Winter’s end

Snow is getting slushy and thinning out, and I haven’t been riding my fatbike since the Hurley trip. Instead, the season for exploring central Washington begins.

The Whiskey Dick wildlife management area received quite a bit of snow this winter, but by mid-February that had melted out. While it was pouring rain in Seattle, it was windy and dry in Vantage. The sun even passed through the thin vail of clouds – what a treat after living though months of rain in Seattle (apparently, a record-chasing streak of rain).  Colin joined me on this trip to the Washington outback. After the climb up from Vantage, we headed down to the Whiskey Dick Creek. Big views!20160228_12543020160228_125540

It was warm and calm down in the valley. Perfect time for a snack break.20160228_135115

Big horn sheep were grazing near the Columbia. They looked like ancient beasts, with fur hanging off their faces and big horns signaling fear to everyone who cared to observe them closely.20160228_14504920160228_162633

After a second time through the Whiskey Dick creek to take advantage of the training opportunity offered by the fierce headwind, we rode down into Vantage just at sunset. Perfect time to be out on the trail.20160228_172222_1

 

The second ride in central WA was a loop that TentMonster had planned. It was raining again in Seattle, and it was fun coming along on a ride that someone else had planned. The weather forecast was extremely windy, so we started from Ellensburg heading SW into the wind and up the hill – hoping for tailwinds and downhill the rest of the way. Accompanying us was Mr. N. We all planned on a mostly-road ride, with a bit of gravel. Myself and Mr. N were on our commuter (trekking) bikes, and TentMonster on an old, rigid 26er. This worked fairly well, except for differences in inner tubes that would come back to haunt some of us late in the day.

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Umtanum loop: 71 miles, 4200 ft. elevation gain.

After the usual delays in getting there (2nd breakfast at Snoqualmie pass, snacks and gas in Cle Elum, fixing tire), we started right after 1 pm.  The road quickly increased in slope and soon we were above Ellensburg with a nice view of the Table Mountain Plateau.

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The dirt road was pretty nice, until it was washed away near the Umtanum Falls. While some cars turned around, we were on 700c bikes and therefore unstoppable!

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The stream crossings were enough to get our shoes wet. I love the big open views of central WA.

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After only 2 hours, we reached the highest point and were about to enjoy a big strong tailwind. Live was good, again.

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Back on pavement, we were flying along through the wind-swept grass steppe.

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We passed the Stagecoach RV Park with its convenience store – a possible resupply just off the WABDR.20160312_163419.jpg

Riding into Selah, the density of pickup trucks increased, but everyone gave us plenty of space when there wasn’t a wide shoulder. After filling up at the truck stop off I-82, we continued up the Yakima River canyon in the dark. Too bad that we arrived so late, as we were just able to discern the towering ridge-lines to our left and right. Still, the stars above were beautiful, and the Moon was reflecting in the Yakima. This was when our smooth sailing took a few interruptions. After not being able to repair the 3rd flat in 5 miles, Mr. N. gave us the green light to ride into Ellensburg and pick him up with the car. We cranked out the 20 miles in the 32F night, and drove back to rescue a stranded biker.

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2 Responses to Winter’s end

  1. Scott and I are camped out near morenci We are on day 1 of a few Catch up later Glad to see you are out And about

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. 2wheeltrails says:

    That is so cool! I drove through this town 12 years ago, and wondered what in the world I had just visited. Can’t wait to hear the full story!
    I am flaking out of the AZT this year. Not enough time off, and I didn’t get your fancy bike-packing method worked out.

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