I lead a blessed life. Some days it is very easy to remember that. Today is one of those days. The forecast is for clear weather and I don't have to be inside working, so I load some food on my bike, some water in my pack and point my bike wheels south. My bike is called a mountain bike and I am sometimes called the Mountain Turtle and both of us, man and machine, are drawn to the high country. In the fullness of time it seems that gravity must ultimately win, pulling down man, machine and even mountain. But there is something in the earth makes the mountains rise and something that makes men rise from sleep, raise their eyes in wonder and follow the rocky path upward. The hardness of the mountain, the steepness of the trail, chips away at what is fat and soft. And riding in the wilderness is far more fun than going to the gym.
I have this day to do what my friend Seth calls "wondering around" and I make the most of it. I see a little trail heading into the woods by Ravensdale and I check it out. Back on pavement, I take pictures of sheep and goats and wood carvings. (Thanks Mark for giving me your "extra" camera!) I wonder where the people who live in Carbonado work and buy groceries. I wonder up the road that I know dead-ends at the Carbon River entrance to Mount Rainier.
I knew that the road past the entrance was washed out, the internet and the signs had told me this, but I wanted to see what the land was like past the gate, past the point I'd been before.
This is no small washout, something the park service will fix this year or the next. The river has shifted, obliterating a long section of the old road. In many places trees have fallen. The path overlays the road where it can, deviates where it must. Small gaps cut through massive fallen tree trunks. Somewhere, someone persevered with saws and logs and stones to make a tiny trail, something that can only be traversed by human power. You can walk here and you can ride here if your bicycle is rugged, but I doubt that anyone will ever drive here again.
The campground is sixty-three miles from my home in Issaquah and fifty-eight of those miles can be completely simple, civilized and paved. The final five are wonderful.
The trees are green and heavy with moss. The sounds are those of water and wind. I hear my own breath, the scurry of a chipmunk, the croak of the raven.
The campground, which I'm only visiting today, is being reclaimed by the forest. Signs warn which sites are closed by fallen trees. A faucet still gleams in the sun, but no piped water has flowed here for quite a while.
On my way back toward pavement, I chat with hikers headed up. "You'll have the campground to yourselves," I assure them. I tell them the campground is only another mile up. This day, on this trail, the Mountain Turtle is the swiftest creature in the forest.
My day has been fueled by a big breakfast at home and granola and PayDay bars enroute. Gravity gets me back to Wilkeson, a town where it seems everyone fuels up, so I linger over a latte before rolling on.
Mount Rainier rises above the fields outside of Enumclaw. At South Prairie I turn on my lights, turn my bike towards the Green River and ride through Black Diamond, Ravensdale, Hobart and back to home.
I lead a blessed life. Some days it is very easy to remember that.
Keep 'em rolling,