Words by Andy Speier, photos by Kate Hotler
We left under a cloudy sky on Saturday morning. The Starbucks start location worked out well for us as they open at 0400. If you’re arriving early, please don’t pile your bikes out in front of the shop until they put the tables and chairs out. There is a wall available for leaning the bikes on the south side of the building. The challenge for starting a ride in SODO is travelling across there sets of active rail lines. We were lucky and no trains impeded our progress. [RBA’s note: If there is a train, please stop and wait. If it turns out to be very long, we’ll take an alternate route or correct the ride times to account for the delay.]
To set the mood for the ride and give you an insight into the hill climbing to come, we travel east up S Holgate street. Don’t get too into the climb or you will miss the left turn mid hill onto the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail. On the trail, it’s the usual ride thru the tunnel and up Irving to Lake Washington Blvd. For you out of towners, be sure to shift into your low gear before you transition from the trail to Irving street.
Over the first 56 miles we rode on several trails which was a fun way to get out of the largest city in the state. Pay attention to the cue sheet instructions at mile 25.1 to change from the Cedar River Trail to the Green River/Lake Wilderness Trail up s short, steep gravel climb. A bit later, you will pass thru the edge of Black Diamond. There are services at the gas station on the left that you will pass. If you inhale deeply you may be able to smell the cinnamon rolls at the Black Diamond Bakery [ed’s note: the bakery is off route]. You’ll wind around on some nice country roads and then turn onto Highway 410. It’s a busy road, so after crossing the river and climbing a short hill you’ll turn off the road at the light onto Park Ave in Buckley. The route skips the commercial section of the highway to get you on quiet streets with an info control. There are restrooms in the park off N River Road and up the street on N River Road. For those looking to stock up on food, there is a sidewalk trail prior to Ryan Road that will take you back to Highway 410 where there is a Subway and a Chevron station.
From Buckley, the Foothills Trail is a treat. It has been recently re-surfaced and much of it is downhill. The turn onto SE 276th street at mile 28.9 is not signed. There is however pink/orange flagging on a post on the right side of the trail to alert you to the turn (if you are riding solely by the cue sheet). Nothing lasts forever and you are back on busier roads. Be mindful of the vehicles on Oroville Road E along Lake Kapowsin. Anxious fishermen seem to be speeding to and from somewhere. A left on WA 161 will take you up into the metropolis of Eatonville. The route will turn right onto Center St W to take you out of town. If you turn left on Center St E you will find a grocery store, subway and a Mexican restaurant. Do not leave town as you always do (for, say RAMROD) or you will find yourself off route and on the dreaded Alder Cut-Off Road. Turn right on Center St E to follow the route out of town thru La Grande (another town in western Washington that you can check off on your bucket list).
The RR Xing noted on your cue sheet as you enter and leave Elbe are worthy of your attention. On your left are WA State DOT restrooms. Heated with a great covered area to get out of the weather. There is no water, but the overhead cover is well worth it in poor weather conditions. There is also a store if you need to re-supply. The turn onto NF-52/Kernaham Road (which becomes Skate Creek Road) will take you off into the Gifford Pinchot on the backside of Mt Rainier National Park. There is a climb, but when you descend the other side, you will discover that you got the better end of the deal. The descent is windy and has some craters, so pay attention. The gravel sections have been repaired. You just have to look out for holes and an uneven surface along the edge of the road. As you enter Packwood look for Elk. There are many. The pre-riders encountered 40 degree temperatures and rain on this section. Hopefully you will have better weather. We bought out the hand warmers but there are a couple of wool toques and socks left if you need ’em. Best to pack your rain jacket!
You will leave Packwood on Hwy 12, but there is relief. You will turn onto Silverbrook Road for a while and then again onto Davis Lake Road. Davis Lake Road will take you into Morton by passing the commercial businesses on the highway. If don’t need any food, there are public restrooms as you cross the RR Xing and can continue out of town until the turnoff onto the Centralia Alpha Road. From Morton, it is nearly 40 miles to services in Centralia. If you want to find services in Morton turn left on 2nd street and ride for 6 blocks. You’ll find a grocery store Chevron station store. The ride up and down the Centralia Alpha Road will remind you Anciens of PBP—for the rest of you, it’s good preparation.
We fueled up on warm beverages and snacks back counting how many hours of sleep we would get if we headed out to after a quick pit stop. The rain had let up so our spirits were high. The terrain from Centralia to Elma is not challenging. It’s easy to make up a bit of time.
The overnight control will be at the Stay Beyond Inn & Suite (formerly known as the Guesthouse Inn). For those of you riding thru we will have a warm meal for you (vegetarian or meat), beverages and a smile. For those looking to get a few hours of shut eye we have a plan in place to quickly get you to a room.
Leaving Elma you will bear left on the Coquallum Road. The RR Xing there is the real deal. Dark or daylight hours pay attention. In Skokomish the Twin Totems Store closes at midnight and opens at 0500. If you arrive prior to 0200 the casino is still open. The security guard can sign your card and may even invite you in for coffee. If you arrive past 0200 and prior to the 0500 of the opening of the Twin Totems Store than there will be an info control question. The route from Skokomish takes you thru the residential area of the reservation.
We (at least I was) excited about the thought of ice cream sandwiches at the Summertide Resort Control. For those that will arrive at the control prior to the store being open the control workers will have warm drinks, cup of noodles and other snacks. We took a few minutes to enjoy the sunshine, ice cream and soft drinks prior to the start of the Tahuya Hills. For those that will arrive while this control is SIR-staffed, there will be snacks and drinks. If you’re looking for a more substantial meal, you’d be better off stopping in Belfair about 16 miles earlier.
The hills of Dewatto Road—be sure to slow for the steep and sharp curves on Dewato Road shortly after the 3 mile marker (just past km 504/ mile 313)—and Seabeck Holly Road got our legs loosened up and ready for what was coming after Seabeck. The sun was out and the ride into Seabeck along the water was beautiful. The Seabeck Store is well stocked and there are fresh (at least that’s what the sign says) sandwiches in the cooler were labeled MEAT. There is a pizza place next door. [Ed’s note: The pizza is good, but not super fast.] The café is no longer in business. Behind the store there are picnic tables to sit at and enjoy the view. If you are cruising thru prior to the store opening then you will have an info control question. There is a toilet behind the Pizza place.
We left Seabeck under a beautiful sky and put on our game faces for the infamous Anderson Hill Road. It lives up to its reputation. When you think you have completed the climb and begin to let up, thinking to yourself “that wasn’t so bad,” you will find yourself heading down an impressive descent. Remember: “But wait, there’s more!” For each descent, you’ll return to the water and begin the next portion of your hill climbing adventure.
There are some roller hills on Highway 3 for a few miles before heading into the picture-perfect company town of Port Gamble. To save you time, there is an info control at the upscale bakery in the old gas station on the right. If you take a left at the large parking lot, you can ride over to the company general store that has snacks and a deli in the back. There are toilets in the post office building. At this point most you will be smelling the barn door and in the “get ’er done” mode.
To keep you off the high weekend traffic roads, the route takes you to Suquamish the back way. It’s a beautiful route with a bit of climbing.
Highway 305 on Bainbridge Island is the final leg of the journey. You can (almost) see the barn doors. For those of you using this 600 as a PBP qualifier we will see you in (near) Paris.
Additional ride information: https://www.seattlerando.org/content.aspx?page_id=4002&club_id=928629&item_id=896679