Wilkeson to Carbon River Bikecamping

Bike camping at Ipsut Creek along the Carbon River inside of Mount Rainier has become something of an annual tradition in my life, first starting in 2015. The backcountry campground used to be a popular car camping destination, but after the road was washed out in 2006, it’s only been accessible to hikers and bikers willing to make the 10 mile roundtrip trek.

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In previous years, I’ve driven to the park, stopped at the ranger station, and parked near the gate, thereby limiting my riding to a (very) manageable five mile, slightly uphill ride. This year, however, I accepted an invitation for a trip that would start in Wilkeson, about 20 miles outside of the campground.

Before I get into the details of this trip, I think it would be helpful to give some background on this trip.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I used to bikecamp all the time. A few years ago, it was normal for me to ride fully loaded into work on a Friday and be gone the whole weekend. Over the last year, however, due to a bunch of different factors, I simply have not been riding my bike that much.

I was invited to join a group of women riding in Montana this summer with Masi, Ortleib, Exped, Adventure Cycling, and Skratch Labs, so to prepare for that trip, I decided I should probably start riding again, with purpose. As part of the trip, we are all being given full bikepacking setups from Ortleib, a new Masi bike and new Exped sleeping mats and pillows!

New (to me) bike and bike bags from Ortleib!

New (to me) bike and bike bags from Ortleib!

So back to the ride….

One of the other women on the trip also lives in Seattle and put out a call for a partner to join her on a trip last weekend. I decided this would be a great opportunity to test my new bags (the bike is being built) and a good training ride. Two birds with one stone!

When I was first sent the Ride with GPS route, I felt confident about my ability to complete the trip. Sure, the ENTIRE way there was uphill, but I quieted my fears by thinking about the gentle grade, my previous experiences, and the ride back to the car. 20 miles of sweet, sweet downhill.

Fast forward to Saturday, deep in the pain cave, regretting every decision I’ve ever made. This ride was hard. Really freaking hard.

Twenty miles is a long way to ride uphill. Thankfully, I made the last minute decision to ride a bike I bought for my boyfriend which has a triple. That means a granny gear.

I lived in that granny gear all day Saturday, and hoo boy, was it a challenge.

If you haven’t done this ride, I highly recommend it (at least the portion from the Ranger Station to camp.) It’s a beautifully graded, gravel trail through the most amazing old growth forests. At camp, there is ample space for everyone I’ve ever seen up there (be sure to register for your backcountry permit at the ranger station) and clean toilets.

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Some helpful tips:

There aren’t any fires allowed, so I recommend bringing another form of entertainment.

Bring your hiking shoes and turn it into a longer trip. From the Ipsut Creek Campground, there’s a beautiful 7ish mile hike to the Carbon River Glacier. This hike is NOT fun in biking shoes, so bring a spare pair.

Bring a water filter. The old water source that used to be right before you got to camp has been washed out, so now the potable water is up the trail a bit at the Ipsut Falls.

 

I Rode an E-Bike and Fell in Love

The other day I was walking around Capitol Hill taking photos with my new-to-me DSLR camera and happened upon the following scene outside the Link Light Rail Station.

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Now, a line of free floating bike share bikes outside of a transit station isn’t something new in Seattle. In fact, since Spin, Ofo, and LimeBike came to town, there are seemingly hundreds of colorful bikes around town. This lineup was different – there were e-bikes.

I had heard rumors about both Lime and Spin releasing electric bikes into their fleets, but here they were! Without fanfare or a Twitter marketing promotion, the bikes had been released into the wild! And for $1 I could ride one! (Technically, it’s $1 to unlock, and then $1 every 10 minutes.)

And oh.my.god. I haven’t smiled like that on a bicycle in years. Within the first pedal stroke I could feel the difference. It wasn’t huge, but it was just enough juice to boost my start and get me up to speed pretty quickly.

Since that first day, I’ve ridden the Lime e-bikes two more times, both for my commute. And overall, I am very impressed. Here is my take on the Good, the Bad, and some general thoughts.

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The Good

These bikes are easy to ride. They use the same step-through, upright geometry that the other bike share bikes use. They’ve also got a front basket and cell phone holder installed, which make carrying things a breeze. Because of the battery in the back, they are quite a bit heavier than the non-electric bikes, but the weight didn’t seem to impact the handling at all.

(True confession- I normally ride a stupidly heavy Surly Straggler that has fenders and two racks, so I might not be the best judge of bike weight.)

There are no gears to shift. I have no idea what sort of technical magic they have in those bikes, but it’s a one gear system. Super simple.

You still have to pedal. The bikes are pedal assist e-bikes, which means you can’t just throttle out the power. This makes me feel like I’m still getting in some physical activity, it just makes those hills that I normally dread much more approachable.

The Bad

 They’re a bit pricey. At $1 to unlock, and then $1 for each subsequent ten minutes, the costs add up fast. This is especially true if you plan to use the bikes for commuting and taking into account traffic. Similar to the Car2Go model where you pay by the minute, I felt like I needed to ride to my destination as fast as I could to avoid more charges.

They’re a bit sluggish on flats. This isn’t a huge problem, as let’s be honest, how many flat roads do we have around Seattle? Because the electric assist tops out at 14 miles per hour, riding these on flat ground makes them feel a bit slow and heavy.

Recharging is a manual and clunky process. The batteries in the bikes are replaceable and Lime has their fleet operations continually going out to the e-bikes to replace and recharge batteries that need it. This is cool, however, it means that as a user, the bike you found on the map and planned to use might have a low battery. Or, it might get picked up by the Operations Team while you’re on your way to go use it. (True story, I watched this happened and talked to the technician who picked up the bike I was about to ride.)

General Thoughts

I didn’t want to like e-bikes, but I think I might be a convert. I loved the upright position but still having power to get up hills. It was a convenient alternative to taking the bus (or my own bike.) And it was FUN.

I genuinely think that bike share e-bikes could dramatically impact the biking landscape in Seattle. Just as free floating bike share has made riding a bike in Seattle accessible to more people, these e-bikes will continue to expand the market.

Now, someone who is curious about an e-bike can ride one for less than the cost of a latte. If they have anything like my positive first experience, I could easily see this being a boom for the e-bike world.

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Gals at the Dalles

There's something about rolling hills, farms and open prairie that just does it for me. I absolutely love it. Add gravel roads, cows, a challenging climb with a screaming descent, the opportunity for dispersed camping and you've got my perfect ride.

Two years ago, I was introduced to the Dalles Mountain 60. This route is typically ridden in one day on the second Saturday in March, with whoever shows up. When I did it in 2016, a mixed bag of cyclists showed up, but primarily roadies with really fancy bikes and spandex. Most people seemed ready to test their mettle on this early season ride and go as fast as possible - up and over Dalles Mountain, down Maryhill Loops, and over Old Moody Road. Scenic photos be damned, they were going for King of the Mountain!

My style of riding is quite different. I'm in it for the journey- photos, fun stops, and whatever may come my way. The problem with doing this ride in early March, however, is you're battling daylight. It's a long, challenging ride with some decent elevation gain. If you don't hustle, you won't make it back to the city before sunset and it gets COLD and DARK out there. 

So after my first experience in the Dalles I knew that I wanted to go back. I was in love with the scenery and wanted more, but wanted to do it on my own terms. And that's how Gals at the Dalles was born.

If you've ready my blog post about my trip last summer with Komorebi Cycling Team, you know about the magic that is biking with all women. So I'm not going to rehash that, but suffice it to say, I was intentional in planning this trip to be all women.

I put the call out on social media that I was doing this trip to Oregon, open to rad women, gave them the route, and to meet at Holstein's Coffee on Saturday the 20th at 10am. In the end, 18 women ended up making the trip to Oregon - 2 from Montana, 2 from Oregon, and 14 from Washington! A pretty damn good turnout!

One challenge going into this ride was fighting my internal voice that kept saying "You're too slow to lead a ride like this." And on some levels, it's true. For the climb up Dalles Mountain (the first 16 miles of Day 1), I was the slowest. But, that doesn't mean I couldn't lead in other ways. To combat this internal struggle, I did the following:

  • Made sure everybody else was as prepared as possible to ride ahead with the route, cue sheets, and knew specific details (like where to get water)
  • Made it abundantly clear that there was no expectation for the group of 18 to stick together
  • Enjoyed my own pace and rode my own ride

My plan totally worked and I was pleasantly surprised when at mile 37, we came down a huge hill after Stonehenge (seriously, there's a full size replica of Stonehenge in the middle of Washington) to find the whole group! I have no idea how long they'd just been hanging out eating lime salted cucumber (you can read about that here on Adventure Cycling) but it was the BEST SURPRISE EVER!!

From there, we rode the final 5 miles into the Deschutes River Recreation Area where we had staged a car with all of our camping gear and a cooler with cold LaCroix and beer. After loading up our bikes, it was a stunning ride 8 miles down the Old Rail Trail to a dispersed camping site for the night.

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Day 2 started with a seriously stupid number of flat tires on the sharp gravel, luckily most of them easily fixable. We only had to boot one tire but it proved to be a good learning experience. Eventually we all made it off of the Rail Trail and back onto the main Dalles 60 route, where Old Moody Road awaited us. 

I think this road should be called Old Moody Mountain, and I honestly think it's the hardest part of the entire trip. This road is like a freaking wall and it's all gravel and so steep. Once we finally conquered that, it was smooth, beautiful riding all the way back into the Dalles.

Ending back at Holsteins Coffee we all collapsed onto the patio in the 95 degree heat. Happy, exhausted, accomplished. And excited to do it again next year?

p.s. This time, I took 600+ photos, and who knows how many the other women took. To see a small selection, search for the hashtag #galsatthedalles on Instagram!