I've got an approaching storm that I am trying to stay ahead of so I will keep this brief. Currently in Teslin, Yukon where i cleaned my air filter and found that my clutch has fallen apart. Fortunately I have a spare and was able to swap it out. The scenery is remarkable and the snow adds a certain grandeur that is not lost on me. Next stop, Whitehorse.
I enjoyed a comfortable and relaxed weekend with my cousin Morgan, her husband John and their son Case on the family potato farm. It was nice catching up and airing our some damp gear to dry in the abundant sunshine. Speaking of which, the weather forecast looked dry and sunny for most of BC moving into next week. Brilliant travelling weather.
Intent on taking my time and smelling the roses, I crossed into BC at the sleepy border crossing of Lynden where my scooter drew the attention of many agents. While inside as they made sure I wasn't going to Canada for work, a crowd gathered as they nudged the bear spray and joked about the stickers. Coming outside I gave them a brief primer on La Tortuga then saddled up and rode into the land of double-doubles maple leaves and stampedes. It occurred to me to ride up into Vancouver and through Squamish and Whistler but with the Victoria Day weekend in full swing, I knew the only highway would be crowded. Instead I followed the Fraser River Valley winding my way north. The many boom and bust gold mine towns dot the roadside and I feel as though tracing the path of history from first nations trails to Hudson Bay fur traders, wagon trains, stern wheelers and the railroad. The story of BC is wrapped in this major artery between the lumber floating downstream, cattle ranches lining it's terrain and oil cars on the railway moving south from the fields.
Abundant sunshine was a real joy as I was able to dry out my damp tent and sleeping bag each day.The many BC Provincial Parks and free lakeside campsites made for fabulous 100 mile days. Some days it warmed to 80F and felt hotter in the sunshine. Eventually I crossed into the drier eastern side of the mountains where Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir and sage grew on the sandy arid slopes. It felt like eastern Oregon or perhaps SoCal in the winter time ;)
The streak of warm weather continued and I followed Hwy 99 and 97 northward admiring the change to a wetter greener plateau where larch and alder grew among the fir and pines. Lakes carved from the retreating glaciers appeared on my GPS dotting the landscape. Many such as Beaverdam Lake were a greenish tinge from algae and reflected the deep blue sky and swift cumulous clouds drifting past. Winds whipped up to 30mph and the trees began to bend ominously towars my tent. A cold front was pushing in and the laden dark clouds racing in from the north found me hurrying to finish my sweet potato foil wrap cooking on the crackling campfire. I scarfed the curry concoction down and hid in my tent with a good book and mug of hot tea.
One of the more spectacular national forest loop roads in Washington is the Mountain Loop Hwy from Granite Falls to Darrington. The low speed road climbs from 500 ft to around 3000 ft as it winds up the Stillaguamish River. There are countless campsites along the road beneath the bows of douglas fir, sitka spruce and western cedar.
There was once active silver, lead and copper mining in this area which prompted a boom in the late 1800's when a railroad spur was established up the valley. Mine portals exist around this landscape and the remnants of cabins and mining buildings preserved against the extremely rainy climate still stand. Despite the sunny day, everything in the forest remains damp and dripping. Ferns grow atop moss which grows on a limb of a tree. It is a truly remarkable environment with a rich biodiversity.
At the base of Big Four Mountain are the remnants of the snowpack which melts down the near sheer face in spectacular waterfalls. The reality of Avalanches here is pressed upon me when I hear the distant rumble and crash from my hammock this morning. Below is a shot of the snowfield where the ice caves form later in the season. Right now there is still too much snow for the caves to have formed.
After a few days hiking and exlporing the Douglas Creek area, I was ready for a change of scenery. I took advantage of a warmer day in the 50's to ride further east toward the Jameson Lake area. Another coulee created during the great Missoula flood, this canyon offers a nest site for migratory ducks and Canada geese which make their temporary home on the inaccessible cliffs. The wind picked up from the west and I was happy to find a hill to tuck the tent behind with a eastern view.
It was very quiet here in regards to people. Most fisherman and RV campers stayed on the other side of the hill and kept to themselves. The honk of geese echoed across the water and off the steep basalt walls providing a unique alarm clock. An occasional passenger jet would streak across the sky but otherwise it was a relaxing and quiet place to pass a few days. Meanwhile in the mountains, it was pouring inches of rain.
Finally, the weather looked like it would improve so I returned to the mountains and wound up getting hailed on and then sleeted on. Come morning, the hillsides surrounding my campsite on White Pine Rd were blanketed with fresh snowfall. The road was a mucky mire from the logging trucks and every hour or two the Union Pacific would rumble past with a squealing of disc breaks and a clack of rail and ties. A few days of that and this morning I decided screw the weather, I'm going over Steven's Pass even if it is snowing. The fog was quite thick and just near freezing as I crested the pass. I could hear the beeping siren of a backhoe nearby clearing snow, it's orange light glowing a muddy beacon in the whiteness. My numb fingers wiped the inside and outside of my visor without hope in the 100% humidity. The descent quickly brought warmer temps and showers but I felt a progress to the journey. The next day will find me camping on my favorite gem Mountain Loop Hwy east of Granite Falls among the Doug Fir, Cedar, Hemlock and Sitka Spruce. Making a campfire with the soggy wood in this rain forest is a bit more challenging though than the good ol' sagebrush desert but I'll make do.
Next week I hope to cross into Vancouver and continue north with my plans for Inuvik and finally Alaska. Hopefully I can keep this blog updated on the way. Thanks for reading and following along on my second trip to the Great White North!
I warmed my hands down in the Bavarian themed town of Leavenworth. The ride down the Chiawakum River toward town was beautiful and I found myself quite distracted by the fabulous white water, some serious gnar-gnar. Leavenworth is like the more prosperous and larger doppelgänger to Helen, GA. There is clearly more money here and a higher standard of authenticity to which the structures, shops and restaurants are held to. It is still overly kitschy though but worth the drive through. As the sun sank lower, I decided to camp off Icicle Creek just around the bend from town. Wound up riding 13 miles into the forest back up to a higher and cooler altitude where I camped among the brown dirty remains of snowdrifts.
Heading down from the mountains, Hwy 2 carried me through the rich apple orchards of the Wenatchee River with the large town of Wenatchee claiming to be the Apple Capital of the World. Along the back roads, the many processing plants, storage facilities and sprawling orchards provided a familiar scene to the northern Shenandoah Valley back home. Stacks of apple crates over 20 feet tall stretched hundreds of feet in massive arrangements. I stopped at the grocery store and bought 4 large Fuji apples for $.99 - I'll take it!
With the incoming system of rain, I was somewhat protected east of the Cascade mountains and continued on across the mighty Columbia River and up it's eastern shore. The landmark of Lincoln Rock prominently emerges from the river in a dammed lake portion below Orondo.
The highway turns east and climbs from the Columbia River gorge nearly 2000ft to emerge on the rim of the plateau at the town of Waterville. This quaint small town has a comfortable feeling and a 5 sq mi grid of streets reminscent of the mid-west or rural Delaware. A few stores continue to make it on a half-shuttered Main St. and I take a stop in the public park for water, trash and a few pics. An old timer slowly walks past and mentions I should take a stop at the county court house if I am into pictures.
Taking a variety of grid-style farm roads along the grassy plateau, I soon descend into a most unusual canyon. The featureless rolling grasslands abruptly give way as I sink into a canyon of lichen covered basalt cliffs. Sunflowers, lupine and sage dot the green valley and the temperature rises with the fall in elevation. Douglas Creek Canyon was formed approximately 10 and 15 thousand years ago during the glacial flooding from Lake Missoula. The flood waters were said to have traveled at a rate of 60 times greater than the Amazon. (info from Douglas County Website). What remains is an attractive and unique valley with few visitors on the weekdays and creek crossings that make it somewhat difficult for the average car to make it through. This time of year there was an abundance of birdlife which carried on through the evening and into the early morning hours. Red tailed hawks nest on the palisade cliffs and loudly cried to let me know when I was too close for comfort. Gold finches and warblers flitted about in the canyon alighting on the stubby vegetation. A rattlesnake slithered past my tent and another coiled and struck at the scooter as I harmlessly rolled past. "Was that what I think it was!?"
I received word from my buddy Ken that the drive up the Alcan last week was icy in spots, wet and cool. This is good justification for dragging my feet around the Cascade mountains and nearby locales.
Doesn't this river look inviting for a creek boat? Eh Scott?
Each day I have been moving along the mountain range exploring the open forest trails and reminding myself it is still the "Winter" season in this region. I see pictures of friends in VA wearing shorts and out in their kayaks while I am wearing gaiters and 5 layers up top. They don't have wild vistas quite like these though.
12 miles down a forest service road before spotting this advertisement for national symbols many hold deer. A bridge to bipartisanship perhaps?
I peeked at the weather forecast a few days back and saw cold wet rain in the form of a low pressure system moving my direction. Just east of the mountains in Wenatchee, it was much drier and warmer on account of sub 1000ft elevations along the Columbia River. Hwy 2 was open so I enjoyed the afternoon winding up the valley to the Pacific Crest Trail at Steven's Pass. Snow blanketed the angular mountains beyond which nestled hanging lakes and glacial flows brown and dirty in the melt of May. Many forest trails remained below 10 ft drifts but camping above 3000' wasn't part of my plans. I did wind up camping at 2950' in another valley amid the hummocks of snow and flattened brush of early spring.
After believing in my fix on the variator and belt, I set off for Portland. Although my top speed had climbed to 45, it still felt like it was surging. Not good. Fortunatey it made it over the 205 bridge and into Portland. It was a brief but much enjoyed visit with the Ronstadts. Amazing how fast Bode Danger is growing up. The following morning as I crossed into downtown, the bike neary died and I limped into a parking garage where I discovered the root of the problem all along, my female spade on the coil had opened up and worked loose. Tightened down and it was safe until Bay Center.
I spent a few days in Bay Center taking advantage of the good weather to help Ken with some last minute projects before he heads up to AK. He appreciated my help and I could use the work to pay for some fresh parts and tires. With a fresh rear tire installed, new front axle, air filter and checked coil wire, I felt trusting in La Tortuga for the adventure north.
"Everything is ahead of me, nothing behind, as is always the case on the road" Kerouac
I feel as though I can hit reset on the pace of my travels for the next few months. It feels as if I have been rushing around from one destination or friend to the next and despite their comfort and hospitality I cherish, my heart grasps for the wilds and unexpected nature of traveling with a direction instead of plan.
After a restful night along Porter Creek in the Capitol State Forest outside Olympia, I picked up my parts in Centralia and narrowly escaped a lightning storm which I rode under in Morton. Views of Mt. St.Helens and Ranier are plentiful as I head east to the mountains.
In May 2014 I quit my job to ride a Honda Ruckus over 55'000 mi and counting. Wild camping most nights and cooking most of my own meals, I keep the costs low and the landscape changing.