Wanatchee to Seaside (Oregon) Total miles 3,600.

 

As it now gets dark about 8pm we bought a candle lantern. It is a good quality collapsible version and cost 22USD. When we said we had come from Canada, they didn't charge us tax. We will need to look into this further. In use, the candle lantern is bright, windproof and well worth having. The staff in the shop directed us to the local campground that was by the river and covered many acres in lush green grass. An officious woman informed us that it was full. We could see acres of space and empty sites and when we objected we were told we could use the overflow area for 5USD. This turned out to be a rough barren grass area with a local alcoholic with dog in residence. He hinted that he had no money to buy food and so we gave him a package of two eggs, pasta and sweetcorn. "I've run out of cooking fuel" he said, and so we left him to his own devices. The food was still there in the morning.

The map showed a major highway most of the way to our next town Ellensburg, but a gravel road cutting across country. Taking the gravel road, it climbed steeply and twisted and turned uphill for 5000ft and 34 miles. Very hard work and some walking on loose gravel and rock. With the weight we are carrying, the rear wheel slips when on loose gravel and in a low gear uphill. Fantastic views over mountain ranges. Eventually at 6000ft we camped for the night in the only site we could find. The altitude gains and actual heights are given by the Cateye cyclometers that we use. These are generally fairly accurate when calibrated at known heights.

Some local campers with horses had just finished their supper of lasagna and had some left over. "Would you like it?" they said. It tasted even better as it was free and we didn't do the cooking.

On the way down the views were some of the most spectacular yet. We could see Mount Ranier, 14,400ft covered in snow across a large mountain range. The descent into Ellensburg was breathtaking and on a smooth tarmac minor road for about 15 miles. We forgot all the pain on the way up.

Ellensburg is a lovely old-fashioned town with many historic (100-year-old) buildings. We treated ourselves to a restaurant meal in the Copper Kettle.

Yakima was reached via a valley/gorge road (with lots of dead skunks) with volcanic geology. 20ft basalt towers lined the road in many places. This was something like the Giants Causeway in Ireland, but the basalt crystals were much taller.

Yakima is a large sprawling town with nothing of interest at all. We got lost several times trying to find our way out. Tourists should avoid it.

Since crossing the border into Washington the weather has been sunny and warm. Some days have reached 85f. Locals tell us that no rain has fallen for 60 days. As the valleys are farmland and orchards, the irrigation is going constantly and being fed by the valley rivers. All the flatlands are green and the surrounding hills are parched brown. This is still officially a desert.

A word about multi-fuel camp stoves. Our one, the excellent MSSSSR Dragonfly works on anything in theory but best on Coleman fuel or "white gas" in America. Unleaded petrol is ok but the stove needs frequent cleaning. In Canada, Coleman fuel could be bought in 1 litre cans almost anywhere, but as soon as we reached the USA it was sold only in one gallon cans - hardly suitable for biking. However, as a whole gallon cost only about $5 we therefore decided to buy another 1 litre fuel bottle and much against our principles discard most of a gallon of Coleman fuel after filling up just two litres.

Our bear spray was finally given away to a local sports shop after deciding that it was no longer needed. David never did see if it would deter a ferocious bear. Just as well he didn't.

Cycled over White Pass (4,500ft) between Mt.Ranier and Mt.St.Helens.

A campsite on the pass was by a large lake/reservoir. The water level controlled by a dam.

Recently, the level had dropped leaving a wide muddy area around the lake. A tourist in a 4WD got too confident and ended up with all four wheels up to the axles. A crowd gathered and discussed and advised all the possible ways to extricate him. He sunk deeper. At last, a large bulldozer/excavator charged across the mudflats towards him. The driver appeared very confident as he made his way towards the stricken vehicle, but as he got close he too became stuck. The JCB type vehicle sunk deeper and deeper as the driver tried in vain to extricate it. As it started to get dark we left them both stuck. The next morning, the 4WD had gone, but the JCB was still there but only half-visible.

Great views of Mt.Ranier as we came down. It is a classic snow covered, dome-shaped mountain and at 14,400ft the highest in Washington.

At Randle on Hwy12 where we originally planned to go straight on towards the coast, we had a sudden change of plan. We turned off towards Mt.St.Helens in order to get a good view. A sidetrack for six miles lead us to a campsite that had a closed gate with a sign "Closed to all motorised vehicles". We camped alone that night. It was a lovely site and very quiet except for the birds. In the middle of the night we were awoken by a loud whooosh, crash, and the ground shook. No, it was not Mt.St.Helens again, but a large dead tree falling nearby. Coyotes howling kept Joan awake again.

4,000ft of climbing through forest the next day and our reward was a beautiful descent with views of Mt.St.Helens. It is much easier to climb than before the eruption 20 years ago as it has lost 1300ft. The surrounding forest still shows signs of the past eruption with lots of large dead standing trees among the smaller young ones. Instead of heading south directly to Oregon we decided to follow the Columbia River north, then west to the coast, staying on the Washington side until the bridge at Astoria.

At the small town of Cougar at the foot of the mountains, we came across a mushroom buyer who bought wild mushrooms from local pickers. He boxed them and took them to market. He had, (for those with a mushroom book handy) King boletus, Chantarelles, Oyster mushrooms and several others. We sorted through a box of free rejects and had mushroom omelette for supper.

Turned north at Woodland on the Columbia River and onto Oregon via the two and a half miles long bridge at Astoria. The weather is now more autumnal with warm sunny days and cool misty evenings and mornings. The Oregon coast is 350 miles long and we have just started.