Desert, mountain, desert to Winthrop, WA: just plain hot

Monday August 3, 2009, 45 miles (72 km) – Total so far: 4,217 miles (6,787 km)

OK, we stayed at the motel this morning long enough to eat their continental breakfast.  Didn’t get to read the paper with breakfast, the clerk said it didn’t come in until 3:00.  Still, we were rolling by 7:00.  A bank sign claimed it was 76 by then, but I don’t think it was much over 72.

7.5 miles generally coasting down the Okanogan valley, through Okanogan, got us to the base of today’s climb.  From Omak to Okanogan was either lightly populated suburbs or heavily populated rural, depending on how you look at it.  We had lost the trail, but since all the roads parallel the river, I wasn’t worried.  Anyhow, a couple miles past Okanogan, it was time to turn west and climb.  Boy, did we climb!  I think the grade must have been 8% most of the day.  I was soaked with sweat and working the granny gear within a mile.

Okanogan Valley as we climbed out

We were still going through irrigated orchards.  I’m going to put on my middle-aged grouch hat, so beware!  When I was a kid, the legend of Johnny Appleseed was that he went through the country planting apple trees so the settlers could eat the apples, because he loved apples so much.  Times have changed, apparently.  Private, keep out, go away, buy Johnny Appleseed apples at your store.

Johnny Appleseed? Bah, humbug!

The rural landscape changed fairly abruptly, I’m guessing at about 2,500 feet altitude.  Instead of ranches and orchards, we were back into trees.  Still climbing, and it felt pretty steep.  By 9:30, we were around 3,000 feet, and the temperature was already 85.  I was glad I’d brought my extra 2.5 L water bag, because I was going through it.

As an aside, I saw an article just a couple weeks ago claiming all the electrolyte pills and water flavorings are unnecessary, because you get all the salt you need from convenience store food, like Fritos.  The author apparently never considered the possibility that you can ride four hours without ever encountering a convenience store.  I was glad I had some Nuun when my hamstrings started to cramp.  Just wished the air-conditioned convenience store was up there with some ice!

We lost altitude to cross Loup Loup Creek, which wasn’t too bad because it was noticeably cooler.  (Never did see the creek, but I heard it!)  Then it was climbing time again.  We stopped for a break as soon as it got hot again, maybe a quarter mile up the hill, since there was a little bit of shade.  Going almost due west in the morning, with a wide, cleared right of way, shade was a rare commodity.

Trees, but still hot

Loup Loup Creek went straight ahead, we went left. And up.

I was getting desperate, stopping every mile to mile and a half to wring out my headband, squeeze sweat out of my cycling gloves, and chugging some more water.  Did I mention it was hot?  The grade eased up the last five miles or so, but by then I was fried.  The pass itself was almost anti-climatic.  It was a broad, flat pass, so flat I thought they had missed the summit with the sign.

The pass is just over there. Somewhere.

The top at last!

Downhill was just the reverse.  Trees, a bit of a view (largely obscured by haze or smoke, although we could see the Cascades, and Virginia claims she saw a peak with snow), then desert at the bottom.  It was a pretty good run, 6% most of the way, with some flats, then a half mile of 8% at the bottom.  Ruined by a stop sign at the end of the 8%.  What were they thinking?

We had lunch at the first restaurant we saw in Twisp.  I love that name, Twisp, WA.  The North Cascades Smoke Jumpers Center is just outside of town.  Then we followed the Methow River, which I do not know how to pronounce, into Winthrop.  There I called a halt.  I might have been able to continue to Mazama today, but I’d have been worthless for riding tomorrow.

Methow River, with hazy desert hills behind it

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