Sarah all packed up, ready to go camping!
Sarah all packed up, ready to go camping!

A few weeks ago in my articled titled “Weekend Wrap-up: High’s, Low’s, and Somewhere In Between” I had mentioned a ride up around the Mountain Loop Highway.

The main purpose of this ride, was to scout for a camping spot for us to pick out for a later date to come back to and camp at.

After we had all gotten home, later that week we all decided that we would head up to go camping on March 12th.

The main purpose of this camping trip, was a shake down trip. We all needed the time spent not only packing our bikes, but organizing them, deciding what could and couldn’t go, and give us all an idea of what was needed to actually do a camping trip on our bikes.

This trip was extremely important to me, as I knew it was going to finally give me a chance to not only learn how to pack my bike, but it was going to give me a chance to use all of my gear in the field, which would give me invaluable information on what I will need to eventually make changes to for my Arctic Expedition this summer.

Over the next few weeks we devised our plan of attack, who was coming up at what time, and who was bringing what food (and beer).

If the weekend was going to be nice out, we would need to get there early for one of the larger spots. There would be 4 of us with tents, so we needed a area that would accommodate all 4 of us.

With me being the one who gets off of work the earliest (1pm) I was the right candidate for the job.

As luck would have it, my work forced me to take Friday off, due to having already worked my allocated 40 hours.  This meant I could get out earlier.  So at around 11:45, Friday the 12th, I started up Sarah, and off we rode.

Friday was not what you would call a “great” weather day.  We had been having rain since the days before, and I didn’t think it was really going to let up.  It eventually did, and it was during this window that I was able to do most of my travel.

Verlot Ranger Station
Having ran into a hail storm, I was able to take cover at the Verlot Ranger Station until it passed.

The route up was rather straight forward.  I would leave the area on 405 to I-5, cut across on Highway 2 then on to 204 to 9, then jump on 92 to meet up with the Mountain Loop Highway in Granite Falls.

My ride all the way up to Granite Falls was for the most part, uneventful. The winds were really whipping on Highway 2 heading out of Everett.

After Granite Falls though, I ran into some interesting weather. At first, I thought it was just heavy rain drops, as their was not a whole lot of consistency in which the precipitation was falling. But as I pushed on, the rhythm began to pick up, and I soon realized what I initially took as rain drops (the fact no water was sticking to my face shield should have made it apparent), was actually small hail.

I pushed on, as it wasn’t much to worry about. I have ridden in worse.  It kept on at a slow rate for awhile, and then I noticed the ground was starting to turn more and more a white color from it accumulating as the rate at which it fell started to increase.  At this point, I had come up on the Verlot Ranger Station, and decided to pull off to let the storm pass.

While the bike left parked and I used the cover of a information board to shield me, I went ahead and put on my rain jacket. At that point, I didn’t think about my pants a whole lot.  The hail soon stopped all together, and a light drizzle followed it. The ground quickly turned back to its normal damp color, and I eventually pushed on.

As the miles pushed on, the drizzle picked up a little, and so before my pants got any more damp, I decided I should probably put on my rain pants. I to this day, do not know why I didn’t just put them on at Verlot, but I apparently had my reasons?

It was however around Silverton when things took a drastic change.

The light misty drizzle was no more, instead it was light and fluffy. The ground around me started to turn a shade of white, and as I pushed on further, the ground eventually gave way to a pillow of white.

As I pushed on further, keeping in the track of vehicles who had passed through before me, the rate at which the snow was falling picked up. I had to make a decision to push on, or stop.

A big cut of log across the road from the Verlot Ranger Station
A big cut of log across the road from the Verlot Ranger Station

Knowing that the other guys were counting on me to secure a spot (and at this point, I realized that the chances of someone else being up there was going to be slim), I pushed on.

Now, having spent time researching the area, I knew that going this side of the loop, I would be in higher elevations. However, keeping an eye on weather showed the snow level to actually be about a 1000 feet higher, so snow was not something I was expecting.  Had I decided to take the longer way around (passing through Darrington, instead of Granite Falls), I would have not had the worry of snow. But no matter that, I pushed on.

It wasn’t long before I finally made it to the end of the pavement. Luckily for me, their was a single set of tracks cut into the snow on the downhill road at this point that allowed the small stream of runoff to continue to keep the tracks snow free.

Following in the tracks I made my way down the road, eventually watching the snow disappear, keeping an eye on my GPS for the camp spot that Grant had sent me coordinates to.

Now, this is where the day gets funny.

I have very little experience with GPS units. In fact, I’ll give you an idea of how much experience I had prior to that day.

Zero

I purchased the unit the day before. Put batteries in, and put in the coordinates.

So with that, I was letting an electronic device blindly guide me towards the camp site, until I finally hit pavement again… Err what?

I looked at the GPS and it still said I was 8 miles from the camp site. I looked at the pavement, and recognized it as where we had pulled off the weeks prior when we first got on the road from the Darrington side.

I turned around and made my way back South.

Along the way, I decided to abandon the use of the GPS, and instead pulled into each of the camp spots, trying to find one that would accommodate all of us.  The stop that Grant picked out wasn’t set in stone, it was just his suggestion of the ones we did get a chance to look at.

First thing to do was set up the tent. That went rather quickly!
First thing to do was set up the tent. That went rather quickly!

Eventually, I ended back up at the snow line again, which I knew was beyond the camp ground he had picked out. Finally trusting my noggin, I pulled into a camp area, looked at the coordinates on the GPS and matched them to the email I had sent to my phone. They matched.

I pulled into the camp spot to take a look around and instantly realized that it wasn’t going to work out.

In the dry, the spot would be great, but in the wet you really got to notice the low spots, and those spots happened to be where you would put a tent.

Secondly, my bike sunk, and I got stuck.

It would be hard to park 3 bikes and a pickup here (4th guy was bringing a pickup).

So after spending several minutes (After looking at the tracks info, it is closer to half an hour) I finally got the bike free by jamming a tree branch under the rear tire and allowing it to suck it under and push the bike up.

I continued on looking for a good spot, and finally came across a perfect spot. In fact, I’m pretty damned impressed with the spot that we finally ended up at.

It was right on the water, was extremely large, had an outhouse near by (to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to the digging a hole in the woods method if you know what I mean), and provided more than enough space for a full size pickup and all of our tents. Plus it had neighboring spots that would could utilize if we needed to (which we didn’t).

After unpacking, I decided to take a few pictures. Notice how close we are to the river!
After unpacking, I decided to take a few pictures. Notice how close we are to the river!

Unfortunatenly during the unpacking, I came to realize I had casualties of the trip.

It seems the absolute power of the KLR was to much for the cans of beer to take. Even though they were safely stowed in my left hand pannier, several of them ruptured for no rhyme or reason. Of the 18, only 10 remained.

One thing I am glad for, is that even though the Panniers are water proof, I decided that I should put all my food into zip lock bags. This was a smart move as the bottom of the pannier was over an inch of Bud Light. Also I’m glad I bought cheap beer.

I finished unpacking, moved my panniers and dry bags to the rear vestibule of my tent (which by the way is awesome!), set up a blue tarp cover, and threw the hotdogs and tub chili (best chili ever for Chili Dogs!) into a mesh sack and tossed it into the river with a bit of rope.

Now I was all by myself with pretty much nothing to do.

So, I pulled out the Frisbee that I bought that morning for a buck at the grocery store, and started throwing it up into the air and catching it. I did this for I think 15 to 30 minutes before I lost interest in the damned thing, threw it on the ground and then decided to just go lay in my tent until Jeff or Kevin showed up.

It really wasn’t very long (it seemed) until Jeff showed up.  He pulled in around 5:30 with his Dodge Dakota. I was happy to see him for 2 reason. One, was my sanity. The whole time I had been there, I didn’t see a single person drive by.

The second reason was he had fire wood. And lots of it.

We got him unpacked and his Dollar Fifty Tent setup (No kidding, this guy bought it for a buck fifty at a yard sale! I told him he needs to write a book. Guy always finds good deals on things), and then proceeded to build a fire.

We were surrounded by white capped mountains
We were surrounded by white capped mountains

Also, Jeff brought along 4 chairs.

Now, I bought myself a hiking stool, and I soon realized that they are not the most comfortable pieces of camping furniture. In fact, I realized that at my size, they were extremely uncomfortable, so him bringing extra chairs came very much welcomed by me. This is one of those things I have noted for the trip. Adding a larger fold up chair for the trip will not be a problem.

We had all agreed to fend for ourselves for Dinner that night, as well all were planning on coming in at different times. Kevin would be the last to come up that night, and Grant following in the morning.

So with that, I had prepared myself a sandwich that I was going to eat for lunch. I had made 2, but only managed to eat 1 for lunch, and planned on making some soup for dinner (Cup of soup dry soup mix!).

So instead I munched on the second sandwich while Jeff brought out 2 big spicy sausages and cooked them over the fire.

Eventually later that night, Kevin rolled in and gave us news that Grant decided to come up that night as well. At around 10:30, Grant finally rolled in.

We all sat around the camp fire once Grant finished unpacking and getting his tent setup to enjoy the beer while discussing the sheer awesomeness of the starry night sky above us, before heading to bed just after 2am.

Where once a tent stood alone, now has a few neighbors!
Where once a tent stood alone, now has a few neighbors!

The next morning I awoke around 8am.  I had made it through my first night camping with the new gear!

I got dressed in my tent, and made my way out. Jeff had also just woken so we started on the process of getting a camp fire made, as well as coffee and starting breakfast.

Shortly after, both Kevin and Grant were up, and we sat around making breakfast, drinking coffee, and overall just trying to enjoy what the morning offered.

Breakfast was awesome.

Jeff had agreed to handle breakfast for both Saturday and Sunday.

Breakfast was comprised of fresh, thick cut deli bacon, southern style potatoes, and scrambled eggs.

With breakfast out of the way, we all huddled around the fire a bit before deciding to take some time to replenish our water.

This is something I had been wanting to mess with. I had just received my Katadyn Hiker Pro a couple weeks before, so I was looking forward to finally testing it out.

The Cascades Towering Above Darrington
The Cascades Towering Above Darrington

After first getting some cloudy water, which I was told by the other guys is normal on new, unused filters (yes I dumped the water), I proceed to fill my 2 water bottles as well as my water bladder.

After getting water, doing dish’s and everyone getting themselves in order, Grant and I took Jeff’s truck into town to pick up a propane bottle for Jeff’s stove, as well as get a few items not thought about before.

Back at camp, we spent out the rest of the day walking around, sitting, drinking, and again looking up at the stars (this is something you have to do if you spend to much time in the city).

Dinner came and went, and before long it was time to head to bed. As we were heading to bed, we realized just how cold it was out when Grant went to knock some of the water droplets off of his tent, only to find out that they were frozen.

The next morning I awoke around 6:30. I realized it was a bit early so just sat in my tent. I eventually got ready, and made my way outside looking to take some pictures and get a fire started.

Jeff made his way out as I was trying to make a fire, and after we both got warmed up a bit, we started on making breakfast.

The Sun lightly touches the top of the mountains as it rises Sunday Morning
The Sun lightly touches the top of the mountains as it rises Sunday Morning

Although it was cold, the view that morning was spectacular. Not a cloud in the sky, not a whiff of fog to block your view of the surrounding mountains and blue sky.

Kevin and Grant eventually got up, and we sat around while eating breakfast and drinking our coffee.

We took our time, sitting by the fire then eventually started the process of packing up camp.

Eventually everything got packed, and lunch time came around and we enjoyed our last camp trip meal of chili dogs, before finally starting the bikes, and making our way back home.

We decided to take the long route home, going through Darrington, as we did not want to chance the possible Ice going the other way.

This way we knew was without snow, and so we continued on.

To wrap it all up, the weekend was amazingly fun.  I had a lot of fun, and it gave me a lot of insight into what I will need to do in the future.

Some things I realized are, although I can now setup my tent quickly (I had camp setup in about 30 minutes), take down was a bit more of a chore than I expected.  I realize now why I have been told that if you are going to motorcycle camp, that it is worth just getting a large compressible dry pack, and throwing the tent in that, while keeping the poles and stakes in a separate pack.

I was also rather surprised on how much I was able to carry without a top box, and with the small panniers.

With just the tail bag and the panniers I do have currently, I was able to pack over a weeks worth of food and clothing, if I was on my own.  This gives me a little bit more insight into what I can get away with on my trip.

I was extremely happy though with the outcome.  Although it was a bit hectic getting there, the experience was more than worth it, and thank Grant, Kevin, and Jeff for having me along.

Until Next Time…

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