Leaving Winthrop this morning - taking a final look back down the valley to those impressive peaks. This is a town I would like to visit again.
|Winthrop, in the Methow Valley, is a sweet spot in Washington|
As we travel east from the coast, we have four passes to summit (actually, five, but Rainy and Washington count as one). Yesterday's travel over Rainy Pass and Washington Pass was just the start. Today we went over Loup Loup.
|We are headed to the dry side of the state, for sure|
It wasn't actually too bad of a climb. For our friends in Redlands, it's about like climbing to Angelus Oaks. In fact it was a lot like climbing to Angelus Oaks on a day like we've just had in Redlands where the temperatures reach over a hundred. So after we made the summit we were descending down into the towns of Okanogan and Omak, where my Garmin read 105 degrees. Of course, it's in the sun, and it's behind Roger, who throws off a lot of heat, so I'm usually reading about 10 degrees higher than he is. But still, it was hot!
|Wildflowers under the burned pines|
On the way up the climb we enjoyed viewing lots of wild flowers that have taken advantage of a recent fire to colonize the forest floor. There were lupines, asters, something that looked like penstemon, and lots of yarrow. They were just beautiful, and it goes to show that even with the terrible destruction of fire, there is new growth.
The descent from the summit was one of the sweetest we've had yet. I love when I see those downward-facing truck signs on the road. This one announced seven miles of 6%! That is heaven to a cyclist. It was a bit curvy and pretty, too - but not too technical, with none of those drop offs that make me nervous. So I really enjoyed the ride down. However, there is one vicious little tilt-up that comes halfway through the descent. We saw it looming ahead and Roger said, 'you've got to be kidding.' Well actually he said something a bit different but this is a G-rated blog! From 35 mph to 11% uphill in a few yards. No lie!
|Steve and Christy at the summit of Loup Loup|
We had been hopscotching the climb with a couple of tourists that we met early in the day. Steve and Christy are going to do the entire Northern Tier, and we enjoyed visiting with them as we passed them or they passed us along the morning's climb. They told us about a turnoff to a lake about 10 miles into the descent, and said they planned to stop there.
Although we did not ever see them at the lake, both Roger and I enjoyed a chance to jump in the cool water and get some relief from the heat before continuing down the hill. They had told us that they were planning to go a little further than we were today, so if you're out there, Steve and Christy, let us know if you made it! It was so crazy hot by the time we hit Omak, that we were a little concerned for you.
|Definitely on the dry side of the state!|
|The cherry orchards are completely covered with nettin|
A late lunch at the Mexican restaurant, the chance to do some laundry, and some cheese, bread and wine at the picnic table while we visited with another touring cyclist, Panama Bill, ended our evening. He had been there a few days because he had a problem with his tent, and REI was shipping him a new one. I LOVE that store!
|Bill was hanging out in Omak, waiting for a new tent from REI|
By now it's cooling off. We have a very short day tomorrow. We'll just transfer about 25 or 30 miles to the town below the next summit. As long as this heat continues, we do not want to try to climb them mid-day.
The day's report: Winthrop to Omak, 49 miles/2070 to date
By the way - if you are wondering "why are they visiting all these little towns that I've never heard of? What's the appeal of that?" - well, it goes like this: If you are crossing the country on a bike, you are not going to want to cover the route alongside the interstates. I mean, you can - but it's not much fun. So the small towns and little valleys and back roads that most folks driving from Seattle to Spokane would never see - we see those! There are maps, by companies like Adventure Cycling, that outline routes and provide information on services available: lodging, camping, where to get water, even. And most cycle tourists are either using some version of those maps, or riding along on the main routes they suggest. So that is why we have been in Towns that Time Forgot. Because that is what backcountry American looks like. And it is a very interesting journey!