Washington Part 3: Winthrop to Sedro Wooley

Here is the route we took over the Washington Pass on Highway 20.  We finished following the Sierra Cascades Route at Sedro Wooley near the coast of Washington.Click on the link below to see the route.  Note that the direction is wrong — we rode it from east to west.




Wonder-filled Washington: Our Route, Part 1

As I mentioned in a previous post, we are now attempting to follow the Sierra Cascades route through Washington.  Well, as Kathleen mentioned in her post, no sooner had we started on the route than we hit a roadblock:  the mountain pass we were attempting to cross, Highway 25 just east of Mt. St. Helen’s, was still blocked, so we had a 6-day detour to rejoin the highway on the northeast side of Mt. St. Helen’s.  We didn’t mind, as we met Erik, Sara, Annika and Riley, and we had an incredible ride up into the blast zone of Mt. St. Helen’s.

Visiting Mt. St. Helen’s was a moving experience for me and the family.  I was especially moved as I taught geography for 12 years, and every year I showed the movie “The Fire Below Us” to my students, which dramatizes the experiences of some of the people caught in the destruction that occurred during and after the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption of May 18, 1980.  So I knew the story quite well.  But to travel into the blast zone, and look down on the devastated area, was a moving experience.  We biked over the Toutle River, which was the sight of a massive mud, lava, water, ice, and tree flow that took out bridges and small communities.  We passed one once-beautiful A-frame house that was 3 days from completion when it was inundated in mud and buried in 6 feet of mud.  It is still there.  An incredible experience.


View route map for Washington – Sierra Cascades Detour on plotaroute.com

After Mt. St. Helen’s we headed north to highway 12, then east across White Pass, through the towns of Morton, Randle, Packwood, and Naches.  We were amazed at how the landscape went from wet forested in the west to arid and dry in the east, after we passed over the pass.  The route in general was stunning.  Wide shoulders, low traffic volume, and incredible views of the moutains.

After Naches we headed north through the Yakima River Valley, a windy road that follows the flow of the river, and a fly-fishers’ paradise.  That’s where we saw the bald eagles nesting in a high tree beside the river.

After the Yakima River Valley, we headed into Ellensburg, a nice college town with a great outdoors shop!  We were able to get the small can of fuel we needed, new bike shorts for Kathleen, and a new ultralight bucket.

End of Part 1!

Peek a Boo Mountains! Oregon and Mount Hood


The last few weeks we have spent having a joyous ride through the stunning mountains of Oregon and Washington.  Many mountain passes, snowy peaks, wonderful people, great weather (yes, really!), generally kind drivers, and great camping!  We. Love. The.  Northwest!  It seems like the mountains, the BIG mountains, are playing peekaboo with us.  We ride along in a forested area, or through fruit orchards, turn a corner and suddenly Mt. Hood sneaks into our view!!  Really fun.

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We decided on this route based on a fortuitous encounter with Carol York and Peter Fotheringham, two experienced cycle travelers living in Salmon River, Washington, but who happened to be in the bike shop in Hood River when we were there. Kathleen struck up a conversation and explained some of our challenges finding a good cycling route for our family (mainly we were/are concerned about traffic) and they suggested the Sierra Cascades Route from Adventure Cycling Association. Originally I had wanted to do this route through California, but we hesitated as it has a lot of mountain passes, climbs of over 4000 feet in elevation, and many of the passes were still snow-covered. So we chose a different route. At any rate, after talking to Carol and Peter, Carol said she’d leave the maps at the bike shop for us the next day. When I went to pick them up I found an envelope containing 2 bike maps and a highlighted state map of Washington with alternate routes and side trips! Thank you Carol! Well, the next day we headed further down the Columbia Gorge to The Dalles, and then we headed south into the mountains near Mt Hood, and ended up climbing 4000 feet on a gravel road (I swear the road looked paved in my navigation program!). Well, after doing that, then climbing even higher the next day (up to 4600 feet), Kathleen said let’s do the Sierra Cascades. So from that point onwards we decided to follow the Sierra Cascade Route. We headed back down the mountain, back to Hood River (love that town!), visited our favourite bike shops and bagel cafe, and headed back to Cascade Locks to cross the Bridge of the Gods (great name!), into Washington.  

The Bridge of the Gods from the Washington Side


And what about Washington?  Well!  You’ve read Kathleen’s posts, so you know it was amazing–I’ll explain our route in a future post!



Our Route: Menlo Park (SF) to Redding, California

Here is the route we took from Menlo Park, south of San Francisco, to Redding, California.  We took a zig-raggedy route through some beautiful areas of California, generally heading north because we knew we had to be in Portland on April 18 to meet my parents.  I planned the route to generally avoid what I thought might be dangerous narrow steep roads, and we were mostly successful at that.  The route from Santa Rosa to Petaluma turned out to be such a narrow, steep, dangerous road, and we had a person in a pickup pull over and offer us a lift, so we took it.  Also, Highway 12 between Napa and Fairfield was quite a busy and fast freeway, and not exactly fun, but it did have nice scenery and a giant shoulder so it was okay.  The Silverado Trail looks like a great route, but it is a really busy highway, although it does have a nice shoulder.

Highlights on this route included great camping at China Camp, Napa Bothe, and Solano County Park, some incredible quiet roads (especially Pleasants Valley and north of Oroville), lots of wineries, pretty mountains in Napa Valley, the Schulz Museum, and the Jelly Belly Factory.  We never did really see much of the Sierra Mountains.

The red points with no dots in them represent where we stayed each night and the green points with no dots represent some of the sites we saw.


Our Route: Santa Monica (LA) to Menlo Park (SF)

Here is the route we biked starting in West LA and biking to Menlo Park, south of San Francisco.  We started the route on March 11 and ended it on March 28, with 3 rest days.  This was a beautiful route, with some challenges.  Lots of great scenery through the Big Sur region, but also heavy traffic and narrow roads around Malibu and Big Sur.  Many fantastic towns and cities were visited, and overall we had a great time.  The wind, generally from the north, was difficult at times but not unmanageable.  There were a lot of hills around Big Sur, but relatively flat through other parts (with some exceptions).


Fixing gear in Joshua Tree

It’s such a great feeling to get things fixed.
We had awesome luck in the town of Joshua Tree finding the few bits of gear we needed to replace and getting other stuff repaired.
Derek found a wind guard for our stove after the original blew away in a windstorm in Anza Borrego Park. He also found a replacement mini can opener after we lost one we had.
I was able to get my back wheel assessed at the local bike shop. For the past few weeks my bike has been making a lot of noise. We were pretty sure it was coming from the spokes, so Derek tightened and oiled them on both the front and back wheel. But when the sound didn’t go away, we were wondering if there was something more serious wrong with the wheel.
The mechanic listened to me ride around the parking lot, then checked all the spokes and confirmed that the hub was great and we just needed to add more lube to the joints where the spokes meet – as you might imagine it’s pretty dry in the desert.
It’s always nice to know your bike is in good shape and reassuring for Derek to know that he had correctly identified the source of the bike’s song.
We stopped by the outfitter’s and got our tent’s zipper repaired (in just 20 minutes) for just $5! Amazing.

But the most amazing stop was the post office where Derek picked up the new sleeping quilt he had shipped from Jacks R Better, a small American company with products sewn in the U.S. Weighing in at just over a pound, and full of light, fluffy down, we’re all hoping it keeps him warmer than his old summer bag/lining combo. As you can see, it doubles as a fashionable poncho!
It’s great to get all these errands done in a small town where the next store is just down the street.
We then spent a fantastic night with Warm Showers hosts Dan, a former climbing instructor who is now a helicopter paramedic and Cindy, an environmental teacher with a passion for preserving desert habitat.
These fun bike travellers have taken a number of trips on the west coast and loved riding there. We shared stories, enjoyed their stunning desert

view and their delightful outdoor shower that drains grey water into their garden, drank fabulous coffee, listened to Dan play his didgeridoo and heard about their hiking adventures with their daughter when she was just starting out.
The next morning we heard about their solar panels and swamp pump cooling system. And joined Cindy on her weekly trip to the Farmer’s Market. It’s inspiring to learn from folks whose lives reflect their values .
The kids, who have been trying hard to share a single copy of the 4th Harry Potter book that I picked up for them at a book swap, were over the moon when Dan lent them a second copy of the same book. We didn’t hear much from either of them after that.
Derek rented a car and we were ready to ride through Death Valley to pick up the one and only Grandma Barbara in Las Vegas!

Together we’ll share a week traveling through Utah, visiting beautiful parks and catching up with each other. We can’t wait!

All the best,


Back into the land of Dr. Seuss trees

We love Joshua Tree National Park! And we’re so glad we returned after refuelling and relaxing in the little town of Twenty Nine Palms.
 On our way up to the park we bought a 5 gallon garafon that we’d fill at the Visitor Centre.

The night before, Derek and Anna Sierra went grocery shopping and picked up all kinds of delicious, healthy food including honey.

The plan was to ride to the Visitor Centre and see if we could meet another camper heading to Jumbo Rocks who wouldn’t mind carrying out water and extra food up to the campground for us so that we could manage the ascent.
Back in Ottawa, when we ski into a cabin for an overnight with friends, there are a number of parks – like Gatineau and Papineau Labelle – where you can pay a fee per bag (usually $25) to have your supplies delivered to the cabin by snowmobile.
In the Grand Canyon you can also get bags brought down to the campgrounds by mule train for a fee. We had been hoping to find something like this in Joshua Tree, that would make it easier to enjoy the park and stay overnight without a personal motorized vehicle, but hadn’t.
One of the more inspiring sustainable transportation initiatives I’ve seen in the last few years is Park Bus, an initiative from Toronto’s Transportation Options. This is a bus service that started by picking folks up (along with their camping equipment) in downtown Toronto and makes several stops in Algonquin Park.
After the first wildly successful season of car free camping, the service expanded to other parks and began partnering with MEC so beginner campers could learn how to use a stove, set up a tent and other camping basics. Within the park there are food lockers so chipmunks won’t get into food not stored In a trunk. And you can arrange to rent a canoe or kayak and have it delivered to your campsite, further eliminating the need for a personal vehicle. A few summers ago, I took the service from Ottawa to Algonquin Park and was able to bring my bike under the bus.
Even though there’s not a Park Bus in Joshua Tree, we were pretty confident we could have a great time returning for another few days with some help from friendly fellow visitors. As soon as we’d filled all our bottles, Jasper started asking people admiring our bikes if they were going into the park or out of the park. The second group he spoke with said they were going into the park and past Jumbo Rocks and agreed to deliver our water and food to the first picnic table they found, so we loaded the supplies into their trunk and started up the hill.

 The ride was lovely! There was a slight tailwind and the climb, though steady, was at a very manageable grade. Psychologically, I think we also found it easier knowing we were goi g to be climbing the whole ride. So as we rounded corners we wouldn’t be hoping to see the route level off or go downhill.
Before we knew it we were passing Skull Rock and then arriving at Jumbo Rocks where our food and water were waiting in the shade on a picnic table!
The kids started clambering over the rocks right away. Covered with a stucco-like surface of grippy pebbles, you really feel like Spiderman as you climb up and over steep slopes easily. I loved setting up our sage green tent in a nook between two giant rocks while listening to the kids’ voices echo off the rocks as they found trails high above us.
The next day after a leisurely breakfast, we biked over to Ryan Mountain for one of the park’s most iconic hikes. The views all the way to the peak were spectacular! Anna Sierra picked the hike and it was beautiful.
The kids love the freedom of hiking on ahead, chatting, meeting other hikers and waiting for us every once in a while. It’s a lovely change – especially for Jasper who is on the tandem with Derek – from biking where we need to be more mindful of traffic and the kids stick closer to us.
The day finished with Derek and I going to bed at 7:30 and the kids heading off in the dark with a headlamp for light and a sleeping bag for warmth to listen to a Ranger talk about the desert tortoise.
People often ask us if the kids are being homeschooled. We may not be following the curriculum very closely but those kids never miss an opportunity to learn. Whether it’s building a fire (Jasper), reading a map (both kids), meal planning (Anna Sierra), natural history and geography, Spanish and French (both kids), or all the social skills involved in meeting new people, they’re so eager to master the skills and stretch themselves. I’m learning that as well as teaching them, we need to get out of their way so they have room to practice.
Sending best wishes from the desert!


P.S. We have just heard that there’s going to be a new tracked cross country ski path along the Ottawa River that is about a 20 minute walk from our house! Pretty exciting news! We can’t wait to try it out next winter.