John Wayne Pioneer Trail Day 4: Warden to Marengo 10-21-15


Day 4.  Warden to Marengo.

We were really starting to feel it a bit day 4.  Me maybe more than Randy.  Those hills on the detours took it out of me a little but I still had gas in the tank somehow.   We got up and moving around 6 am but it still took us until 7:45 to hit the road.  Cold mornings will do that to you.  We wake up and start coffee in our tents and sit in our bags organizing gear until some sunshine. Beautiful dark morning with stars along with the sunrise.  Got some cool pics of Randy’s tent illuminated next to the sunrise and stars.


Captured here by total accident is a planet formation called the Planetary Trio. It can only been seen every handful of years at this exact time in the morning. So cool! You can see Mercury down on the very bottom left too…


Got rolling and immediately and hit some goat head thorns again but they were pretty uneventful and probably picked up most of them leaving town anyway so no worry ahead of us.  Heading to Lind we had a pretty good headwind but it was such a nice morning that it didn’t bother us much.  23 miles into Lind.  It’s pretty dry out here so make sure you have a lot of water along the way.

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20151021_092323I20151021_085815This is also where we found a sweet Barbie big wheel on the trail and took turns modeling on it.

20151021_092016H  We finally encountered our first DNR locked combo gate on the way (which I had the combo for).  I was quite excited.  Come to find out, we’d only encounter ONE other one in the DNR area.  Right after the gate we would ride this really rural and remote section that had a lot of old bridge ride arounds, some of them FILLED with tumble weeds galore, so thick you could almost walk over them.  We had a stiff headwind down into Lind.

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Yes this IS the trail haha

This section of trail was another super pretty section and not a soul around.  We had a big partly sunny sky which was nice because if it was totally clear it would’ve been pretty hot.

20151021_100619Q 20151021_101155 20151021_101639SEntering Lind, there is a short detour.  You can take the pavement into town right off the trail.  It’s a short easy downhill reroute right to the edge of town.  The trail is detoured due to a large trestle that is down.  Next time I’ll go up to it and get some better pictures.

Lind was a cool little town.  It had plenty of services, including Jim’s Market where we loaded up on you guessed it, water and chicken fingers and corn dogs.  By this time in the trip, I was also looking around the aisles for other things we may need or stuff I forgot that could come in handy.  A double pack of cheese danishes was in order.

It was there that we met an older fella named Bill Wilcox (I believe that was his name).  He had lived there since the 50s.  He took a liking to us and gave us all kinds of great info. The town of Lind basically slowed down after the nearby highway was put in.  You could see tons of evidence of a once booming little town that has been left in stages of decay.  Sad, yet interesting as I love old history and to see it in person is always neat to me.
Lind we learned is also the home of the Combine Demolition Derby, seen on the Discovery Channel I guess.

Goodbye,Lind. Thanks for the hospitality!


The “Honey Bucket”…nice.

Next up was heading out on the very rough surface for 12 or so miles to Ralston.  You start out with having to do detour under the highway via a series of tunnels and then up a steep grade on the other side.  I walked it.
20151021_130512ABOne fella named the area “The Rubicon”.  The rock ballast is super big and rough.
20151021_134712AC 20151021_141321AD 20151021_141452AE 20151021_144345AF Once we got near Ralston we decided to try the “south detour” around the Cow Creek trestle that was over private property which you do not want to enter.  It was about 9.5 miles to a road we saw on google earth listed as Marengo Rd.  Looked legit, Satellite preview showed it clear going by zero homes or buildings. This road had been previously blogged about too but I was a little unsure of that persons outcome.  The short detour around Ralston was pretty in it’s own way.  Lots of rolling hills of amber.  However, I think next time I’d just continue down into Ralston where you decide what kind of Cow Creek detour you want and resupply with water at the memorial park there in town.
20151021_145938AH 20151021_145953AIWhen we arrived at Cow Creek, we noticed the infamous train tracks that Pat and his buddy walked.  We knew we were close to our gate.
20151021_154950AJ 20151021_155120AK 20151021_155127ALThis area was really cool with all the basalt towers and blue sky.  It reminded me a tad of Utah.  Once we arrived at our road we were greeted with our fear.  A gated and locked road.  There is no way to determine this in advance with google earth.  It looked clean and clear and free of any private buildings via satellite but no go.
Previous evidence of “No Trespassing” signs.  We were pretty bummed.
20151021_161714AM Our only other next option would have been to just walk up the railroad tracks to Marengo.  That was doable but we opted for the shuttle since we wanted to see what the ride around from Benge would be like.  Well it would’ve made for a VERY long day…super hilly and long, 16 miles or so. Chris had come back from his short trip back home and met up with us to film some drone shots so a ride from him allowed us enough time in the day to view the south detour to Benge.
  So back on Marengo Rd and in Marengo we parked the truck and road up the trail a bit.  Chris camped with us that evening and shot some more video.   The active railway was out in the distance but with ear plugs in they didn’t bother me at all.  The only worry was someone going to bother with Chris’ truck in the middle of the night.   His truck was fine.  The only thing messing with his truck were my sweaty gloves I forget in there….
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The official detour around Cow Creek is going up to Ritzville which is around 25 miles of pavement again on a busy road. There may have been a shorter north detour but you just never know if those roads will be gated and locked and at that part of the day you just need a sure thing.  Backtracking stinks.
  I think next time we both decided we’d just walk the tracks from the south side unless we needed resupply in town but Lind wasn’t too far away and there is water at the Memorial park in Ralston if you need it.   I’m still happy we tired it.  We just added ourselves to the list of people who’ve been burned by the infamous Cow Creek.
I’d love to learn more about which roads you can and can’t legally travel on out there.  Our intention was not to trespass or be a problem so we chose the safe options,although not as fun for sure.
*Some after the trip research showed that the farmers may lock those gates to keep people from driving on the road and dumping garbage on their land which runs on both sides of the road that basically only goes through their property which really no one would really travel on.  The state probably doesn’t care because it’s one less road to “maintain”, or one less call from an angry land owner who’s had garbage dumped?  Another possible route from E Ralston-Benge Rd is to head another half mile east on the road where you’ll find the “unimproved” dirt road that heads north.  (This road is actually on the WA Gazetteer).  Just be careful if they are irrigating the fields…you may get soaked and stuck in mud. 
After that, E Ralston-Benge Rd heads due south so really no other options.  However I’d suggest sticking closer to the original posted detour for a sure thing.
Some Day in the future we may be able to link up the Columbia Plateau Trail out of Benge and take that up to where it intersects the JWPT.


  • Warden to Lind                                      =23 miles
  • Lind to Ralston                                      =12 miles
  • Ralston to N. Marengo Rd                    =9.5 miles
  • Tracks or dirt road to Marengo            =4 miles
  • Day total: 46 miles and 7hrs of ride time
  • (7:45-4)

Follow along on the rest of the trip:

Read about Day 1 here, Day 2 here, Day 3 here

John Wayne Pioneer Trail Day 3: Columbia River (Beverly) to Warden 10-20-15

Day 3 started off with a nice clear morning at our campsite on the trail 2 miles east of Beverly.  It was our first night camping there in Beverly and felt kind of weird camping on the trail (which is totally legal) but you’re right next to someone’s private property so I slept a bit off.
We were able to get a little earlier start and on the trail by 8.
20151020_073432A  The trail here is quite pretty with a long high ridge of peaks to our right.  About 2 miles from town we came upon a parking lot and toilet.  Moving on we came across another parking lot about 4 miles out that was for Lenice Lake.  Both of these spots look good for camping.  Much better than what we chose and the toilet would’ve been a nice addition to camp.  Lesson learned there.
20151020_084457B 20151020_084635CThis area is called Lower Crab Creek.  It’s super pretty and full of ponds and swamps and streams.  Great place to day ride out of or do a beginner bike pack trip.   I also hear the Beverly Dunes area nearby but I’ve yet to look into that for fatbiking.

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The only wet spot on the entire first 200 miles and Randy’s chain broke…right in ankle high mush lol….


A lot of gates were just like this. Easy to get around.

Traveling on, we arrived at the infamous “Smyrna” area.  An old railway stop but not an actual town.  This was where we’d be attacked by hundreds of goat head thorns.  These things are serious.  Hard as a rock and sharp as a razor.   We had hundreds in each tire in just a few hundred feet of riding.

20151020_095849K 20151020_100007LThankfully we were both running tubeless wheels and plenty of Stans liquid latex sealant.  We didn’t flat thankfully.  We were surrounded by millions of them and we came out victorious.  Sparta!!!!  There was a moment though when we both thought, man this is gonna be rough if we have to continue on the trail.  But in Smyrna there is another detour. The start of a very long detour off the trail.  Our version had more pavement in it though by accident.

It’s also here where we goofed up and misread our maps and ended up going the wrong way…for a long way haha.  Instead of continuing east on Crab Creek Rd we took our turn up to Hwy 26, just like the DNR maps says (In their defense I just didn’t know how to read a map haha).   This sent us through some farms and up over a small pass.  The good was that we ended up at a Shell station full of hot fried food where we reloaded on chicken fingers and hot dogs and yup, more Gatorade.  The downside was that we took Hwy 26 all the way to Othello which was a drag.  It has a huge shoulder but still loud and just a drag.  Don’t do what we did unless you need corn dogs BAD.


The super pretty view just before our big big map mistake. Seriously, this area is insanely pretty.


This is a section of the railroad that must have been some addition that ran north and still had the track on it but appeared abandoned. Oh, and if you see this cool bridge, turn around. You’ve gone too far!



Randy leading out up the pass. Off to our left you can’t see it but there is a stream there and we saw two different Herons hunting.



Taking a quick break before continuing on up the road. That semi up ahead was one of the contributors to “onion road” that you’ll read about.


Still climbing…selfie time


The only perk of our mistake…..chicken fingers and hotdogs lol


For reference, when you leave Smyrna, you want to get on Crab Creek Rd and head straight east where it connects with 17 and then Rd E SW.  When Rd E SW bends and heads due north at the intersection you want to continue on Crab Creek Rd which will take you all the way to Gillis Rd and then hwy 26, some 20 miles.  It runs parallel to the rail and highway so easy to find if you’re looking for it.  We missed a lot of stuff on this section.  Kind of disappointed about that but leaves something for next time!  Total mileage to Othello is around 26 miles from Smyrna.  This reroute exists due to the fact that the trails are still in place the entire way from Smyrna to Warden.  Word is this section was bought by some other rail company but was never used.  This is called “railbanking”.  All I saw was a sweet path for a rail bike conversion 🙂

Riding up the road I was fighting some serious shifting issues and stopped a few times.  Too tired to fuss with it I just kept on because Randy was really pulling away from me.  Just before Othello he pulled over in a shady spot and when I l set my bike down I noticed a chain link was coming undone.  Quickly fixed that and we were on our way again.   Earlier, Randy had broke his chain so we were one for one 🙂

Othello is a full service town and may even have a hotel. Camping in this section is debatable.  You might be able to find some quiet spots along the Crab Creek rd section other than that you’d need to ride from Beverly to Warden.
We loaded up with water again and Randy bought us some Snickers ice cream bars….mmmmm.  From Othello you head north up to Warden.  All pavement.
On a side note, our friend Pat mapped out a nice route that follows the canal from Othello to Warden.  You can read about it here  I know I’ll check that out next time.  This whole time from Smyrna we’d been seeing onions all over the road.  We named the detour “Onion Road”.  Seriously….how hard is it to tarp your trucks? And why couldn’t they be mangos instead 🙂
We arrived in Warden around 5pm after a very hilly detour up from Othello.  Seriously, all these detours are hilly!  Like a thousand feet of climbing on each one.  So be prepared for that.  It’s 15 miles from Othello to Warden.  Along the way we saw a coyote hanging out along the side of the road.  Randy scared it away when he barked at it 🙂
When we arrived in Warden, there was an obvious stink and it wasn’t us for once.  Apparently the town has some smelly byproduct waste smell from reconditioning industrial waste water.  (I had to google “Warden smell” and got that in about 1 second lol).  But there we grabbed the towns coldest beers and headed out on the trail a mile or so and set up camp again.
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We had a nice quiet evening cooking or first backpacker meal, drinking our PBR’s in Ward’s honor (in Ward-en) and looking at the stars.  We even saw the International Space Station briefly thanks to Ward’s heads up.

The night was quiet, cold and clear.


  • Beverly to Smyrna        =14 miles
  • Smyrna to Othello        =27 mies
  • Othello to Warden        =15 miles 
  • Day Total:  56 miles and 9hrs of ride time including breaks
  • (8am-6pm)

Follow along on the rest of the trip:

Read about Day 1 here, Day 2 here, Day 4 here