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Another 'Mis' Adventure - The Northwoods Bound 1000
Ride date: September 2, 2017
by Gary Baker

To suggest that mounting this ride was a last minute idea is an understatement. Barry Chase and I were pondering a big ride sometime in September and the idea of doing a new 1000 seemed to fit the bill. We wanted to do a ride that was essentially an 'out and back' that included at least ONE big climb. Barry so likes climbing and having just climbed Mt. Ventoux ( for the 9th time) he felt a climb like Elk Pass in Southern Washington was in order ( but, remember out and back= 2 X 1000m). When we Googled the distance from the LM to Northwoods ( at the base of the south side of Elk Pass) the distance seemed to work. Well not quite, so actually plotting the route proved to be a bit of a nightmare.

Four riders decided to sign up: Barry, Rick den Braber & Eric Fergusson ( fresh off the LM 600) and moi. We met at Barry's home in South Langley the evening before the event to enjoyed some adult pre-ride stimulation liquid, a wonderful pub meal, and a swim before hitting the sack (early).

Day # 1: We set off at 6AM as planned. What a beautiful morning; but all was not well. I was coughing my lungs out, recovering from a respiratory infection and Barry was clearly in some pain; shoulder pain it turned out. When we stopped for a bio-break in Bellingham, Barry decided the prudent thing to do was to call it a day. If you have to stop, stop early as Ron Himschoot says. Barry wished us well and we three headed south. At Burlington we stopped at a McDonald's for lunch, where Rick swears I had to fight off a 'cougar'. I just thought she was being friendly!. From there we picked up the 40km Centennial Trail to Snohomish ( a favourite SIR cycle route) and then worked our way to Woodenville where we took the Sammamish Trail network south through Redmond, WA. Part of it was closed for paving, but want a wonderful route south. We followed some more paved bike trails in the Pioneer Way area before working our way to the only substantial climb of the 360km we rode that day, the last 2km into Eatonville. Not a particularly hard day; 360km with only approx. 1900m of climbing.

Day # 2: We were on the road before 6AM for the 75km ride to Randle, the start point for the Elk Pass climb. To avoid the initial steep grades up the pass we started the climb via the road to the Cispus Learning Center (our first control for the day) on quiet, not so steep, paved Forest Service roads. Then, it was onto and up the main climb of the pass. It was now noonish and it was getting HOT. The high for the day was in the 40C range!

The climb to the main summit ( approx. 25km) took the better part of 3 hours. We were all suffering in our own way. What I was to learn later, after climbing the secondary summit and after we descended almost to Northwoods Eric and Rick both wanted to abandon at the summit. After watching the inclinometre on my bike on the 35 km descent and knowing how little time we had in the bank I have to say I was getting worried. To further compound my concerns in all likelihood we would be descending the north side of the mountain in the twilight ( dark) on a road that was really broken up. Yes, we should have aborted the ride at the summit. But now what? We had to get back over the pass to get back to our Day # 2 accommodation 150km north.

I take the position if you don't ask, people can't say, "Yes". I saw a pickup truck approaching so I flagged it down. As the driver stopped, I saw the cab was full: Mom, Dad, Grandmother and 3 kids. I explained that we have a rider in distress ( Rick was definitely showing the signs of heatstroke.) and asked if they could ferry us back to the summit. We learned that they had planned to only go several miles further up the road to a swimming hole, but they graciously offered and then drove us to the summit over 20 mile up the mountain. Mom and the oldest boy climbed into the 'box'. Rick, Eric and I enjoyed the air conditioned ride up the mountain in the cab. How sweet it was! We offered to pay for gas but they declined. We insisted and the kids should be able to enjoy some special treats after the swim.

From the summit we mostly coasted down to Randle with the plan to have a good meal and then ride the 75km back to Eatonville. It was not to be as Rick was done. Plan 'B' was for him to hitchhike back, but in truth none of us were happy with that idea. So plan 'C'. I saw a pick up truck pull into the Cafe parking area, heading west the way home. Off I go as the driver was getting out of the truck, I had my spiel ready. Before I could say a word he looks up and says, " You guys look like you can use a ride.". ...YES.... He asked if we could wait while they had dinner. Of course we could and I offered to buy their meals. While they enjoyed their dinner we enjoyed some adult recovery beverage that Eric purchased at the local market. What a neat couple. They had just done a two day trek on Mt. Rainer. They drove out of their way, dropping us off at out motel in Eatonville.

Thee was no cell service in Randle but Rick was able to sent an e-mail message to Barry. Once back in Eatonville we were able to call him. Arrangements were made for him to drive down to Eatonville the next morning , join us for breakfast and drive us home. That night we all had a wonderful ( long ) sleep.

It all ended well!

On paper this 1000 only had about 8000m of climbing , usually one would expect 1000m per 100km of distance. But total elevation gain can be deceiving. Approximately 3500m of climbing was concentrated in a span of approx. 100km.; much of it with 6,7+% grades. We have encountered conditions like this on other 1000s in southern Washington and Oregon. It is doable. But, in the heat this proved to be more than we were able to handle. We have some ideas on how to better position the Day #1 overnight control to permit the start of the big climbing early on Day # 2. A possible route for 2018. Stay tuned.



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