Playing Hookie

Sometimes, ladies and gents, you have to make an executive decision. Work is important, as it pays the bills, let’s me eat regularly and allows Michelle and to go on vacations. However, for me, a summer that has already been wicked busy, is soon going to get worse!

Michelle and I have a couple of days off together coming up (at least one for sure will be blogworthy) but other than that it is straight on work till Labor Day weekend.

Last week I looked at the calendar and made an executive decision. Monday was honestly my only window, it was time to take a day off and ride! 

When I have an entire day like this, I like to ride places I can’t normally get to after work or even on a weekend morning. My favorite is of course Mt Rainier!

I do my best to get here at least once a year, but, as I was riding Monday, I realized I hadn’t been up there since the RAMROD 2 years ago.

Sometimes, I will drive into the park and take a short ride, but since I had the whole day I decided to add some miles to climbing. I was up at 4 AM (ok 415) and out the door at 5. I made a quick stop at Starbucks in Federal Way, and was in Enumclaw at 6. I pointed my nose east and start pedaling.

The route I was taking was Hwy 410 to the top of Chinook Pass, then back to Enumclaw. (I call this an Out and Back) What’s nice about this is the road has a wide shoulder all the way to the park. This means even though cars are doing 60, it’s a pleasant ride.

It also travels along the White River, so named due to the color of the water caused by the glacial silt, very fine grains of soil that comes from the glaciers that feed the river.

Now I have been coming up this way since the 2nd grade. This was the first time I ever noticed this though. The Greenwater river running into the White River (A confluence of rivers). Yes the science geek made me stop!

On a sunny weekend day, this can be a very busy road, but on a cloudy Monday, traffic was incredibly light! I did run into another rider, he was heading into the park to stay a few days.

33 miles from the start, I came to the entrance of Mt Rainier.

The downside of getting into the park is that the shoulder narrows. However, the speed limit drops and people are very considerate of the cyclist. I just love riding here.

Remember when I said it was cloudy? Well, even though it cleared some, Rainier wasn’t making much of an appearance.

I will admit, if this was my one lifetime shot at being in the Park, a view like this would have seriously bummed me out. But I am a local, and I learned long ago that cloudy days let you notice and appreciate other parts of the park.

There are the unique plants, (This is Bear Grass)

Rock formations

Just as an aside, it wasn’t until I looked at this photo that I noticed how cool it was. How many faces do you see?

Then there are some of the smaller, yet very pretty hills

The best part, though, with all the melting snow, were the streams and waterfalls I ran into.

As I climbed I started getting into snow level

But as you can see, I was also getting into the fog!

I could have turned around, but I have an extremely bright tail light as well as headlight. Plus a very vibrant yellow coat!  I once turned around on this route and gave up, I kicked myself for a year afterwards. I also know Rainier very well so I knew that sometimes in Rainier you can get above the clouds! So continue I did.

Sure as hell, at the top, I had some NICE weather!

I also wasn’t the only rider on top.

46 miles after I started and a 12 mile climb, I was at the top of Chinook Pass 5430 feet. I took the time to eat a snack and look around, before heading down. I shoulda stopped for a picture of Lake Tipsoo on the way up, cuz as I started down, it looked like this…

Still pretty though! And worth the climb.

Speaking of climb, how many of you are wondering why someone would ride a bike to the top of mountain pass? 12 miles of slow pedaling has its reward! A 12 mile high-speed descent! 12 miles of not having to push a pedal! Sometimes you bust into song!

The downhill was epic! I smiled the whole way (when I wasn’t singing) and all too soon I was back at bottom!

33 miles of rolling hills and some headwinds later, I was back at the car, and surprisingly not near as tired as I thought I would be. 92 miles and 6000 feet of climbing was what I wanted. More importantly though, I smelled the trees, heard the birds, watched the clouds, felt the fog and truly experienced nature as you can only do on the back of a bike.

When I am old,feeble, and unable to ride, I won’t remember a fraction of the days I am stuck in the office, but I will for DAMN sure remember this ride!

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2 Responses to Playing Hookie

  1. sarburch says:

    Glad you played hookie. And glad it was cloudy. The smaller, more seemingly “insignificant” details often get overlooked but are just as beautiful (if not more beautiful) than the main attraction.

    • Agreed! I have seen people get to Paradise or sunrise and see the mountain in clouds. They have shook there heads,
      Gotten mad and left immediately. And they have Washington plates! There is so much to see…

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