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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

St. Helens-Rainier-Seattle-Vashon Tour: Day 2, Tues 14 Aug 2012

Today's riding was almost exclusively on Forest Road 25, which winds through the mountains just to the east of Mount Saint Helens in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Just like yesterday, and just like most of the days through the mountains, the day's biggest feature was a mountain pass to summit. Today's pass, Elk, was not particularly high, only 4,080 feet (1,250 m). (Note how I say "only" 4,080 feet, like it's nothing. That's higher than the highest point in England.) But it was steep. Not as steep as Oldman the day before, but a few hours of grinding up grades of 7-10% with little relief.

At least the road was quiet. I saw very little traffic during the climb. I did see three other touring cyclists heading in the opposite direction. There wasn't much of a view on the way up, which wasn't all that bad, as the entire climb was shaded. The big viewpoint was Clearwater at 3,200 feet. It gave Todd and I the last good view of Mount Saint Helens to the west, and of the Clearwater valley, which got destroyed during the 1980 eruption. (The trees you see at the bottom of the valley got replanted since then.) Just before Elk Pass, I got my only glimpse of Mount Hood on the tour.

And just after Elk Pass, I got my first view of Mount Rainier, which will dominate for the rest of the week.

The descent was fun, yet short. More forests. The day ended at Iron Creek Campground, a nice Forest Service campground on the Cispus River.

The riding today was tough, but rewarding. You can't beat nicely paved roads with little traffic passing through forest. And yeah, there were a few clear-cuts, but not much.

The numbers:
38.4 miles
8.4 mph average speed
4:33 saddle time

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