Day 11 Packwood to Yakima WA

Mt Ranier from about 17.5 miles east of Packwood

This was an especially good day for having a rearview mirror, since, with one, I would have missed the best view of Mt Ranier. At the start of my day, Mt Ranier was east and north, but the sky was cloudy, so I only got partial views of this big, snow covered, thing that stuck up into the sky. While climbing White Pass south of Ranier, I could not see the mountain because of clouds and near-by hills. At about 17 miles from Packwood and around 2500 ft, I saw some snow covered mountains ahead of me. Looking at them, I happened to look in my mirror and see Mt Ranier coming into view behind me as I climbed, sort of like the mother ship in Close Encounters coming up over Devils Tower. It was quite stunning and I took a series of pictures as it emerged from the mountains. After about half a mile more of climbing, it was fully visible and quite beautiful. I'm glad I waited a day in Longview, since, if I had been stupid enough to ride up here yesterday, there was no view. It snowed most of yesterday at the summit and rained lower down.

Starting Out

I had a good nights sleep and a slow morning startup. I had to re-pack more stuff than usual because of my wet ride yesterday, plus, after I did get away from the motel, I stopped for a good breakfast before leaving Packwood. There are no services between Packwood and White Pass, only a convenience store at the pass, and nothing on the other side before Rimrock Lake. I needed a good breakfast. I actually rode out of town at 10 AM. It was dreary, but there were some breaks in the clouds. The shoulder was good, if wet, and the traffic was light. I hoped to get to Ellensburg, about 30 miles north of Yaskima and the next place after Yakima with services. I estimated that I would reach the pass by 1 PM.

Climbing White Pass

It is a 3700 foot climb from Packwood to the Pass, with most of the serious climbing in three or for sections separated by flatter sections. There is very little downhill, so the actual climb is only a few hundred few more than the difference in altitude. The shoulder is good almost all the way, the views are great, and the traffic was light. This was definitely an easier way to go over the Cascades than Rainy and Washington Passes on the North Cascades route. Still, it was harder than I expected and the climb, which is 23 miles long, coupled with my picture taking, took me almost four hours. I stopped once to eat a snack and a bunch of times to take photographs. I also visited with some folks from Chelan - which is on my route - at the Pallisades (a vertical rock wall thousands of feet high on the other side of a valley) view point. I think my actual riding time was 3:15 or so, but it may have been 3:30. Not fast. It was pretty enjoyable except for the pain in my legs and the sweat that kept fogging up my glasses. I was very happy to see the top, although it was so pretty on the way up that I wanted the climb to last a long time.

At the top

There is a ski resort at the top - closed, of course - and the convenience store. The lady there was very nice and fixed me some deep fried 'Mexican' thing that, combined with a root beer, satisfied my need for a hot meal. I didn't know where I would find my next hot meal, but I had enough food with me to keep me going to Yakima. As it turned out, there were several 'resortish' places to eat that were open along Rimrock Lake, but I waited to Naches.

Clear Lake and US 12 descending toward it

The first nine miles east of the pass is a great 2000 ft downhill. It would be a killer uphill if you are coming west. US 12 the runs alongside Rimrock Lake for six, essentially flat, miles before going through a short tunnel beside the dam that created Rimrock and Clear Lakes. Then it follows the Tieton River down to the Naches River and the Naches River, which combines with other rivers, into Yakima. My hosts last night said "It is 45 miles of downhill after White Pass!" Well, not quite, there are some longish flat sections and even a very slight hill or two, but it is pretty close to a 45 mile downhill. I measure 3800 feet of climbing today, only 100 feet of climbing in the 50 miles after White Pass.

The shoulder, which had been good for 40 miles, goes away after the tunnel. Traffic was very light and very polite, so this was not a problem. I did have to wait on road construction, and I did get tired of pedaling downhill into the wind. I had a head wind for the last 30 miles or so. Both the country side and the headwind going downhill reminder me of Colorado. The rocks aren't quite the right color, but a lot this canyon feels like Colorado. Quite a change from Packwood!

Waiting on road paving

High desert with freshly paved lane

I've been over the Cascades three times on a bike, twice going east and once going west. It is still startling to see how dramatically the climate changes. I was in a rain forest last night and for the first 23 miles of my ride today. Then, in another 20 miles, I was in a desert. I would guess that the average annual rainfall drops by 90% in 25 miles. Remarkable and, for someone who was tired of bicycling in a rain forest, quite a nice change. It isn't as pretty over here, but it sure is nice to see the sun again. The forecast for Yakima is sunny or partly cloudy for the rest of the week. No 'sun breaks' here.

Between Naches and Yakima on US 12

I took so many photos today that I filled the memory card in my digital camera. I stopped by the river to switch cards and, when I couldn't find my second card, ended up transferring the images to my computer. I couldn't have done that in the past because my computer's LCD screen wasn't usable in daylight. I stopped for my second real meal of the day, a second breakfast as it turned out, at a café just inside of Naches. A friendly place where a young waitress saw me using my laptop - I use meal breaks to check out my routing on my mapping software - came over to ask advice about buying a computer for use at college. She was sweet and she asked good questions. Naches felt like a friendly town out on the plains, which is pretty close to what it is.

When I reached Yakima, I took the Fruitvale exit. US 12 intersects I-82 a few miles later and the road becomes increasingly interstate like after Naches, although with light traffic. After the Fruitvale exit, US 12 is an expressway for Yakima. There was a fancy motel near the exit, but I rode on and stopped at a store to ask about motels. Once the clerk got the idea that I really didn't want that fancy motel, she told me about a good place, "a few blocks" down the street. It was actually more like fifteen blocks, and it didn't look too impressive, but I stopped anyway. It is a decent value and the folk who run it (Red Carpet Motor Inn) are really nice and were very helpful with my routing tomorrow. I'm heading north which is complicated by a lack of roads other than the Interstate. Apparently there is a 'green way' which is not on my maps, but should get me to the road, WA 823, that I want to start north on. With a bit of good weather, I should be in Canada in three days!

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