Friday, July 30, 2010

Windy Ridge Road Ride

One of our goals during the recent trip to Washington was to explore some of the terrain around Mt. St. Helens by bike. The first ride I had planned was a road ride along some of the obscure forest roads to the east of the mountain, topping out at the Windy Ridge Viewpoint.

This was one of those rides that was just pure pleasure -- nice roads, not too much traffic, perfect weather in the mid-seventies, and spectacular scenery through the primeval-looking Gifford Pinchot National Forest, with views of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and of course Mt. St. Helens.


Note that the perfect weather countered Stephan's warnings to Chad before we left to pack his cold-weather gear...just because we got snowed on once on this mountain in June...

We had another tourist snap a picture of us at the top of the road. This shot shows Spirit Lake in the background.


The last time I had seen this east side of the mountain was way back in the 80's, not too long after the big eruption. It was really incredible to see just how green the previously gray devastated landscape has become in just 30 years. Not just all the wildflowers and smaller shrubs, but big trees too.


On the way back down, we explored Forest Road 26, which had a delightful sign indicating "Cars Not Recommended" where it turned off of the main road. This was a very scenic, skinny road that almost seemed like a double-wide bike path due to the lack of cars or striping. The pavement was really pretty good, too, except for the unexpected spots where it was non-existent... I began to notice that I'd see Chad waiting up ahead every time there was a corner that looked like it might have a creek drainage -- he kindly waited at the edge of each washed-out stretch so that I'd have due warning of the rough patches.

(And yes, I had originally kinda-sorta meant to go up this road and down the other way on main road with good pavement, but missed the unsigned turn at the bottom.)


If you want to see a map, there's one here. We started in Randle, then followed Forest Road 25 to Forest Road 99 up to Windy Ridge, followed by a stint down Forest Road 26 on the way down. All told, it was about 70 miles and 6000 feet of climbing at relatively gentle grades. I think the loop portion of the ride might be even better in the opposite direction, but it was awfully nice as we did it too, with the mellow car-free section at the end.

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