The rain started about halfway through our 2.5 hour drive to the start of the road closure. I was hopeful the clouds would "get it out of their system" and the skies would be clear and sunny by the time we arrived; however, I was wrong. In fact, it could be argued that it rained even harder right as we parked and started getting our gear together. I think both of us were hesitant to ask what the other one wanted to do because even after making the long trek up to the starting point, it was hard to convince ourselves that it was going to be the joyous ride we'd imagined given the state of the weather. With that, we didn't say much and just put on an extra layer of rain coats, rain pants (Craig forgot his), and shoe covers and hoped for the best.
For those interested in the ride details and logistics (how far, how fast, how high), check them out here.
Rain gear is so fashionable.
Lucky for us, the temperature stayed quite warm throughout the day; I actually felt cozy tucked away from the elements in my rain gear. Although it sprinkled off and on throughout the entire day, within the first 30 minutes of climbing, the steady rainfall significantly subsided.
View down into a gorge flowing into the Skagit River
The North Cascades is a place so beautiful that it leaves you dumbfounded and unable to find any other words to describe the landscape other than "big" and "green." The highway parallels Granite Creek for most the route on the west side of the mountain range filling our ears with the constant sound of rushing water as we made our ascent. Waterfalls cascaded down the basalt cliffs lining the road. Some of the falls could be traced zigzagging up the mountain face all the way to the crest. Low clouds rolled past throughout the afternoon, but they would often part giving short glimpses to the jagged crown of peaks surrounding us.
Craig approaching one of the many waterfalls along the route.
One of several barriers
Switching layers was a common practice
Me basking in the few minutes of sunshine we had!
Bikes on the road
We finally find deep snow!
Craig finds that road bike tires are not ideal for biking across snow and ice.
We reach Rainy Pass (~4855 ft)!
We finally reached the end of the line at Rainy Pass at 25 miles in. Here the road crews stopped plowing leaving a ~4.5 foot wall of snow blocking the way. We hung out here for little while, finished out lunches, and then quickly saddled up for the ride down due another round of impending rain clouds hanging overhead.
Initially, we were excited by the idea of bombing down the pass that we had worked to ascend. However, we quickly realized that the slope just wasn't great enough to allow us to gain much speed at all. In fact, with the headwind blowing up the mountainside, we often had to pedal even going downhill.
Rainy Pass was the end of the line. There was no way we were getting through this snow pack.
A look at what we would have endured had we pushed forward on the road.
The bikes posing.
Making our way back down.
Making our way back down.
Profile of the ride