September 13: I wake up refreshed both from the stay in the hostel and the entire large pizza I ordered and consumed last night. One of the best things about biking 8-10 hours a day is eating everything. Today is Sherman Pass, one of several mountain passes in the Cascade range I need to traverse to get to the coast. It takes me 16 miles to get to the bottom of the mountain from Coleville. I spend most of the day walking the pass, chasing the sun to make it to the top by nightfall. A man in a truck traveling the other direction stops just long enough to tell me I won’t make it by dark and I need to turn around and go back down the mountain. Turning back would mean coasting to the last campground I passed, near the bottom of the mountain, and losing most of my progress for the day.
If there is one reliable way to light a fire in my heart to accomplish a challenge, tell me you don’t think I can do it. My annoying need to always be right pushes me to prove you wrong.
So I doubled down on my efforts, praying to the universe that one of the semi trucks doesn’t mow me down in the dusk as there is little to no shoulder on the winding road.
I reach the top of the pass at around 6pm. The sun has already dipped behind the mountain top, but there is enough light to make camp. This is the first night I am really nervous about bears. Dobby and I are alone in the campground, at the top of a mountain, with no cell service. This late in the season the likelihood of other campers showing up is slim. I don’t want to take any chances of something going wrong when we have no access to help. I can’t hang my food bags because there are only pine trees this high up and they don’t adhere to the “10 feet up, 10 feet out” rule. So I throw the bags up on the roof over the forest service’s bulletin board. It’s probably not quite 10 feet up and I’m not entirely sure I’ll be able to get the bags down, but it’s away from my tent and that’s what matters. I brush my teeth halfway across the campground.
I sleep in all my warmest clothes, Dobby crawling into my sleeping bag with me. It’s a tight fit, but a nightly ritual we are both accustomed to now. We thought nights before this were cold, but now we’re 5,000 feet higher. I wake with a start in the middle of the night. I saw a bear poke his head under my rain fly, and I’m unsure whether it was a dream or something I saw as I woke up. Probably the former, as I’m still alive.
September 14: When I wake up it’s so cold, I turn my face sideways into my sleeping bag and fall back asleep for another 20 minutes. At this point, the sun is too bright to sleep. I have a love-hate relationship with the sun at this point. She’s either leaving me on the side of a mountain in the dark, or warming me in her rays. She’s waking me from blissful sleep, but showing me how to travel West every day.
I dart out of my sleeping bag and can thankfully reach my food bag, which has been left unharmed by wildlife. I dive back into my still-warm sleeping bag and refuse to leave, making raspberry oatmeal and tea all from the confines of my bed.
At 9:40 I finally deem myself thawed enough to walk the last 1.5 miles to the crest of Sherman Pass. I now have 15 miles of steep downhill riding, traveling over 30 miles an hour. The wind created by the fast pace numbs my hands, face, and legs. Thankfully I don’t have to stop suddenly at any point because my hands may not be able to grip the brakes.
There is nothing quite like coasting down a mountain, traveling 15 miles in such a short time. 15 miles used to be a third of my day’s entire travel. Some days 15 miles took me 3 hours. This stretch probably took me 30 minutes.
I stop outside of Republic, Washington at a cafe attached to a gas station for second breakfast. I’ve traveled 16 miles already, surely I’ve earned second breakfast?? Ok, maybe downhill miles take almost zero effort, but my legs are sore from the previous day’s climb and I’m always hungry. The food is really good. I eat my typical diner breakfast of 2 eggs over-easy, blueberry pancakes, hash browns, toast with butter and jelly, coffee, and orange juice. Did I mention I’m always hungry?
I ride another 10 miles to Sweat Creek Picnic Area. Turns out it’s a day-use area, but I can see where a tent has been pitched previously and there is a fire-ring nearby. I throw my food bag up on the roof of the pit toilet, just in case.
We have traveled 2997.8 miles.