Day 2: Hart’s Pass

30 Sep

Hello God, it’s me, Surlylad.

Yes, that’s right… last time we talked you admonished me about that joke concerning the Flaming Lips’ In a Priest Driven Ambulance album title. I was hoping we could forg… right, forgive works too. I know that’s yr speciality…

Anyhoo, I was wanting to ask: What say you find it written, so to speak, or I mean, so to write, that I was meant to move to the Methow Valley to start an organic biking farm? I could sweeten the deal. What’s that, oh no, that wasn’t a bribe… hah! Such a misunderstanding. You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you? And that. And that. And… this? Yes? D’oh.

The sun is downing here in Lost River, WA, situated as we are, rimmed by mountains. I’m sitting at a picnic table in the middle of a field, gorging on Juanita’s tortilla chips (made in Seattle, thay’re the tortilla-bomb!) and scorfing down the world’s best salsa, from Hot Mamma’s in Twisp. Oy this is good stuff. And very blue collar.

Today was awesome. Woke up and rolled out, straight from the cabin, for Hart’s Pass. I figure it wound up being something like a 26-mile round trip. I had slept like a baby until I think a logging truck rumbled by and then, boom, I had to get going I was so excited! Opened the door, hopped on the bike, spun the cranks, stopped the bike, threw it down, ran back inside to put some warmer clothes on. Holy crap it was chilly. And then two miles later when the sun came up I had to take off the jacket, sweater, arm and leg warmers and bundle them into the backpack for the rest of the day. Figures. It was warmer at the top in September then when we went there in the height of summer. The road up to Hart’s Pass is something else:

Trees, oh the trees...

 

Ever since driving it a few months ago I’d put it on my bucket list. It’s quite a grind… maybe 6000 feet total elevation gain, and most of that in 10 miles. In terms of the ride, it was like Iron Horse/John Wayne, maybe 2x-3x as hard, and five times as scenic. Basically double track with cars. I don’t think ‘true’ mountain bikers would like this, unless they are attracted to the idea of spinning for several hours. For someone like me, who enjoys hill climbs on a road bike, this is climbing nirvana, with the challenge, length and scenery. Near this spot I came across a couple of deer who, like most of the local dear, appear charmingly entitled to the road. As I approached they slowly started working away from me. I felt like giving a big ‘hallooooo’ and going after them with Adelaide and Cooper at my side, and instead of a proper bugle using my iPhone’s Li’l Jeezy MC ringtone… ah I miss them, and the ‘Lady!

There weren’t that many cars today. I’m sure a sunny weekend would have been worse for traffic. Everyone was so nice: “Now, I am impressed” and “You can do it, you’re almost there!”. The road has got some major elevation in spots, almost to the point of despairing, or worse walking, but I made it all the way up, visions of PB&J floating before my eyes the whole way:

PBJ Panda

 

What is it about peanut butter & jelly and mountain biking or hiking? I feel like a little kid again. And, yes, this whole thing is a bit of a midlife crisis but in my case, it’s more of a reclamation project – trying to fit in all the things I didn’t do over the last 20 years.

At the top, a nice little camping area, with a branch off to the Meadows camping spot, with its astronomy pad for telescope set up, a branch of the Pacific Crest Trail, and then the road continues on to Slate Peak, another 3 miles of hellish hill climbing.

Darn, can you read that? It's my proof of purchase.

 

I was sorely, sorely tempted to continue on to Slate Peak. But… I have a lot of riding to do still. Instead I wandered down to see what the Pacific Crest Trail looked like (it crosses the road to Chancellor)… as soon as my wheel crossed the line an invisible alarm must have gone off because suddenly a bunch of hikers showed up, tapping their Vasques in barely suppressed anger. I did the only thing possible under the circumstances: I pretended to be from a different country, and lost. Shameless, I know.

Overall it took about 3 hours to get to Hart’s Pass from my cabin, with pee and photo stops. The return trip, closer to one hour!

Next came the downhill. Suddenly I was noticing all of the large rocks, mogul washboards, cliff nearnessity and outright potholes. But it was a blast! 10 miles downhill bubba, you can’t beat it. There was usually a line you could pick between the obstacles. Toward the bottom, due to the shaking, however, I noticed my front wheel QR had come loose… yikes. That’s the second time in as many weeks. I may need to look into what’s going on with that.

Money shot.

 

There’s one stretch, about a mile long and clearly marked with warning signs, that to me captures the heart of the Hart’s Pass run. This pic is from that stretch. It’s a very narrow section, with a precipe view. Just gorgeous! I kept talking to myself, saying “Beep I can’t believe I’m here and it’s so beeping perfect.” I get pretty dirty when all by myself. Hey, no jokies!

So, I’m done with the first goal, and the legs aren’t really that sore. I made it back to the cabin, showered up, and then drove to Winthrop. What a charming town! I love it. I stopped at the Rocking Horse bakery to get some dinner (broccoli salad, a big can of V8, and a marionberry sour cream coffee cake… the first two because after just a day I was already feeling scurvy-ish). I stopped into the Methow Cycle & Sport, where they’re having a clearance sale. If anyone is interested in a Bianchi (they have steel Imola’s! sweeet looking) or Kona cross bike or hard tail, they’re 30% off at this store. So that means, an entry-level 2010 Jake for $630, a Jake the Snake for $1050. Oh boy I’m so tempted!!! Surlylady, don’t get apoplectic! I didn’t get one. Still, that’s a really good deal.

I did buy a hydration pack (on sale) and a bunch of socks (also). I really like that store. Very nice fellows. I discussed some ideas with him: I want, I said, to put together a mixed surface century, mixing in gravel, dirt and road. Any suggestions? And boy did he give me some good ‘uns. I may have to nix my plans for the Tour de Okanogan Saturday in favor of exploring some alternate loops. We’ll see.

Then, on the way out of town I stopped to get the ‘Lady some bottles of Lost River Winery’s Community Red, at their tasting store. We got some last time and she raved about it. In Mazama I stopped at the store there (love that place!) and picked up some goat cheese and local organic pluots.

Back at the cabin I put everything away and then raced off to go for a hike… only to arrive there and realize I’d left our NW Forest pass in the other car. So, turned back around and loaded up all the mountain bike gear again and biked off to the Yellowjacket sno-park, to follow that trail for a few miles. But it was just all uphill and I figured I’d better save my legs for tomorrow’s run at Washington Pass. That is going to be a freaking doozy of an uphill.

Again, a perfect day. 80 degree afternoon… hot truck, hot vinyl, creaky door, dusty windshield, butterflies, grasshoppers, little graygreen lizards everywhere. The smell of hot sun on old window shades…

Lost River… I love this place! There’s no TV in my cabin, so it’s been all Beethoven, writing on the laptop, yoga and yogurt in the mornings, reading Calvino at night. I could seriously get used to this shiznit. Back home, even though we got rid of cable, I’ve become even more addicted to TV than before, due to the streaming Netflix. At least with basic cable there was literally ‘nothing on’ – with Netflix, there’s always a low-rent zombie movie to watch. I’ve got to cut it out!

Finding myself in Lost River...

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