The 4 Seasons of Mountain Roads

Posted by: Jan Heine Category: Rides

The 4 Seasons of Mountain Roads

In Seattle, we don’t really have four seasons. The joke that we get a three months of summer and nine months of rain is fairly true.
Yet I love to see the landscape change with the seasons and the weather. That is why I love the Cascade Mountains. Every time I ride there, the landscape looks and feels different. Above is Tipsoo Lake near Chinook Pass in early April. The roads across the Cascades were closed for the winter. We skied 10 miles to core the lake during my Ph.D. field work as a geologist. We drilled through 15 feet (5 m) of snow before we reached the ice on top of the lake.
I was thinking of that geology trip when I rode across Chinook Pass a few weeks ago. In late Summer, Tipsoo Lake was easily accessible from the road, and dozens of visitors milled around on the trails that surround the lake. It really is the same view as in the first photo.
Looking through my photos, I compiled a selection that shows the road to Chinook Pass at different times in the year.
During that geology trip, Chinook Pass looked like this in early April. It was hard to imagine that just six weeks later, one could ride a bike up here.
On the way back, we encountered a snow storm as we skied down the road. We wore all the clothing we had brought despite working hard to pull heavy sleds with coring equipment.
In the spring, the snow melts fast. When I returned from the Oregon Outback last May, the road had just reopened after the winter closure. There still were huge snowbanks on either side.
It was raining, and visibility was reduced to half a mile or so. Even though I passed within a few miles of Mount Rainier’s summit, I didn’t even get a glimpse of the mountain. The brooding atmosphere of the high mountains in the clouds had its own appeal.
Same time of year, but on a sunny day. It was a pleasant place, we were wearing shorts, and sunscreen was at the top of our minds. The mountain views were spectacular.
In late summer, all the snow is gone. Hard to imagine that this road is closed 7 months out of the year, and that we worried about avalanches when we came through here on skis during that winter research trip.
Or perhaps not? Just a month after the above photo was taken, the snows start again… Above is the road in early October, just before it was closed for the season.
The dramatic changes are part of what makes the mountains so appealing. I ride this road 2 – 3 times a year. There may only be three months of summer in Seattle, but the mountains are spectacular even when it’s not sunny and dry.

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