Back around mid-April, back when we had nothing planned for the summer besides my jury duty and having to dog sit for my parents in June, I got a random email. Apparently there was a race called Ski to Sea in Bellingham, WA, and an all-girls team, and not just any all-girls team but the Boundary Bay Brewing one that had won the women’s overall for the past 15 years, needed a mountain biker for their team, over Memorial Day weekend, in a month’s time. Would I be interested?
I looked at the calendar and called over to the next room, ‘Hey Scott, any interest in going to the Pacific Northwest for three weeks at the end of May and beginning of June?’
I wrote back, ‘I’d love to come.’ And thus a trip to a whole new area of the country for me was put into motion. Never mind that there seemed to be a fair bit of confusion about the two different bike legs of the race and their respective lengths, it was a reason to go to the PNW!
Sometimes all I need is an excuse.
I arrived in Salt Lake City with the intention of leaving 48 hours later and taking a scenic route up to Bellingham. Various things delayed our departure, but in the interim, we got some fun packed in there. Flexibility, right?
Firstly, a trip to Red Iguana. If you like mole sauce and Mexican food, this is a place not to be missed. You’ll wait for an hour outside for a table regardless of when you go, but it’s totally worth it. Eight different mole sauces to choose from and food to die for.
I went on an impromptu ‘get out of the house’ run late one afternoon, and figuring that I’d go out for 30 minutes and loop back around, I didn’t bring any water. Or a light. (I’m not very good at learning…) When I found myself high above the Bonneville Shoreline trails climbing up to the beacon on Wire Mountain, I started to wonder about the intelligence of my decision making. 8pm, soft turnaround time, I told myself. Gotta get down before dark. 8pm rolled by, I could nearly see the top. 8:15, truly hard turnaround time, I told myself, doubling my pace. If I could get to the top, I could take a different route down, avoiding the dreaded out-and-back.
8:09 at the top! Woot. I pretty much butt-slid down the steep front face. Now I understand why the loop is often done in the opposite direction. I made it home by streetlight…luckily Scott has no concept of time and hadn’t even realized it was dark, so no one worried about me.
Scott joined me for a jaunt up Grandeur Peak the next day. While the riding in SLC does little to inspire me, there are some pretty awesome running trails to be explored.
The west was in mid-spring monsoons, but we lucked out with a rainless run and minimal mud. I think if I grew up in SLC, I’d have become a trail runner. After doing some trail running around Boulder, it amazes me that I became a mountain biker…
Anyhow, finally, we were off with three days to cover the vast distance between SLC and Bellingham.
First stop was Boise where Dave Byers gave us a GPS of a favorite loop of his. It was all fun and games until the storms that had been threatening all day finally moved it. Clearly, we had no rain jackets, so we put all dorking around aside and pedaled in a highly motivated fashion back to the car. The skies unleashed just as we got into the front seats to change. Talk about timing…
Three more hours of driving brought us to National Forest Land where we set up our brand-new tent. This is the first tent that Scott and I have owned together. I think it’s a big step in our relationship.
Heading further north in the morning, we pointed for Leavenworth, a Bavarian-inspired town that is…a little over the top. But it’s known for its riding, for good reason. While driving, Scott interneted on his not-dumb phone until he found us a ride.
There were trees, and ferns, and flowers. And smooth trail where you couldn’t find a rock if you tried.
And there were views. Big ones. And jumps, and berms, and techy stuff that I could barely walk down let alone ride.
We camped just up from the trail head at the start of National Forest Land. I love me some public land camping. The rain threatened all afternoon and finally unleashed just as it got dark. I guess they weren’t kidding about the PNW being wet…
The next day, we couldn’t resist a stop on the Pacific Crest Trail. What is this mysterious trail that people talk about all the time? Is it all that it’s cracked up to be?
From Steven’s Pass, we headed up the ski resort. While it should have all been covered in snow, the snow-less Washington winter made for passable trail with some good sections of snow. It really was the best case scenario for me, who was slated to race in 48 hours. Some slow-moving outside time that didn’t let me beat my legs to a pulp. Sometimes I need to be saved from myself.
Verdict, the short few miles that we did to the top of the resort has definitely kindled an interest in a thru-hike someday. Someday.
And on to Bellingham! With directions to the team house firmly in hand, we by-passed it completely and headed straight for the ocean. Holy big and blue! I hadn’t seen the ocean in forevers.
We had no clue what to expect from the weekend. I think it made Scott a little bit nervous, but I’ve always been one to take things as they come. As we sat there watching the waves and the birds, all I could hope for was that at the very least, the girls on the team would be cool, but also knowing that even if the weekend turned out to be a complete flop, it had provided the motivation to come on a trip that I’d been wanting to do for a long time.
The PNW, green, damp, and completely unknown, at least to me.