Posts Tagged ‘Ranier’
Posted on July 11, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 38: July 11, 2010
Nachez to Packwood, Washington
A flat road this morning, freshly chip sealed, making a small shoulder simply inaccessible. Never mind it was quite early and there was little traffic. At least it was windy. I was a stinky grouch. After the first 30 miles I took a swim and a break and everything improved dramatically – the climb to White Pass is not steep, just a steady churn. The traffic wasn’t as bad as everyone said, especially once I got the milk trucks to give me a little more space, and the scenery went from interesting to, of course, Rainier.
Yakima is a huge valley that collects solar heat and turns it into fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, it threatens to do the same to the people who live there. After several days of hitting the 105-range, Yakimites headed for the hills. Rimrock Lake is a huge reservoir filled with milky green glacier melt water and topped with water skiers straight out of the ‘50s advertising literature. It is generously appointed with boat ramps and picnic areas. The lake cries out: Jump in me!
Poor evening planning on my part has left me without a shower since … uhm, Walla Walla, which is the entire heat wave. (This dose of too much information brought to you by Wet Ones Extra Gentle hand and face wipes.) The additional disappearance of my toothpaste yesterday morning added to my personal hygiene woes. So it was that I was stinky and grouchy and pedaled poorly all morning, despite rolling out of my spot behind the Christian Life Building at 5:00 to steer well clear of any early service. Out of tortillas (poor, poor planning, I tell you) I joined the ag workers at the corner store for a lousy breakfast of things wrapped in cellophane.
In that state, I heard clearly the cry of the lake and waded right in.
Everything changed. I was clean, my mind was clear, I had ridden 30 miles by 10 and stuck with my plan to leave the road to the day trippers and departing RVers for the noon hour. I read. I lolled in the sun. I found my toothpaste. I smelled … grilling onions?
Down the beach from me a Mexican woman had laid out a picnic that engulfed an entire table. Most of her family was napping. Luci, her youngest daughter was in the water, splashing and talking to nobody in particular. I was reading. And the smell of a family gathering wafted into my nose and connected to my brain and the cause of my unrest became clear: I missed my friends and family.
For the first time this whole trip I was kind of lonely. I missed the barbecues and river beach time of Missoula in summer. I miss doing things for other people, with other people. This trip has been 99.9 percent free of whining. No severe pain. No deep regrets about route finding. No fussing about the diet. And no homesickness. All of those things clog the gears of the daily grind that it takes to have a good bike trip, yet they show up now, on the penultimate day pedaling. Acknowledged, they could be released.
I bundled my stuff and rolled up the shady shoreline. I stopped to ask if I could take a picture of the senora’s picnic. She thought that was weird but acquiesced if I would eat something. So I had a fajita with fresh salsa and learned a bit about the apple warehouse life. Who knew they pack apples year round?
It was good to sit and use my abysmal Spanish. She appreciated the effort, (which is why Spanish is more fun than French.) I left very full, but aware of that nagging emptiness.
White Pass is nine miles above Rimrock Lake, past a couple of other little lakes that would be fun to hang out at too. The road is lined with huge walls of rock boxed into chicken wire cages. It is evidence of past rock slides and bulwarks against future ones. I heard later that White Pass is the only pass through the Cascades that is guaranteed to remain open all winter. Never closes. It’s a military thing.
After the pass, the descent is quick and long. I kept my hands on the brakes and my eyes in the rear view mirror, ready to hop into the narrow shoulder if traffic showed up. It was pretty quiet, but it wasn’t really a sightseeing posture. A sign said scenic overlook ahead, and I thought, I’ll cross over to it if there’s no traffic. There wasn’t and I skidded into the gravel lot, and well, there it was, Mount Rainier, bigger than life, just sitting there decorated with snow and a few puffy clouds. What a stunning sight. I could have cruised right on by. I sat and looked and talked to people for a half hour.
I got the milk trucks to stop running me off the road when I saw one coming up on me on the climb. He had oncoming traffic, two cars passing him at once and me to deal with. I saw a break in the rock boxes and stood up and sprinted for it, pulling in in time for him to pass most easily by. He waved thanks and after that the milk trucks that have bothered me for two days started giving me lots of time and space. I think he radioed that I was OK.
This is my last night camping out on this trip. I’m in a genuine rainforest and it’s pitch dark black, a rarity on this trip. I’m staked out in a sloppy way on a slope by a side road under a towering cedar. A creek is rushing by somewhere. The soil is so loamy my stakes barely hold. Entirely new noises fill the air. A bug that sounded as big as a bat was trying to get in the tent. I think it was an owl that just roared at some bird squawking in its space. This is a long way from the abandoned ranch house in New Mexico, the rock art canyon in Utah, the hotspring in Idaho. I’ll miss nights in my protective nylon space.