John Wayne Pioneer Trail Day 5: Marengo to Tekoa 10-22-15

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Day 5.  Marengo to Tekoa.

Our last and longest day.  What a journey this day was.  Such a beautiful area.  It quickly became my favorite area of the trip and worth keeping in mind another overnight trip heading west on the trail out of Tekoa for an overnighter.

We left camp at 8am rode a really cool elevated dirt railway bed.  Seemed crazy how that was ever made.

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Hmm. I do need some new boots!

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Hard to see in this pic but the railway is elevated about 20 feet or more over the surrounding land. Must have been a boggy marsh or something back when it was constructed.

Saw an owl getting chassed out by a few hawks and got some Gopro footage of it hopefully that turned out.  We came across a very old fence that was covered in tumble weeds and looked like it hadn’t been moved in years.

20151022_084835D Felt very wild wild west right here.  We had also encountered a locked gate with a padlock that we had to climb over.  Turns out State Parks padlocks some of the gates instead of combos and you have to request a key…wawawa.   I read that in my “Eastern State Parks” permit info.  Which is another story in its own I’ll discuss in a later post.  The DNR combo we got didn’t work.  Oh well….arms still felt fine so no biggie.
A bit down the trail we encountered another rail trail that we noticed looking up at the bridge and noticing there were no tracks on it.
20151022_094059E 20151022_094728F 20151022_094751G 20151022_094839H 20151022_094910I 20151022_095017J  It is listed on my Delorme map as the Fish Lake Trail.  But this is the unfinished sections way south of Cheney and I also see it listed as the Columbia Plateau Trail.  But the cool thing is that is goes 10 miles down to Benge and heading north it goes all the way to Cheney.  I wonder if one could just ride into Benge and then up the old Railway Fish Lake Trail back to the John Wayne?  Hmmmmm.   Rock may be very rough though and just not worth it yet, but an option for a longer southern Cow Creek detour”.  It’s also a good spot to head north to Spokane if you are taking the train back to Seattle.  However, read ahead.  You do NOT want to miss the trail from here to Tekoa.
(FYI, the train for Seattle leaves Spokane at 230 AM every day.  Yikes)

From there we continued on riding some more on the elevated railway part.

20151022_100407K We eventually came up to a real pretty area that had some nice irrigated farms, cows and our first signs of trees again.
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Looks like your standard grove of trees but was our first sign of trees for over a hundred miles so it was pretty neat.

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The trail east of Lind is all posted NO CAMPING but Parks specifically told me that it’s OK provided you leave no trace and respect boundaries. No problem!

20151022_102402M 20151022_105631O 20151022_112435PWe saw some hunters out driving their horse trailer setups around.  In the distance we could see towering basalt rock towers.   They were super cool and really made me feel like I was in Ea Wa, but felt like Utah or something.  Lots of nice trail here.  We crossed a cool old bridge that appeared to be newer.

20151022_114406R 20151022_114746S 20151022_115151T 20151022_115206U 20151022_115418V 20151022_115433WJust over our left side we saw a coyote running off and a deer standing in a nearby pond below us shivering.   I think we interrupted the coyotes dinner….
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After 25 miles from Marengo we entered the small town of Ewan where we ran into a nice fella driving around on his 4 wheeler out looking for deer.   He was super talkative and gave us some beta on the area.  We asked him how many people lived in town and he started pointing and counting…was so funny. Totaled somewhere around 20 🙂
20151022_115726Y 20151022_122026Z Ewan would be a safe place to knock on a door and ask to use their hose for water.   This was also the start of our Rock Lake detour.  This part confuses me.  I see all these pics of people riding in the Rock Lake area but we took the listed detour and never saw the lake.  Turns out you can ride the entire section of trail by Rock Lake.  Many riders have done it with no issue.  Some rock fall to go around by the tunnel but otherwise uneventful and no landowner conflict with cyclists.  A small sliver in the middle is private property but have been told the landowner is OK with cyclist.  They just don’t want people driving on the trail there.  Again, another reason to go back. The marked detour however was beautiful.   Rolling hills of amber and nice views.  Zero traffic.   BUT, it was SUPER hilly.   Damn thing was like the Alpe D’huez of gravel and grain.
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We got down to the northeast end of Rock Lake and that’s when we had to make a call.   Go on and finish this thing or camp somewhere.   We quickly and smugly decided we had it.  We had already ridden nearly 26 miles and we were making OK time.  It was another 31 miles to Rosalia where we had another quick detour. (There is a restaurant in Rosalia)  I was starting to hit the wall at this point because the ride from Pine Creek at the end of Rock Lake to Rosalia was really rough. Possible water in the grain silo in Pine City.  The rock ballast takes it out of ya over a bunch of miles but had some pretty sections of trees.  It’s a pretty part of the trail though because it crosses over Pine Creek a lot and the wood trestles were really cool.  They were banked up on both sides and almost felt like an old board track.

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The end of our day was a bit of a blurr.  We rode through the sunset on some pretty nice downhill trail and spirits lifted a bit (even though they were never low).  We had been riding all day and it was getting super cold.

20151022_172444AK 20151022_172948ALWe also had to ride with only one light on at a time because I forgot to charge Chris’ light earlier since my battery pack had finally died.  It’s hard to ride with one light and swerve around rocks while keeping the trail light for the other guy.   All was going OK until we came up to the “Marsh” Lone Pine detour.  It looked innocent enough from the map.  We got pretty deep into it and the grasses were way over our head and it was dark and cold.  We decided to jump out of it and up onto an adjacent road.  This was where I though it would be fun to fall in up to my knees in the mush.  I was pretty much a Popsicle at this point and everything south of the border was going numb.  Not fun.  We also decided to just stay on the road into town.  This also turned out to be a bad call due to all the climbing involved lol.  Yikes.  But eventually we were rolling over the last hills and could see our comrades off in the distance.  Was a cool feeling to know we were about done.  Dave Nelson came down from Spokane and greeted us along with Chris.  Some beers and stories were shared then we immediately hit the road back to Leavenworth.

Somewhat anticlimactic but hey what are you gonna do haha.   We arrived back in town at 1am to a warm shower and a nice soak in the hot tub in the morning.  Life we feeling pretty good!  Thanks again Woji for the hospitality!

Total:

  • Marengo to Ewan          =26
  • Ewan to Rosalia            =31
  • Rosalia to Tekoa           =19
  • Total:  76 miles and 14 hrs of ride time
  • (7:45am to 9:30pm)

Total trip mileage was right at around 300 and nearly 50 hours of riding time.  The entire eastern section is super pretty and a very unique way to see our state that you won’t see if driving I90.

Thanks for following along.  I plan on posting on a “cliff notes” version of the ride info and my gear as well if you really want to suffer the details 🙂

Read about Day 1 here Day 2 here Day 3 here Day 4 here

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

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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.

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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…

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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.
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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.

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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.
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Goodbye,Lind. Thanks for the hospitality!

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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.
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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.

Totals:

  • 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