Thursday, August 6, 2015

Chinook Pass and Mr Rainier

Thursday, August 6   Day 5    Selah to Packwood, WA  98 miles, 5660' of climbing

From the summit of Chinook Pass, looking back to the American River valley we had climbed up. You can see the road over behind my right elbow. Mt. Rainier is behind the photographer (who was Barb, my massage therapist), although at that time the peak had cloud cover. However, at the beginning and ending of the ride, I got photos of it in its glory.
I took this photo within three miles of departing the motel in Selah. Without using the telephoto lens, it looked so far away that I was stunned we would be riding our bikes that far (actually, farther) during the day. Within a quarter mile descending the hill from where I took this photo, I never could see the mountain again until we were done with our ride in Packwood.

I was discouraged that my saddle sore had not gotten any better. So much of my focus had to be on relieving the pain instead of thinking about the scenery or my performance on the bike. I felt like I wanted to ride faster, but couldn't because I kept having to stand and coast to provide some momentary relief.
Our route took us up hills and down hills on small country roads as we moved westward. After 22 miles, we began riding along the Naches River for 27 miles, in a northwest direction.
Another view of the Naches River on a gorgeous day.
 What was I saying, or singing?
 Once we reached the American River, we turned west toward Mt Rainier and climbed Chinook Pass. Along the climb, I took this photo across the valley to the south. The scenery along that entire 23-mile road was very pretty, with the river and mountain views.
As I got closer to Chinook Pass, I could see the summit. Funny how seeing this ahead was discouraging to some ("look how much farther we have to climb") vs my thought - "Wow, I'm almost there!"
I stopped almost to the summit for this photo. You can see our road a long way across the left side of the
hill. Now you can get a sense of how scenic this climb was.
From the summit, you can see in the background the Pacific Crest Trail. This was the second time we'd crossed it.
Just a few yards past the summit, we entered Mt Rainier National Park. It's engraved on the bridge, but hard to see. That bridge also is the crossing for the Pacific Crest Trail. We were in the national park for about 16 miles, all of it downhill.

This picture, near the summit, is the best I could see of Mt Rainier with its cloud cover. I was about 14 miles, as the crow flies, from the peak.
I stopped to take this picture after about one mile of descent. I liked it because it shows the road I would be riding on as I descended. It was about a 21-mile total drop, 16 of it within the National Park. It was so fast and thrilling for most of it, my hands got numb because the road surface was not all that smooth.

Here are a couple more views during the descent:

We descended down this valley, WAY down there off in the distance.

PAC Tours waited until we reached our destination, after 98 miles of riding, so serve our lunch. I was VERY pooped during the final 20 miles since I could not manage to eat enough cookies and bananas at the three rest stops during the day. Once I reached the motel, I was so tired I just lay down in my cycling clothes for an hour or so before I could even muster any energy to go eat the lunch they were serving.

Our lodge tonight is famous for its elk sightings in the big lawn behind. On three separate occasions, I saw two does and one buck. But I never had my camera. They were so majestic!
This is the view we had of Mt Rainier from our lodge in Packwood. The clouds had lifted by this point in the afternoon. Pretty darned glorious!

We have an early day tomorrow since we will ride 127 miles south through and over peak in the Cascades, cross the Columbia River, and stay in Hood River tomorrow night.

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