Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Summer Gravel Finale?

The summer is fast drawing to a close in the Methow.  From March through June we marveled at the week to week transitions we saw in the valley.  July and August were filled with heat and fires and if there were week to week changes, they were too subtle for my smoke filled eyes.   Nighttime low temperatures have now dropped yet another fifteen degrees and sunrise temperatures are in the thirties when four weeks ago they were in the sixties.

Even with afternoon temperatures in the upper seventies, the shadows are surprisingly chilly and I started my Sunday ride wearing arm warmers. The kids are back in school and “downtown” isn’t as packed on the weekends as during summer vacation. The days are shorter but that makes them even sweeter.

Hottie and I snuck in a ride Friday afternoon.  I'm not a good picturer..

Saturday I did a ride up Beaver Creek and rode past a gate that said the road was closed to all motorized traffic.  There were some trucks parked at the gate that I correctly assumed were bow hunters.  I was glad I wasn’t wearing a brown jersey this day.

I soon found out why the road was closed..
The damage water can do when it is upset is amazing

A Boone bridge..
I met two bow hunters on my ride and I answered their question before they could ask it. “I’ve seen nothing,” I blurted as I rode past them. 

 Better in black and white ?
The view
On Sunday my gravel explorations took me south to Black Pine Lake via Poorman Creek road.  After a warm up climb on the Winthrop trail to Patterson Lake I traversed the lake

Not too sucky.
After passing the lake I took Elbow Coulee to the Twisp River Road.  The sun was out and I was warming up and glad I was carrying three bottles of liquid.  After a short section of pave’ I turned on the gravel of Poorman’s cutoff road.  After getting on Poorman proper the grade picked up ever so slowly.  If my brief map review was correct I had over 500 meters to climb before reaching Black Pine Lake. 
Poorman’s Creek drainage
The road went in and out of shade and the grade continued to pick up.  The climbing was enough that I unzipped my jersey and churned along.  The views back down the canyon were all peek-a-boo so I didn’t take any photos.  You’ll have to trust me.  I encountered three motorcycles coming down and later two trucks.  The road didn’t look like it saw much traffic. 
 Yeah, like this...
When I reached the lake I was shocked to see campers and tents and lots of activity on the lake itself.  I began my descent down Buttermilk Creek Road A.K.A Forest Service Road 43. 
 Black Pine Lake
The gravel on the descent told me that this was the popular vehicle route to Black Pine Lake.  After a fair bit of gravel I encountered unmaintained pavement. This is perhaps the most dangerous surface for cyclists as you feel like you can just let it go but there are potholes that are frequent, huge and capable of destroying wheels and even bikes. Shadows across the road made spotting the bike eating potholes a challenge.  Like all good alpine descents there is one corner that keeps you honest and the discs on the Bomber did their job.
Before long I was back on Twisp River Road and the five mile descent to Elbow Coulee then back onto gravel. As I crossed the cattle guard on Elbow Coulee I remembered riding this road with KB amid patches of snow almost six months ago on the last day of March.  That experience seemed distant, but I also know the snows would be coming back soon.

 Back at the cabin I cleaned up myself, ate a sandwich and then cleaned up the bike. 

The spring and summer have been an adventure.  Gravel riding began as a novelty and developed into a passion.  The fires taught us how fragile this dream actually is.  Sharing the cabin with friends and family has been as rewarding as we hoped.  Fall is a beautiful time with our anniversary, vibrant colors and Cyclocross. 

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