Riding around the fire mountains (all covered with snow)

May 6, 2014
Pahto—Mt. Adams

One of the Fire Mountains

People keep asking me about the bike trips I intend to take this summer. I’ve come up with an answer and actually hope that I can take the rides described below. I’m following the example of the Perimeter Bicycling Association of American (PBAA), a Tucson-based bike club that encourages people to ride around things.

The fire mountains are three volcanic peaks that are part of the skyline of my home in the Portland-Vancouver community. Two of them are frequently seen from almost anywhere in this metropolitan area. The third rarely appears at this distance, but belongs to the mythic story of this part of the Pacific Northwest.

These three circumnavigations are arranged in ascending order, starting with the shortest. My intention is to take my time for each trip rather than rushing to cover the distance in the shortest time possible. The itineraries will be the shortest routes that can be done on paved roads with motel accommodations at reasonable intervals.

These three peaks belong togtether. According to Native American stories, the Great Spirit had two sons, Wy’east and Pahto, who fought over a beautiful maiden named Loowit. Because their battle scorched the earth, their infuriated father turned all three into volcanic peaks: Loowit is Mount Saint Helens, Pahto is Mount Adams, and Wy’east is Mount Hood. Each of these peaks will be the center of a ride.

The Wy’east (Mt. Hood) perimeter ride will begin and end in Troutdale, Oregon. On day 1, I will ride south to U.S. 26 at Sandy, Oregon, and then continue up the mountain’s slope to Welches or Government Camp. On day 2, I will continue to Barlow Pass and then turn north on SR 35, to Hood River. On day 3, I will continue through the Columbia River Gorge—using the historic highway for most of the way—back to Troutdale. I hope to do this ride no later than early June.

The Loowit (Mt. St. Helens) perimeter ride will begin and end in Woodland, Washington. Although it is longer than the Wy’east ride, I hope to do it in three days, too. On day I, I’ll travel north on old roads that parallel I-5 to Castlerock. On day 2, I’ll take the Jackson Highway to its junction with U.S. 12 and continue on to Randle. My plan for day 3 is to travel south on Forest Service Road 25 and SR 503 back to Woodland. By traveling in early July, I’ll be able to rendezvous with a research team supervised by a grandson that will be stationing earthquake monitoring devises along the eastern edges of the mountain.

The Pahto (Mt. Adams) perimeter ride will begin and end in Stevenson, Washington. On day 1, I’ll travel eastward on SR 14 and SR 142 to Goldendale on US 97. On day 2, I’ll ride north into the Yakama Indian Reservation, stopping for the night either in Toppenish or Yakima. On day 3, I’ll take US 12 over White Pass (elevation 4,500 ft.) to Packwood or Randle. On day 4, I’ll go south on Forest Service 25, 51, and 30 back to Stevenson. The timing of this trip may be determined by an event in Packwood in mid September or an event in Yakima in early October.

Although PBAA has established guidelines for designating perimeter routes and recording record time, I do not plan to do so. The mountains are there. The routes are challenging and exciting. Riding around the fire mountains will be a great way to make the summer memorable.

If I feel unusually adventuresome, one more circumnavigation could bring them all together in one grand trip: Troutdale to Hood River to Goldendale and Yakima; then on to Randle and Castlerock, Woodland and Troutdale. How many miles? I have no idea, but it would really be a grand trip.

Anyone interested in doing it with me?