Riding the Mt. Rainier Loop - An All Time Favorite

Discussion in 'Day Trippin'' started by Hominid, Sep 11, 2011.

  1. Hominid

    Hominid Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2010
    Oddometer:
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    Another last minute road trip decision. We&#8217;re looking at unusually warm weather for this time of year with zero chance of rain. Seems like a good chance to do the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on">Mount Rainier</st1:place> loop. It&#8217;s an easy 2 day ride. Heck, it&#8217;s not a bad one day loop - depending where you start from - if you just want to log some miles and enjoy the view.
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    Mt. Rainier from Sunrise Point. That's Little Tahoma Peak on the left.

    PNW riders are familiar with this route. It&#8217;s been one of my favorite <st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Washington</st1:place></st1:State> areas for many years. For those of you just passing through, it&#8217;s worth a shot, depending on the weather. I&#8217;ve heard many times before &#8211; the mountain makes it&#8217;s own weather &#8211; and it&#8217;s true.
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    This was a bullet proof weekend, but it pays to be prepared for rain, mist, fog, and worse when riding here. Chinook pass is closed November through late May due to heavy snow just to give you an idea. The riding season is realistically restricted to maybe four months a year for a fair weather rider like me if I want to make the loop.
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    I&#8217;m going to make the clockwise loop, running from <st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Federal Way</st1:address></st1:Street> to <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Sunrise</st1:place></st1:City> on the North side of the mountain.
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    It seems like I usually go counterclockwise, but I&#8217;m tired of the slog homeward on 410 West through Greenwater, Enumclaw, Buckley, and <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Bonney</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Lake</st1:placeType></st1:place>. I&#8217;m going to try and be smarter this time. Turns out to be a good choice. Lesson Learned.
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    I pack up Friday night and depart <st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Federal Way</st1:address></st1:Street> at 9am Saturday &#8211; not too bad considering I was up until 2:30 this morning.
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    I&#8217;ll try and mostly let the photos speak for themselves from here on - I know, I'm long winded - my apologies.

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    Making a straight shot to White River Campground, I&#8217;m lucky to find this spot.
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    There&#8217;s a minor traffic jam at the entrance to the National Park. I think I got one of the last, if not the last spot open here. Most times when I&#8217;ve been here there is a campground full sign out front. As it turns out my site might be the most private spot in the place. Site C25. It looks ugly at first, because it&#8217;s directly across from the day use area, but that turned out to be a good thing.
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    Tent set up by noon, it&#8217;s time to head up to <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Sunrise</st1:City></st1:place> via the <st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Sunrise Park Road</st1:address></st1:Street>.
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    It&#8217;s a twisty 11 mile climb from the campground in reasonable condition with some great views.
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    Sunrise Point, a bit over halfway up, features great vistas and a trail to alpine lakes.
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    Harley headed down the hill.
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    Sunrise Point parking lot.
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    Pulling around the switchback at Sunrise Point, the mountain just hits you in the face. It&#8217;s an awesome feeling riding up this stretch.
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    Alpine lake from Sunrise Point.
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    At the top of the climb there is a parking lot, and visitor&#8217;s center. It serves as a trailhead to paths that can take you right onto the mountain if you&#8217;re so inclined. There a lot of trails up here, leading to alpine lakes and meadows, and of course, the volcano.
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    <st1:City w:st="on">Sunrise</st1:City> gives the absolute best view of the mountain in my mind, <st1:place w:st="on">Paradise</st1:place> on the south side is nice, but it&#8217;s nothing like the view you get from here.
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    I&#8217;m hungry. It&#8217;s hot out. Not much to choose from at the visitor&#8217;s center since they are usually closed after labor day. They&#8217;re open special this weekend because of the outlandish warm streak. I buy a cold bottle of water and guzzle half of it while snacking on some trail mix.
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    There is a place about halfway to <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Yakima</st1:place></st1:City> from here on 410 east. I decide to head there for lunch. It&#8217;s a hot ride, but fun.
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    After crossing the <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Chinook</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Pass</st1:placeType></st1:place> summit the downhill run to Whistlin Jack Resort is a blast if you can squirt past the slow rollers.
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    The best thing about Whistlin Jack Resort? They have gas and a mini-mart here. Sounds like a joke, I know, but they&#8217;re located halfway between nothing and next to nothing so it&#8217;s a big deal.
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    I was less than impressed with the restaurant. I was thinking a nice salad would be perfect on such a hot day. Well, it would have been nice if not for the stale tomatoes, stale lettuce, surly wait staff, and burned steak medallions I foolishly added. Everyone from the hostess and waitresses, on down to the mini-mart employees, had that &#8216;what the hell do you want&#8217; attitude. You know, those people who work in the service industry that treat every customer as an irritation and intrusion into their daily routine. Near as I can tell, the only reason they remain in business is because they have no competition.
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    The <st1:place w:st="on">Mount Rainier</st1:place> loop can be challenging for those on a bike with limited range. There are really only 4 places to stop for gas on the edges of the park&#8230;Greenwater, Ashford, Whistlin Jack Resort, and Packwood in the NW, SW, NE, and SE corners, respectively. There&#8217;s not a lot of margin for error if you only have a 150 mile range and you&#8217;re thinking about exploring. No problem with the weestrom&#8217;s range, though.
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    I met these two Harley riders as we exited the eatery. He tells me it was his idea to park in the shade &#8211; &#8220;nobody was parked here when I showed up, I&#8217;m thinking fuck this I&#8217;m parking in front. There was nobody here and now we have a long line!&#8221; The gal is interested in the bright yellow Beestrom. The guy says, &#8220;that must be fast, what the hell is it?&#8221; &#8220;Umm, yeah, faster than I need&#8221;, comes my standard response. &#8220;It&#8217;s only a 650, though. It&#8217;s a Suzuki.&#8221; We chat for a bit and they head out. They seemed like a real nice couple, doing the loop from the <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Seattle</st1:place></st1:City> area. A lot of HD riders won&#8217;t even acknowledge a Japanese bike. These two were friendly.
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    Parked in the shade.
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    The &#8216;resort&#8217; had a nice little riverfront area with tables and outside dining.
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    This place is a popular rest stop for riders of all flavors.
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    A little of everything here &#8211; Harleys, Japanese V-twins, sport bikes, gold wings, and a gaggle of dirt bikes.
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    And, of course, a popular spectator sport is watching folks scream out of the parking lot. This guy and his buddies fly out at warp speed.
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    His buddies follow.
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    Next Post &#8211; Spending the night at <st1:place w:st="on">White River</st1:place> campground, some fun with the camera, and the Sunday ride home.
    #1
  2. Ladybug0048

    Ladybug0048 Bug Sister

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2005
    Oddometer:
    11,456
    Location:
    Spokane Valley, WA (the dry side of the mountains)
    Such a great place to ride.

    One of my many great memories is one day deciding I wanted to watch the sunrise at Sunrise. I was camped with a number of other motorcyclist at Rimrock Lake and mentioned my plan to a couple of people. I was surprised when well before daylight I had 7 other riders wanting to ride with me to watch the sunrise at Sunrise. Let me tell you even in the middle of summer that is one cold ride before daylight.

    Seeing your pictures of Sunrise made me think of that day. Thank you for that they are fond memories.

    Waiting for the rest of your report. :lurk
    #2
  3. Hominid

    Hominid Been here awhile

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    Hi Ladybug! Nice to hear from you. I just read your report, The Superbug rides to Lake Roosevelt, WA, the other day before I left. I wanted to shoot you a note, but I was pressed for time. That report reminded me of a solo ride I took from Electric City north through Nespelum and then over the ridge and back south over the Keller Ferry. The ferry ride was really cool and the ride up the canyon face was hairy. Steep switchbacks, recently gravelled, from the river to the top of the canyon was challenging for this semi-newbie back in 1997. When you get to the top of the hill it's rolling wheat fields and farmland - awesome.

    I made the trip to Sunrise point for sunrise about 25 years ago. Showed up there about 5am with the camera and tripod. Managed to get some decent pics of the mountain in the moonlight and as the sky grew bright. Back in the days of film cameras :gerg
    #3
  4. Hominid

    Hominid Been here awhile

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    I&#8217;m ready to ride back to camp and take some pics along the way. It is so dang hot at Whistling Jack&#8217;s I&#8217;m thinking screw it &#8211; way too hot for ATGATT &#8211; I&#8217;m packing the jacket behind the dry bag &#8211; going studly like a biker dude. Took me about sixty seconds &#8211; I kid you not &#8211; to remember why I wear long long sleeves. SPLAT! Whatever it was, it was a big soft juicy one. I now have a streak of yellow goo lining my forearm. Gross. No place to pull over now, I&#8217;ll get it at the next photo stop &#8211; barf.
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    Lots of rocky views over here.
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    Big skies too.
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    These pics are just west of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Chinook</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Pass</st1:placeType></st1:place>, a really special summit just because of the views and the grand nature of the passage. For most of the year you just can&#8217;t go here &#8211; nature prevails. It&#8217;s not a freeway, it&#8217;s not a sport bikers dream, the frost heaves demand caution.
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    Pointing West
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    Pointing East
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    Pretty Stuff
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    Grabbed this viewpoint pullout in a near panic stop as I was accelerating out of a good corner.
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    Yup, those are rocks.
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    Only a matter of time before these rocks fall into the road.
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    That road in the top half of the photo is the descent from Chinook pass &#8211; where I just came from, headed west.
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    You can see the descent from <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Chinook</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Pass</st1:placeType></st1:place> in the upper left of this one &#8211; again, where I just came from, headed west.
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    I make it back to White River Campground with plenty of light left. Things are working out well for me today. There is a trail that heads down to the river across from my site and I feel like going for a walk.
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    There is a transition that takes place; between riding and being. Does that sound corny? But it&#8217;s true, right? Anyway, all sentimentalism aside (wow, long word &#8211; is that a word?), it felt good to finish getting camp set up, strip the riding gear off, and go for a walk to the river.
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    Okay, I was gonna include the rest of the pics in this post, but this seems like a good break point. I&#8217;m hungry.
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    Next post &#8211; River Pics
    #4
  5. Hominid

    Hominid Been here awhile

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    Some days everything happens in the right sequence at just the right pace. Today was one of those days. It was a relaxing mix of riding, walking, and photos &#8211; really nice to be on the road and it was a bonus weekend for this part of the world.
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    I can hear the river before I can even see it. The <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on">White River</st1:place> is glacier fed and there&#8217;s a whole lot of melting going on this weekend!
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    Note the rock formations in the background&#8230;
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    The river is boiling.
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    This bridge leads to a trail that heads toward the mountain.
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    The sound is constant and roaring down here.
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    I&#8217;m not sure why it was named the <st1:place w:st="on">White River</st1:place>. It always looks brown to me &#8211; filled with silt.
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    Okay, I&#8217;m just playing with the camera now. It&#8217;s my idea of fun.
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    On the far side of the bridge is a collection of what 243Win might call Hippie towers.
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    I have to admit, there was a certain mood induced by the sight of all that effort manifested in stone pillars. Was it cosmic? Maybe not, but it was cool and gave off a good vibe.
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    There is a side channel to the river.
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    Then there is a smaller side channel.
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    After I got done taking pics I just stood around leaning on a log and drinking in the sights and sounds.
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    Next Post &#8211; Campfire and ride home; no really, that will be the end :D
    #5
  6. JaxObsessed

    JaxObsessed Jax Off again.

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    From Alabama to Newfoundland it's all Appalachian
    Gorgeous! :thumb Thanks.
    Wow I love it out there.
    #6
  7. Hominid

    Hominid Been here awhile

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    My pleasure.
    I'm fortunate to have so much nice country so close that the mountains, rivers, ocean, or even the heat of Eastern Washington are all within a short stretch. It's just a matter of choosing a direction :D

    Riding along the east coast some day is definitely on my bucket list.
    #7
  8. Hominid

    Hominid Been here awhile

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    The Beestrom is resting comfortably on the parking pad, camp is set up, with nothing to do but relax and enjoy the evening.
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    I brought a presto log with me so I light that and sit at the table to do some reading. I do believe it’s time to see how my little cooler performed today.
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    I bought this little portable cooler at REI.
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    I put the cooler in the freezer overnight, along with my two nalgene bottles filled with water. Just before leaving home this morning it gets loaded into the pelican case, with the frozen bottles and 3 of those refrigerant packs. Seems like a good formula, but still, I’m not sure how well it has held up after over 10 hours on such a hot day.
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    I bought the six pack at about 3 while at Whistlin Jack, took out one of the nalgene bottles and loaded the beer in. That was over four hours ago in 90 and 80 degree temps.
    The can feels cold to the hand. The true test is that first swallow. It’s absolutely ice cold and magically delicious. :1drink
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    I read my book until the light goes away and pile the firewood on top of the presto log – all of it except for one piece, to be saved for later to burn down the coals.
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    The obligatory campfire photo.
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    Dinner and chores happen while the fire burns - turned out to be a four hour fire.
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    It’s a beautiful evening with a full moon and stars in the sky. The human sounds have died away and the constant noise of the nearby river takes over the night.
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    The morning is clear and crisp – perfect day for a morning ride.
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    Early morning view of the mountain.
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    On the rode by 8, I’m headed for the Stevens entrance to the park to head home via <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on">Paradise</st1:place>.
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    The run from 410 down to the park entrance is sweet, lots of good stretches, but you do need to keep eye out for frost heave dips. I’m digging the light traffic and cool temps.
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    Well, maybe not.
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    Oops. Road closed. I see the no pedestrians and no bicycle signs. Nothing about motorcycles. Hmmm….ya think? It’s Sunday and the anniversary of 9-11. Certainly no one is working up there today.
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    Just as I’m stupidly thinking of going to take a peek a ranger comes pulling down the road in his white pickup. Turns out a big piece of the road is washed out up ahead. We talk about alternate routes heading west and he clues me into <st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Skate Creek Rd</st1:address></st1:Street>, which cuts from Packwood to Ashford. He was a really nice guy who seemed to have an ideal life, living in Packwood and working in the National Park.
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    This road is a nice little short cut, but in many places it’s in really dicey shape. Lots of bumps and dips. I spent most of my time in 2<SUP>nd</SUP> or 3<SUP>rd</SUP> gear through here. I narrowly averted disaster by panic braking just before hitting a huge, sudden dip at one point. It still jarred me pretty good. Slow down, pay attention, I remind myself.
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    From there it’s Ashford, <st1:place w:st="on">Elbe</st1:place>, north on 7 through Spanaway and then north on I-5 through Tacoma to home. Just in time to watch the Seahawks lose a really sloppy game of football. I should have spent Sunday night at <st1:place w:st="on">White River</st1:place>.
    #8
  9. Loud Al

    Loud Al .

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    Very nice report, I keep forgetting to plan a trip up there.
    #9
  10. Hominid

    Hominid Been here awhile

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    Thanks, it was a nice ride :D
    #10
  11. orbiker

    orbiker Been here awhile

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    Springfield, OR.
    GREAT PICS
    Mt Rainier is a fabulous place. Almost a cool as Crater Lake.

    A note: The piling of rock is called Cairns. Hikers passing by often add a stone, as a small bit of maintenance to counteract the erosive effects of severe weather. Also as a bit of good luck.
    #11
  12. Hominid

    Hominid Been here awhile

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    By the way, after getting home and unpacking I had to make another check on the cooler. Call it research, if you will :evil
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    It’s about 1pm. Ice packs still feel cold, the cans still feel cold. Only one way to really gauge the cooler’s performance, though. Crack, slurp, nice…still colder than what normally comes out of my fridge. Would have done just fine if I had decided to spend a second night at the campground, I think.
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    File that info for future reference :deal
    #12
  13. Hominid

    Hominid Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the info. I thought the cairns were cool. Primitive artwork combined with mojo is how I look at them. I thought it interesting that a lot of these cairns seemed to have a sentient quality to them with stones that almost appeared to be heads pointed back at the bridge crossing the river.

    Depending on my mood I might view them as welcoming or cautionary :eek1

    I missed my chance at Crater Lake this summer. I think it's a must for next year, one way or the other.
    #13
  14. Hominid

    Hominid Been here awhile

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    Best Stretch of Road: 3 way tie – Chinook Pass, The downhill run from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:City w:st="on">Sunrise</st1:City>, and highway 7 north from <st1:place w:st="on">Elbe</st1:place> to the Roy Y. 7 can be a pain sometimes, but headed north early in the morning was a blast. Lots of good curves heading into LaGrande.
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    Worst Stretch of Road: The closed road to <st1:place w:st="on">Paradise</st1:place>. Other than that, they were all good.
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Best Food: Tie between trail mix and the infamous dinner in a pouch Chili-Mac. That should tell you something :deal
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Worst Food: Salad and steak at Whistlin Jack resort. Overpriced and not very good to start with.
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Wildlife Spotted: Hawks, squirrels, steller’s jays, a billion chipmunks, and a big juicy bug on my forearm :cry
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Miles Logged: 324. A pretty relaxing overnight run – definitely worth the effort :D
    #14
  15. orbiker

    orbiker Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2010
    Oddometer:
    379
    Location:
    Springfield, OR.
    #15
  16. Hominid

    Hominid Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2010
    Oddometer:
    255
    Location:
    Pugetopolis
    Deal! :deal

    :D
    #16