snowmobiles up to certain places.

Getting up at 4 am wasn’t easy, and I started riding at 6:45 am from Silver Springs SnoPark. I hadn’t planned the trip much, didn’t even know the basic stats of miles and elevation (it’s 40 miles and 4000 ft vert). Years ago, I had read a blog of people who skied to Sunrise and back; took them 3 days. With the motto “go light and fast”, I left my bike light in the car. That clever decision ended up making my return trip quite slow and scary.

There were patches of no snow on Hwy 410, so that reduced the number of snowmobilers to 0. And I knew I would have the entire mountain to myself, today. Beautiful – I really needed to get away from all the craziness of Putin and suffering he’s bringing every day.

The real test of whether this trip was going to fly was at the White River campground turn-off. Beyond that, no snowmobiles go. Just the naturally-compacted snow.

White River
Oh yay: bikes, skiers and snowshoers!? Did the NP forsee that there would be 1 snowbiker doing this? I doubt that anyone has ever done this on a bike. But who knows, maybe I am just full of myself thinking I am special.

I had hoped that the snow would be frozen hard on the surface so I could ride on top. BTW: The scariest part of this trip was getting past this barricade – especially on the way down when the snow had gotten softer. There’s a creek flowing beneath the sign and so there is this big ditch about 6 feet deep right here. There was a very steep inclined way around on the north side of the gate, that lead 6 feet down should one be unlucky and fall through the thin snow bridge over it. Once across, I was delighted – hard frozen snow. Easy peazy to ride on. Steep, but rideable. -10 C will do that.

Landslide in progress whenever the sun comes out.

I walked a few times just to do something different than ride up in the granny gear while balancing over bumps.

Mt. Rainier

I thought I was getting closer, but there are a few switchbacks along the road. Call me surprised. After a while, the snow was getting soft on top and wobbly underfoot. Finally, I decided to just ditch my bike and hike since I wouldn’t be able to ride down on that snow in any case. I thought maybe another mile or 2, but after checking the map (finally!), I saw that it was still 4.5 miles to Sunrise. Ouch. I figured, I might as well try, I could always turn around by 3 pm and still be down before nightfall.

Of course, it pays to turn around and check out the view just in case.

And just keep stumbling up the wobbly, slick snow mess.

How peaceful everything looks. Whipped cream.

Just 3 miles left!

Snowshoes would have been grand. But, “light and fast” precludes such conveniences.

Left: where I came from. Right: where I am going.

Stump, stump, stump. I was getting pretty beat and tired and hungry. A chair would have been nice. Or a big tire to sit on. But, “light and fast” doesn’t allow for such niceties.

A serious break.

I did finally decide that a) I was cold, b) I was hungry, and c) I was tired. After having taken care of a) – b) with some white chocolate with strawberries, I decided to turn around and go back down. I had tortured myself enough.

But, my feet were not cooperating. They turn uphill, which was mostly flat at this point. By golly, I just had to see what the next 1.5 miles would bring. Stump, stump, stump. The wind really picked up near Sourdough Ridge and it got cloudy and cold. I was trying to hurry so I would be able to see a little of Mt. Rainier before the afternoon storm clouds enveloped it.

Love that glacier at the bottom.

Definitely getting closer, but still not NP lodge in sight. It was now 14:10 and I had set myself a bail-out time of 15:00. A bit more time, so to say, to dig my hole deeper. And yes, it was worth it. I savored 15 minutes of snacks and inhaled the views before 15:00. What a cloud show. If anyone ever asks me if I could spend an entire winter up here, let it be known that the answer is YES. What a place.

Sunrise day-lodge at Mt. Rainier in winter. Very few people get to see this AFAIK.

A long trek back, stumbling through the slick bumpy snow.

The sun is starting to set.

It was a race against time to get down before dark. To my dismay, the daily melt had softened the crust so that I had to push the pedals hard just to get down in quite a few places. The last 5 miles were ridden past twilight under big trees; it was dark and I was so lucky that I didn’t hit anything too big.

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Osborne loop

Back in September 2017, I rode a loop south of Mt. Rainier covering the trails:

  • Silver Creek
  • Allen Mountain
  • Cora Lake trail
  • Osborne Mountain

Trailforks calls this the Osborne Mt Mega Loop. Fun. The traffic along the paved road wasn’t bad as I don’t remember anything about it. This was the beginning of skipping trip reports on my blog, thinking I’ll catch up later. I definitely won’t catch up with everything.

Up Silver Creek, I think it was all rideable; really nice grade.

After a short FS road section, the next trail seemed also great.

Alas, the beginning was not rideable due to vegetation and lack of benched trail along the steep slide. Yes, there is a trail on the left through the bushes. See Mt. Rainier on the right peeking around the tree-covered hill?

But, then it was rideable along a 15 foot wide ridge.

This is one of my favorite pictures overall. There is even a little lake down there.

But, all good things come to an end with a somewhat brutal push up almost to Allen Mountain. Looking back what I had just ascended:

To be rewarded again – with blissful bench singletrack. There were a few holes in the meadow to keep you honest.

Then, a bit down/around and forward to the main event: Osborne Mt. 

Aehm, no: first there’s Cora Lake trail. It did not disappoint. A bit of a push initially, then techy and steep in parts, but all good.

Lastly comes a FS road climb to the final event: the Osborne Mountain descent. No views on this trail as it winds down through the woods. Nice trail with good sightlines, I seem to recall, but the camera did not want to come out.

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