Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Hiawatha Trail

August 4 - Hiawatha Trail

Sunday was the big day! We finally did the Route of the Hiawatha that is a nearly 15 mile “rails to trails” consisting of a gravel surface starting in Montana and ending in Idaho. The beginning elevation is over 4000 feet and the first thing you do is go through a tunnel that is 1.7 miles long. Since we had previously experienced that tunnel, we decided to start at a point just past it which made our trek about 12.6 miles. We had never actually done the entire trail so this time we wanted to do the parts that we had not done before.

The first time we did the trail, we were both on bikes. It was on Memorial Day (opening day) about 8 years ago and the temperature was 34 degrees with sleet. We both had lights on our bikes (the tunnels are not lighted), but the lights were barely adequate. As soon as we entered that first dark, wet tunnel, I started having a panic attack. Not only was my light not good, but my glasses fogged up and with not being able to see, combined with water dripping all around us, I just about lost it. As soon as we made it out to that 1.7 mile tube of darkness and Hollie saw my mental condition, he came up with a plan. We would ride slowly, with him in front and my light would focus on the reflective strip of his jacket. That worked fine---until he disappeared. I just kept going and when we got out of the tunnel, he eventually arrived. He had crashed. He was dirty, but not hurt. So, that was our first experience. We then continued down the trail for a total of 7 miles where we then took a shuttle bus back to the lower end of that 1.7 mile tunnel. We were lucky that there was a large group of riders with very good lights and they got in front of us and we made it back to the top without me having another panic attack.

A couple of years later, we were in the area and I wanted to do that tunnel again, just to prove to myself that I could. Our experience was nearly as bad, just not the same. Our plan was that I would walk that first tunnel and Hollie would drive to the next trailhead and I would run/walk down about 3-4 miles and then back up to the trailhead to meet him. Everything was going fine until I got to the trailhead where he was supposed to meet me and he was nowhere in sight. I waited and waited, not knowing what to do. I did not have my cell phone with me and we probably would have not had a signal, so I just waited. After awhile, I concluded that I just needed to wait until he showed up. There was an empty shuttle bus parked at the trailhead and I got in it to stay out of the cold and sleet. Eventually, he came walking through the tunnel. He then told me that when he had tried to drive to the trailhead, the road was blocked by a wall of snow so he had driven back up to the starting point and came walking down to find me. We then walked back through the tunnel to get to the truck. On the trail that day, we were the only peole out there.

This year’s experience was relatively uneventful. On the previous two visits, we had done that first tunnel a total of 4 times, so we figured we didn’t need to do it again, but we did want to cover the remaining 12.6 miles. Neither of us have been training for such a long run/walk, but we considered ourselves to be in good enough condition to make the distance. We did just that, with me walking and running and Hollie walking. I would run until I got to a tunnel or trestle and then I would wait for Hollie and walk some with him. I ended up running a little over 7 miles. The highlight of the trek was when we were on the highest/longest trestle (230 ft high and 850 ft long) I looked down and spotted a deer and her fawn grazing near the creek below us.

There was one strange thing that happened while we were on the trail. One of the trail monitors stopped us and wanted to know why we were not wearing helmets. I just laughed and said because we are not riding a bike. He then told us that the US Forest Service requires that everyone who uses the trail has to wear a helmet and we then had to sign a waiver. Can you imagine how funny I would have looked running down the trail, wearing a helmet? I guess this is just another case of a silly government regulation.

Once we got to the bottom, I discovered that I had lost one of our shuttle passes for the bus that would take us to the top. I had to convince the driver to let us both on the bus. 

I would highly recommend this trek. It is very beautiful and he experience of 1going through 10 unlighted tunnels and over/across 7 high trestles make it well worth the effort. As for me, I have now done the entire 15 miles (over the course of 3 visits) and I will probably not do it again. I can now mark it off my bucket list.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Whidbey to Spokane - Monday to Friday

I am way behind with this blog, mainly because we have not had internet connections for long enough time. So, this will take you from Monday, July 29 to Friday, August 2.

We were on Whidbey Island for a total of four nights, at a very nice campground. We enjoyed spending time in Oak Harbor, looking in the various shops in the historic district. The highlight was when we stumbled upon an auto restoration place. The place was also a storage facility for vehicles that they had previously restored. One was a 1958 Pink and Black Edsel station wagon that is owned by the wife of a Microsoft executive. The restoration guy told Hollie the name, but since Hollie is not “into” computers he was not impressed enough to recognize the name and relay the information to me. I am curious who owns it as the guy told me she comes down every couple of months and piles her kids into it for a drive around the area. That car was about twice as long as current autos. Interestingly, it had black red and white interior that one would have thought was not the original color combination. I asked about that and was told that everything on it was original and fully restored. It was beautiful

Monday – we left Whidbey Island. About a mile from the campground is Deception Pass and each day while we were here, every time I wanted to take pictures, we were fogged in. Sunday night I did take some, but they do not capture what had to be a very difficult engineering project. This bridge is very, very high and was built during the early 1930s.

This bridge is very narrow with a steel cable to separate auto traffic from foot traffic. Sunday morning while we were in the campground, we heard lots of sirens and observed lots of emergency vehicles passing. When I went to take the pictures, I saw evidence of some sort of crash. About half of the cable had been totally wrecked. I hope there was no one standing in the area when it happened.

Tuesday – Leavenworth, WA

Several people had told us about this place. It is a town that was once in dire economic circumstances and decided to rebuild itself in the form of a Bavarian Village. They rebuilt homes and businesses and all new construction in that design. It is hugely successful with many shops and restaurants with the Bavarian theme. The town is located on a river and is also a beehive for water sports such as swimming, tubing, rafting, fishing and other non-motor water sports.

I had been told that there was a running/walking trail that ran along the river and since the temperature was 92 when I decided to workout, I knew I needed to do one of my walk/run exploration workouts. It turned out to be very difficult since the trails were actually a maze and very hilly. I did manage to run/walk a total of about 6 miles, but I felt terrible and had to stop once and soak my head and drink water in order to cool off. Needless to say, I really did not realize how wonderful the weather had been for us as we made our way up the OR and WA coast. Leavenworth is in the hot part of WA.

This is a beautiful area, but there was a forest fire south of us and we were in the middle of that smoke which obscured the views. We did manage to find a very nice county RV park where we had electric and water and could have AC in order to cool ourselves. Here is the view from the park:

While in the park, as I was walking down to the river, I did have a very emotional experience. Near the camp host home was a very nice vegetable/flower garden with a very creative scare crow. It reminded me so much of my recently deceased friend, Mary Ruth Middlebrook. She always had such a nice garden with beautiful sunflowers.

Wednesday – Leavenworth to Spokane

The early part of the route that we took had fruit orchards all along the way. We saw peaches, grapes, cherries, apples, apricot, oranges and some other that I had never seen before---can’t recall the name. I later learned that these fruit orchards are the result of the irrigation water made available by the construction of Grand Coulee Dam. We took a side trip to see that. Having seen Hoover Dam, it was not quite as impressive.

We arrived in Spokane early enough to find a Y where we got in our workouts and showered and then found a Walmart that allowed overnight parking. That is where we have been the past two nights and will be there again tonight as we wait out the rain which we have had for the past 12-18 hours. This is the only bad weather that we have had in the entire 6 weeks that we have been on the road. It is supposed to clear in the morning and we will head over to Idaho to walk/run the Hiawatha Trail. I’ll certainly post on that when we are done.