SkiZer hit the beach in October and found some nice surprises.
It was perfect timing to visit the Long Beach Peninsula in Southwest Washington. The hiking and cycling proved to be excellent and the early October weather was warm and friendly.
Now, for the surprises.
Camping — yes, you can camp year-round at Cape Disappointment State Park — is fantastic. Within the park, you’ll find miles of hiking trails, several gorgeous beaches and two scenic lighthouses.
The SkiZer explored the North Jetty in the park, which juts out into the Pacific at the mouth of the Columbia River. The jetty is used by fishermen — this time of year, they were going for crab — but it’s also a great place to see wildlife. As the SkiZer stood there thinking deep thoughts and gazing at the water, a humpback whale surfaced nearby.
The scenic Discovery Trail is surely one of the best recreation paths in the state. It winds from the cape into the dunes of the Long Beach Peninsula and offers some fantastic riding for cyclists.
At the tip of the peninsula, Leadbetter Point State Park was another surprise: The mile-long hike thinned crowds and offered views from a remote and wild beach.
As you may remember, the SkiZer has a peculiar bicycling tradition related to his birthday. Every year, he must ride his age.
It’s an odd habit, one that is clearly counter-intuitive. As he gets older — the SkiZer turned 61 earlier this month — the ride gets longer.
This year, SkiZer was visiting Pullman, Wash., and decided the time was right for a ride-your-age adventure. Following the route for the Tour de Lentil, he rode 62 miles along some of the most beautiful portions of the Palouse.
The ride started in Pullman, headed west into the wide-open farm country, then north to Colfax, east to the town of Palouse and then back south to Pullman.
For a city boy, riding on the Palouse is quite a treat. Very little traffic, farm roads and big skies.
You have to love a bike ride that loses 1,000 vertical feet and feels like the wind is behind you the whole way. When does that ever happen?
During a trip to Leavenworth, Wash., the SkiZer got a drop-off at Coles Corner, near Lake Wenatchee (thanks Mrs. SkiZer). The SkiZer then rode to the town of Plain, managed one 800-foot climb over Big Beaver Hill, and then cruised downhill into Leavenworth.
Total distance: about 22 miles, falling 1,000 vertical feet from the starting point.
Traditions are traditions, even if they become more difficult to satisfy each year.
Take the SkiZer’s tradition of riding his age. It started in my 50th year when I decided I wanted to ride 50 miles to celebrate.
Every year since, I’ve done the “ride-your-age” thing. So far, it has been no problem, but each year it gets a little harder. Aging sucks — we all know that — but maybe it’s a good thing to keep pushing toward a goal, even one as preposterous as riding your age.
After turning 60 earlier this year, I finally got around to getting my 60-miler in this week on the roads around Seattle. It turned out to be a great ride.
I started on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle and headed north through Freemont and Phinney Ridge along the established bike lane. After passing 85th street in Greenwood, I caught the Interurban Trail and rode into Shoreline. At 185 Street, I headed east to the Burke-Gillman Trail, then followed the Lake Washington Loop route south through Juanita, Kirkland, Bellevue and Renton.
In Renton, I skirted traffic — I never have figured out how to get through this town without battling cars — and cruised west to the Green River Trail in Tukwila. From there, I headed north to the Duwamish Trail, then back to Seattle. Amazingly, I hit 60 miles just past Seattle Center, only a half-mile from my home.
I was dubious about the riding on Lopez Island before I visited.
Not anymore. I spent two excellent days riding on Lopez and its rep as the best place to ride in the San Juan Islands of Washington state is well-deserved. With rolling terrain and rural roads, Lopez is made for exploring by bike.
I wasn’t the only one doing the riding. I arrived at the 9:30 a.m. ferry from Anacortes and got in line with about 20 other cyclists. Most were doing day trips on the island and planning to return on a later ferry.
I was camping. After docking, I rode the five miles to Spencer Spit is a great park, with an pretty beach to explore and many walking trails. Once I got my bearings, I hit the road for a 20-mile ride to the Lopez Village and a loop around the west side of the island.
Eagles soared, harbors looked quaint, farmers bailed hay. Very little auto traffic intruded on the lovely scene.
The next day, I went to the southern end of the island for a lovely 26-miler. More of the same: I topped rolling hills, saw small island farms and picturesque harbors.
Long stretches went by when I saw no cars at all, only deer, forests, farms and other cyclists. At one point, I stopped to snap a picture. A friendly islander out for a walk stopped and said, “Oh, look up there — it’s the baby!”
She pointed out a nest high in a Douglas fur tree where a fledgling eagle tested its wings.
“Cool,” I said.
We parted and I headed back to Spencer Spit, flying along in the good vibes of Lopez Island.
For a city that takes pride in its natural beauty, Seattle is a bit of a fake.
As white settlers came to Elliott Bay, hills were shaved off, shorelines were constructed, rivers were diverted, trees were clearcut, lakes were drained and tidal flats were filled in. The Seattle of today bears little resemblance to the place that the Denny Party settled in 1852.
I’ve always wondered what Seattle would look like without all the roads and buildings that we see today. Using a bike as a time machine (and a bit of imagination), I’m going on a tour of what I’m calling Forgotten Seattle, imagining the landscape as it once was. Climb aboard with me and ride back in time to the 1850s.
Our tour starts in Occidental Park in Pioneer Square. Today it’s a vibrant, handsome brick-covered gathering place, but when the first settlers came to Seattle, it was a salt marsh. As the township built, settlers dropped garbage, dirt and sawdust into the wetland, eventually creating the uneven ground we see today.
Next, we head south and west to Jackson and First. This area was called Maynard Point, a small bluff on the edge of a tidal flat. It is named for Doc Maynard, the first settler who lived here in 1852.
Head a half-block west and turn north into the unmarked alley. As you travel three blocks toward Yesler Way, notice how uneven the ground is. You can thank the workers of Yesler’s Mill, who started filling much of this ground with sawdust as the city was being built. Streets and sidewalks throughout this part of town are uneven and unstable, as fill material was added over the years, including the refuse from a major fire in 1889.
You’ll see a great example of the instability at 619 Western Ave., where a 1910-era building stands with large cracks and a sagging southern wall.
Post Alley off of Jackson Street.
A 1900s-era structure on Western shows signs of settling.
From Shore to Bluff
As we head north along Western, imagine you’re traveling on the shore of Seattle. Western Avenue was exactly that at one time. As wharves were built to handle the city’s growing shipping industry, the city expanded by filling in hundreds of feet of shoreline west into Elliott Bay.
As we pass Spring Street, take a moment to look up the hill to the east. Nine springs provided water to the early settlers in the city, and Spring Street is named for the biggest of these. To appreciate this spot, let’s take a long drink from our water bottles, and continue north along Western.
Our route slowly heads uphill toward what is now Pike Place Market. The road steepens, and as we slog upward, notice that east-west roads terminate at First Avenue in this area. The hill was simply too steep to build anything to the west past First.
Summiting Denny Hill
It’s now time to do some climbing, although today, our climb is much shorter than it would have been in the 1800s. Denny Hill once stood between Pike and Cedar Streets in what is now called Belltown.
Starting in 1897, the hill was shaved off in what is known as the Denny Regrade. Over the next 33 years, giant hoses, dynamite and steam shovels were used to remove the top 120 feet of the hill in the name of growth and development.
You can still see how tall the old hill was, however. As we travel south on Second Avenue, stop at Virginia Street and look at the top of the 1907-era Moore Theater. The top of the Moore is equal to the former height of Denny Hill.
A building just to the south, The Josephinium, is the approximate location of the old Washington Hotel, which once stood on top of Denny Hill. This luxury hotel had its own trolley taking visitors to its hilltop accommodations with commanding views of Elliott Bay to the west and the city to the south. It was torn down in 1906 as the hill was removed.
OK, for now we’re done with historic downtown Seattle. Our journey takes us south and east, toward Lake Washington. But we’re not done with regrades — our tour takes us along Jackson and Dearborn streets, both of which were regraded to allow further growth and development to the east of the town settlement.
The regraded streets are nice for biking today, but back in the 1800s they were quite hilly. Jackson at one time had a 15 percent grade. In the early 1900s, the city’s busy earth-movers shaved down Jackson and Dearborn, using the dirt to fill in much of what is now the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle.
Hopping onto the Mountain to the Sound Greenway, we travel through a tunnel to Lake Washington. From a small park just above the tunnel, take in the view and imagine the lake as it once was. It’s big today, but there used to be much more of it back in the 1800s.
As the city expanded, engineers looked for a way to connect the region’s freshwater lakes with Puget Sound. They eventually connected Lake Washington and Lake Union and built a ship canal to Puget Sound. In doing so, they lowered the level of Lake Washington by nine feet.
Today, as we ride south along the shore on Lake Washington Boulevard, imagine the lake of the 1800s. On this portion of the ride, we’d be under water.
The lumber industry helped build Seattle and almost all of the original forests surrounding the city were logged. Our route takes us along Lake Washington to Seward Park, one of the few places you can see an old-growth forest in the city. Follow the bike path around the park and you’ll get a glimpse of what the original landscape of Seattle looked like.
Some of the trees here are more than 250 years old.
Leaving Seward Park and riding over Beacon Hill, our journey takes us to another pioneer location, Georgetown. The settlement was founded in 1851, a year before Doc Maynard and his friends moved into the Pioneer Square area.
At that time, Georgetown was on the edge of the tidal flat and had rich alluvial soil deposited by the Duwamish River. It was ideal for farming. As we drop off of Beacon Hill, notice how flat the land has suddenly become.
Along the Duwamish
From Georgetown, we’re now heading a little farther back in time along the former tidal flats to the Duwamish River Trail.
The Duwamish River carved out a huge delta in between West Seattle and Beacon Hill. Its rich tidelands were home to several tribes and our journey takes us to the site where we can see evidence of this native civilization.
Today, the Duwamish River is an industrial waterway, engineered to handle huge ships. Little remains of the old river that once wound among the mud flats.
Our journey takes us to a place with a hint of the past: Terminal 107 Park, the site of a former Duwamish Indian village. Step off your bike and take a walk along a gravel path to the shore of the river. If you peek at the earth along the riverbank, you may find evidence of a midden — a place where shells and refuse were discarded by native people.
Now that we’re here, it’s a good time to consider a stop at the nearby Duwamish Longhouse, where more information is available about the tribe.
The home stretch
From here, we’ll be riding back into the present and our starting point in Pioneer Square. Hopping on the West Seattle Bridge Trail, we pedal into SoDo and take in the former tidal flat that. If this was 1850, we’d be under water now, or at least stuck in the mud.
We’re able to ride here now thanks to a project in the early 1900s that dredged the Duwamish Waterway and regraded Jackson and Dearborn streets to create 2,200 acres of buildable ground.
We’ve hit the stadium district and can see signs of Bertha, the huge drill that is further transforming the city as it creates a tunnel to replace the Alaska Way Viaduct. We’re now fully back in the present, taking in the looming skyline of a great, ever-changing city.
It’s wonderful, but far from the natural world it came from.
As I topped a ridge near 8,049-foot Llao Rock on the north rim of Oregon’s Crater Lake, I had that giddy moment cyclists get when everything comes together.
I felt great. I had just finished one of my biggest climbs of the day. And I was alone on a road ringing one of America’s natural wonders.
I picked up speed on the downslope and screamed for joy.
It was early October. I had left my home in Seattle a week before on an extended road trip around the west. I had no real itinerary, except to camp, hike, bike and enjoy beauty.
I hadn’t planned on coming to Crater Lake National Park. But while camping on the Oregon Coast, I met a fit retiree who had just done the 33-mile ride around the rim.
“It’s incredible,” he said in a hushed tone over the campfire. I decided then and there I had to try it.
A few days later, under cool, clear skies, I clipped in and started what would be one of the best rides of my life.
When you tackle the Crater Lake ride, the first thing to understand is that almost none of it is flat. You’ll do more than 4,000 vertical feet of climbing over the next few hours, so get used to the long ups, and the lovely, all-too-quick downs.
I started at the park headquarters and immediately had a 1,000-foot climb to the rim of the lake. Cresting the top of the rim, I was treated to views of something really special.
Crater Lake is America’s deepest lake (1,943 feet deep, to be precise) and rests in the caldera of Mount Mazama, which collapsed during an eruption 7,700 years ago. The average annual snowfall here is 44 feet, which melts in warmer months, keeping the lake filled with some of the purest water on earth. Its color is a dramatic deep blue.
The rim road sits many hundreds of feet above the lake. From a car, the view is stunning. From the seat of a bicycle, it’s much more than that—you become part of the earth, water and sky as you grind past each jaw-dropping viewpoint.
If you go
Which direction? Most people choose to go clockwise, which puts you on the lake side of the road on your journey. Starting at park headquarters gets a big climb out of the way early when you have the energy to do it.
Fitness concerns: The ride is strenuous and not to be taken lightly. Besides the many ups and downs, you’ll be pedalling at up to 8,000 feet elevation. Temperatures vary wildly from below freezing to well into the 90s.
Safety: Auto traffic can be heavy in the summer months, and rubber-necking drivers don’t always watch for cyclists while taking in the views. Wear bright clothing. If you want to avoid cars, visit on one of these dates in 2016: Sept. 17 or Sept. 24, when the East Rim Drive will be closed to automobiles for runners, walkers and bicycles. Information is here.
Water, food: The Rim Village Visitor Center is a good place to load up. Bring lots of water for the ride: There are no drinking fountains along the rim. The Visitor Center has cafeteria-style food service if you want a meal.
Stops: There are 30 overlooks that ring the lake; plan on stopping frequently to rest, take pictures and enjoy the views.
Accommodations: Inside the park, the historic Crater Lake Lodge has commanding views from its location at Rim Village. You’ll need to make reservations a year in advance to book one of these in-demand rooms. The Cabins at Mazama Village have scattered availability through summer and fall of 2016. Reservation information is here.
Camping: Two campgrounds are available. The full-service Mazama Village Campground has 214 tent and RV sites. A limited number can be reserved, the rest are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The primitive Lost Creek campground has 16 non-reservable tent sites.