Over the past three days I road the RAMROD route, but loaded with camping gear. This route lead us around Mount Rainier starting and ending in Enumclaw and featured tons of great scenery, lovely camping places and some great (readas: horrible) climbs followed by awesome descents.
Day One: Enumclaw to the Nisqually Gate (map)
Frankly this was the worst day of the trip. After a late departure via car from the city we found ourselves in a cold wet Enumclaw getting on our bikes at about 11am. We wound south then east to end up in outside of Ashford wa at the Big Creek Campground which lies just a couple of miles from the Nisqually gate of MRNP. The miles this day were long, flat, cold and mostly boring. But, our campsite was lovely and the 61 mile ride helped me sleep like a rock.
Day Two: Nisqually Gate to Ohanapecosh via Paradise (map)
On the second day we took off from Big Creek and saw a mother/daughter pair of Elk right away. They would prove to be the only large mammals we saw on the entire trip.
Shortly after getting on our bikes we entered the park at the Nisqually gate and began an easy climb up to Longmire where the general store would be our last available supply stop for the next 24 hours. I stocked up on chocolate (4 pieces) and beer (3 rainiers) and hung around the ranger station for a while hoping the weather would clear up a bit.
The climb from Longmire to Paradise was long, steep and cold. It wasn’t until just before we reached Paradise that a few bits of blue sky appeared and we could see more than a couple of miles away. All that work was instantly worth it just to be sitting at Paradise knowing i’d gotten up there on my bike.
We spread out on some steps and set up our camp kitchens to put together some well deserved lunch while confused bus tour types stared at us.
After lunch we began by far the most enjoyable portion of our trip; the long descent from Paradise to Ohanapecosh that covers some stunningly beautiful terrain.
Early in the descent we popped into this lovely valley and got our first view of the Mountain for this trip, it had up until this point be enshrouded in mist.
This descent would seemingly never end as we flew down through the lovely alpine meadows into the the forest on the Stevens Canyon Rd. This descent is interrupted by a long straight 500′ vertical foot climb, but that climb was all worth it when we came through the gap at the top to witness a gorgeous rainbow over the Ohanapecosh Valley.
From here the descent got even more exciting as we entered some much tighter switchbacks and brought us down to the Grove of the Patriarchs and the intersection with highway 123. Here we dropped down to the classic Ohanapecosh Campground, set up camp and tried to decide whether we’d attend the ranger’s talk in the campground amphitheater, ahh national parks.
We spent the evening cooking under the canopy of the old growth forest until the sun set and we went in to the river bed to take in some truly awesome stars.
This was a good day.
Day 3: Ohanapecosh to Enumclaw via Cayuse Pass (map)
The first two hours of day three were spent climbing 123 up to Cayuse Pass. This climb was long but gentle, particularly when compared to the previous day’s climbs. The sun was out, the scenery was stunning, traffic was sparse and life was good.
The only problem with the climb to Cayuse is that there’s really nothing to see when you get up there. The great scenery is up higher at Chinook Pass, but that’s on the way to Yakima and on this trip we had to head back towards our city.
After Cayuse we started to descend again. This time our freefall was somewhat inhibited by a forceful headwind. We reacted by forming some very fun 25mph pacelines of loaded touring bikes, very fun.
We refueled at the oddly named Nachez Tavern in Greenwater before continuing the drop in to Enumclaw and encountering our first stop light of the trip at roughly the 155 mile mark.
This was a wildly successful trip and I would recommend it to anyone. The riding outside the park is not nearly as fun as the riding in the park, but you can’t circumnavigate the mountain without it. Conditions were definitely improved by going midweek both on the roads and in the campgrounds.
See all the pictures on Flickr.