Scouting the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting

01_white_river
On Labor Day, I scouted the routes and logistics for the Bicycle Quarterly “Un-Meeting”, which will be held (or “un-held”) in Packwood on September 13. After a few rainy days, it was a gorgeous sunny morning. I started in Greenwater with the climb up Cayuse Pass. It was sunny and warm, but a few clouds obscured the top of Mount Rainier.
02_cayuse_morning
The sign on top of Cayuse Pass became a casualty of avalanches or snowplows a few winters ago, so now the “proof of passing” is the road sign at the top.
03_chinook
I added the bonus climb to Chinook Pass – an out-and-back that was well worth the effort for the magnificent views at the top.
04_beetle_bug
I wasn’t the only one enjoying the mountains. This VW Beetle-based Bugatti kit car roared down the mountain, making me a little envious of the fun its crew had. Except I had as much fun as we both roared down the long descent of Cayuse Pass. They stayed behind me for a long time, until I waved them past to get a better view.
05_packwood_library
The last miles to Packwood always are into a headwind, but they passed quickly. Here is the library, right in the middle of town. We’ll start our rides here at 9 a.m. The Hotel Packwood is across the street…
06_packwood_campground
… and the campground is next door. The Bicycle Quarterly crew will stay at the campground, and we’ll have a campfire on Saturday night.
07_skate_creek
Packwood is nice, but its true attractions are the roads that radiate into the mountains. I went up Skate Creek Road, a perennial favorite that winds its way up a narrow valley.
08_gravel_pass
Skate Creek Road is hard to surpass, but this small forest road is even better. It climbs and climbs at a moderate gradient, with views of the mountains from time to time.
09_FR84
I had no trouble finding the turn-off to Forest Road 84 – a good thing, since it’s part of one of our rides. Despite the sign that the road isn’t recommended for cars, the gravel was very smooth – more like hard-packed dirt than normal gravel.
10_gravel_view
For the first time, I came through here on a clear day (once I had been through here in a snowstorm, and twice at night). The view was as spectacular as I had imagined it, but I was disappointed that Mt. Rainier was still surrounded by clouds, with only the very top peeking out.
11_gravel_descent
Then my attention was occupied by the descent. It’s ultra-fast if you let the bike roll, and great fun.
12_skate_creek_view
I re-joined Skate Creek Road in the Nisqually valley, and got another glimpse of Rainier’s summit – well, almost.
13_rainier_backdoor
I entered the National Park through the back door. (I have an annual pass, and this route is 10 miles shorter and free of traffic.)
14_bridge_longmire
I always enjoy the old suspension bridge at Longmire, but even more today…
15_dinner_longmire
…since this was my big dinner stop. I had to wait 30 minutes for the restaurant to open, but it was well worth the wait. (I wrote some postcards in the mean time.)
16_nisqually_bridge
The early dinner was followed by the long climb up to Paradise. While it’s a significant climb, it’s not very steep, and the gradient varies, so whenever you start to get tired, it relents, and you get a little rest. I stopped on the bridge over the Nisqually River and looked at the glacier (barely visible, covered with rocks, up the valley). The clouds above were a bit disconcerting – I had to hurry to get over the top before it got dark and really cold.
17_nisqually_river
Looking down gave me a vertiginous view of the river… better to get going before I got dizzy.
18_paradise_lodge
The Paradise Lodge was as beautiful as ever, with a piano player and guests lounging after a day exploring the mountain. I resisted the temptation to stay for dessert, since the sun was setting outside.
20_sunset
And what a sunset it was, with the mountains glowing in orange and pink.
21_reflection_lakes
Just to tease me, there was another “almost” view of the mountain as I passed Reflection Lakes. It was twilight here, and I encountered a young black bear leaping onto the road about 40 feet ahead of me. I braked hard, and we both were equally surprised as we faced each other at close range. By the time I got my camera, the bear had disappeared into the undergrowth.
The super-fast descent to Box Canyon had me shiver a bit on my bike, but the climb up Backbone Ridge warmed me up alright. It was dark now…
22_backbone_ridge
… and as I looked back, I finally got a view of the summit free of clouds. I’d been chasing this view all day over four mountain passes, and here, in the fading light, the mountain finally revealed itself.
23_chinook_night
One mountain pass remained, but even the climb up the long side of Cayuse Pass wasn’t as challenging as it had been when I last rode it after 500 km during the Volcano-High Pass Super Randonnée.
It was 10 p.m. when I crested the pass. The ride back to Seattle was another 100 miles, but it passed quicker than I thought. In the still night, my bike seemed to fly, and even a few light rain showers didn’t dampen my spirits. Leaving Enumclaw on small roads, not a single car passed me for the next two hours, nor did I meet anybody during the next hour on the Green River Trail. I arrived home at 4 a.m., a little later than planned. It was a lovely ride, and I honestly can say that I enjoyed every minute of the 19 hours I was on the road. I just hope that the weather will be similarly nice next Saturday, except with fewer clouds over Mount Rainier!
About the Bicycle Quarterly “Un-Meeting”: The “un-meeting” isn’t an organized event. There is no entry fee, no services will be provided, there are no rules, and there is no insurance or liability of any kind. All that happens is that the Bicycle Quarterly crew will be doing a few rides starting at the Packwood Library at 9 a.m. on Saturday, September 13. Distances will range from 40 to 80 miles, and anybody is welcome to join us. In the evening, there will be a campfire. The goal is to meet like-minded cyclists and to have a good time. On Sunday, we’ll ride back to Seattle. We’ll post the route sheets in a few days, so you can print them out and bring them along. We hope to see you there!

12 Responses to Scouting the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting

  1. Jason Marshall (@jmarshall312) September 5, 2014 at 5:10 am #

    I wish I could be there next week. I hope everyone has a great time!

  2. Mr. Palomar September 5, 2014 at 5:44 am #

    Amazing post! If I could ask a pragmatic question – what do you stoke your water bottles with – looks like something other than water?

  3. robertkerner September 5, 2014 at 6:17 am #

    Jealous, that’s all I can say. For me, it’s a 2.5 hour drive or train ride to anything that remotely looks that nice.

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly September 5, 2014 at 6:34 am #

      The mountains are about that far from Seattle, too. Like Vélocio, we call the rides to the rides “transport stages”. I was lucky on Monday that the “transport stage” back to Seattle was thoroughly enjoyable.

  4. Tim Willis September 5, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    Considering making the trip back home from New York for this! Looking forward to it if so.

  5. Andy Speier September 5, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    Sounds like you had a great weekend and took some great photos. I’m looking forward to next weekend. Should be fun.

  6. Bill Hague September 5, 2014 at 11:52 am #

    Bill Hague says: I wish i could be there–perhaps next year!

  7. alliwant September 5, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    This jumped out at me: “…the “proof of passing” is the road sign at the top.” Proof of passing meaning evidence for pass hunting credit? Just out of curiosity, is pass hunting one of your cycling pursuits?

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly September 5, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

      No, I don’t passhunt… nor am I a member of the “Club des 100 cols”. The “proof of passing” was tongue-in-cheek, since there isn’t really anything to photograph on Cayuse Pass these days. When you ride it, you know you’ve made it, though!

  8. CJFilip September 9, 2014 at 6:27 am #

    Can you give a synopsis of your route home Sunday morning? Looking to perhaps follow you a ways and then turn back or make a loop to my vehicle in Packwood.

    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly September 9, 2014 at 11:01 am #

      There are several ways back to Seattle, but also many nice routes in the area. Why don’t you try one of the rides on Saturday, and another on Sunday?