RA10: Last Mountain Pass in Washington

Republic WA to Kettle Falls WA

A morning walk around pretty Republic led us to breakfast at a sports bar.  Service was great and they had a 2x2x2-like menu item and good coffee.

Then a morning ride through Republic and south to a rails-to-trails path that paralleled the highway for a mile or two.  From there we started the day’s climb of about 3000 feet with little relief.   Despite the comparitively steep grade (about 4-5% on average).  Just have to put your head down, get real patient, and work at it.  I think our legs are getting stronger and we also are figuring out how to tackle this mental challenge.

Immediate climbing this morning
Can you think of an excuse to stop?

LOTS  and lots of water in lower elevations.  Tiny creeks that were now raging currents due to the snowmelt.  It added a wonderful soundtrack to our early climb.  Then at higher elevations we found dirty snows by the roadside with seething currents beneath them.  Tall pines, snow capped mountains again.  Cold (mid 40s) at the top but jersey just fine due to workload.

Back in the pines
Jack is a "speck" at the roadbend in this picture
Getting colder up here

Both Jack and I felt quite good on this climb, despite its grade and length.  We took periodic stops for photos, to examine something, or just to savor the minute.  Any excuse to stop.  Early and often.  It makes for a more enjoyable ride.  Helps to be closet birder, geologist, hyrdrologist, zoologist, hortoculturist…take your pick.

At top of Sherman Pass we took a few photos.   We also added several layers of clothing for the descent and got some partial raingear on (mostly for wind protection.   As we mounted up on the bikes again, I got turned around and actually  started back down the way I came.  Jack stopped me but laughed and wondered how far I would have gone.

Summit shot
Which direction from here?

GREAT descent.  The best.  As we left Jack took off in front me proclaiming, “I just love downhills.”  6% grade for 6 miles, but the favorable slope continued for about 20 miles.  Huge torrent of raging water to the right.  And not far past the summit, a strong downpour.  I had to stop once to roll down my Rain Legs but was otherwise glad I’d already layered up for the ride, which got quite cold.  Still, it was one stellar ride down.  I love it – could it possibly get any better?

A mile from the Columbia River, a black item flew into my view and smacked me in the face like a golf ball.   It stuck in the mask strap on my left cheek, and I felt a hot burn and then heard the buzz.  A bee.  I swiped at it with my glove and it hit my shoulder for yet another sting.    I carefully stopped and regrouped, making sure he wasn’t inside my clothes or anything, but there wasn’t much else to do.  Fortunately it swelled very little – I think it didn’t get in a very good sting due to being impacted at 35 mph (that’s 25 mph for me and 10 mph for the bee).

Jack finds a "Butch and Sundance" cliff
The Columbia River

Across the Columbia River and then a brief ascent up other side to the town Kettle Falls.  We passed Sandy’s Drive Inn, saw a sign proclaiming shakes, and the bikes just seemed to steer themselves over.  Jack – cherry, mine – mocha.

We found the RA team lounging in the yard of the Kettle Falls information booth.  It was also next to a railroad track and the nearby warning signal seemed to sound off every 15 minutes, whether there was a train or not.  Hmmm..  It was great seeing the gang again after separrtion for more than a day.  Jack and I strolled out and found a lousy restaurant diner – on par with a junior high cafeteria.  I tried a “glacier” beer called a Kokanee – some patently bad stuff.  Took one sip and ordered an Alaskan Amber to wash away the taste.   Still, the dinner was good for our bodies and minds and all part of tour survival.

Bill and Frank philosophize
Roger reposes

Groceries for a dessert, a vanilla yogurt.  Back at camp we all discussed tomorrow’s route, and decided to probably head for a remote campground.  There won’t be many towns out there so we’ll have to stock up.  A slow train came by tooting its horn.  We’ll have to see how many tonight.  Then a bunch of mosquitos, so we ducked into the tents by 8:30 or so.

Train in background disturbing our campsite!