Mt Rainier by bike!

Yesterday’s ride was amazing! Biking up to Sunrise and Chinook Pass was so much fun, and stunningly beautiful. I want to go do it again!

At the last minute, my dad ending up signing up for the trip too, so the three of us got started first thing in the morning–judging by the traffic, a lot of people were still sleeping off their 4th of July parties…

(And for the record, even though it was super-fun to have my dad along, and I’m really glad he joined us, one has to wonder… Someone calls you up, and in the course of conversation mentions that because she is either stupid or a glutton for punishment or both, she is going to spend the next day–on a holiday weekend–riding up mountains. And instead of wishing her well and going on at length about the lazy morning you are planning, involving sleeping in, coffee, and a delicious breakfast, you say “sounds fun!” and join in. I am a little worried that I have inherited some questionable DNA here…)

Anyway. We started at Crystal Mountain Boulevard, and immediately headed uphill. There was a little downhill to the National Park entrance (bad… it’s elevation that we just have to re-climb), and then just steadily up from 3700′ to 6400′ at the Sunrise Visitor’s Center, the highest paved road in the state. It’s a nice climb–in the woods for the first part, and then the trees start to thin, and you start getting glimpses of the surrounding mountains–and their peaks are at eye level… Though constantly uphill, it’s not outrageously steep–I didn’t need my easiest gear, and felt very comfortable climbing the whole way.

View from Sunrise Point, 6100'

View from Sunrise Point, 6100′

We weren't the only ones biking up to Sunrise!

We weren’t the only ones biking up to Sunrise!

The last stretch towards the Visitor’s Center has you staring straight at the giant, so-close-you-could-touch-it summit of Mt Rainier. Though I still don’t have any interest in climbing it, seeing the mountain like that made me start to understand those who do.

We enjoyed lunch at the Visitor’s Center, and then headed back down for a super fun descent. Since it wasn’t overly steep, I didn’t feel like I had to ride the brakes (the steeper it is, the slower I tend to descend, as your speed can get away from you very quickly. Plus, it’s freaky-feeling to be pitched headfirst down a 15 or 20% slope…) Plus there were great swoopy bends in the road–not difficult, technical corners, just fun curves to lean into.

All bundled up for the descent from Sunrise. That cloud-shrouded looming presence in the background? Mt Rainier. It's really big!

All bundled up for the descent from Sunrise. That cloud-shrouded looming presence in the background? Mt Rainier. It’s really big…

Then, Chinook Pass (via Cayuse). I had been up Cayuse Pass two years ago, on an out-and-back from Enumclaw. It was my first time up a mountain, and I was pretty shattered at the end of the day. Granted, this time we were starting from partway up the climb (but after climbing several thousand feet to Sunrise), and it felt so much easier.

Up to Cayuse is a pretty steady climb, in the trees for the most part. Then you make the turn to go up to Chinook Pass, and suddenly this vista opens up as you go through a couple long switchbacks, with a view so silly amazing I was almost giggling. No photos of that bit–go see it for yourself.

At the top of Chinook Pass. Behind us, the road slopes down to Eastern Washington.

At the top of Chinook Pass. Behind us, the road slopes down to Eastern Washington.

From there it was all downhill–no more pedaling needed! After the Chinook Pass switchbacks, the road is pretty straight, and my speed didn’t drop below 30 mph until I was back at the car. Whee!

I already have planned a pre-RAMROD ride at the end of the month, and now I’m thinking that I want to get back there before or after that too. Or both.

And in closing, a plug for the National Park Service. Mt Rainier National Park is an amazing place, a true public treasure. There were tourists from all over the world there, wide-eyed. We had several interactions with Park employees, and they were all cheerful, knowledgeable, helpful, and very into their job. That even includes the people working the cafeteria. So support your National Parks, people!!!

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7 thoughts on “Mt Rainier by bike!

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