Days: 4 | Active Time: 15h33m | Distance: 270km | Elevation: 3700 m
Mt. Rainer | Packwood | Twin Falls
Not all heroes wear capes
Simon: The bike was literally in two pieces, exactly like my mind, with the questions running over and over about why, why, why and how do we solve this, like I mentioned in our first post. It was not a typical screw that you can find in a general store.
After trying every possible way to fix the bike we walked down to the Ranger Station a few 100 meters away, where we tried once again to fix the bike. At this moment my mind wasn’t ready for surrendering as a Ranger car came passing by. I begged him to stop, and he did.
Luckily the kind Ranger aligned with our situation and told us the possibilities; the first option was to hitchhike south about 50k to Packwood where Roger at Napa Service possibly could help us. Roger was a car mechanic and had a pretty big possibility to help out with the right screw and the ability to tighten it.
Our second option would be to hitchhike back up north, about 80k, to where we came from in Enumclaw, where there was a bike shop that would have the exact same screw.
In search of screws
After some discussions of the pros and cons of which direction to go with he stopped me:
- There might be a screw with the same size in a sign up the road at the campground.
At first, I thanked him and said that it would be a very very very very very small chance of it being the right fit, but he insisted and drove back of in the woods to find the screw.
The wait was felt long and it felt pretty much like the scenes you read in books or see in the movies, but here we were, stranded in the outdoors with the hope of one man's memory and skills.
Five long minutes later, he returns with a screw, of pure steel, it looked like something that had been on a tank during the world war II. At least we had to try it out.
As the old’ American would say: I’ll be damned…
Eva: After some nerve-racking hours of fixing Simons bike we rode off south. It was cold and the clouds were hanging low. I really love riding in these conditions because the scenery is so dramatic but the cold conditions sucks out my energy becuase my body use so much energy to keep itself warm. After 1 or 1,5 hour of riding and a beautiful but freezing descend we got hungry. We stopped for lunch at the entrance to Paradise, and even after eating steaming hot Indian curry was I still shivering. I told Simon I didn’t want to ride to Paradise due to the cold and possibly snow on the top, plus that his bike was not really functional for the potential danger on top. I also told him I only wanted to go to Packwood, fix his bike and stay there for the night.
First of all, I took away his chance to climb Mt. Rainer, I forced him to wait with the gravel riding and we wouldn’t be sleeping in the tent. I felt so bad, he agreed but looked so disappointed! I almost took back all my decisions and told him we would do everything in one ride. In the end, I think he was happy about my decision, even though he hadn’t said it out loud yet (more than a month after).
The upgrade of the quick fix
Simon: The decision we took was fair and it made way more sense since my biggest worry was to get screw trouble out of the way and that would properly not be solved on top of a snowy mountain 3500m above sea level.
We stopped by Napa Auto Service in Packwood were we got served by the owner, Roger who had one too many stories about the area and his custom-made illegal race cars. He wasn’t the most knowledgeable person when it came to fixing bicycles, more motorbikes, but he acknowledged the function for the spare parts and the screw. He went “in the back” for a couple of minutes as he scratched his head with concerns, this made me bit nervous but something told me he knew what he was doing. He came back with a fully functional expander made out of a steel screw, with the size of the middle finger, it was heavy, unbreakable and totally awesome.
We dodged a pretty big bullet but we got saved my Roger as he became the legend of the day and another road-angel.
Gravel, pavement, and seriously?!
Eva: After a good night sleep, we were ready to concur another day! After a few kilometres on the road 410 (big road with big trucks), we took a left turn onto a beautiful gravel road. From here we started climbing, not really knowing how long the road or the climb was, only that we were in the right direction. It was a steep, long climb with many turns, my legs felt strong. Our route was going to a lake, which we actually planned to camp at the day before, but we made a shortcut and went down on a paved road instead. It felt great!
I saw a sign towards Cody Horse Camp, It was quite funny because I’ve never heard of a horse camp before and I have ridden a horse named Cody back in 2009.
We were pretty much flying until lunch, and with no restaurant in sight we decided to make a lunch stop on the mountainside and took out our stove. It was such a nice feeling to eat lunch in the wild and pretty surreal, we were laughing, singing and listening to music to scare off bears as we were enjoying the sun.
Life is like an unknown road
Before we continued, we turned off our music and I instantly felt the fear I felt the first day, so I was probably surprising quick the first few 500 meters...
The road shifted between pavement and gravel, we were loving it and really enjoying the day, I got really confident riding faster and faster. There were a lot of potholes, and with the increasing speed, it was difficult to avoid all of them. I hit several pot wholes but eventually, I hit a really big one.
The bike was flying uncontrollably, my panniers were almost falling off, probably looking like wings and Simon was laughing his ass off behind me. Luckily nothing happened and I slowed down a bit. On a particularly nice gravel descend I realised we had to turn right, the road was obviously going left. When we reached the road my first thought was WTF!
It was a small sand road, apparently classified as a development road (we later discovered it was closed for cars, which wasn’t surprising), I looked at Simon and saw the exact same expression on his face. We looked at our map to see if we could find a better road but the only possibility was to go all the way back to 410 which wasn’t an option. I started walking and Simon tried bravely to ride through the sand.
The only failure is not to try
Simon: We had put our self in a situation that was completely new to us, we weren’t really lost, we knew that we were on the right road towards our destination. I had some kind of calmness that was pretty unexpected since basically were deep in the woods and in the middle of the wild, without any signal of service.
I looked at Eva and I couldn't tell if she felt the same way, but I assumed she was alright. I later found out that she was scared shitless, but she kept it for herself, only to focus on finish the climb.
We knew that we had to gain more or less 700melevation, we worked together as a team and every 100 meters became a mission. The very first few horizontal meters didn’t turn into anything good at all after hitting a big sandpit and crashing the bike. It was a soft landing but a crash is a crash, and according to the statistic, you will fall again after a crash. But we kept going and the climbing had begun once again.
Do one thing every day that scares you
Like mentioned, this was NOT a road for cars, trucks or normal road bikes. Looking back, I’m not even sure if an ATV would be able to ride some of the sections. ( that is was I remembered, an ATV could probably ride there, but it creates a better story saying it couldn’t)
The climbing was real, the potholes from the water floods were real, the stones the size of guinea pigs was real. This climb was one of the most epic climbs I’ve ever done, it was hard, but not dreadful since there were so many elements on the “road”, it was surreal. It was a pretty unusual climb since we had to navigate as a team up the climb. We switched to turn on riding in front and never in my wildest imagination would I ride a climb with Eva screaming: “Pothole on left!!…big stone on right!…tree log on left! Bear on right!! (joking) Waterhole on left!!
Not everything was rideable due to steepness, rocks and big water pots but we pushed through. With a few meters left of the climb Eva crashed due to some shady loose rocks, she was like a rock and stood up within seconds, she wanted victory and had her mind on one thing. Finishing the bloody gravel-climb of doom. She’s awesome!
We made it! - To mosquitos country
Eva: I was so fucking proud that I made it up that climb, only hiked-a-bike twice!
I don’t see myself as a technical expert, those who ridden with me before know I’m really shitty at turning, but I manage to push my 27 kg bike up through rocks, sand and holes. I will never forget the relief when I saw pavement on the top of the climb!
On top of the development road, we passed a campground by a lake, we loved everything about it until we met the mosquito gang, I have never been attacked by so many mosquitoes at once in my entire life. They were everywhere, I was probably one giant cake buffet for them, all sweaty, warm and vulnerable with my thin lycra. I got 14 bites on my but alone and more than 30 bites in total.
I totally panicked, trying frantically to remove them by aggressively waving my arms and clapping everywhere! It took us 30 seconds to agree that we should go to another campground further down the road and away from the lake. A car stopped to ask for directions, Simon (politely as he is) stopped, I practically screamed I couldn’t help because I was being eaten alive. I had such a bad conscious the rest of the day.
We arrived at the Twin Falls Campground after a nice descend on a rough road (with many many potholes). It looked pretty full at first sight but we discovered a campsite just next to the river with a gorgeous view of a waterfall. The decision to go further down the mountain was totally worth it!
We were quite salty after all the climbing, sticky from the mosquito spray and sunscreen, therefore we had our first river “shower”. The water was cold but it was such a nice feeling to wash everything off and feel a bit normal again. As I wrote in our earlier block post, I am a city girl, and going to bed all sweaty and sticky is not my thing if I can avoid it.
Pretty waterfalls and weird noises
Simon: Imagine a scene from Into The Wild or a scene from National Geographics, and you would get the picture of our camp for the night, this was the first time we felt like we defiantly were out there, far away from 9-5 and normalised society. Having the amazing options of drinking ice-cold water from a river, to make fire with pinewood and to cook your meal in front of a twin waterfall, this was unreal and we had to pinch us a few times before we realised where we were and what we had achieved that day. 68,9 km and 1570 m of elevation with a bike weighing 27 and 33kg, our legs were tired but minds were spinning, happy to make it here without any major incidents.
We hit the hay for the night, 10 meters from the amazing waterfall, making the day a picture-perfect finish, the only thing was that the waterfall turned into an 8-hour white noise festival making it impossible to hear intruders or bears attacking us.