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Monday, April 25, 2011

Big Trip Stresses, Part 1: Snowy Mountain Passes

Clearing snow on Washington Route 20, North Cascades Hwy, 4/18/11
I'm feeling a bad case of deja vu.  I'm feeling an unwelcome case of deja vu.

If you've been reading this blog long enough (or pretend to), you may remember what happened to my spring 2009 tour.  (Go here to read about it.)  I originally planned to ride eastward into Eastern Oregon along the Transamerica route.  But my timing was off--it was too early in the season, so a lot of the mountain passes (well really, all of the mountain passes) were still getting snowed on.  I didn't relish the idea of crossing snowy mountain passes so I headed north to Vancouver instead.

Fast forward to now.  We're finishing up a particularly snowy winter, and I'm worrying about the status of some of the passes we'll cross, even though it's still a month and a half until we even hit them.  The Northern Tier route crosses two key ones: Washington and Rainy Pass on SR20 in the North Cascades and Going-To-The-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.  Both of these passes are closed in winter, but in spring they start clearing them for opening in late spring.  Usually the road is open by the first week of May as evidenced by this link to the WSDOT site, and the graph below.
Q-Q plot for Washington State Route 20 (North Cascades Highway) first opening/final closing dates. Data are from fall 1972 through 2008. From Wikipedia.

But this year...nah.  They started to clear the snow on April 11, and have no estimated opening date yet.  I heard rumors it could take six weeks.  The latest opening in history was in 1974 when the pass didn't open until June 14th.  I really hope it doesn't take that long, as I estimate to be crossing that pass around June 8th.  This could cause a serious crimp in our plans if it's not open by then.  For one, we don't have the luxury of waiting. And re-routing is difficult, as there are not a lot of choices for crossing the Cascades. It would either mean heading far south to Stevens Pass/US2, or heading east through BC for a bit.  Either choice wouldn't be horrible (though I heard traffic on 2 is meh), but I really want to cross Rainy and Washington Pass.  Guess I just have to cross my fingers.
No problem!  I'll just get a Pugsley to ride this section.
As for Going-To-The-Sun Road in Glacier NP, well, that's also going to take a while.  They just started to plow, and I heard that snow removal can take up to ten weeks.  Yeesh.  We don't plan on hitting Logan Pass on the road until later June, but it would be a major bummer if we had to detour this one as well.

Mother Nature, can you help a brother out?

1 comment:

  1. Do you have a page with links to your previous bicycle touring accounts? I'd like to read back through your bicycle touring experiences sometime, and a reference page (or list of dates) would be handy.

    Looking forward to reading up on your upcoming tour!


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