My son has been riding multi-day group bicycle rides with me since he was 11, but here he is a junior in high school and we've never been on an independent overnight bike tour together.
We decided to fix that cycling resume omission over the Memorial Day weekend with an overnighter to a state park located about 40 miles east of Seattle at the base of the Cascades.
It was a great trip. We had a chance to talk without the distractions at home. My son stoked my ego by blurting out on a hill, “Wow dad, you're calves are cut!” When he rocketed past me seconds later, I returned the compliment.
Although there was an element of last-minute preparations involved, it wasn't one of those spur-of-the-moment S24O's (sub-24-hour overnighter) described last year in Adventure Cyclist magazine by Rivendell founder Grant Petersen.
Since it was Memorial Day weekend, I had the foresight to check into reserving a campsite at the Kanaskat Palmer State Park on Thursday for our Sunday-Monday trip. Fortunately, there was one space left — suitable for a 36-foot motor home with electrical hookup. That would be adequate for two bikes and our dome tent.
But the bike tour certainly had the spirit of an S24O. We carried all our own gear and the trip started as we rolled right down the driveway. And my wife and daughter had taken the car for their own weekend trip, so we weren't just a cellphone call away from “rescue” in case of mechanical or weather woes.
We followed Lake Washington, passed through Renton where we picked up the Cedar River Bike Trail and rode that more than 15 miles to Landsburg. From there we struggled up the rise that separates the Cedar River from the Green River, then followed little-used country roads that meandered past old coal mine communities to Kanaskat Palmer State Park.
The campground sits above the Green River, which is flowing high, fast and cold from spring snow melt. We could hear the river rolling along all night from our campsite.
I introduced my son to the delicacies of one-pot cooking (he was surprised that I carried a small butane stove) — canned turkey chili mixed into a pot of elbow macaroni.
We did some sightseeing on our return by a slightly different route.
We passed over the Green River Gorge, a very wild section of the river described in detail here by the Post Intelligencer and known to whitewater enthusiasts. The bridge dates back to 1915; there's an old resort at the bridge, populated by at least two very proud peacocks.
Another four miles took us to Black Diamond, a historic coal mining town settled in 1885 by the Black Diamond Coal Company and later bought by the Pacific Coal Company. The historical museum in the railroad station is a good destination, but we were headed to the excellent Black Diamond Bakery for deli sandwiches and pie.
We followed the busy Maple Valley Highway (which has an adequate shoulder most of the way) back to the Cedar River Trail, arriving 30 hours after we left.
If you go
I'd recommend this as a good weekend cycling destination. From the ferry terminals in Seattle, you'd add about 11 miles to the routes.
If you're camping at Kanaskat, I'd definitely recommend reservations. The ranger says the campground is often full during the summer, and there are no “primitive” sites for cyclists who show up.
I'd definitely take this trip again, with plans to visit the ghost town site of Franklin near the Green River Gorge bridge, or the nearby Hanging Gardens or Flaming Geyser state parks.