Monday, 1 June 2015

Goodbye Mountains, Hello Pacific and an Exciting New Bit of Kit

Location: Anacortes, WA, USA
The drive over Lolo Pass was wonderful, I felt sad we weren't riding it, but we didn't really have any other choice so what are you going to do?  Rick and Mary's house was incredible, loads of beautiful wood inside and amazing views including of the Osprey nest.  After unloading everything from the truck we chatted away and then they suggested we go for pizza in Winthrop which is a cute tourist town done in the Wild West theme with both the Chewuch and Methow rivers flowing through.  Mary offered to take us to the bike shop in the truck the next morning so we could set off straight from there rather than tooing and froing to their place.

As the bike shop didn't open until 9:30 we had an easy morning eating breakfast and talking about all sorts.  Rick kindly made us a couple of extra holes in our belts as they weren't doing much good any more!  After the 5 minute drive to Methow Cycle & Sport we said goodbye to Mary, got the new tire fitted, popped the new inner tube as we'd pinched it between the rim and the tire (more haste, less speed and all that), fitted a second new inner tube and got on our way.  We decided to call in at the store at Mazama about 14 miles away for our first break and had delicious chocolate and almond croissants.  There were lots of other riders about, our first encounter with so many cyclists for ages, although all these bikers looked like they were out for the day not touring.

From Mazama we had the long climb up to Washington Pass, about 18 miles away, then a little downhill and then up over Rainy Pass 5 miles after.  Mostly it was slow and gradual and pretty much the kind of climb we'd got used to, though there were a few somewhat steeper sections.  We stopped to look at our map and see how we were getting on and were heartened to see we were getting close to the top, but passing some people stopped at the side of the road I asked 'do you know if we're close to the top' and their answer was 'no', 'er no, you don't know or no, we're not near the top?' 'you're not near the top'.  Not the answer I was hoping for.  Oh well, keep pedalling.  The views back down the valley were impressive and the view up what I think was Liberty Bell Mountain was imposing.  Shortly after we spied what looked suspiciously like a summit sign and my hopes grew I pointed it out to Tom who said 'nah, don't think so'.  But I was right!  Woohoo!  We'd made the summit!  We stopped for lunch and got harangued by birds, but managed to eat ok.  Since we had another climb shortly we decided against putting on our extra layers for the mini descent we were about to ride, but even 3 miles of downhill at five and a half thousand feet, above the snow line, is flipping cold.  Still it was bearable and we were soon heading up again to Rainy Pass.  We soon summited that too and then layered up for the 'impossibly long downhill' we were now rewarded with.

Our destination was Colonial Creek Campground another 28 miles down the road.  A long fun descent was somewhat marred by a headwind striking up, still we were getting along fine.  We passed a sign saying 'Severe Side Winds for the Next 27 Miles' - oh great! My favourite!  But it wasn't so bad and I joked they'd not been to Utah.  Nearing the campsite the wind decided to show me it was no joke and the side winds really got to shoving us about.  This was not the triumphant end to the day I'd hoped, but thankfully we only had a few miles and then we arrived at our destination.  We set up the tent, ate dinner and were in bed before the kids on the neighbouring campsite.  We managed an early start the next day, excited to see the ocean again.  We stopped for our first break in Marblemount and treated ourselves to a coffee.  Amazingly we gathered a crowd, I think six people ended up talking to us, shaking our hands, giving us ice to cool down our water bottles and generally making us feel like quite a spectacle.  This was pretty funny, especially since we spotted five riders pass by on fully loaded bikes just while we stopped for break!  Our first bike tourers on the road for weeks!

The ride for the rest of the day was fairly unremarkable; good weather, mostly downhill, farmland and towns with the North Cascades disappearing from my rear view mirror.  I felt like we'd not really done this National Park justice, its such a wild place that you really need to explore on foot, driving or riding through it on the road is beautiful, but doesn't even scratch the surface.  But with limited time and inappropriate footwear I'm not sure we could have done more.  We had no idea about where we were staying that night as we'd had no luck with all the Warm Showers hosts we'd contacted and so munching our way through a 5 pack of Snickers ice creams in Burlington we finally decided we'd aim for the campground in Washington Park, Anacortes.

Pulling into the wooded campsite we were approached by an enthusiastic lady who seemed thrilled to see us.  She explained her daughter had rode across the States and asked if we would join them at their site and talk with them.  We parked our bikes, grabbed a couple of beers and our bag of crisps and wandered over to Catherine and Chris's camp.  While offering us all sorts of food Catherine gently interrogated us and tried to get hold of her daughter on the phone.  We spoke briefly to Hannah, who seemed lovely, understood the foibles of touring and thought her parents were just trying to 'repay' the kindness she'd been shown.  We'd forgotten about going to pay for our campground but when the ranger came around Catherine convinced him to let us pay the hiker/biker fee for the standard campsite we'd picked and then proceeded to pay our fee for us.  They only lived a couple of miles away but were training for a series of hikes they were going to do to into wild locations to get photos of the night sky.  They invited us to their place the next day to shower and do laundry and continue the interrogation.  Since we needed to figure out our plans for our last 10 days in the States and since we'd so enjoyed their company we took them up on the offer.

The short but decidedly uphill ride to their place brought us to incredible views over the bay towards the San Juan Islands.  Chris and Catherine have an amazing place and made us feel totally at home.  We spent the day lounging around the balcony, doing mountains of laundry and trying to figure out what to do next.  We had such a great time chatting with them and they told us more about Hannah's trip and let us have a look at the book she'd self published for her friends and family from her daily journal which was fascinating.

We were torn between spending 2-3 days on the San Juan Islands and 4-5 days getting to and around the Olympic National Park or spending all our time at the National Park.  Chris and Catherine suggested that the National Park was more wild and interesting, so decision made.  We contacted a Warm Showers host in Port Townsend and planned to get going by lunch the next day to make the forty-something mile journey in the afternoon.  Chris made us a delicious chilli for dinner and we talked for hours.  He's an ER doc and has done all sorts of interesting things including a stint being the doctor for an expedition up Everest.  He didn't climb to the summit but spent weeks up in the Himalayas, around Base Camp and higher and that's pretty damn amazing in my book.

The next morning after breakfast we were getting packed up to go and they gifted us the most generous of things.  They gave us an MSR Whisperlite International.  This probably doesn't mean a lot to some of you, but this is the stove I'd been coveting for a while, however since we had our cheap and functioning gas stove couldn't really bring ourselves to fork out for this bit of kit, although we were thinking we'd need to soon as it burns pretty much any liquid fuel so is ideal in places with no camping shops (rural Canada, Central and South America).  I protested, it was too big a gift, I wouldn't have expected something like this from our families, let alone from people we'd met about 40 hours ago.  Catherine sternly told me not to tell a 65 year old woman what to do and that they had new stoves and would love it to get a good home with us.  I nearly cried.  This is a huge gift, incredibly useful and a massive saving for us.  We went outside for a quick lesson on how to use it.  This did not go to plan, but better to know now that we needed to tinker with it to get it to work than fire it up for the first time with no other cooking options and be disappointed.  Still gobstruck we thanked them profusely, said our goodbyes and headed off down the road.


  1. Wowee! Some beautiful photos you've taken on this leg!

    1. Thank you. Sophie does well with the camera. I love that one with the jetty going out with the boat in the distance. That really is a beautiful shot

  2. I would second the last comment, truly superb and what lovely hosts Chris and Catherine were..Mr P PS beaten on the comment this time..

    1. Chris and Cetherine were superstars. It was great to spend time with them and enjoy their company and to receive such an amazing gift made us both speechless