Sunday, June 3, 2012

Memorial Weekend 2012: Elk Camp

Locked and Loaded

When Shane added the caveat, "if we can get there," you had to wonder what sort of adventure might lie ahead. As it turned out, we got there.  And there was adventure.

Cayuse Que

Friday morning, Shane, Phil and I met in Issaquah, and headed for Chinook Pass.  We arrived at Cayuse Pass shortly before the seasonal opening of Chinook, and qued up with the the first-vehicles-of-the-season crowd.

Shortly after noon, the rangers pulled down the barriers and waved us through.  Impressive cuts of snow framed the roadbed as we rode up and over the pass.

 After a brief stop at Whistlin' Jack for provisions, we headed down the road to Nile.

There were two routes to "Elk Camp", the hunting camp Shane shares with a group of hunting friends.  The direct route is seven miles up from a low meadow camp, and the alternate route is twelve miles around.
Arriving at the low meadow, we found two things: numerous horse camping outfits, and the direct route bridge completely removed from an uncrossable stream.
As it turned out, the alternate route was open, blocked by a single downed tree we were able to ride around.

Elk Camp was a remarkable place, and soon we had tents pitched, tables assembled, and firewood cut. Who brings a chainsaw on a moto-camping trip? Shane does.  Fantastic!

No Cork Screw?
No Problem

Steak dinner, target practice, and a campfire preceded a night of peaceful rest.

The Mighty T-Dub and MegaMid

Saturday  we headed back 20 miles to the highway, and joined the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route (WABDR) at Highway 410.

We headed north up Cleman Mountain. The climb up Cleman was the only hill to spit me off my bike last year on the route, and I was eager to conquer that pitch.  Turns out it was much easier to climb on an unloaded bike, and last years WABDR traffic had cleared some of the loose baby-head rock off the track.
Lunch atop Cleman Mountain provided a needed respite with views all around.

Cleman Summit looking West

Southwest view

 The decent off Cleman was a long and fun challenge, followed by some brisk riding along it's northern base.  Soon we were back to pavement, and headed into Naches for provisions.

Stopped for Ammo, found this          

When we arrived back in Elk Camp, Brian and Josh had arrived only an hour prior.

Under Tarpzilla during a brief shower,  evidence litters the ground.
Flank steak, Italian sausage, bacon, white and red spuds, onion, carrots, yellow red and orange peppers, white and purple onion, fresh garlic, olive oil. Foil. Oh, and is that Dewars?
Josh loads his dinner
Brain and Phil wrap their meals.
Fire roasted goodness
Gunfire can not distract Phil from his meal
"Happiness is a warm gun"- John Lennon

When we arrived back at Elk Camp, Brian and Josh were only an hour in camp.
 A great evening of target practice, foil stew, campfire and camaraderie followed.  Life is good.

 Sunday morning we feasted on potatoes, onions, peppers, hash-browns and bacon.

Ohhh, yeaaaaaaa.

We then headed out for a loop of Bethel Ridge.

Meeks Table

The WABDR climb up the north side of Bethel Ridge turned out to be rather challenging in spots.  We named one long rough section "Vibrator Ridge" for the endless shaking experienced riding it's length. 
Vibrator Ridge

Hopes of snow-free passage were finally dashed near the summit of the ridge, and by-pass exploration eventually turned fruitless, blocking our WABDR traverse.

High centered
Bethel Ridge
Farther down than it looks

Nearby, however, we found FS1400 to be a long, yet well maintained descent route south to highway 12. Not as brief or interesting as the WABDR route from Rimrock to Bethel, it none-the-less allowed up to ride a loop instead of backtracking.
Provisions again were secured in Naches, and we were soon back at Elk Camp, shooting, feasting, and sitting by the fire.
Packing it in for the run home

Monday began earlier than previous mornings, as riders strove to get away ahead of holiday traffic. The descent from Elk Camp to the highway was again enjoyed as a beautiful send-off from a fantastic weekend.
Thanks go out to Shane for sharing this special place, and organizing the ride. Well done.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

REVerend Bill also Paddles

One would get the impression from this blog that adventure riding is my only passion.
Actually, adventure of any nature is fun, and I have been astoundingly fortunate to participate in a volunteer capacity on an Alaskan archeological expedition by sea kayak.

The Forest Service conducts an annual field expedition to monitor known culturally significant sites and survey for new ones. We carry out this expedition in the Misty Fjords National Monument of Southeast Alaska.  A team of 2-3 Forest Service archeologist and rangers, plus 5-6 volunteers paddle kayaks for 12 days in the Alaska wilderness, camping in primitive sites, self-sustained and self-sufficient.
In 2010 we paddled 140 miles of shoreline.  This year we plan to do about the same, looking for pictographs, petroglyphs, fish traps, boat runs and more.

Special precautions are taken for living and working in bear habitat.  
The ubiquitous tarp over tent
The Kitchen

 Living in the rainforest places special strategies in play to deal with weather.  We eat well, work hard, and experience a wilderness only a lucky few will see.

With only a few weeks left until this year’s trip, anticipation builds. If I can only find that head net……

Friday, May 18, 2012

Oysters, Check! Clams, Check! Snowline, Check!

Friday May 4th dawned grey and wet, as I headed to the Edmonds ferry landing on my YamahaTW200.  

Across the water, Sareth on his BMW F800GS and I met in Kingston, where we topped off fuel, headed out.

We rode through heavy squalls and showers to Brinnon and the Cove RV Park.  

Pitch not yet Perfected
Campsite lush

 Soon camp was set, and we headed up nearby Forest Service roads to find the snowline.  Well graded and empty roads led up mountain slopes through moss covered forest and native Rhododendron.  

 Shortly after passing a rock in the road, we found the snowline. 

 The altitude was 2,600’. This bode well for tomorrow’s plan to ride Forest Service roads from Skokomish to Lake Wynoochee.  Our planned route would top about around that altitude.

No matter how fat the tire, there's no riding up this!

After dropping back down to pavement, we headed up the Mt. Walker Viewpoint Road.  A long steady climb on graded gravel and dirt took us to the top.  At 2,500’ a mix and snow and rain fell from surrounding fog and clouds.  An occasional glimpse in the cover teased at the hidden views beyond.

By early afternoon we returned rather wet to camp, and assisted park owners Doug and Kimberley Hixson in preparations for the oyster feed potluck that evening.  The first opening of shrimp season was scheduled for 0900-1300 the next day, and the RV Park was rather full for the occasion.
Right as the potluck was winding up, James joined us and pitched his camp with ours. He rode a BMW R1150GS.

Centralia was in the house.

Soon we were enjoying delicious pan-fried oysters prepared by Doug, along with corn-on-the-cob, salads, breads and other dishes in a friendly community gathering.  Out of the rain under the Camp pavilion, we were well accommodated for the gathering.  I can’t say enough about the wonderful facility and hospitality of Doug and Kimberley.  Though we did not procure clams for the feast, Doug’s giant clam display in front of the camp store sufficed to complete the outing title: Oyster, clam, and Snowline Jam.

Not sure about the limit on those big ones.

After dark, Deb rolled in on her Suzuki V-Strom DL650, and immediately piled on the grief for not having a roaring fire awaiting her.  We tried to get a blaze from the neighbors abandoned campfire, but we were challenged by the damp wood and weather.  Besides, there was beer, warm water in the restrooms, and beer.  We helped her pitch her camp, and soon we turned in to a night of blissful slumber…..

Saturday morning skies were much brighter and drier. The nearby highway was busy with shrimpers hauling boats to launch.  With a four-hour opening, timing was critical.  We had a relaxed morning, diagnosed a worn chain on Deb’s bike, and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in Brinnon awaiting JT to join us.
The boats were on the water and off the highway as we rode 101 south along Hood canal.   

Reverend Bill, James and Deb. (L to R)

We provisioned at the Skokomish Casino, and soon headed west on back roads.  


 We elected to take a long side loop in order to visit a high bridge, and enjoyed miles of beautiful and largely empty Forest Service roads.    
Roads where you can just stop in the middle. Deb, James, JT, Rev Bill (L to R)

Eventually we finished the loop and headed on the main road toward Wynoochee.

What's that you say? No Motorcycles?
James performs the ADV salute

When we arrived at the snow and down-tree blockage, we were astounded to find we were at only 1,300’ elevation.   

If we just had a chainsaw.......
 After pondering all the options for getting around the obstacle, we chose to back-track to the highway and ride paved roads to Wynoochee. 
By the time we returned to Highway 101, Deb learned of a personal emergency at home that pulled her from the trip.  Assessing the hour, we decided to abandon Wynoochee as a destination, and instead head for Belfair State Park and the trails of Tahuya for Sunday riding.
Deb rode with the group to Belfair and then continued on for home. A quick stop in Belfair for provisions, and James learned of a backed up sewer at home and he left the group as well.

Sareth's pitch improving.
Sareth, JT, Fire!

Sareth, JT and I found a beach-view campsite at the park, and soon had camp set, a fire burning, and beers opened.  A photo of the campfire was sent to Deb in return for her heaps of grief, and soon, cans of food were heated in the fire.
A “super moon” rose over the water at dusk, and all was well with the world.
Shady campsite on a sunny morn.
Ebb tide inlet

Sunday JT woke ill and packed early.  Soon he was on the road for home, with a mechanical adventure on his way to the Southworth ferry.  Seems his pack strap was sucked into his counter sprocket, and a shred of it caused failure of his counter shaft seal.  He was puking oil at the ferry toll-booth when it was discovered, and luckily no harm came to his engine.  The skipper allowed him to push his bike on the ferry and within a few days he had it running as per normal.
We don't need no stinking counter sprocket cover!

Meanwhile, Sareth chose to take a long pavement ride home, so we parted ways in Belfair.  By the afternoon my wet camping and riding gear hung in the back yard to dry.
I await the next adventure.  Thanks to the riders for joining me on this outing and I look forward to riding with all of you again soon.
-Reverend Bill