Chasing Peaks In The Cascade Range: Part 2
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson
I woke up on day four in Bend, Oregon at 6am, in what is likely the shittiest motel the (otherwise quite nice) city has to offer. Next door I could hear the muffled sounds of what seemed like an escalating argument over who stole whose bag of weed. Rather than stick around for the thrilling conclusion to this one, I quickly packed up and headed straight to Smith Rock State Park just a few miles north.
“Misery Trail” climbs steeply up the rock face (though not quite as dramatic as the name suggests) before dropping back down to the crooked river through Smith Rock, which is typically packed with rock climber types on any given day. This was just a quick stop before heading a few more hours north toward Dalles, Oregon at the Columbia River Gorge for my next ride. I had seen photos of the road to Rowena Crest before, and knew I wanted to plan a loop around this stretch of road because let’s face it… I have no willpower when it comes to resisting a nice set of switchbacks. I even got to throw in an unexpected gravel climb before crossing the river into Washington.
Mt. Rainier National Park is a place where road bikes were made to be ridden. Five hors catégorie climbs within the park, all winding their way through dense forest, rugged cliffs, with a seemingly impossible backdrop of Rainier itself constantly looming from above. The sheer size is something that cannot be translated into words or photos. It dominates your field of view from virtually anywhere in the area.
My first day at Mt. Rainier was one of the biggest of the trip, riding two mountain passes (Stevens Canyon and Chinook Pass), followed up by a snowfield hike up Skyline Ridge with the sun going down. If you’re ever in the area and for some reason only have one day to explore, I can say confidently that this is a full blown sensory overload day worth repeating.
With my legs flying at half-mast on day six, and three big days coming up, I decided to take it fairly easy, climbing up Sunrise road along the other side of Mt. Rainier, with a short detour through the Carbon River Rainforest. Then I was on my way to the Olympic Peninsula…