Sport Bike Northwest Rally, Columbia River Gorge
I was invited back to the Sport Bike Northwest Rally (which also includes the Sport Touring Northwest Rally) this year. Tracy, the rider I met at last year’s rally, rode down with me on Friday. We had heard rumors of terrible construction on FS 25 behind Mt St Helens so I devised an alternate route that would take us on FS 23 and over some gravel roads to Trout Lake. It was a good idea, anyway…
August 24~ August 27, 2007
Total Miles: ??? miles, 4 days
Seattle, WA to Stevenson, WA
Road construction is never fun and when the unofficial detour is a gravel road and you have a dual sport, what could be better? Tracy and I met in Issaquah and she led us south on some back roads, the first one blocked by a missing bridge just a few miles into our ride. It was an omen of things to come…
After meandering on paved roads through farmlands and forests we came to the small town of Elbe, WA. Here I took the lead and headed east towards Mt Rainier National Park, turning off the main road just before the park entrance. Skate Creek Rd led us through dense foliage over bumpy pavement. A close call at a poorly marked construction corner gave me a heightened sense of focus for the rest of the road. But we reached Packwood without incident and stopped to feed ourselves and our bikes.
Then it was on to the “detour” down FS 23. It goes on for quite some time with good pavement and sweet corners, buried in the woods and brush. The surface narrows slightly and a river takes up its route next to us. The pavement eventually end but it is by no means a technical dirt road and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. I am haunted by a sign I saw early on “Trout Lake – closed” – but they can’t very well close a town, can they? So I assumed that a campground of that name was closed and I continued to lead us on. Then I saw the “Road Closed – 1 Mile Ahead” sign. This did not bode well.
It turned out the the road was indeed closed (washed out and impassable, even by our superior German Gelande-Strasse machines). We did a short retreat back to a “T” junction and consulted our backroads mapbook. There was another road we could take but it was marked as a 4×4 trail for high clearance vehicles. I thought of the road I took in BC just a month ago that was rated the same – would this road be as bad? Just then a ranger drove up and saw us consulting our maps. She knew of the road and offered to lead us to it, only after profusely confessing to not knowing if our bikes could make it down the road. Tracy was game to try and I knew I was ready!
At the turnoff the ranger stopped and indicated our road: it was two solidly packed dirt tracks with some soft dirt tucked in the middle. If conditions stayed this way we’d be fine. Just then a mid-80’s sedan shot it’s way around the corner below us and barreled to a stop by the ranger. Steam was pouring from beneath the hood but the driver didn’t seem to care. I looked at Tracy and we both thought “If he can make it up then we can make it down” – and we took off down the dirt tracks.
It was a fairly short and easy ride down. Tracy dropped her bike twice, neither time doing any damage to the bike and only giving her an annoying bruise. It was an adventure laid on top of an adventure!
Mt Adams on the way to Trout Lake
FS 23 before the detour
We reached the rally, set up our tents and proceeded to enjoy the festivities. The next morning she and I decided to explore some new roads south of the river. She’s a great riding partner and we had a lot of fun checking out the area.
Mt Hood from the Washington side of the Columbia
Not the cliche Lolo Pass of Idaho fame
Narrow roads under open powerlines
Mt Hood creating its own weather
Nearing Lolo Pass
Mt Hood and Tracy
View of the Columbia from Larch Mtn
The next day Tracy had to head home but I still had another day to play. I met up with a new rider, Matthew, and after we had lunch I showed him some very nice paved roads, also south of the river. For being such a new rider, he certainly kept up very well. It must have something to do with that beautiful GS1200A he was on (and maybe just a little bit to do with the classes he’s taken and perhaps even some talent :-). On Monday I left the rally and leisurely rolled home on the unobstructed FS 25, taking my time and enjoying the beautiful weather.