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Old 05-01-2014, 02:57 PM   #16
Hunter-Douglas OP
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In to Oregon

The weather seemed better and I felt an urge to make up some mileage after the struggle on the dirt in Nevada. I didn't make it very far before I saw a dirt detour paralleling the highway to Klamath Falls. I doubled back to find the entrance and saw that it was a five mile "interpretive road" with a few turnouts and plaques detailing the native history. It seemed like a pretty cool concept: take a fun side road and get a little bit of history along the way. The exhibits at the turn outs were great, but the road was even better.


They sure knew how to take care of this road.


The track ended and I hopped back on the highway to Klamath Falls. The road wound through rolling hills, forests and brush land. The northeast corner of California has always had an alluring high desert feel for me, and Modoc County never disappoints.


Some of the road signs were pretty entertaining. I agree with this one, that little should be careful.


After only getting halfway to Klamath Falls I saw another opportunity too good to pass up. The sign for the East entrance to Lava Tubes National Monument popped up and I made a left to head into the park. I'd been there twice before, once as a young'un with the family and once on a college trip. There's about thirty caves of different length and difficulty to explore and I chose to give their crown jewel, "The Catacombs" another go. It's a mile long tube with a ceiling height varying from ten feet to ten inches. I had made it to the end with my college group about four years before and figured I'd have a decent shot of successfully repeating the descent following the directions from memory. While there are a few side passages, the main tube (so I thought) was usually pretty easy to follow. I was pretty stoked and sure this was a good idea when I got to the turnout.


It gets dark pretty quick.


The main entry way is pretty wide open and very deceiving of what's further down.




The ceiling got lower as I ducked and then crawled my way down the tube. Some of it was looking familiar, but some sections weren't and I started to doubt whether I was going to make it or not. I knew about halfway down there was a squeeze called the birth canal, but I was having a pretty hard time recognizing the passage towards it. What was looking familiar were spots I had remembered coming up instead of down. I would have killed for a guidebook at that point. It was also a midweek afternoon which meant that I was literally the only person in the entirety of the tube system, which was a little eerie at minimum. I even cursed myself for trying to spook out an ex in the past by showing her "The Descent" and wished I would run into someone who could point me in the right direction. No such luck, but I thought I recognized one of the squeezes and shimmied my way into a ten inch high section, thinking it was the one I remembered. I'm a fairly lanky guy but I still managed to get to a point where I was feeling pressure from the rock on my stomach and back simultaneously. I'm not really claustrophobic, but having to choose a side to turn your head to move forward is just a weird feeling no matter what. When I couldn't move any further, I had to admit to myself this was definitely not the right way and it was time to back out. I snapped a photo after heaving my way backwards.


I retraced my steps and tried one last side passage. I recognized it, but again it was going the wrong direction. I managed to pull a semi easy bouldering move to gain the tube directly above it, but that didn't go anywhere either. I had been down for about three hours and I had a feeling the gate was closing soon, so it was time to go. The sting of defeat was intensified by the fact I had meant to go a lot further than the fifty miles I had covered so far that day.

I hit the road to Klamath Falls, only allowing myself to skip Captain Jack's Stronghold because of the time and also because I had been there a few years before. I would definitely tell anyone in the area to check the place out. You can still walk the trenches used by Captain Jack and his guerrilla Modoc forces during their fight against the US Army during the First and Second Battle of the Stronghold in the 1870's, the peak of the Modoc War. General Edward Canby, a Civil War veteran and policy wiz under Ulysses S. Grant, is also buried there after he was assassinated by the Modocs during peace talks. I managed to make a stop at Fort Klamath and see the field where Captain Jack and three of his leaders were hanged as punishment for their rebellious ways.
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Old 05-01-2014, 03:09 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by JustinCase View Post
Awesome thread.
You're doing it!! I agree with the others re: the pictures. They are awesome.
Thanks buddy. It was great seeing you one more time at Great Basin. Glad you're keeping it up and it's a blast watching you perform.

Also great name adaptation. Love it

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Looks and sounds like fun! What camera are you using to capture these lovely images?

Safe travels!
Rootsy, I'm using a Fuji x-e1. It's a smaller, mirrorless SLR that fits really well in a tank bag. I was inspired to pick one up after reading Tourist's Uralistan report. He used a similar Fuji x-1 with a fixed 35mm lens (not that the camera had that much to do with how incredible his photography is).

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Originally Posted by Tamalerider View Post
Sounds sweet! I'm headed up to crater lake on my way to Prudhoe bay leaving May 28th. Going 2 up with my girlfriend to fairbanks and then making final push to prudhoe bay and Dawson gathering with a buddy.
Sounds great! I think the weather might be a little better for you two than it has been for me. Hopefully I'm not too early, but everyone has been talking about how dry their winter was up there.
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Old 05-01-2014, 04:49 PM   #18
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Crater Lake to Eugene

Keeping to an ethic of questionable decision making, I headed out to Crater Lake National Park thinking there was no way I could skip seeing it if I was passing through. Weather and elevation change only came up as an afterthought in my goal of getting a good photo of the lake. I really was feeling the beauty of the area so I made sure to scout out potential future land purchases. I might actually have money again someday, so why not?


I found the turnoff for the scenic route to the park. The skies were clear above me but looked unhappy ahead, but I figured I would have no trouble getting to the loop road and taking it around the lake to the other side of the park. It got steadily colder until I found myself at the west entrance. There weren't too many cars on the road, and pretty quickly I was going to find out why.


I rode further up the road and started seeing a few cars coming down the hill with white dustings on the roof. I chose not to think about it too much and promised to turn around whenever I started feeling too uncomfortable with the conditions. Finally, the road turned completely white and I pulled over to walk around and get a feel for the surface. I managed to brake, accelerate and corner mildly without feeling any slips, so I kept in second gear and eased my way up the road. I was pleasantly surprised by how confident the bike felt rolling over the white stuff and I was getting a real kick out of the looks from drivers coming the other way.




I took some video while testing the road surface.

Some fun in Crater Lake National Park from Hunter Petersen on Vimeo.



I got to the visitor's center as it really started coming down. As soon as I walked in the ranger looked at me and laughed. When I asked him how far the viewpoint was, he informed me there was no chance of a view today and that I should probably get back down the hill while I still could. I took him up on his advice and made my way down at a much slower pace than when I had come up. Downhill in the snow was proving to be a lot more dicey. I couldn't use the brakes. Pulling the clutch in first let the bike speed up to quickly and re-engaging it was breaking the back end loose before it would start slowing down. I had an almost off when the rear kicked out in a downhill right hander. I hadn't been accelerating, braking or doing anything other than coasting when it did, it just didn't have enough traction to hold the wheel up in the curve. I managed to keep the bike upright and continue on, second gear feeling like a victory if I could get to it. For braking, I found a new meaning regarding the significance of "digging your heels in". Seriously, it works.
I was pretty happy about making it back to the park entrance, but when I went to stand up and stretch I blew a foot off the peg. When I pulled over to check what happened, I saw that my pegs had turned into little igloos.


The highway from Crater Lake to Eugene was scenic, warmer and lower elevation. I took refuge in a gas station where the same guy who pumped gas made the burgers. He gave me some confidence, promising conditions wouldn't be as bad going over Willamette Pass. Thankfully, he was right and I enjoyed a winding highway next to the Willamette River going downhill into Eugene. I hit the first bar I could find, downed an IPA and shacked up at the Whiteaker Hostel. There were some very interesting folk there, but I went for the trusted dry-the-gear-hit-a-brewery option, only to find out Ninkasi Brewing closed at 8:30 every night.
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Old 05-01-2014, 07:29 PM   #19
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Good shit hunter!

I'm so impressed. The pictures are breath taking and the adventure looks epic. I'm super jealous, I once planned a similar ride west from China that never took place... keep up the good work.
By the way, I'd have to agree with that drunk guy, you were most definitely high.
Your biggest fan, Alon
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Old 05-01-2014, 08:05 PM   #20
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awesome thread so far man.
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Old 05-01-2014, 08:42 PM   #21
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Definitely starting out as an adventure.
I'm in, keep up the good pix.
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Old 05-02-2014, 12:47 PM   #22
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I'm so impressed. The pictures are breath taking and the adventure looks epic. I'm super jealous, I once planned a similar ride west from China that never took place... keep up the good work.
By the way, I'd have to agree with that drunk guy, you were most definitely high.
Your biggest fan, Alon
Alon!! Good to hear from you mate. If anyone could make it to China in style, it would be you buddy, so I know you'll make it happen at some point. And oh hey, I'm going through Whitehorse, YT so I'll make sure to look at Lotus Flower Tower in the distance wave at it and think about how much more I need to climb before going there.

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awesome thread so far man.
Quote:
Originally Posted by bluestar View Post
Definitely starting out as an adventure.
I'm in, keep up the good pix.
Thanks guys. I'm going to try and keep it coming best I can. Luckily the BC coffee shops are pretty liberal with their wifi. THat might change when I get closer to Whitehorse.

That being said, something might be wrong. It's about 65 and sunny heading north towards Prince George. I'm not complaining
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Old 05-02-2014, 02:57 PM   #23
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To the coast

After a not too interesting night at the hostel in Eugene, I was happy to start making my way down to the coast and highway 101. At least if it was wet, it would mean I was getting rained on instead of snow. I gave my boots some treatment as they had been failing spectacularly at being waterproof. To be honest, I wasn't too sure how to feel about the atmosphere of Eugene. I kept getting a lot of pretty unfriendly looks from guys who seemed like they were trying to pull off the grunge vibe even though it was pretty clear they were far from having to worry about supporting themselves. The whole hipster scene doesn't really come into play so much in the mountains and it was entertaining to run into it full force. To be fair, I also met a lot of nice people, including an inmate who shared some stories of his ride through Central America on his "race tuned" KLR . He even had a story about running into Dylan S and his crazy GSA powered, barrel supported Darien raft. That story is still one of the most inspiring I've read on here.

Pondering better views and salty air, I was fired up to get moving until my bike decided it wouldn't start. It would fire only if you caught it with the throttle and would die as soon as you let off. This bike is known for having some finicky ECU issues, so I turned it off and let it sit for a few minutes. I gave it a prayer and another go and it started up no problem. I picked up 101 at Florence and kept an eye on the coastline for whale spray. I didn't get lucky, but from what I was hearing it seemed like nobody else was either. I didn't feel too badly about it given the views of the Oregon coast and the sun.


The highway was smooth and just the right amount of windy. I made it to Astoria and crossed over the Columbia River as the sun started to set. I tried my luck camping at Cape Disappointment State Park just across the river. I was losing sun quick and had to pull over to get my first stereotypical ocean sunset shot.


It was getting too dark to really see the camp sites and I followed the loop road as close to the coast as I could get. They had a campsite listed and I found myself a spot in RV town near the beach. I considered squeezing down the path and riding the beach aways to look for a stealth site, but it was pretty apparent that water would be covering the entire beach at high tide and I had no idea when that would be the next morning. I pitched my tent in the two square yards of grass at the back of a full hookup site. I squeezed in a couple night shots on the beach before drinking my way through a bottle of $3 wine, watching some comedy on the laptop and passing out.


Cape Disappointment apparently has a hard time tracing the origins of it's name. It's supposedly one of the foggiest points in the US, and story has it that one of two things happened- A fur trader bailed on trying to find the Columbia River after an exhaustive search since he couldn't see through the fog that it was less than a 1/2 mile away, or better yet, the Lewis and Clark expedition reached the mouth of the Columbia and the Cape and were very "disappointed" that they could see no ships on the Pacific Ocean due to the fog. All that considered, the park's name took on a new meaning for me when the ranger came around that morning handing out pay slips. Apparently in my ignorance I'd set up shop in the middle of a $37/ night site, and there was definitely no discount for not pulling the hook ups into my tent or not having a fifth wheel. Paying the cost of a motel for a patch of grass was a tough pill to swallow, especially given that I usually try to stealth camp as much as I can. But when it's really nobody's fault but your own for being stupid, not a lot you can do.

I booked it up 101 further into Washington aiming for the Olympic Peninsula. The greenery and the jaggedness of the area was amazing, even if the density of the forest made it a PITA to stealth camp. I took a detour to check out Lake Quinalt at the south side of the park.


Some interesting business along the highway. I doubt I'd find a single inmate on here who would have a problem with rocking that van.


Ruby's Beach in Olympic NP.




It was interesting seeing the clearcut patches of forest next to the highway. However you feel about it, it's hard to not to be amazed at how quickly the trees grow in the PNW. These guys had put on about forty feet in the last 27 years.


I looped around the peninsula heading through Port Angeles to Bainbridge Island, where I would catch a ferry across the sound to Seattle. The road through the park was nothing short of fantastic, narrow and winding with easy views to appreciate.


I caught this guy out of the corner of my eye not too far off the highway. I nearly locked up the back end pulling over to rip my camera out and sneak-run down the hill towards him. After bushwhacking out into his bog, he decided to keep flying another twenty feet away every time I started edging in. Finally I took a shot at full zoom (55mm ) and managed to get him with a little bit of clarity. When Fuji finally releases their 120-400mm lens for this camera, I'll be first in line.


I called my friends in Seattle and told them I was finally inbound. The ferry gave me a great view of the city I'd be spending the next month or so in.
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Old 05-03-2014, 06:30 AM   #24
Space_man
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Hunter,
Really enjoying the story and photographs. Good on ya.
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Old 05-03-2014, 12:55 PM   #25
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Hunter,
Really enjoying the story and photographs. Good on ya.
Thanks spaceman. I'll keep it coming! For now at least, it looks a little more remote once I leave Prince George for Whitehorse...
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Old 05-03-2014, 05:09 PM   #26
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Seattle and Vancouver Island

I set up shop on my friends Shawn and Katherine's couch in downtown Seattle. I was planning on using this as a temporary base of operations to get my work situation dialed in for Summer. There was no lack of motivation- If I'm going to spend six months anywhere on the bike this Fall, there's only one way to pay for it. I spent a good deal of time in the downstairs coffee shop cranking out resumes for guiding services. It was great to hang out with some fun people, especially when it meant I got to hang out again with this fluff ball my hosts had acquired back in Tahoe.


I heard a lot of "no's" from the Seattle based guide services. Unfortunately I was a bit behind the times as most of them were already hired up for the summer season and were in the stages of conducting their alpine guide tryouts on Rainier and some of the other local peaks. I started looking towards Alaska to see if I'd have better luck with their later start to the season. One company wanted me to come work for them, but the position was crap and the start date involved me being in Haines in less than four days. Luckily, I landed an interview with St. Elias Alpine Guides and a resulting job starting at the end of May. With my work situation confirmed and plenty of time to go North, I spent some time exploring the city with my sister who came to visit before she left for a summer working in Japan and SE Asia.

This was cool for me. The very first version of my current stove, the trusty MSR Whisperlite International.


Pike's Market obligatory fruits and veggies photo.


The Gum Wall. Gnarly.


It stopped raining for about a minute. Beers on my friend's roof were in order.


I celebrated my future employment with a trip up to Vancouver Island via the San Juan ferry. I was finally starting to see white thread on my rear tire, so I picked up a pair of TKC 80's to replace the 10k-miles-old stock rubber. I wrestled my way through my first moto tire changing experience with only one pinched tube from figuring out the process. It was too late in the day to catch the ferry from Anacortes to Sidney, so I planned on taking one instead to Friday Harbor in the San Juans and spending the night there. The only problem was I missed that ferry too, which meant a two hour wait on Orca Island waiting for the 12:30AM ferry to come by to get to Friday Harbor and sleep (the BC ferry only picks up at FH). I passed out in the loading area and waited for some loud noises to wake me up. The ferry horn did the trick and I hopped on for the 15 minute ride across the bay. I roamed around Friday Harbor at about 1AM and eventually found a spot to plow the bike out to and set up camp. I made sure to not miss the only ferry heading to BC the next morning and was treated to great views of the San Juan islands on the way.


We landed and I officially stepped off US soil for the first time since I was 13. The woman at the border was pretty aggressive and kept asking me about firearms. I had blown it and left my big red bottle of bear repellent visible. She grabbed it, looked it over, and gave it back with specific instructions to only use it on bears, not people. Well, uh yeah, sure, I guess that works for me. I pulled out and followed the main road north up the east side of the island. Some of the views were great, but they would only get better the further in I went.


I made it up to Duncan as it was getting dark. The rain had let up so I decided to ride up the Lake Cowichan Highway to look for another camp spot. I took a turn off into a vineyard and managed to find a nice site next to a creek that was fairly well hidden. The winery looked closed and I had movie and beer night in the tent.


This can be one my favorite parts of camping. Catching up on The Hobbit.


It was still raining as I packed up and headed to Nanaimo. I decided to ride inland to the West Coast and diverted down the road towards Port Alberni. I wanted to check out Pacific Rim National Park, so I looked at the map and made my way towards what looked like the obvious choice of Bamfield Road. I passed a sign saying that next fuel was 86km and the road turned to a field of potholes and gravel. I slowly got better at judging what was smooth and what wasn't. Hint- you lost the glassy wet sheen on the road when a whoops field of water filled holes were approaching.




Someone I met from Europe told me this part of the island reminded them a lot of Norway. I've never been, but I was swearing regularly into my helmet at how amazing everything looked. We just don't see terrain like this down in the Sierras. I was snapped back to focus by the three vans I passed on the side of the road changing flat tires. None of them wanted help, so I kept on and finally reached the town of Bamfield. There was one gas station and a restaurant-hotel that were both closed. I remembered then that it was Easter Sunday and there might not be anywhere open for me to dry out. I was drenched at this point and happened across a sign for the Seabeam Fishing Lodge down a dirt track. Rooms from $30 bucks even, the sign said. After getting lost for a bit I found a driveway to a bunkhouse that had some lights on and people moving around. I pulled up and the caretaker Patrick came out to meet me. He said they weren't open for another month or so, but I was welcome to stay the night. I gave him the $30 and was given a great room while he lit up the fireplace for me to dry my gear out.




I watched the tide go in and out right under my bedroom window. Patrick and his lady friend hung out in the main room with me for a bit and I played with Juneau, their border collie. I heard the story of the old lodge while Juneau kept trying to bring me pieces of firewood to throw, not caring about the fact that throwing a log in the main room would be somewhat destructive. When I woke up the next morning, I saw the sun shining and a fresh pot of coffee in the kitchen with a note instructing me to mix it with the Bailey's. I was definitely feeling the good vibes of Canadian hospitality.

I managed to pass three more cars changing tires on the road back out. This time, one of them accepted some help and I shined a light for a guy in a Siemens truck as he worked his spare on. According to him and his wife, they'd flatted eight times on this road in the last three years. With the potholes, the rocks and the 70k/hr limit it wasn't hard to see why. I was more than happy to be on a bike that could maintain 80k on the track without destroying itself. It didn't hurt that the views on the way out were just as good as the way in.




Port Alberni lies at the top of a 60 mile inlet dividing separating two parts of the island and Pacific Rim NP. I wanted to see more of the area so I flipped a u-turn back in town and headed towards the west coast again, this time on the north side following some windy asphalt. There were several hairpins winding through jagged, white capped peaks.


It was getting sunnier and warmer the closer I got to the coast. I angled right towards the town of Tofino and into Pacific Rim. I passed a few beaches and a surprising amount of surfboards and cars. So THIS was the surf scene the Canadians were all talking about. I passed a few beaches and then followed some signs describing a rain forest hike. Now that was something I had to see so I pulled over, grabbed my camera and followed a wooden path into a dense wall of trees. A trail wandered through the woods for about a mile, all of it elevated and hand built. I might have gotten lucky with the sun but I had to appreciate the natural vibrance of it all. It almost felt like I was on the way to a treehouse village.








I made it to Tofino for dinner and a beer at one of the local pubs. The town really reminded me of the ski town where'd I'd been living, just waterfront and surfing oriented instead. I cruised around the docks and beaches to check out the local traffic before heading back to the woods to camp.


Never get tired of float planes.


These guys were eyeing my fries big time.


Local surf spot.


On the way back out of town I spotted a sign for Tofino Brewing. It's hard for me to ride by breweries and not stop. I went to school living right down the street from the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, so I was surprised to see their much different style of setup here. But their beer was great and I asked to buy a bottle of the IPA. The gal working the bar said they only sold them in four packs, so you can guess what I did.


I planned to double back to a spot at nearby Kennedy Lake to camp. There were plenty of dirt roads diving off the highway to follow out to the area, so I chose a track and followed it in about 15k up the far side of the lake. The road was in great shape and the ride out at sunset was everything I had hoped for.


The first spot I came across had some sketchy looking residents. I say sketchy just from my experience wandering around the back roads of the foothills in Northern California. When I see very permanent, non legit camp setups and unfriendly looks in the middle of nowhere I bail out. These guys had a few rifles hanging about and were staring me down, so I turned tail asap. I followed the main road further in until that also started to phase out. At first it just looked like a rough spot in the road, but when I saw lots of downed logs blocking the way I didn't question it. I might have been a little paranoid, but again I've seen stuff like that in NorCal and it's usually a sign to turn around before you come across some asshole guerrilla growers and their booby traps.




I turned around and managed to find a path to a micro beach I had overlooked on the way out. It was picture perfect with an amazing view of the lake, so I set up camp and enjoyed some IPA while taking in the sunset. I snagged a few photos and woke up surrounded by the lake mist the next morning.

Sunset over the lake.






It was time to head back to Sidney to catch a ferry back to the mainland. I wanted to camp near enough to be ready for it right at noon without having to rush. Riding through the rain, I found out my rear light was operating only when braking. Not ideal for riding down the highway in dark weather. I decided to push my luck and aim for the same campsite in the vineyard for one more night so I could get off the highway. When I rolled up to the field where I had rode across prior, I saw a bunch of new tracks from trucks following my initial trail. The jig was up, the site had been found and there was a bunch of loud bangs and music and coming out of the winery building. I killed the bike and turned it around in the dark. When I went to fire it up again, the dash flickered and nothing happened. In the process of trying to be stealthy I'd managed to somehow kill the battery.

It was after 11PM and I was about four miles up the road from Duncan. I did some preliminary cursing and managed to push out to the highway without anyone seeing me. From there, it was about another mile to a big hill where I figured I could bump start the bike. I picked up speed and gave it all I could over four or five tries before the hill ran out. No luck. I pulled over near a stop sign as a car approached. Lucky for me it was an unbelievably nice high school kid who was pretty confused as to why my light had been flicking on and off coming down the hill towards him. When he heard what was going on, he told me to stay put and that he'd be back in ten minutes with a battery booster from his house. We hooked it up and the bike fired right up. I still had no tail light though, so I followed surface streets towards the bay across the highway and setup a bivy in a suburban turnout. It wasn't the greatest spot and definitely not well hidden. At one point I woke up to some rustling in the bushes next to me with my heart pounding. I yelled and grabbed my headlamp, only to scare the living shit out of a curious house cat that had been sleeping not too far from my pad. The next morning the bike thankfully fired right up and I made my way back to Seattle without too much difficulty.

Next up, a less than ideal night in a whiteout on Mt. Rainier...
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Old 05-04-2014, 07:06 PM   #27
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I have to skip ahead for a moment to last night.

This was a surprise I sure wasn't expecting when I stumbled out of my tent at 11:30 last night to grab a drink from my panniers. A well known sight for many, but definitely the first time for me. I'm super glad they stuck around, even if it was only about ten minutes before they were gone.

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Old 05-04-2014, 09:03 PM   #28
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Mt. Rainer National Park

After coming into town for a night, I rode down I-5 towards Ashford, WA for a few days around Mt. Rainier. There's always a feeling of devastation every time I ride onto that highway, no matter the length. It's just auto pilot, wind blasts and an average speed higher than my bike likes to go. That and it always seems to go on longer than you think it will. I turned off and went East towards the park and camped down a forest service road just past a small land slide. I thought the slide would mean nobody would be coming through, but a surveyor woke me up bright and early with his 350 diesel.


I found the town of Ashford and had some breakfast and great coffee at Whittaker's bunkhouse. The coffee shop/ motel is full of old climbing gear from the Himalaya and right next door is Rainier Mountaineering Inc, a well known guide outfit founded by the legendary Whittaker brothers. I went and had a chat with some of the guides, but the mood was somber as many of the sherpa killed in the avalanche on Everest a few weeks prior were working for either them or Alpine Ascents International just up the road. After getting some local advice on the mountain, I climbed my way up the park road and past the snow line to Paradise Lodge. It was snowing lightly and I had been told the mountain had gotten about 36" a few days before. From the condition of the snowbanks I didn't think they were lying.


I rented some clown style snow shoes and picked up a backcountry permit at the ranger's office. The advice I was hearing regarding avy conditions was mixed- The danger wasn't low, but it was coming down considerably from where it had been. I was hoping to make it up to Camp Muir at just over 10k elevation on the mountain which involved a five mile snowshoe through some fresh conditions up the Muir Snowfield. If I could get above a spot called Panorama Point, I should be home free as the rest of the route isn't steep enough to break and is clear of any slide paths. I loaded my backpack I keep stashed at the bottom of the Ortlieb duffel and set off from the Paradise parking lot in the afternoon.

I figured I'd assess the snow conditions from the base of Panorama Point at the bottom of the steepest section. Unstable snow hates sticking to certain slope angles, and in or around 37 degrees is the magic number to avoid when things are unsure. When I made it to the point, I saw the climb was a bit less steep than that and there were three boot packs from earlier in the day skirting the natural slide path. I followed them up and over and figured I was now in the clear to get up to Camp Muir for the night. Visibility was in and out, but the Muir Snowfield is a semi-obvious, non glaciated route straight up the mountainside.


I kept slogging my way up through the snowfield as visibility slowly worsened. I was in the process of learning an obvious lesson that routes like this are either easy to follow if you've been there before, or if it's clear visibility. I couldn't count either of those qualifications and at this point the snow was picking up and daylight was fading. I was pretty relieved to start seeing path markers left by local guide services. When you need to find your way during whiteout conditions, you put wands in the snow so that you know where you've come from on the way back and for the benefit of anyone following. Luckily, Rainier Mountaineering and International Mountain Guides had wanded the route pretty well, and each one was a happy sight when it finally came into view.


Most of the time, the direction was clear or there would be a second wand visible from the one you were standing at. That started to change as 9PM rolled around and it got dark. I was certain I was nearing Muir, but having no altimeter and no prior knowledge I couldn't be sure. From my previous experience I knew that it was much easier to undershoot your destination in the dark than to overshoot, so I kept on. The wands ran out and I started to notice the cold more as I slowed down. I was dressed in full winter gear and using my winter moto gloves, which had held up admirably in the Sierras this past season. But something felt off, and my hands were feeling just a little more out of whack than I've noticed on other trips into the alpine. I pulled off a glove and immediately didn't like what I was seeing.


This was something I had never had happen before, not even climbing in the Cascades or snow camping in sub zero temps. I went into quick mode and stamped out a flat spot on the snowfield and ripped my pads and sleeping bag out of my pack. I was having a hard time getting the my fingers to grip the drawcord on the stuff sack for the bag but eventually it came free. I crawled into it and laid there with my hands on my legs, willing the blood to start flowing again. The rewarming process was painful, but that was fine since it meant the process was working. After about an hour wondering what the hell I was doing with my life, I had regained enough feeling and mobility to get the tent setup. My Nemo managed to break a pole in the process, something that really bummed me out at that point given my situation. I put a sleeve on it, got the tent upright and pegged and moved inside asap. I laid up most of the night, continuing to keep my hands warm and wondering how I possibly could have missed Camp Muir. The nagging doubts that I might be lost and camped on a snow bridge weren't helped by the rumbling and breaking of the glacier above me. Right when I'd start to sleep, a loud crack and the unmistakable sound of snow tumbling downhill would get my heart racing. But all that worry changed to a great feeling when i saw sunrise the next morning.






It turned out my gut had been right and I was about 500 feet below Camp Muir. I left my gear and hiked up to check it out. My thoughts about being alone on the mountain were way off. I ran into about twenty climbers camped out up there waiting for conditions to settle in before making a go at the summit. Though the streaks were still on my fingers, my hands felt great so I took advantage of the clear visibility to grab all the shots I could before heading back down to the bike.


Some French climbers I talked to discussing the route.




Super happy that I made it, even if it was the next morning.


I headed back down into the clouds and somehow managed to find my water bottle where it had dived off my pack the night before. The route down was a lot easier to follow, even returning to whiteout conditions again. It was Saturday morning, so at least this time I had the pleasure of talking to a bunch of people on their way up to ski and climb.




I booked it back to my friends apartment in Seattle again, where we went out and celebrated Shawn's #32 birthday. I got the bike prepped and loaded to head north to Vancouver with a purpose. This go around I wouldn't be coming back any time soon.
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Old 05-04-2014, 09:17 PM   #29
RagnarDanneskjold
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Excellent pics! We were going to summit Rainier this year, but plans got changed and we're headed up next year. Your pics made me even more anxious!

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Old 05-06-2014, 01:23 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by RagnarDanneskjold View Post
Excellent pics! We were going to summit Rainier this year, but plans got changed and we're headed up next year. Your pics made me even more anxious!

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Glad to hear it! Rainier's a beautiful piece of mountain and it will definitely be on my priority list to go back and give it a proper go.
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