September 17 (Rainy Pass is Rainy)

September 17: After waking from the coldest night yet, (I think the low was 30F) I walk to the Rocking Horse Cafe on the main street in town. Winthrop is one of those adorable and historical small towns that I would love to revisit but like… in a car. I buy a breakfast sandwich and a coffee, both of which I consume on the walk back to the campground. Then I make a second breakfast of raspberry oatmeal to satisfy my addiction and stomach. 

I pack up, then go back into town to the a camping supply store. I purchase Smartwool pants, a smartwool shirt, and gloves. Hopefully now my hands will stop going numb.

I look at the map and weigh my options. 

Option 1: bike a 25 mile day (basically a half day) to a campground then tomorrow cross the double challenge of Washington Pass and Rainy Pass (located within 2 miles of one another) 

or 

Option 2: Get a ride from a stranger willing to take me, my bike/trailer, and Dobby in their car so I can do the passes today. 

I pick option 2. I go to the bikeshop in town and ask the owner if he knows anyone who would be willing to drive me into the mountains. This is a PCT resupply town, so crunchy granola weirdos walking around and asking for rides isn’t uncommon here. The shop owner gives me a cardboard sign with “Rainy Pass” written on it in black sharpie. I’ve never hitchhiked before but how hard can it be? 

Please don’t tell my mom.

I smile and wave at the passing cars, doing my best to not look like a serial killer. I get a ride from a guy named Chris. Chris was a PCT hiker the year before and after he finished his hike to Canada, he came back to Winthrop to stay. I told you it was a cute town. Chris says that he received so many rides from strangers in and out of towns during his thru hike that he tries to repay the favor whenever he can, passing along the good karma. Chris drops me off at the top of Rainy Pass. Call me a lazy cheater if you want, but go bike 3100 miles first.

The downhill was a fun thrill, as always, until I see a yellow sign that says “Severe Side Winds.” Eh, that’s probably just cautionary for weird days when it’s windy, right? This leads to probably the most terrifying portion of the trip. Scarier than the escaped convict, scarier than camping in bear country. I am traveling down mountain roads between 20 and 30 miles an hour, it starts to rain, and the wind is so strong that gusts are able to physically move my bike sidewise up to 3 feet. All the stands between me and a cliff ledge is the guardrail, which is just tall enough to keep my bike from going over the edge should the wind push me into it. It is not tall enough to keep me from going over the edge should such a thing occur. I’m not a big fan of heights. But what can I do? I need to keep moving forward, always. As I get into even higher altitudes the rain partially turns to snow. 

I arrive at a campground in Cascade National Park and begin to turn down the entrance road. I check my phone. I have no cell service. It’s only 3pm. I’m already soaked, so what harm can come from a few more hours in the rain? Plus I didn’t want mom to call the National Guard when she didn’t hear from me all night. 

I bike another 7 miles to the next campground but unfortunately, it was already closed for the season. The one after that, the Goodall Creek Campground, is also closed for the season but you are allowed to use it free of charge. There is no access to amenities while it is closed except for the pit toilet.

After I set up camp I am incredibly grateful to have bought a new shirt and pants, because they are the only dry pieces of clothing I now have. I ate two dinners and fell asleep to the sound of rain.