The Search for Chocolate & Cherries
I was stuck in Seattle for the weekend so I thought I’d do a little local exploration, stuff that I never had time to do because I was always “on my way” to somewhere else. Today I had nothing else to do but check out side roads and, while I was at it, pick up some local treats. I think the title says it all.
July 28, 2007
Total Miles: 240(?) miles
When I left Seattle at 10:30 it was comfortably warm but heavily overcast. The view to the east gave me no promise of the usual warmth and sunshine that I’ve come to expect from the mountains in the summer. Not that the weather would matter much; I was set on going riding and riding I would go.
By the time I got to my first planned stop in Issaquah I was regretting not having packed a sweater. It wasn’t freezing, but another thin layer would be nice, especially with the mist that was gently falling from the sky. I hunted around on some of the city side streets and found a yard sale. One dollar later I was the owner of a sweater that would look great under my ‘stitch. No sooner had I handed over my money than the sun came out and it felt just a little bit warmer. I stuffed the sweater under my cargo net and headed for the real reason I was stopping in Issaquah: Boehm’s Chocolate. Two pounds of rich milk chocolate was tucked safely away in the Barbie Box and I headed for the mountains.
Today’s plan was to check out side roads that I have looked at for years but never ventured on. The first one was for Lookout Pt off of I-90. The road was dirt and in good shape if you ignored the potholes. But the sun-dappled surface made it exceptionally hard to see the holes until I was in them and after a few miles I decided that I’d explore this road some time when I didn’t have some other destinations already in mind.
Wasting no time in Issaquah
Quick exploration up to Lookout Point
At least he smiled…(eventually)
Back onto I-90 I cross over Snoqualmie Pass (a balmy 67 degrees) and then down the east side of the mountains. The sun was out and it was getting considerably warmer. I stopped at a café in Cle Elum and asked for a baggie of ice to keep the chocolate from melting and then continued on towards Blewett Pass. But first I was going to check out Swauk Prairie Rd. I had eyed it previously and the countryside it appeared to cross through looked inviting. Unfortunately the dirt road was only about 3 miles long before it spit me back out onto 970 and towards Blewett. At least now I knew.
Checking out the Swauk Prairie Rd
Where the buffalo roam
Once on 97 I enjoyed the early sweepers of the Pass before taking my next detour to the historic town of Liberty. A short jaunt up a paved road led to a very quaint “ghost town” that is still lived in by a few hardy souls. It once thrived as a gold mining town but not much was left. I was surprised by the cleanliness of the town and the well-kept appearance of the buildings. It was by no means what I imagine a ghost town to look like! At the other end of the town the road became dirt and rapidly split off into three incredibly enticing dirt tracks further into the mountains. These would have to wait for another day as I was on my street tires and had no tools with me at all.
The historic ghost town of Liberty, WA
A yard full of glass nuggets
Entrance to Hillbilly Heaven
Back to 97 and a fast pace across Blewett Pass brought a smile to my face. The KLR may not have the power of other bikes but its still a hoot to ride on some twisty pavement. And not long after I reached my other goal: a fruit stand with fresh cherries. I picked up at #5 bag, some corn and green beans. The proprietors had a spare box to pack it all in and strapped it to the bike underneath my almost laughable sweater.
Mmmm – cherries!
Parking in the shade
Now for some more fun: I had to go back over the Pass. But first some more exploration. For years now I have been fascinated by the “upgrade” of various roads. This was particularly evident in Alaska but also noticeable along here. Of course the original “Blewett Pass” was still accessible for the few miles that the new road completely diverged from the original route. But in other areas I could catch glimpses of old pavement, unnaturally flat areas of landscape that used to be the road surface and dismantled bridges with the abutments still standing. One particular section I believed to be accessible by bike and I was going to check it out.
I found the 10’ space in the guardrail and rolled the bike down the gravel road. Not more then 200’ later I found an RV parked on the surface of the old road, two chairs set out in the shade of the awning and a dog running around. The chairs were occupied and I said hello as I slowly rode past them. Fifty feet later I came to the blockade across the road.
Not sure about what I’d find on the other side, I angled the bike around the offending guardrail and road slowly along the other side. I found thin asphalt with a single white stripe down the middle, all vastly overgrown. Trees sprouted up from the surface, rocks that had rolled down from above littered the way and the trunks of a couple of small trees lay across the lanes. Undaunted I putted slowly along. The new road was mere yards to my right, a small river coursing between the two roads. This river was causing the rapid demise of the old road, undercutting the banks and causing sheets of asphalt to tumble downward. Between the road falling away and the dirt and rocks cascading down from above I had at one point about two feet of space to traverse.
Unfortunately this great adventure came to an end .9 miles later as I came upon a large tree that effectively blocked the entire path. There was no way around it so I retreated back the way I had come.
The (really old ) Blewett Road
Weaving through the overgrowth
Not much holding it up
The new road in the background
More eroded roads
Narrow goes the path
To think this used to be a well-traveled road
End of my exploration
I took 97 to 970, reversing my morning’s journey, this time skipping Swauk Prairie Rd and instead checking out Teanaway Rd. The Teanaway is a nice river and the road follows the wide valley of the waterway. The air was hot but the hopes of finding a new way west towards Seattle kept me going. It kept me going for 13 miles until I ran into the end of the pavement. By now I knew that I was going north and no dirt roads would take me where I wanted to go right now. I turned around and retraced my steps. I made a quick stop at the Teanaway Mercantile to replenish my ice supply (which was now put water, sitting over very soft chocolate) and verify what I thought about the roads. Correct in my assumptions I retreated towards home via the Interstate.
Farms along the Teanaway Rd
An unusually tall barn
Highly evident “Pride in self”
Back on 97 yet again I shot south and then west on I-90. I had one more detour and it was as Snoqualmie Pass. However, once there I was unable to find the road I wanted until it was too late to make the exit. I resigned myself to getting home just a little bit earlier than planned (not that I had a plan) and work on my bikes. The chocolate survived the trip, the cherries are plump and sweet and I had a great time.
The bounty from the day’s efforts