Friday, July 3, 2009

"I'd like to kick Steve Pool in the nuts"

These are the words that my good friend, Dan uttered during our ride on the weekend of June 12th - 14th... but more on that later.

Dan and I had wanted to ride a 2-3 day ride where we camped from the bikes and didn't have any external support. We both liked the idea of riding unsupported and just relying on what we could carry on the bikes. On Friday, June 12th, we left Dan's house in Enumclaw at about 6pm and headed out for the Naches area. I hadn't really ridden the WR on many highways and definitely not for any extended period of time to this point but that was about to change. We rode over Chinook Pass and as cold as it got, I was extremely thankful that Dan offered me a riding jacket before we left.

(Side note about this jacket: In spite of what Dan might say if you were to speak with him, the jacket was a MEN'S riding jacket. Just because it was Dan's wife's jacket does NOT mean I was wearing a "girl's jacket".) Regardless of the jacket's designation, I was very grateful to be wearing it while riding Hwy 410!

Once we made it over to the east side, it started warming up a bit which was nice. But it was getting late and we needed to find a place to set up camp soon or we'd be having to set up in the dark. Dan had a particular place in mind and we headed up the gravel road to get up the hill as far as we could before nightfall. During our ascent, we encountered a herd of elk with probably 3 or 4 bulls that would were good sized. I'm no hunter, but Dan is and he indicated that they were "nice". It definitely was impressive to see them up close.

We found a decent spot and started unloading. I began a search for firewood while Dan set up the tents, etc... It wasn't long after we got there that it was, in fact, dark. We were using flashlights to see what we were doing and before too long, we had camp set up. I attempted to get a fire going and I realized that all I had were matches. No big deal normally, but instead of getting the "strike anywhere" matches, I got the "strike on box" kind, which are commonly referred to as the "won't light unless you use a torch to ignite them", type. Fortunately, Dan had a lighter in his bag of goodies and with a little effort, we got stuff to burn. We basically spent the next hour or so just sitting by the fire drinking adult beverages. Dan's wife, Laura had packed him some wine while I brought along a few Jim Beam minis. (No, I did not steal them from the airplane galley cart... I hadn't been on an airplane that served alcohol in about 6 months.).

Our camp site... not bad for setting up in the dark.

Once again I was able to locate a wild animal to take a photo for me, especially since Dan doesn't know how to use a camera. Seriously, he brought his camera and took exactly ZERO pictures.

One of the bluffs near our campsite.

Just a wildflower that I thought made for a good photo.

The next morning I got up early. I tend to wake up early anyway but being out where the birds are chirping and the "wolves", (ok, they were coyotes, damn it), were "yipping", I got up earlier than normal. I don't remember what time it was but the sun wasn't up yet. I climbed a hill near our campsite to get a nice view of the surrounding valley and it was very serene. I took a few photos and just sat there relaxing for about 45 minutes. I then decided that since the sun had finally come up that it was time for Dan to be up as well. I made my way down the hill and made enough noise that Dan drug his ass out of his tent.

After we had our Starbucks instant coffee, we started to pack up and get ready for the day's ride. Dan spread out the map on the ground and we started to plan our day.

Actually, Dan really did know where we were.

We made our way further up the hill to try to get to a place where Dan said the view was spectacular. Unfortunately, the trail had a few shady spots where the snow had yet to melt. We blasted through a couple of the snow banks but ulitmately it was more work than was worth it. We decided to make our way back down to Hwy 41o and grab a bite to eat at the Gold Creek Station. After a hearty breakfast, including a Bloody Mary or two, we swung our legs back over the bikes and headed up more of the forest service roads.

All loaded up and deciding if we want to plow through the snow or not.

Dan making his way through the snow drift. I seriously thought he was going to bite it and I wanted to get it on film.

At the Gold Creek Station.

Our plan was to find a good camping spot and drop off our gear so we could ride unencumbered for the day. We'd come back before dark to set up camp and all would be right with the world. It's amazing how things don't always go as planned.
We dumped the extra gear and headed up the hill. We had no real destination and we both enjoyed the fact that we weren't bound by some pre-determined plan. After a couple hours or so, we found ourselves riding along an extremely muddy jeep trail. Before long, we came upon a couple of jeeps that had broken down and were blocking the entire trail. No sooner did we dismount did Dan blurt out... "hey can we buy a beer from you?". I have to admit, I was equally surprised and impressed to hear him speak these words because inside of 2 minutes, I had a cold beer in my hand. Granted it was a Coors Light, but considering we were miles from the nearest bar or convenience store, I wasn't about to complain. Knowing these guys were ahead of us on the trail and they weren't moving that fast, Dan and I decided to relax and enjoy our beers. As the jeepers drove off with AC/DC piercing the otherwise serene wilderness, we just sat back and took it all in.

In his defense, the bike was geared WAY to high for this kind of terrain.

The very muddy jeep trail.

The cooler in the back of this 4x4 was the source for our free lunchtime beverage.

Enjoying our beers.

After our encounter with the 4x4 group, we followed the trail along the ridge overlooking Manastash Lake. There were a couple nice viewpoints and we stopped to take in the sights. During one of our stops Dan and I almost simultaneously noticed a large storm buildup off in the distance. We jokingly said something about having to get back before we got rained on. Secretly, I actually thought we may actually have to deal with a thundershower or two but I didn't really think it'd amount to much.

A view above Manastash Lake.

One of the viewpoints.

The storm on the horizon.

A group of 4x4 enthusiasts at "Funny Rocks".

Not long after our stops at the various viewpoints overlooking Manastash Lake, we happened upon a place called "Funny Rocks". I had never heard of the place but I have to say it was pretty cool. Apparently it is a popular place for the rock climbers to go and basically drive up a rock wall with their 4-wheeled machines. It defintely was pretty cool looking. One thing that detracted from the coolness of the rocks, was the ominous looking skies above. It was getting distinctly darker and colder.
Within the next 45 minutes or so, the storm had moved overhead and the rain began pelting us with gusto. We had made the decision to head back the way we came since we really didn't know a faster way down. We had heard there were snow drifts on a few trails ahead and we didn't want to risk getting stuck going the "shorter" way. So we turned around and went as fast as we safely could back down he hill. It took what seemed to be about 4 hours to get back to where we stashed our gear earlier in the day. It really was probably closer to 1 hour but with the torrential rain and large hail that relentlessly pelted us, every minute seemed to last forever. We were freezing cold and drenched beyond imagination. The hail stung like hell and the wind and rain just made it nearly impossible to see where you were going. During one of our resting periods Dan pointed out that the weather forecast was supposed to be dry and hot. He then uttered the words... "I'd like to kick Steve Pool in the nuts". No matter how cold I was, I had to bust out laughing at this.
By the time we finally made it to our stashed gear, we were miserable. In addition to being miserable due to our current cold and soggy condition, we also discovered that every item that we had stowed behind a fallen tree was also completely drenched. As soon as we got there Dan came up to me and said, "Well, we have two choices. We can try to set up camp somewhere, try to get a fire going and see if we can dry everything out... OR we could load up our gear and head down to the Hwy and see if one of the lodges has an available room to rent.". I initially was inclined to "tough it out" and see if we could get things dried out and continue our camping experience. But considering the fact we had some difficulty starting a fire the night before when it was relatively dry caused me to lean more toward the second option of finding a dry room to rent.
Option 2 it was.
We loaded up the entire collection of soggy stuff and tied it all down. We made our way down the last 17 miles to Hwy 410 and stopped at Squaw Creek Lodges to see if they had a room available. It turns out they had one room left and we didn't hesitate to snap it up. If they had told us that it was $500 per night, it would've been a tough call as to whether or not we'd have paid for it. I'm thinking that as miserable as we were, we might've spent the money. It turns out that it was much more reasonable and the room itself was decent. It was a "lodgette" that had a bed, a hide-a-bed and a full kitchen. It also was right on the river which provided a nice view. As soon as we got our crap unloaded and heaped in a pile on the floor of the kitchen, we began setting up the heaters in such a way that allowed us to dry everything out. The room temperature eventually reached nearly 200 degrees but neither one of us cared since it facilitated our stuff getting dried out much faster.
In the end, it turned out to be a pretty fun time. We ate dinner and drank a drink or two and we didn't have to freeze our ass off the rest of the night.

Our Saturday night "campsite".

Dan enjoying dinner from a bag.

Loaded up and ready to head home.

The next morning we loaded up the bikes with our now dry items and basically rode straight back to Enumclaw non-stop. It took about an hour and a half to get to Dan's place but it was a scenic, and cold, ride over the pass.
It turns out later that I find out that the storm we were caught up in was a fairly major storm. There was some flash flooding reported in a few places and the hail was more intense than usual.
Overall the ride was a total blast. Dan and I had a great time riding and in spite of the storm, we ended up having an unexpected adventure which really is what it's all about.
Miles ridden: 256
Riders: Just Dan and I
Alcohol consumed: A lot.
Elk encountered: 1 herd
Coyotes (wolves) encountered: 2 visually, many audibly
Freak thunderstorms: 1
Movies watched: about 1/3 of "Radio"

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