June 18th: Winthrop, WA to Tonasket, WA: the land of awesome geographical names
We started our day in Winthrop in our comfortable bed at George and Patty’s place. Reflecting on our conversations with them the previous night, we can’t get over how much we liked them — they take a vacation to bike around France and/or Spain every five years, they take university courses online just for fun, they make their own awesome wine, and they are incredibly generous to traveling cyclists. We hope we are like them when we are another 30 years older! When we finally got on the road, we headed towards Twisp, crossing a beautiful landscape that at times, reminded us of the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico, and at times, reminded us of Provence.
After about 10 miles, we reached Twisp, where we bought a “cinnamon twisp” from the Cinnamon Twisp bakery recommended by George and Patty (well worth it!) and mailed home about 3 pounds of stuff that we realized we over-packed. We were stopped by many locals who love to bike and were excited to hear about our trip, and also ran into our fellow Wisconsinites that are biking the same route, Joe and Patty. We were also urged to stop by the Blue Star coffee shop on the way out of town, where we had some of the best espresso we’d ever had. This was a huge help for what awaited us…
We started to ascend Loup Loup Pass, which was a mostly gradual, but consistent, 15 mile climb. We rode over multiple sections that were being tarred as we rode, which was a bit sticky, but nice that it slowed down the traffic along route 20. Along the way, we saw a hawk that stayed remarkably still,
and caught up with Joe and Patty again at the top. While they hadn’t stopped at the post office and coffee shop, they are carrying a lot more stuff, so our timing worked out to synch up.
By the time we started riding down Loup Loup, the weather had taken a turn – it would be about 52 degrees and raining for the next several days. Yet the scenery revealed what we knew about the area: it should be desert-like right now. Apparently it is usually about 90 degrees and sunny this time of year. We can’t decide which we’d prefer. As we rode through the high desert scrub, we entered the Coleville Reservation, which appears to have many of the same issues of economic depression that we saw when we lived in New Mexico.
We were chased by many dogs, including — from one house — a pit bull and a german shepard, which were frightening and have convinced us to order an air-horn that attaches to our bikes.
It continued to rain and rain and rain, and we rode through fields filled with apple and cherry orchards.
We almost stopped for the day at Riverside, but we pushed onward, as George had told us that there was free camping in Tonasket, run by Jack Black’s stepmother. While we didn’t meet her, we did indeed have free camping behind the visitor’s center in Tonasket, and we were rewarded for our long day of cycling with $1.25 vegan tacos from the food cart in Tonasket. There were no showers, but there were a toilet and sink we could use in the visitor’s center, and free wifi too!
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