Northern Washington and Southern BC
Loop Tour of 8 Mountain Passes
Washington State, USA and British Columbia, Canada
The Route, at a glance...
Sidney, Anacortes, Newhalem, Rainy Pass, Washington Pass, Loup Loup Pass,
Wauconda Pass, Sherman Pass, Nelson, Nakusp, Monashee Pass, Vernon,
Kamloops, Princeton, Sunday Summit, Allison Pass, Hope, Sidney
July 14th to July 31st, 2001 - 1,812 Kms
This was a solo (barring Basil), self-supported tour and started out following the first section of Adventure Cycling Association's, Northern Tier route. Once I had travelled as far as Kettle Falls, WA, I left the route and headed north for the Canadian border at Waneta, BC. I then travelled northeast to Kaslo, northwest to Nakusp, south to Fauquier, crossed Arrow Lake and then rode northwest to Kamloops. From Kamloops, I ventured south and then west again to return to Vancouver Island.
The weather, for July was very temperamental and certainly not predictable. I had many more cloudy than sunny days, but for climbing the grades of some of the passes, this was not unwelcome. However, I could have managed just fine without the rainy days! Bicycle touring can bring out some hardships and it is usually through adverse weather, but the few hardships are far outweighed by the many memorable and spectacular sights that one sees whilst touring these great lands of ours - on a bicycle.
On this trip, I had two new toys...
The first was new digital camera, an Olympus D-460Z. I used an 8MB memory card and had room for 122 photos at low resolution (640x480), which is still a good resolution for use with web pages. At the end of my trip, I found the digital camera to be very straightforward for uploading and editing photos to my PC, and ultimately this site. In addition, the photos are of a much better resolution than the photos from my previous trip reports, which were taken on film and then scanned into my PC.
My second "toy" was a Sharp TM-20 Pocketmail device, on which I typed my daily reports and then sent them as plain text email via any available payphone. The device works by holding it up to a phone handset, a button is pushed and then it transmits and receives sounds, just as a regular modem would, decoding the sounds into text. The device worked very well on 90% of the payphones that I used both in Canada and the US. If one phone wouldn't recognise the device, then usually the next available one would. Why some payphones wouldn't perform is anybodies guess, but nevertheless, it did not cause much of a problem. The keyboard is quite small on the device, so touch-typing was out of the question. However, one's fingers seem to adapt quite well after a few days, and speedy messages were possible!
This trip report is compiled from notes and the daily email messages that I sent to family and friends whilst I was touring. I hope that my thoughts and words will allow you to share in my travels through some very scenic parts of Washington State and the Province of British Columbia.
Day 1 - Sidney, BC to Bayview State Park, WA.
I took the Washington State ferry from Sidney, BC to Anacortes, WA. I think that this happens to be one of the most scenic ferry routes in the Pacific Northwest. Meandering through the San Juan Islands, watching small boats and yachts sailing by, is a great way to pass a couple hours of travel time. I never seem to tire of this trip as I do of the other ferry routes.
At the Sidney ferry terminal, I met a couple who were touring on a tandem and were on their way back to Seattle. They seemed to be packing as much gear as me, albeit for two people! After a second look though, I was sure that they had more, phew!
No problems with US Customs and Immigration, so I rode off onto Highway 20 heading east. I stopped in Anacortes for groceries and a bite to eat then continued on to Bayview State Park
Well, it was an easy ride, but I've never seen so much broken glass on the shoulder of a highway, and not just in one place, but for many miles. Inevitably, I picked up a big chunk in my back tire which I discovered after hearing the dreaded phfft, phfft, phfft, or something like that, coming from the back tire. Anyhow, I disconnected the BOB trailer, flipped the bike upside down and then put in a spare tube. My tire liner must have been off centre, as there was only a hole in the tire and not the liner; weird! I did have a spare tire, but figured that the hole in the tire was not too excessive, so it should be OK for quite a few more miles yet.
Bayview State Park is in a really nice location, almost beachfront with great views of the ocean and surrounding Islands. The sign at the entrance said that the campground was full. "Great, what a way to start the trip," I thought to myself as I pulled in. I asked the young ranger at the booth if any hiker/biker sites were available? "I've only got three hiker/biker sites," he says, "and they're all vacant." Perfect, I took one and was thankful that bicycle touring has it's privileges - in some places anyhow!
I had a nice shower and cooked up some Lipton's cheddar rice and broccoli, yummy. That was after a peanut butter and jam, pita bread sandwich. Well, I was full after that lot I guess! Just enough room for a hot drink with brandy; damn, forgot to buy brandy, and the next day was Sunday, damn again!
Day 2 - Bayview SP to Newhalem, WA.
It was supposed to be 101 Kms today, but somehow it ended up quite a bit more, so much for my map calculations!
After I packed up and left Bayview SP, I rode to Burlington for breakfast. There I found a nice coffee shop type restaurant, Denise's on Fairhaven, and had a big feed for US$5.00. - That was to be the only good deal of the day!
As I left Burlington, the sky started darkening! I reached Sedro Wooley and left Highway 20 to take the South Skagit Highway, as suggested by the ACA map. This turned out to be a road with no shoulder, but the traffic was so light that it didn't matter. The road was tar and coarse chip, and quite rough in places, Basil didn't like getting bumped around that much! In fact, the coarse road surface set up vibrations that must have made my new small flasher tail light - installed on the BOB trailer's fender - go flying; it smashed into a hundred pieces! I had the damn thing zap tied on too! That was another $7.00 up the spout!
Along this route, I passed four other touring cyclists who were stopped at the side of the road. I waved and said my hellos, and continued on as they seemed to be just starting up again after a rest - or problem? I figured that I might see them again. later on - this was not to be. Just after passing them, I felt a few raindrops, which multiplied in no time to a downpour. I put on my raingear and pedalled on. At least the temperature was mild, which negated some of the unpleasantness of the rain. Shortly after, I was riding along minding my own business, when two pit bull dogs decided to rush out from a yard and chase me. Luckily, I was going downhill and outran them. [Loose dogs do seem to be a problem when one travels on back roads!] When I first noticed them coming for me, I didn't have time to zap them with my Doggie Dazer, so I forcefully yelled "NO" at them and held out the flat of my palm facing them. It worked! They held still for a few seconds, which gave me the edge to pedal away... phew!
After about 45 Kms I had to rejoin Highway 20 - or "Route 20," as it's called in the USA. There was some great scenery as I rode next to the Skagit River, but I was too wet to appreciate it and arrived in Marblemount looking like a drowned rat! Basil was not impressed with his first rain experience either! I was tired out, as there had not been many opportunities to stop, and besides, who wants to stop at the side of the road when it's raining? I went into a restaurant in Marblemount, had some hot soup and fish & chips costing US$11.00! Pricey, but I felt much better after that and even the rain had petered out by the time I left.
I carried on to Newhalem, where the campsites are run by the Forest Service, US$12.00 per night, whether you drive a 40ft motor home, ride in on a bike, or simply walk-in. What a rip-off! And there wasn't even a shower! Most of the Washington State Parks only charged US$6.00 and a shower was only 25 cents! Anyway, after the wet ride, had there been a motel, I would have gladly taken it, but there was nothing else for almost the next 90 Kms. I decided that if it was be another rainy ride the next day, then I probably would get a motel room in Winthrop instead of camping; I thought that I might need it, with two mountain passes to clear!