Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nice and Eightmile Creek

I travelled east last weekend to the Winthrop area to partake in yet more biking, hiking, and camping with the Velomihottie.  This time, we car camped, taking the bikes on the trunk rack and ended up staying in Nice, which turns out to be a campground in addition to being a cycling Mecca on the French Mediterranean.  The campground was a simple 3 unit affair that offered a great deal of shade, which would be handy in the summertime, but meant that it warmed slowly for us from the cold fall mornings.

The first morning, we rode up Eightmile Road after a hot breakfast and coffee and tea to warm us up.  The road surface changed from pavement to gravel within the first couple miles.  As is often the case with roads that follow rivers up a valley, the rise in the road is almost imperceptible, except that here, the false flat and gravel conspired to give the initial part of the ride a feeling like wheels had been dipped in sticky honey.  However, gorgeous views of colorful fall foliage on the valley walls beside awaited us every time the view opened up.  Even when secluded in deeper forested sections, the dry air brought a delightful scent of sage to our noses, which are more accustomed to the heavier wet air west of the Cascades.

As the road continued on, it began pitching up and flattening out at irregular intervals, accompanied by the sights, sounds and smells of the open pasture that this area is a part of.  We encountered several cows and calves along the route, who mostly seemed to not mind us riding through their midst.

On gravel roads such as this, often the descent can be more hair raising than riding up.  On some of the steeper downhill sections, the washboard road surface which had been only mildly annoying on the ascent as one tried to keep traction down became a major source of full body vibrations which on a couple of occasions made me feel like my head was buzzing acutely in a way that was somewhat like being tipsy.  But we both made it down with no more significant issues, trying to pick the best line between washboarded tire tracks, the less washboard but more rocky center, and pine needle covered edges that were less bumpy but not the greatest for traction.

All in all a great ride in a Nice area that was new to me and very unlike the riding anywhere west of the Cascades.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Carbon River

Last weekend, I enjoyed a backcountry camping road bike ride with the Velomihottie that was a great adventure.

The aforementioned Carbon River.
How is this even possible?  The last 5 miles of the Carbon River Road in Mt Rainier National forest has been closed to motorized vehicle traffic since 2006, but remain accessible to hikers and cyclists.

The road winds along the river and leads to the Ipsut Falls Campground, which is still set up for car camping.  Based on a call to the Ranger Station in which the Ranger advised the road was probably 80-85% passable by bicycle, we decided that carrying packs with all the camping gear we’d need for the weekend would allow us to carry the bikes over any rough patches.  I also brought half a dozen inner tubes as flats seemed a distinct possibility over the unknown terrain.

Making Camp.
All of these precautions proved unnecessary – we only walked our bikes about 50 feet over the 5 miles the road followed the river.  After setting up camp, we went for a hike to the Carbon Glacier, which is apparently the lowest glacier in the US.  This route also intersected with the Pacific Crest Trail where it crosses the Carbon River with a long pedestrian suspension bridge that bounces and sways as one walks across it.

A view up the valley from the hike.

After a restful, quiet night absent the vehicular noise which often accompanies car camping sites, we had a backcountry breakfast and coffee and tea, then headed up for another hike, this time toward Mowich Lake.  The scenery astounds and amazes with beautiful, lush, mossy greenery along the forest floor, and filtered light from the high canopy above enhancing the greenness, while occasionally opening up to spectacular views to peaks and ridges above.

Breaking Camp.