We seem to have found ourselves following one of the Adventure Cycling Association long distance routes, the Sierra Cascades, which roughly parallels the Pacific Crest Trail, America’s first through hike from the Canadian to Mexican border, with telltale stickers and bicycle friendly signs at various little shops and cafes along the way. I guess our maps of the Pacific Coast Route aren’t going to be much use for a while…
We joined the trail somewhere around Mt Rainier, the beautiful snow capped volcano, towering above the surrounding forests and hills. We also caught a brief glimpse of Mt Adams off in the distance, after the mountain shaped cloud that had been hanging around all day finally lifted. Since then the weather has deteriorated rapidly, and most of the volcanoes that we are cycling past have been shrouded in clouds, big fluffy cotton wool blankets that the mountains have wrapped themselves up in.
Mt St Helens was next on our route. She flashed us from Bear Meadows, giving us a brief glimpse of her midriff, still scarred from the huge eruption in 1980 when literally half of the mountain bulged up and exploded outwards. We carried on up Windy Ridge to get a closer view, but by the time we reached the top we were entirely engulfed by clouds.
The rain set in for a few days (Mark ‘I feel like a soggy cardboard box’), and with the temperature dropping we decided to seek out a warmshowers host in Hood River to wait out the storm. We ended up staying with Scott in his ‘bike bunkie’ an awesome little cabin in the woods out the back of his house that he designed and built just for cycle tourers!
After our second night in the cosy wooden tent the sun was clearly trying its best to make an appearance so we packed up and started on our way up towards Mt Hood, another elusive volcano. Mr Hood was clearly having a lie in, and was still wrapped in his blanket, but every now and then he must have rolled in bed and we would catch a glimpse of a snow white shoulder, or the outline of a cliff face. Other than that we had to just settle with a view of his toes poking out the end of his bed.
Mt Adams, made another brief appearance, sticking his head out of the clouds as we were looking the other way, but obviously decided that the sun wasn’t quite bright enough today to warrant waking up, so wrapped himself back up in his blanket of clouds, and that’s probably the last we’ll see of him.
The sky was looking grubby again, and the wind had started to pick up, so we knew we were in for another soggy cardboard box day. We cycled through the rain for a few hours, until we decided we’d had enough, so turned on our Jedi wild camping radar and found ourselves this delightful shelter in the woods complete with wood burning stove:
We managed to dry out all our gear overnight and with the sun shining through the trees, starting to burn off the clouds the next morning, we were ready to hit the road again. We took a short detour to Timothy Lake hoping to catch another glimpse of Mt Hood, and were rewarded with a slightly more convincing view.
We found ourselves on a beautiful winding single lane forestry road descending through the trees, fluctuating between warm and cold patches as we sped through open and shaded sections of road. Despite a leisurely start to the day we made it to Breitenbush Hot Springs for a relaxing soak in the free pools that evening and the next morning.
Riding out of Detroit we saw a hint of a glimpse of a corner of a snowy white shoulder leading up to a suggestive heap of clouds and a tiny window through to a snowy patch of Mt Jefferson, who must have been up there towering above us, but was definitely in hiding. The road was much busier now so we put our heads down and motored up the hill, reaching a campsite just before the pass.
We were woken in the night by the familiar pitter patter of rain on our tent, which we tried to ignore and go back to sleep, but it persisted, taunting us with the promise of another cold, wet ride the next day.
It was still raining when we woke up, and we began the steady climb up into the clouds. The sun made a half hearted attempt to shine through the clouds when we reached the top, but gave up soon after. We stopped at every lay by on the way down to warm up our hands and feet, and peer out in the vague direction of Mt Washington which a signpost pointed out to no avail, he was definitely having a duvet day.
The Sisters must have been having a pillow fight, as they were also obscured.
We took every opportunity to find scenic alternatives to the busy main road, weaving and winding our way through a patchwork quilt of sun baked meadows (ranch country), sweet smelling pine forests, desert scrublands complete with tumbleweed, and the manicured lawns of the big fancy houses with huge windows looking out to the grey smudge in the sky that we had just emerged from.
Almost as soon as we reached the plains the rain stopped and we stripped off all our wet outer layers to soak up the sun. This desert plateau is in the rain shadow of the mountains, and we were told by our hosts in Bend that they hadn’t had any rain all summer, but that its likely to continue like this in the mountains from October til May. The sun did make one final appearance while we were in Bend, giving us some great views of the mountains we had been cycling through and are heading into again.
We had planned to continue following the Sierra Cascades route as far as Crater Lake, which we’ve been told is beautiful, but often full of clouds, and that we should go for a swim, although there’s a storm forecast for the next week (looks like tomorrow is our last day of sunshine for a while), so we’ll see…
After that we could either continue through the mountains, over the Tioga Pass into Yosemite National Park (this road has been closed for winter from around 1 Nov in recent years, so it’ll be a race against time) or head to the famous Pacific Coast Highway 101 down through San Francisco and Big Sur. We’ll keep you posted…