Our Blended Family Bike Excursion on the “Iron Horsie Trail,” Washington State, during the Summer of 2006
Woo Hoo!!! A Wild Family Trip with William & Kristina and the Kids! Yeah!
We pulled it off! Our wild and crazy family mountain bike ride across the Washington Cascades! Well, sort of. At times we felt we descended beyond the Gates of Hades on our own nutty journey into the center of Planet Earth. But a fun journey. It was a logistical workout, and blessed with a treasure of memories. Originally Kristina and I planned a 3-day family bike ride with all 3 kids along 40+ miles of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail thru Iron Horse State Park in the Cascade Mountains. We’d planned to carry all of our gear and camp along the way. We were unable to work out the logistics to our satisfaction, however, as we didn’t want to take two cars.
So we turned it into a different sort of trip and just took off on Friday 18 August 2006. By then all the campgrounds were full. We whimsically drove up winding National Forest Service roads and stared over cliffs toward dramatic mountain scenery. In grim, puzzled silence, we rumbled past a weird, old man living out of a rusty, red car who tied plastic bags up in the bushes alongside the road. He turned and stared at us as if he could eat us all up for supper. Imagining great and terrible things then giggling like embarrassed maniacs, we drove on around the rocky corner.
Many a dusty mile later, we found a lovely, open spot among the woods, rocks, and overgrown logging slash. There we wild-camped near the top of Amabilis Mountain. Arid conditions and clear skies greeted us. Big, wide-open skies. The Milky Way seemed to cleave the heavens in half like some incandescent sword. A meteor shower was in progress, too. Beginning every late July and stretching into the middle of August, the Perseid Meteor Shower is a treat out here in the clear, arid skies typical of our Northwest summers. Several spectacular shooting stars and flurries of little ones blazed across dark skies every night. Friday night there we slept.
The next day, Saturday the 19th of August, we parked the car at the Hyak trailhead for what we preferred to call the “Iron Horsie Trail.” Got a late start, common with camping with kids, biking away after lunch at 1:00 pm. Oh, I chomped at the bit in measured complaints, but I managed to keep quiet and feel the JOY of being outside with my beloved FAMILY! Woo Hoo!
I hauled Talia on an Adams Trail-a-Bike with a little bit of gear strapped onto the frame. Kristina pedaled with fully loaded rear panniers, trying not to do wheelies, and Morgan and Kate each had their geared bikes.
Each kid was different. Morgan, age 12, is quite the speedy beedy. Yet she’s graceful and goes with the flow. For her, endurance is grace. She’s a lot like me with a weird, goofy sense of humor. And a lot like her bio-momma, Gwen, who likes to simply flow. Kate, almost 8, however, is intense and frenetic. For her everything is like downhill skiing at full tilt. She tore thru the gravel, crashed off the trail, spun up the banks, and flew over the handlebars. We had to doctor her hands a couple of times. More than a couple of times. And her bike, too! At first she didn’t want to bike. Refused to go. Nada Nada Nada. Then we couldn’t stop her. Go, Kate, go! Then she got tired. And she dug down deep into her inner fire and blasted ahead.
Morgan just kept sailing along. Giggling. As if she was tooling along the ocean shores on a horse with a wild, shaggy mane and no name. Or dreaming of the next chapter of the latest Harry Potter novel to dig into and devour. Before we even left Seattle she managed to stuff a few copies into our minivan.
On the Trail-a-Bike 4-year old Talia just hunkered down and gripped the bars. Pedal, Talia! Her little legs would just spin and pump. Or she’d sit and coast. Or stand up in the pedals sticking out her tongue. I went kinda slow as I was afraid I’d bump her off the bike onto rocks and gravel. No bloody owies wanted here, especially with Von Willebrand’s, a bleeding disorder. The trail was fairly level, being a former railroad converted to trail, yet a mix of hard dirt, rocks, gravel, sticks, potholes, horse poop, and dead garter snakes. Talia took in the scenery, a contemplative Buddha in a pink helmet, and then yelled out, “Go faster, Daddy, go faster! Let’s go!” So away we went. I was impressed how well she rode.
“Go FASTER, Daddy! Faster, faster, faster!”
That first day we did 19 miles. It was a gentle downhill east all the way to the Yakima River for 18 miles with an extra mile into Lake Easton State Park to the swimming beach. It was beautiful. We cruised along side Lake Keechelus and stumps evocative of the Land of Mordor from Lord of the Rings and peed in the bushes. We pumped water from creeks thru a filter to drink, and shot thru a short, fun tunnel in Stampede Pass, over numerous little bridges, a couple of big ones, and watch Kristina almost loose it on the bridge across Cabin Creek. She skidded in loose gravel right into the curb, the one bridge where there was no railing, and for a horrifying moment it seemed she might flip herself off the lip where the rocky stream lay 30-40 feet below.
“It was nothing,” Kristina said as she turned and grinned back at us. Right.
“Don’t die yet, Mommy,” said Talia as she lectured firmly. “I need you for a little while.”
Hmmn…Talia’s comment felt so eerie to me I shuddered in the sun.
We rolled down to follow the course of the Yakima River as it cleaved through the mountains toward the desert. We took a long break and hung out on a sturdy bridge over the Yakima as it flowed from mountain forests toward desert canyons.
At one point I wished we’d managed to carry all our camping gear so we could keep going, keep going, camping by the river tonight then pushing East across arid grass and sage steppes into the Washington Desert of coulees and scablands. But the kids were done with pedaling and were having fun just hangin’ out high up over the river.
I loved watching my daughters move around on the bridge during their break. Laughing, yawning, complaining, singing, giggling, chirping, making naughty wise-cracks I couldn’t quite make out with my hearing aids but caused Kristina to snort and roll her eyes…wait, she’s wearing sunglasses…I can only see my reflection. I feel hot lust for this woman, this gorgeous woman, but she pushes me away and stamps her foot.
“William!” she likes to say.
And so I grab my camera and shoot pictures of my girls.
The Iron Horsie Trail kept going toward Cle Elum and then on through the Washington Desert, crossing the mighty Columbia on the way to Spokane in the far eastern part of the state. Oh, I wanted to keep going! And pushing on wasn’t in our plan. We peeled off onto a dirt road, however, and pedaled about a mile into Lake Easton State Park.
The children were magnificent. And pooped out, too. They were rewarded with a cool swim in Lake Easton. Meanwhile, ol’ Daddy William got back on his bike and churned 19 miles back to the car. The solo ride back proved to be one of my favorite parts of the trip. The time was getting late, the sun was starting to drop, and I blasted hard up to the pass, relishing the workout. I loved that high, lonesome feelin’. It took me just over an hour and a half to go uphill that took us all 4 and a half hours to go downhill. Still, 38 miles on a mountain rail trail was a wee bit of a good grunt.
To celebrate we piled into the minivan and drove into Easton for food. We pigged out at the little cafe there. Next-door was the most raucous bar I’ve heard in years. Lots of hootin’ and hollarin’ by middle-aged drunk White folks shouting, “Yeehaw! Hot dayum! Gimme anotha!”
Back up to the high ramparts of Amabilis Mountain. No tents this time. We slept under the stars and fell asleep to a magnificent celestial display by the Perseids. Prehistoric fragments broke away Comet Swift-Tuttle a forever long time ago and continue to rain cosmic fireworks across the skies out of Constellation Perseus. We stared up in awe, waiting for the next silent ZOOOM!
Kate was scared of the dark, however, and wanted to sleep in the minivan, but she came out and snuggled down to stare up at the stars and meteors above. Gradually, she overcame her fear. The creepy man in the rusty car who tied plastic bags full of items up in roadside bushes stayed put where he camped far below our mountaintop. No psychos with medieval weapons appeared to chase us. Our foul, rank breaths scared away bears, cougars, wild dogs, and mosquitoes. And we woke to a beautiful sunrise and condensation upon our sleeping bags. On the dusty drive back down the gleaming white crown of Mt. Rainier loomed majestic over the far ridges.
Our second day found us back at the Hyak trailhead. It’s midway on this Iron Horsie bike ride. We really made this trip easy for the kids. It’s all downhill both ways both days. Today we shoot for 20 miles. Yes, one mile further than yesterday. Sunday 20 August 2006 dawned fresh with dew and no mountain lions. Still, between breakfast, exploring the ruins of shot-up-by-hunters trash, pooping in the bushes behind overgrown logging slash, listening to birds, packing up sleeping bags after they dried out, and goofin’ around camp with each other, we got another late start. And why not? Kids are fun in spite of all the work.
A Blended Family Moment in Time. F2B shortest to tallest: Talia, Kate, Morgan, Kristina, & William. Sunday 20 August 2006.
At noon we left the parking lot and headed for the notorious Snoqualmie Tunnel, just under 2 and a half miles long. Cold, frigid air blasted us as we approached, but we were prepared.
“I’m freezing!” Talia shouted as she shuddered on her Trail-a-Bike.
So we all bundled up and turned on headlamps and bike lights. We entered the cold, black hallway looking for dragons to slay. But only water splattered all over us from springs raining down thru holes in the walls and ceilings. It was so cool. We had concerns about not having enough light, but we had plenty of light. A few people, mostly ratty-looking young men, even dared to bike through the tunnel without any lights at all. Halfway into the tunnel Kate’s bike dug into the gravel and crashed. Her tire was completely flat. Uh-Oh.
“It was getting like that all day yesterday,” she whined.
No wonder she had such a hard time cycling. I tried to pump the tire. Nothing. For a long time I couldn’t get any dang air in there until I noticed I had forgotten to lock the hand pump upon the stem. My rusty ol’ brain bucket. It’s been too long since I’ve last done this.
We pumped the tire up tight by headlight and rode out. Morgan was waiting for us. She had blasted through in 15 minutes! But Kate’s tire was flat again by the time we exited, and Morgan’s valve stem had slipped too far down inside her rim. Good thing I brought my bike repair kit, as Kristina forgot hers. I just couldn’t remember all the steps to fix a simple flat, as it’s been a while. I found a little creek and held the tire down under water as Kate and Talia watched for bubbles.
“You’re supposed to let the glue dry first,” Kristina laconically informed me upon reading the instructions on how to fix a flippin’ flat. I’d gotten ahead of myself here and thought I was done after blowing bubbles in the creek to find the puncture but the patch slid off. I just nodded and mumbled and fiddled with my tools. Felt like a man to just hold a pair of pliers in my hand. Dang. Finally repaired the tires on both bikes. Kate’s had a thorn embedded in hers.
A whole gaggle of raggedy, pierced young men rolled out the tunnel. No lights. They resembled a strange hybrid between hillybilly rednecks and gothic punks and were quite proud of coming through unilluminated.
“Daddy, where are all the bats?” Kate asked.
“Right there,” I nodded at the lads pedaling with metal rings swinging from their snouts. One guy had an unusually large hatchet bungee corded to a humongous sleeping bag. Another had a battered external frame pack sticking way up over his head. At least they were happy. And who was I to talk. It’s been 3 days since I’ve bathed.
“They’re not bats.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Just young guys trying to look cool with what they have. And now its time to go, go, go!”
We blasted down the mountain. It was steeper than the other side. “Dylan and his class did this uphill!” I shouted, referring to a 5-year old boy we knew. We rolled over magnificent trestles that soared over deep gorges and along rims of cliffs. The cliffside drives scared Kate, who was soon so distracted by a group of rock climbers that she almost ran off one cliff to certain death.
The freeway roared in and out of view and sound. Far below we could see people playing in the river before it dove into a gorge. We rolled through beautiful green tunnels of emerald sunshine. We pedaled over one high train trestle after another. Peeing along the way. Played with the digital camera. Well, we didn’t take pictures of that.
I was very aware how my love handles bounced like hula-hoops around my pelvis. Middle age had its tribulations to endure.
“Hey, Kristina, lookit my shuga belly!” I shouted. Hers danced around, too.
“William! Don’t you dare!” she hissed at my camera with a Snicker bar melting in one hand.
Oh, we were so proud how much we squeezed into our tight, little blue stretch outfits. We did get some pictures of those. Terribly embarrassing. Made my belly look like a big, blue pumpkin.
At the end, about five hours later, we rolled into Rattlesnake Lake. We had somehow put an extra mile on as we went to the end of the trail, doubled back, and then zigzagged thru the Park. We rolled right to the beach where Gwen, our shuttle driver, awaited us. Thank you, Gwen! Ex-spouses sure come in handy. Mine got to see my shuga belly jouncin’ around inside my tight little blue capilene shirt. Besides, I didn’t really want to ride another 21 miles back up the mountain even though my ego would’ve loved it.
Morgan, Kate, and Talia were all little warriors. They learned a few things about bike handling, nature, endurance, and hopefully their selves. They taught us a few things, too. Like it’s gonna be next year before we do this again! Already, though, I’m thinking about how cool it would be to ride right out of my home to the Burke-Gilman in Seattle to the Sammanish River Trail on the Eastside and thence to the rail trail system from Duvall to North Bend and on over the pass on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail to the Columbia River Gorge. Maybe on to Tekoa on the Idaho border. Hmmn. Morgan tells me she’s interested.
A somewhat incomplete song was made up as we sing and shout and groan and sing some more:
“Through the tunnel and over the trestles
To Rattlesnake Lake we go.
We have a fun day,
The trail shows the way,
Twenty miles of play (like “puh…lay..eeee”)
Under the stars of Amabilis Mountain we lay.”
Something like that. 🙂
And for the rest of our trip fotos, here they are as we bomb down the mountain through increasingly green tunnels toward Rattlesnake Lake where’s there’re no rattlesnakes.
Remember, click on any of the photos to enlarge them.
Shuga Belly Blues! 🙁 or 🙂 You Choose! (Yeah, we were parents once superfit and now struggling with family and kids and careers and sleep deprivation and aging parents and so we just don’t get the exercise we would like. Am I proud of my shuga belly? Well, shoot, so what? Only my ego cares. Look what our bodies did! And I loved doing it with my kids.
And that was our wild and crazy blended Bass-Hughes-Katayama Bike Adventure on the Iron Horsie Trail, woo HOO!
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
William Dudley Bass
7:52 AM Wednesday 23 August 2006
12 March 2012
NOTE: This article was originally published as a modified journal on my older blog, Cultivate and Harvest, at: http://cultivateandharvest.blogspot.com/2009/01/our-crazy-fun-blended-family-bike.html. Eventually I revised and reposted it here to my new website, On Earth at the Brink, this March of 2012. Thank you.
Copyright © 2006, 2009, 2012, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. Copyrights include all of the fotografs published in this essay. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.