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

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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….

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Still climbing…selfie time

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

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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 http://26inchslicks.blogspot.com/2012/05/recon-marathon.html  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 🙂
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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 🙂
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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.
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The night was quiet, cold and clear.

Totals:

  • 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

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Randy negotiating the rockfall at Boylston.

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Looking east. I never got tired of these cuts.

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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.

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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 🙂

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Our first view of the Columbia River.

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Wanapum Dam

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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.

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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.

Totals:

  • 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