June 18th: Winthrop, WA to Tonasket, WA: the land of awesome geographical names
7 hrs 27 min in the saddle
266 miles total
June 19th: Tonasket, WA to Beth Lake WA: It’s cold, it’s raining, and we kind of hate this right now.
We woke up a bit later today so that we could shop at the coop in Tonasket. As usually happens in these sort of shops, we managed to convince ourselves that it would be ages before we would find these kinds of veggies and favored foods (seitan jerky, natural energy bars, bulk tamari almonds, bulk dehydrated vegan black beans), so we loaded up with way too much food.
Then we set out on George’s Secret Canadian Passage, which, unlike the American Cycling Association’s route over the 5,575-ft Sherman Pass, guaranteed us less climbing for the trade-off of 40 extra miles. George and Patty had warned us that the climb to Havilla would be tough. It was definitely tough, especially since it rained the entire time. We continued to climb, passing a woman who warned us of the wildlife we might see: moose, cougars, black bears, rattlesnakes, and bull head snakes. She offered us a ride over the pass – we thanked her but decided to push on independently. We also ran into Patty, who cheered us on and offered us a break in their other house near Havilla. We were so wet, and wanted to get the climb over with, so we thanked her and declined the offer. When we finally reached Havilla, we were wet, cold, and hungry, so we stopped in the awning of the local church to dry off and make our sandwiches. The door was unlocked, so we entered, and while we were surrounded by anti-gay literature, the pastor came along to investigate the two trespassers and said we were welcome to escape the cold and rain.
I must admit that we cursed George a few times on this climb. We kept reminding ourselves that it was likely snowing on Mt. Sherman, and that we were probably better off — but at 50 degrees, pouring rain, and a steep climb, we were not exactly happy. After one of the descents, we reached Chesaw, a tiny town, where we stopped in the Chesaw Mercantile, a “ma and pa” shop where Ma and Pa greeted us cheerfully and told us to get out of the cold rain. They offered us white-chocolate-covered strawberries that a local had made and given them too many, made us some tea, and let us sit with them for a while to warm up. The pair were probably in their late 60’s or 70’s, and they told us stories about local bears attacking their alpacas and about their decision to move to Washington from Alaska. We tried to make a purchase, but instead they insisted on giving us candy bars.
We climbed some more hills in the cold rain, to finally hit some rolling hills in the *middle of nowhere*, surrounded by forests that we imagined were filled with bears. Therefore, we sang and talked loudly to warn the animals away. The landscape was seriously gorgeous. We have few pictures, as my camera battery died, and it rained all day. We eventually reached our stopping place for the night, Beth Lake campground, a spot run by the US Dept of Agriculture. It would make a short day, but with all that climbing in the cold rain, we were fine with stopping at that point. While the area was beautiful, the run-down nature of the campground and the wet, rainy weather made us a bit less-than-ecstatic. The campground had only a pit toilet, no potable water, and there was a lot of trash in the campsites. There were no rangers or camp hosts to be found.
Without the bear boxes found at most National Parks in bear country, we had to figure out how to make our first bear hang. Apparently we were supposed to place it further from the trunk, since bears can climb. Next time we will do better. This was one of those nights in which we were bound to hate the trip. We tried to cook up the kale we had bought at the coop in Tonasket, but it was filled with bugs, there was no potable water, and it was still raining. We both admitted that we hated the trip for that evening. We knew these feelings would come and go. We decided to throw together the fastest meal at our disposal (dehydrated refried bean mix thrown into a pot of pasta, kind of like a vegan hamburger helper), and get into the tent to watch the episode of Man Men that we had downloaded on the iPad before the trip.
today’s distance: 39.6 miles
today’s time in the saddle: 5 hours and 45 minutes (so slow up those hills!)
total distance: 306 miles