Sunday, August 17, 2008

Crazy-ass Road Trip '08: Part 3

I woke up at 5 Thursday, packed up, had breakfast, gassed up and got back on the road. I got to Rainier NP in the afternoon and went to Paradise to the information desk. A ranger called down to Cougar Rock campground and fortunately they had some availability. I rode over, found a site and quickly set up camp before going back to Paradise to hike. I started from the visitors center on the Alta Vista trail. I started out at an unsustainably quick pace in order to pass a group of young women. After a while I had to slow down to catch my breath. I was still going pretty quickly, sweating and breathing hard. When I got to a section of the trail covered in snow, I picked up a handful to cool myself off with. I was almost to the viewpoint when I started getting a cramp in my side, so I laid down on a bench cooling myself with the snow until my heartrate came back to a reasonable level. I continued along the Skyline trail to Glacier Vista, with a good view of the Nisqually Glacier. It was quiet enough that I could occasionally hear the glacier creaking and popping. At that point I figured I may as well continue up to Panorama Point. I had checked my reservoir a little earlier, but when I got to the point it was almost empty. Not wanting to just go back the way I came, I continued up the Skyline trail. I got to a shorter cutoff trail to find it was closed, apparently blocked by a wall of snow. Still not wanting to turn back I took the high trail up further before it finally started back down. I took the Golden Gate trail, which cut out a mile of hiking and required crossing a stream. The whole way I was using snow and streams to cool off when possible. I got back to the visitors center after 6 and found a Dr Pepper even though the concession was closed. I went back to camp, had dinner and then attended a ranger program on climbing Rainier. It was a decent program, but would have been better if it were given by someone who had actually climbed the mountain, not some young guy who'd seen it for the first time a couple months earlier. I got some firewood but had trouble getting a decent fire going. I had to douse it not too long after it was finally going because I was tired and had to go to sleep.
Friday got off riding just before 8 headed toward Olympic NP. The waypoint I had in my GPS turned out to be terrible. After heading down a small road a ways I saw the most dreaded of all road signs: Pavement Ends. I continued down the gravel road for about 3 miles before I actually saw a sign for the park just as the road went from bad to worse: the aggregate was larger and the road less packed. I stopped and checked out that area for a little while before turning around and going back to US 101. Originally I was thinking of going clockwise around the Olympic peninsula but from that point it made more sense to go counter-clockwise. There was way more traffic than I would have liked. I was stuck behind a semi that wouldn't pull aside. I eventually managed to pass him. Traffic got even heavier close to Port Angeles. After a gas stop and getting away from town, traffic was much less on the western side. The road took me through two sections of Olympic NP. On the coast it got pretty chilly and foggy. I stopped and put on my jacket and gloves. Back inland it warmed up significantly and I had to take them back off. The real pain was the road work, with several sections one lane. Eventually it cleared up and I was following a Hummer with the license plate GAMBLR, which could have been because he was going 70 in a 60 and his plate was almost impossible to read. I got back to camp around 8, much later than I had expected. I had dinner and started another fire and read for a while, then just sat transfixed staring at the fire.
This morning I wasn't in a real rush, so I cooked some oatmeal and then packed up, getting off just past 8. I stopped at a Harley shop I happened past and bought my first t-shirt of the trip. I went to downtown Seattle and using Google found a brewpub for lunch. I texted a friend who recommended a brewpub in the area. Since I wasn't in a rush, I took a detour to check it out and it was definitely the best bar I've been in so far this trip. I rode on up the interstate, getting off on a road leading through North Cascades NP. It was picturesque, but reading The Monkey Wrench Gang made me less than appreciative of the hydroelectric dams. I passed through a little tourist trap of a town on to my intended destination for the night, Omak. It was kind of weird because there was a little town, then I crossed onto an Indian reservation and there was almost nothing other than a bingo casino. I found the new Best Western and a no-name place on the US highway were already booked up, so I came into town, tiny as it is, and found a room at the Rodeway. After a much needed shower, I strolled through town only to find the only decent-looking restaurant had just closed. I got a six-pack and a terrible pizza and vegged out watching the Olympics.

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