June 16: Rockport, WA to Diablo Lake, WA: blue rivers and lush greenery
We started out our day early, biking towards Northern Cascades Park. We stopped in Marblemount to call/leave messages for our dads on Father’s Day, and then continued along the Skagit River toward the mountains looming in the distance. We took a pretty short day since we did a long day yesterday and were planning on a lot of climbing the next day. Northern Cascades Park is beautiful – filled with waterfalls, wildflowers, and amazing views of the mountains. We only climbed about 1000 feet, stopping in Colonial Creek Campground, as pushing further along Route 20 would mean another 60 miles or so before a campsite or other lodging would be available.
We got an amazing campsite next to a rushing creek that fed into Diablo Lake, and we were just two sites down from our fellow cycling tourers from Wisconsin. They are carrying a lot more stuff than we are – including a cooler filled with beer – and they offered us a beer before we headed down to the *freezing* cold lake for a bath (it is flowing down from glaciers, after all).
At the end of our bath in Diablo Lake, we saw a harlequin duck and four tiny ducklings swimming around, catching their dinner. Though the weather was perfect up until that point, we were caught in a thunderstorm while we ate our dinner of lentils and pasta (no veggies in any of the towns today!). This presented a conundrum, as we are in bear country, so it is unwise to take food into the tent. We decided to eat in the rain, and then hide under the eaves of the bathroom building until the rain lightened up. We made it back to the campsite, threw our stuff into the bear box, and went to sleep at 8PM.
today’s ride: 39 miles
today’s time in the saddle: 3 hours, 48 minutes
total distance: 108 miles
June 17: Diablo Lake, WA to Winthrop, WA: from the northwest rainforest to the desert, and an amazing free place to stay
What a long day today! We woke up at 5AM to get an early start on our 5,000 foot climb up to Washington Pass, and of course, it was raining – just light rain, but rain nonetheless. We ate our breakfast of overnight-no-cook oatmeal (instant oats, chia seeds, raisins, sugar, walnuts, powdered soy milk and water in a sealable container mixed the night before = cold oatmeal in the morning) and headed out into the mist. We started out with an amazing view out over Diablo Lake, followed by 34 miles of strenuous climbing to Rainy Pass and Washington Pass.
The climb went from raining and cold to hot and sunny and back again, as we were passing between microclimates and weather changes. We ran into a guy who is touring from Edmonton, Canada to San Francisco, and another guy who is touring from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, all along the Cascades and Rockies.
The climb was incredibly deceptive – there was something about the view that made it constantly appear as though we were going downhill, while we were actually climbing. Some of it felt very steep, but most of it just felt really strenuous and slow. It was bizarre.
We were rewarded with amazing views and lots of snow when we reached the top, and then headed down out of the lush Cascades into the desert. We had no idea that this part of Washington would be so similar to our old home of New Mexico.
Unfortunately, that ride down the Cascades was so steep that our hands ached from braking the whole way down — but at least we didn’t have to pedal! We went through the town of Mazama, where a great little shop had tons of bulk foods and local veggies, and then to Winthrop. Winthrop is a funny little town, clearly built for tourists, as it is meant to look like an old Western town – but also has a thriving local community. We almost went straight through it to spend the night in Twisp, but I got a flat tire. Just as we started to pedal onward, we heard “PSSST!” That was when we met George, who is building a lovely rental place right on Route 20. He has done plenty of bike touring, and he offered us a night in this mostly-finished apartment. It’s definitely not done yet, but it is far preferable to camping. The place is well on its way to being a very desirable place to stay – it’s right on the river, it has a deck, fireplace, and very nice kitchen – and they are having us stay for free. We had heard about these kinds of gestures to cycle-touring folks before, but hadn’t experienced it before. He and his wife let us take showers in their awesome bathroom in their home down the road, offered us a glass of wine, and showed us an alternative route we can take through Canada rather than heading over Sherman Pass. Now, we are writing this blog post from a comfortable bed while listening to the river below. After the incredibly long day we had up Washington Pass, this was the most exciting thing that could have happened to us. We hope we can extend this kindness to cyclists when we are back home.
today’s distance: 65.4 miles
today’s time in the saddle: 7 hours and 41 minutes (that was about 5 miles per hour up to Washington Pass!)
total distance: 193 miles