Last Call for Green Owl and WOW
It seems like yesterday that I was scouting the route of the Green Owl to see whether I could pull off the first one on July 6. I remember radioing Schweitzer to let them know I was near the top, my progress thus far unimpeded by snow or trees. I wished them a good night and then went and marked the last turn. Only when I drove right up to the saddle did I notice a 4-foot high melting snow berm with a downed fir tree for a
neighbor. Oh boy, here's some fun I thought. So, like the ambitious moron I am, I bounced the SAGWGON over the berm only to be blocked in by the 8" diameter Fir tree. I went to grab my saw and Voila! it struck me; in my haste to get out of town I had decided not to go get it! Arghh!
Well, that was late June, it's now late August and I'm getting ready to wrap up the Green Owl season and there is still snow...but thankfully it's only on the easterly flank of Mt. Casey, well off the Owl's flight path! I don't know about the snow at Casey because I was stuck up there all summer but I got a chance to fly over the Selkirks with Steve the flight instructor (a.k.a. "Skim") the other day as I begin to prepare for this winter's snowmobile guiding season and the new adventures in line along the way.
Wheelin' Over Washington.
Stats: 6 days of cycling, 462 miles, 28,285 vertical feet of climbing. WOW! The weather couldn't have been nicer for the 3rd WOW Tour which wrapped last week at the Washington and Idaho Border town of Oldtown. After that day's 90+ mile route, all the participants looked like Adonis's with bronzed thighs and funny tanned spots where their cycling gloves had been.
We began Day 1 with the salt-laden Pacific Ocean splashing against the hull
of the Mukilteo Ferry on our way to Whidbey Island. Bicycling on Whidbey is
great! Views, views and more excellent views and a wonderful bike route system. That evening we were entranced by the most amazing sunset over the Straits of San Juan de Fuca from the old-growth seashore of Deception Pass State Park.
Day 2 had us skimming along the shores of the island and then the Skagit
River on our way to Rockport. It would be another simple 50 mile day to warm us up for the double pass, 9500 vertical foot, 95 mile, Day 3. That evening, not 20 feet from the shimmering, emerald green, cascade water of the Skagit, Chops prepared the most delightful and nutritious vegetarian burritos, little wraps of earth's bounty that could fuel a rocket going to the moon.
On Day 3, Rainy Pass and Washington Pass loomed in our path to Winthrop, but
they didn't stop Wisconsin bred and born, 58-year-young, Doris Fincutter from cruising up and over the snow and sunny passes only to exuberantly exclaim that the last 14 miles should be a piece of cake after a little more water and a Powerbar. When we made it to our destination, the Winthrop Inn, Chops and I asked Doris what her training hills were like back home. You could have scraped both of us off the pavement when she turned and pointed to a rolling swale not more than 300 feet tall and said "Ooohhh, that one's much bigger than what I have back home, ya' know.." (add the intonation of a pure Wisconsin native and you'll get a clearer understanding of our inability to stay standing.)
Day 4 was a Layover day. A rest day. A day off to relax and enjoy the Winthrop scenery. Some slept, some got a massage, but not Chip Kamin. Chip, a rabid outdoorsman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, met up with Sandpoint rock climbers Stu Cooperstock, Heather Joseph and her father, Brian Bartlett and climbed the Beckey Route of the Liberty Bell. The pictures from the top show the Cascades from the very top, not just the road that passes through them. Chip exclaimed that this trip was one of his very favorites because he was able to pull off one of the most classic climbing routes in the United States while on a fully supported cycling tour. What a combo!
Day 5-another pass, Loup Loup Summit, and when you're over that it's down, down and further down, to the Okanogan Valley. David Thompson, the Canadian explorer responsible for naming Pend Oreille and surveying the U.S./Canadian Border, called the Okanogan his favorite place of all the lands he trapped or surveyed and when you bicycle through you really get time to imagine what it must have been like prior to the smooth black ribbon of pavement that shows us the way now.
Day 6 leads us from Tonasket to Kettle Falls via another double pass, this time Wauconda and then Sherman. I heard our tandem group from Arkansas got into the Zen mantra of, "That bastard Ken," this day. It must have worked, for they were both at dinner that evening, even after walking the last mile and a half when they blew out the sidewall of their back tire. I can only guess that it's not nice to swear at your tour god, I mean tour guide!
Tiger Pass is hardly a frost heave by Day 7. After not noticing the apex, the riders whooshed down the S-turns of the eastside and skidded into the Tiger Museum for lunch with huge, wide grins and little bits of bug plastered on front teeth. With the afternoon spent cruising the flats of the Pend Oreille, some of the riders occasionally stood up on their pedals to relieve the buttocks. At the last break stop I was nearly crushed to death by the herd when I broke out the Hershey bars on ice and after that the cows smelled the barn and they were off. We ended the tour with a refreshing dip in the salt-free Pend Oreille River and an even more refreshing dip into a great bottle of Pend Oreille Wine!