Day two’s goal was to get through the Cascade Mountain range. My plan was to use the John Wayne bike trail, which was once the train tracks that cut through the Cascades. This bike trail has a two mile long tunnel through the mountains, which I thought would be “easier” than pedaling over.
To steal from Dickens’ “A tale of two cities,” the ride was the best of times and the worst of times. The motel I stayed in was a half-hour pedal outside of North Bend, Washington. My mapping software suggested a “short cut.” Instead of pedaling all the way back into town and getting on the rail-trail, I could go do another “short walk in the woods” to avoid back tracking.
The short walk turned out to be a multi-mile wilderness experience where I carried my bike up the side of a mountain. It took an hour and half going up a trail that I couldn’t have done even on a mountain bike (biking was prohibited on the trail and it had a number of fallen trees covering the path plus stairs).
When I made it to the top I was in for a surprise. They were running a marathon down the trail I was going up. Fast runners would even qualify for the Boston Marathon! The rail-trail went over a number of beautiful trestle bridges before getting to a 2 mile long tunnel.
The tunnel felt like a nightmare. It was totally dark except for my headlight. I kept pedaling and since the scenery didn’t change it was like running in place. Plus, I passed two guys in the tunnel and they were huffing and puffing behind me. It all added up to a nightmare scenario. People chasing me in a dark tunnel that never seemed to end.
After the tunnel the rail-trail alternated between amazing and awful. Parts had miles of fresh, thick gravel which was like biking through quicksand that was trying to flip me over. I almost wiped out at least a dozen times. Parts had great scenery and a hard packed surface where I could make good time, except for the constantly jarring from the uneven surface. You don’t have to worry about cars and trucks on a rail trail, but the bike and I took a pounding.
The last part of the ride from Cle Elum to Ellensburg was amazing. I took state highway 10 most of the way. There was a strong tailwind the entire way. The road was in good shape and the drivers all gave me a wide berth. I hit 40 mph on one of the downhills coming out of the Cascades.