I need to start this by taking back what I said after climbing Logan Pass – that was not the hardest thing I have ever done. Today we climbed Sherman Pass in Washington, the first of the Cascades. We set out from Kettle Falls with extra frozen water, G2 and snacks for what we expected to be a fairly difficult climb. That is the understatement of the trip. As we started up, Jake and I passed a road worker who asked if we were heading for Republic. When I answered “yes”, his reply was “it’s only going to get much worse before it gets better”. I thanked him very much, coming just shy of calling him a jerk. The climb at the beginning was pretty standard, although not the switchback style of Logan. Mostly, long, gradual climbs. The temperature warmed up very quickly so we were going through our water supply steadily. About a third of the way up, Maggie had a broken spoke so we stopped for a quick repair. Traffic was not too bad although we saw plenty of logging trucks, which was a bit of a surprise. Fortunately, they were coming down the hill so didn’t bother us too much. We met a few other bikers, one gentleman who had just started his eastward journey to Bar Harbour a week ago. He let us know we had our work cut out for us on the upward climb as he happily glided downhill.
Brian, Maggie and Zach had the lead with Jake hanging back with me – thanks Jake. With about 7 miles to go, Jake and I met up with the others at a nice little bridge turnout close enough to a creek. Great place to wade in the water and even dunk our heads to cool off. The water felt great. We set off for the final climb but it didn’t get any easier. I found myself stopping to rest about every half mile – sorry I slowed you down Jake. Brian stopped every so often to make sure that Jake and I were not too far behind before continuing on with Maggie and Zach. As Jake and I finally saw the sign for the Scenic Overlook, a driver with an rv came down the hill and shouted “almost there!” – music to our ears. Jake and I pulled into the overlook but saw no sign of the others. We checked out the area and decided that they must have gone a bit farther down the road. We should have known – we weren’t quite at the top. Another half mile brought us to the very top as evidenced by the elevation sign and the steep grade sign we love to see. 5500 ft! Everyone was laying down by the information map – good idea. We were all out of water so just rested before heading down the glorious downhill. Before we left, Brian called the Northern Inn and booked us in for the night. It was obvious we weren’t going to get any farther than Republic today. Some of the more optimistic had grand thoughts of getting two passes done today. Oh how wrong they were.
The kids headed down ahead of Brian and I (I think they may have broken some speed limits on the way down). Brian and I chose the more gradual pace using our brakes regularly. I tried not to worry too much about the kids ahead of us. The ten miles went by very fast and we arrived just outside of Republic and stopped for a late lunch. When the waitress found out we had just climbed the pass, her reply was “I think all you bikers are nuts”. The food was great and we soon re-hydrated and re-fueled. I must confess, I almost fell asleep at the table.
Three miles later, with the obligatory final hills (ugh!) we arrived at the Northern Inn, a very nice motel. Some ice for my knees and a glorious shower and I felt a bit revived. I napped while the rest caught up on their Internet stuff. Now, Brian and the kids are down the street at the market getting some snacks and drinks for tonight and tomorrow. Time to get our “Family Guy” fix for the night (never though I would be saying that!) I don’t remember when I was this tired. Tomorrow’s climb won’t be nearly as high and I certainly hope the hills are not quite as long. Wish us luck.