Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bike Tour to St. Helens

I just got back this morning from a great bike tour of the St. Helens back roads. With the exception of the first day of this trip, which was a 30 mile escape out of the suburban community of Battleground, WA, every single day was exceptional. I really can't do the trip justice in a measly blog post... but I'll give it a shot and put lots of pics in here.

I went with Alex Wetmore and Larry Laveen, two seasoned tourers who are about the best bike tourers a semi-rookie tourer like me could hope to ride with. These guys have been touring together for a decade and are just reliable, decent, smart, strong guys. Touring with them is really a great treat and I've been fortunate to be able to join them this year and last.

If we had a goal for this year's journey, it was to get out of civilization and deep into the back woods and see how we fared. That's what we did. We spent a lot of our time climbing: long gentle grades of the foothills; steep, rocky logging roads; and just long gravel ascents.
Payoff for these climbs came in a variety of currencies: short washed out fire roads; shady, one-lane swoopy descents with super smooth asphalt; a 20 mile-long blast off a mountain and into a valley. All and all, the actual riding was just superb: every surface you can imagine; lots of variety; incredible views; great weather.

Our final day of riding was the epic day: 3200 feet of climbing over 20 miles, about 13 of which were loose, steep, switch-back rocky logging roads -- to the top of an amazing ridge where we could see everything in every direction on a perfectly still, blazing hot, blue-sky day. Amazing and inspiring. It's difficult to recall a more satisfying day of cycling, and impossible for me to put into words the satisfaction and joy I felt after reaching the top of that mountain.

We saw Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt St Helens.

Of our six days out, 3 nights were spent miles away from the nearest services. We traversed one washed out road by portaging our crap across the divide. We only had two flats, there were no other mechanical errors. For about 3 hours one morning I was too cold and woke up with numb toes; otherwise, I was comfortable sleeping.

We met a lone girl walking the Pacific Crest Trail: the only vistor we had one night in an out of the way little campsite where we were the only campers.

We ate tons of food and drank at least a gallon of water each a day. All day I was drenched with sweat and it was wonderful. I waded and washed in an ice-cold mountain stream.

It was such a great ride, and a great reminder of why I love bicycles so much. I love getting around town and getting things done on a bicycle, but there is no other feeling like the one I had after coming home after pedaling around the back roads for many days -- propelled by my own power, enjoying the sights and amazing aromas of the unspoiled forest.
Alex is going to do a full-on ride report on the tour on his site. His teaser is here.

My pics are here.


Tarik Saleh said...

Very cool!

Scott Clark said...

Nice report, John--thanks. Looks like an amazing trip.