John Wayne Pioneer Trail Day 2: Cle Elum to Columbia River 10-19-15


Day 2 goal was to get from Cle Elum to the Columbia River.  This was a tricky day because we knew you can’t cross the Columbia River on the rail trail due to the bridge being locked, gated and full of barbed wire.  It’s too unsafe to cross due to about 200′ of fire damage to the trestle ties.  Man it would be nice if they would put some money into renovating that bridge.  The alternative is to ride up to Vantage and cross the I90 bridge, about a 15 mile detour.  The bridge was under construction and down to one lane so trying to cross was not really an option.   We didn’t want to hold up 80 mph traffic while trying to ride up hill totally gassed with no shoulder.  I love my life too much to be stupid.  Our guardian angel Chris picked us up and shuttled us around.

For future reference though if you wanted a very long self supported day, you could ride from Cle Elum or Ellensburg and drop down out of the Yakima Training Center, head north up to Vantage to eat a hot meal and resupply with water and camp at the state park.  There you could get a 4am start and cross the bridge in a quiet gap in the traffic.  But from there you have a long hilly no shoulder ride up and down to Beverly.

Let’s get back to the day though.  We started out with a nice send off from Steve when he left for work and then breakfast by Meg.  Blueberry muffins, bacon and hot coffee.  What’s not to like there?  We collected all our clothes we had drying all over the house and Chris shuttled us back to where we left the trail in Cle Elum at the train depot around 9am.

While packing up some of our last items into Chris’ truck I heard some distress from Randy. He was sent to his knees while loading up the truck and thought he had blown out his back!  He immediately went in the house and to the floor.  We thought the trip may be over.  Thankfully some stretching and perseverance got him loaded up and back on the road.  I never heard much more about it the rest of the trip.  Tough dude that Randy.


We started out damp. I even had mud in my coffee cup…ouch haha


Mom and Pop Sasquatch here! Just out for a stroll….


This picture of the Yakima River canyon does not do it any justice. What a pretty area.

We traveled along hwy 10 and got a preview of the Yakima river canyon.  We were so glad we didn’t try to push this at night as it’s super pretty.  20151019_094506D   Along the way you hit Thorp.  4 miles from Cle Elum too there is some camping and toilets but I don’t specifically recall where that was.  Will have to look on google earth.  4 miles east of Cle Elum though.  You can resupply with snack and fruit at Thorp Fruit if you want.  We chose the gas station hotdogs and Gatorade…mmmm.  It was nearby where I picked up the horseshoe pictured on my front bag.  The trail is pretty flat and ends up running along the Yakima river heading into Ellensburg where you can resupply once again.  The trail was full of leaves and fall colors.

20151019_093156CThere are a couple of spots to quietly camp if you chose along the way but I’ll leave that up to you.

20151019_101635FMake sure you’re there when it’s clear and not foggy or dark.  After 9 miles you end up in Ellensburg where you have to ride through town a bit before reconnecting with the trail.  Good time to buy your sunscreen, and ear plugs 🙂

Next up there is a reroute you have to do because the bridge over I90 is not rideable.  This is just past Kitatas, 7 miles east of Ellensburg.  The only way around this is to trespass (we assumed) by a water dept area.  Kinda questionable…so we didn’t take chances and followed the posted reroute to the south along the highway.  It was our first pavement reroute with some hills.


Bridge over I90. Our first large trestle detour.

From there we started the beginning of the newly reopened Yakima Training Center.  A lot of the bridges were burned out in last years fires and the Army rebuilt the bridges into land bridges.  This area is a huge place in the desert where the army practices blowing stuff up.


Lots of rules and regs. You are entering a live Army firing range and training center!

Starting off the trail was super torn up from horses.  It killed our spirits a bit for 3 or 4 miles but it was worth it in the end.   We saw a group of Army vehicles out in some type of training.  I wonder if they saw us and were sighting us in?  🙂

20151019_145123JAlong the way we could hear this loud buzzing/rumble.  Turned out to be the wind blowing over the large solar panels that were posted along the trail.  I swore there was a tank following us.   We then arrived at another “recommended detour” around the Boylston Tunnel but we opted to check it out.   This was really our first feeling of “adventure”.  The tunnel turned out fine and neither of us were struck by falling rocks or attacked by bats.  Coming out of the tunnel we had some very heavy over growth and some swampy parts.  Quite different than what we have had up to this point.


Randy negotiating the rockfall at Boylston.


Looking east. I never got tired of these cuts.


The nav center.

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Next up was a very long and remote descent into the Columbia river valley.   The wind was insane there in some spots but we were still pointed downhill.  At one point I swore I was in a mini tornado.  One minute the wind was blowing south,north and east all at the same time haha.  It was a very cool area, quite remote feeling.  It was a good taste of what we were about to experience.


Pretty remote feeling out here.

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We passed the Wanapum Dam along the way to the bottom.  I had contacted Grant County PUD to see if there was a way to get an escort over the dam but they though I was crazy.  I read that it had been done so why not try? Throw us on the school bus tour, anything to not have to ride I90 over the river.   I got zero response, which didn’t surprise me.  This was the same dam that cracked and caused the entire Columbia to be drained way down and closed last year so I’m guessing they were a bit busy 🙂


Our first view of the Columbia River.


Wanapum Dam


We popped out down by the West end of the old train trestle bridge.  It was here where we took our shuttle up and round to the other side of the river by Chris.   He dropped us off and we loaded up with water and food.   There is a gas station in Beverly though if you need one.   The bridge is tightly gated with barbed wire.  Unless you’re a squirrel, you are not getting a bike over easily.


Locked tight! The full picture would’ve shown barbed wire up and all around the thing and it’s about 20 feet off the ground so no squirreling around.

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Someday I’d love to stash pack rafts and raft over.  There are a few spots where the river is only a few hundred feet wide and calm.

We ended the day by riding east on the trail a few miles and just camped on the trail.  It was near some farmers property and we slept a bit tense not knowing if anyone would bother us.


  • Cle Elum to Thorp              =18
  • Thorp to Ellensburg           =9
  • Ellensburg to Kititas          =7
  • Kititas to I90 bridge YTC   =5
  • YTC to Columbia                =20
  • Day total: 63 miles and 9.5 hrs of ride time including breaks and shuttle over bridge
  • (9am-6:30)

Follow along on the rest of the trip:

Read about Day 1 here, Day 3 here, Day 4 here


4 thoughts on “John Wayne Pioneer Trail Day 2: Cle Elum to Columbia River 10-19-15

    • Not really other than Rock Lake. That would be cool! I’d carry a UL raft and paddle for those two sections though, the Columbia and Rock Lake. In the summer I bet you could ditch the tent and use the raft as a lean-to and the paddle sections as the end posts. Just a thought though on how to justify carrying it for 300 miles.


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