Thursday, June 21, 2012

Today's Themes: Water and Green

Dalles Creek Falls
I had a choice – hike Snoquera Palisades on Tuesday with a group, sharing costs for gas and having companionship in the misty, cool weather or go solo on Wednesday when the forecast was for sun and warmth. I'm glad I chose to go on the rainy day because the trail is all about green moss, leaves and ferns and the water that cascades down the mossy rocks on its way to the White River.

It was raining at the trailhead but as soon as we got on the trail, the cover of the trees protected us. We crossed a couple of creeks on very sturdy and not slippery logs, then ascended a steep staircase built by Boy Scouts years ago. Leaving the mossy forest for the dry Palisades, we were treated to peek-a-boo views of the White River Valley while the clouds swirled and some clusters of wildflowers to kept us company for lunch.

A light mist was falling, but it was more like we were in a cloud than the cloud was raining down on us. The area must be a convergence zone, as it was raining yet bright enough for me to need sunglasses. When we descended and arrived back at our cars, it was raining more steadily, yet we emerged out of the rain and clouds as we drove west toward Enumclaw.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Escape to the Sun

blue skies on the east side
 I was sick of being sick. My cough made me sound like I was a lifetime smoker. I never knew, before opening my mouth to speak, if I could actually get the words out audibly and clearly, or if I would go into a fit of coughing. The solution was clear – go to Eastern Washington for a bike ride and cough the crap out of my lungs. 

Departure time was 7AM for Cle Elum, the first significant town on the east side of Snoqualmie Pass. The skies were grey and, though there was a chance of showers that day, I refused to believe it. This is the sunny side, damn it.

I was on the bike by 9AM (after two pit stops – the result of drinking so much tea) and had my broncho-dilator (just like a smoker) in my jersey pocket, along with camera and snacks. The air was warm enough that I didn't need leg warmers, but I brought the arm warmers to fend off the morning chill. 

I had mapped out my route, printed the cue sheet and I even found a nice way to get out of town without having to ride on the main drag at all. 

Soon I was on Hwy 10, heading east. Uh oh – there was a sign saying the road was closed 2 miles ahead. How closed – enough so I couldn't walk my bike through? I would have to see. So I made sure to really enjoy those 2 miles with zero traffic and views to the Teanaway peaks and watching a couple of guys fly fish in the river.

I've been on adventurous rides before, but I didn't think it was a good idea to try to make my way around the closure; it was a little airy. I suddenly had a vision of me doing a balance beam walk across a girder in my little Italian shoes while precariously carrying my bicycle over my shoulder. No, that one wouldn't end well. I quietly turned around and headed back into town. There was a way around the closure, but it was a gravel road that had some climbing and descending and I wanted to pick gravel bits out of my skin even less than I wanted to cough.
yes, Hwy 10 is really closed

My overall mileage was nothing exciting, in fact I wouldn't normally even get out of bed for such a short ride, but I got with it a change in scenery, sunshine and filled my tank with $3.39/gallon gas. And I coughed a few times.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ride, Eat, Ride, Repeat

My buddy, Annie, and I were joined by Bob and Diane for a weekend of cycling and eating in Leavenworth in early June. The original inspiration for the trip was the Apple Century ride that starts in Wenatchee (and a groupon I purchased months ago). Since I had been to Wenatchee last month, I decided to base myself out of Leavenworth and, luckily, everyone else followed suit.

After Bob and Diane caffeinated themselves and Annie and I staged an occupation of the restrooms at McDonald's in Leavenworth, we met up at the school just off the Chumstick Road, along the ride route. As far as our bodies were concerned, it was a cold start, having gotten out of the car only minutes before to hop on our bikes and start a gradual climb almost immediately. Luckily, the weather cooperated and the eastside sunshine kept us warm yet not overheated as we made our way up to the "pass" toward Plain. I put the word in quotation marks because, although it is a low point on a ridge, it is more like a long hill than a mountain pass. But it is thoroughly enjoyable and the scenery of the Chumstick Canyon is a nice companion while easily pedaling to the summit.

rolling up the Chumstick

The swooping descent was like a ski run, and we whooped and smiled wide, making our way quickly down to Plain, where we stopped for sustenance and photo opps. This would be a common theme for the weekend: ride, eat, ride and eat. But what's the point of a ride if you can't enjoy a little treat here and there (and there, there and there, too). From Plain, we turned off to the Chumstick Loop Road and Bob joined me in some stretching of the legs.

We rolled up and down the hills and eventually fell in with a racing team; I was glued to someone's wheel in a double paceline. It was a rush to be moving so fast and part of a group and brought back the old days of my own short-but-sweet racing career, if I can stretch the meaning of that word just a bit. At one point, I decided to look and see who was riding next to me, wondering suddenly where Bob had gone to. I screamed! Not the scream of fear or anxiety, but that of a girl giddy with excitement. There, to my right, was Chris Gulick, someone I had known during those racing days, back in the 90s, whom I had only seen briefly in the past few years. And he still calls me, "Coach Korn"! I managed to hang onto the group, more or less, until the rest stop when we could give proper greetings and that's when we spotted a guy with our old racing jersey on. 
Chris G

The guy with the jersey on was Dennis and he was friends with someone I knew from waaay back in my messenger days. My head was spinning by the time we left the rest stop, plus it made me feel old to think of how many years had passed since I was riding around in Bucky blue.
The Girls

The final segment of the ride deviated away from the official route, which doubled back on itself. Instead, we headed to Hwy 2 to take us back to Leavenworth. We were all a little apprehensive about riding on the shoulder of a busy highway that we had just driven on that morning, but the traffic turned out to be a minor issue (plus, two of us were in pink, a proven traffic-calming color). The sights and sounds of the river and surrounding cliffs more than made up for the sometimes-narrow shoulder. The Wenatchee River was pounding the rocks and trees along Tumwater Canyon and we were right there with it, as we rode downhill in a paceline. We stopped a few times for photos of waterfalls coming down off Icicle Ridge, then headed into Leavenworth and the Sleeping Lady Resort for lunch. I inhaled a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, or at least that's what I think it was. It's not that it wasn't tasty, but it went down so fast, I barely remember it.
Diane and Bob – 39th Anniversary!

We checked into the Inn and then headed out for a flower adventure; there were two areas nearby with wildflowers in bloom, some of them rare. First, we arrived at Ingalls Creek and, dressed in super-casual-wildflower-walking attire, we ambled up the trail. When we saw a group coming towards us, I commented to them that they could be sure they were close to their cars, from the looks of us. I had always made fun of people dressed like me and now I was one of them; at least I wasn't holding a coffee cup in one hand. Next, we went to Camas Land, an area off of Hwy 97 that is protected as a Natural Area Preserve and experienced peace, quiet and the Camas Flower. I'd like to go back there to explore more thoroughly.
Camas Land
Ingalls Creek Trail

The next day, we met up at the school again and headed east toward Cashmere, best known for Aplets and Cotlets. On the way, we climbed the dreaded Deadman's Hill, which we found to be a fun diversion and not nearly as gnarly as we had feared (no dead riders laying in ditches, either). When we rolled into Cashmere, I wanted to take the full tour of the town and headed down Mission Avenue, soon coming upon a sign for Snapdragon Coffee. I called out to the caffeine fiends behind me to see if they wanted to stop. Of course, they did.

We had managed to find the food-and-drink center of Cashmere's universe, with the coffee shop, a distillery and a vintner all in the same building. The cafe had a lot of items on its menu and, while trying to decipher it, the owner asked me what I was looking for. "Well, pie, if you have it". In a few minutes, they had unloaded a slab of apple pie along with a scoop of coconut gelato onto my plate. Heaven! Next, we visited the confectionery previously mentioned, more for a nostalgic memento for Annie and her mom than for more sugar, though they do make some "energy" bars which Bob and Diane were fond of.

Finally, with the four of us full of sugar, spice and everything nice, we were heading back to Leavenworth.                       We sometimes followed the previous day's ride route and a few times were mis-routed by Diane's GPS, but generally found our way to our cars. I had intended to stop for a little caffeine to keep myself alert for the drive home, but honestly couldn't bear the thought of one more delay. Luckily, Annie was loaded with snacks that included chocolate and fruit and was more than willing to share, so we were a self-contained snack stop all the way home to Seattle.

Personal Quote

While I'm still working on my entry from the first weekend in June about a couple rides in Leavenworth, I thought I would publish my very first original quote.

I was reviewing my Green Trails maps this morning, figuring out which ones I'm missing, when I thought about how important maps are to me:

"Maps are nourishment for my wandering soul." ©
-Louise Kornreich

There would be a lot more Whirling in my Travels without them!