Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mailbag -- Hood to Coast

Paul writes:

This isn't exactly about Portland to Seattle, but I was wondering if you know of a good route to take from Mt. Hood (Rhododendron/Welches area) to Astoria and avoiding Highways 26 and 30 as much as possible.
A friend of mine is turning 60 this summer and he wants to go from his cabin on Hood to the beach following the path of the water, specifically the Sandy River drainage to the Columbia and then out to the coast.

You've come to the right place, Paul. To get from the mountain to Portland without getting on highway 26, the Barlow Trail Century route is a great starting point. You can use it in toto, or you can use bits of it to get off the mountain, and then follow the Sandy River more closely. Below is a map of the Barlow Century route, which I wrote up seperately here. Click on any map to take you to the route on the Gmaps Pedometer, where you will be able to zoom in and move around:

From Zig Zag, go north on Lolo Pass Road, and then turn left onto Barlow Trail Road. Alternatively, you can get onto the route from Brightwood Loop Road and Brightwood Bridge Road. You've got a big climb over the Devil's Backbone on Marmot Road, and then a descent to Roslyn Lake.

From there you and your friend have a choice: you can track the Sandy on the east side, following Ten Eyck north to Bull Run Road, to Gordon Creek Road, to Hurlburt Road. This will then put you on the HCRH at Springdale, and you can enjoy a quick descent all the way down to the mouth of the Sandy. Be warned: Ten Eyck, Bull Run, and Gordon Creek roads are extremely hilly -- they drop into and climb out of the Sandy River gorge several times. But they are also very beautiful roads.

Your other alternative is to track the Sandy on the west side. From Roslyn Lake, just stay on the Barlow Century route down to Dodge Park, and then up the other side. From there, you can continue on the Barlow Century route through Boring and onto the Springwater Trail into Gresham, or you can track the Sandy more closely by staying on Lusted, turning onto Hosner, then Oxbow, then 302nd, then Kerslake, and down Stark Street to the Sandy River. The climbs aren't as tough on this route, but you don't spend quite as much time on the Sandy.

Wherever you end up, it's not hard to get into downtown Portland. If you go to Gresham, just take the Springwater. If you go all the way to the mouth of the Sandy, then Marine Drive makes a lot of sense. You'll probably want to go further than just downtown Portland on your first day, though, as it's still a hundred miles and change to Astoria, and that "and change" can be a killer.

To get to Astoria from Portland while avoiding Highway 30, your first step is to get to Vernonia. Alas, Vernonia is over the hills from the Columbia, and so you're not really taking Columbia river grade down to the sea, but your compensation comes from the fact that once you get to Vernonia, you get on 202 all the way into Astoria, and 202 follows the Nehalem River grade until Jewell. The Nehalem River is actually really cool -- it starts out in the coast range flowing east, but doesn't flow into the Willamette; instead, it then turns north, and carves a valley through the coast range that goes west, south, and then west into the ocean near, well, Nehalem. The ride from Vernonia to the coast is also blessed with extremely light traffic and very reasonable grades.

Personally, I like the route above very much. It doesn't completely avoid highway 30, though, going from downtown Portland to Scappoose on that road, before taking the Scappoose-Vernonia Road over the hills. It is written up in more detail here. But there are two other ways to get into Vernonia: Highway 47 and Timber Road. Both start in Forest Grove, and of the two Timber Road is far superior.

If you decide to go by way of Forest Grove, here's how to pedal out there: pedal up to the Oregon Zoo from downtown by way of Fairview and Kingston. Take Canyon Ct up to Sylvan, and then the bike bypass past the cemetery, cross the bridge and take a right down to the bike path. Take the bike path down to Wilshire, take Wilshire to Park, and Park down to Cedar Hills Blvd. Left on Cedar Hills to Jenkins, right on Jenkins, Jenkins becomes Baseline, which will take you all the way into downtown Hillsboro. From Hillsboro, take Highway 8 to Forest Grove.

If you're going by way of Timber, continue on Highway 8 through Gales Creek until it meets up with Highway 6. Then take 6 a few miles west to Timber Junction, and turn onto Timber Road. Take Timber Road through Timber, cross Highway 26, and then continue on to Vernonia. If you want to go by way of Highway 47, it's pretty self-explanatory.

If you are hell-bent on staying as close to the Columbia as possible without going on Highway 30, you can take my Washington-side route to Longview and then take SR 4 from Longview to the mouth of the Columbia. I would advise against this, though, as SR 4 is extremely narrow and winding between Longview and Cathlamet, and fairly heavily trafficked.

If you would like more detail on the Forest Grove or Longview options, just let me know, and I'll do a Gmap for you. Write back, and let us know how the ride goes!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Portland to Seattle

I've never ridden this exact route as a single ride. But I have ridden every piece of it at some time or another. Most of it I did with my friend Carolyn in 2004, when we rode up to Seattle to attend Bumbershoot on Labor Day weekend. We broke the trip up into two days in each direction (staying in Centralia at the McMenamin's Olympic Club -- highly recomended!), and found it to be quite a fun trek, with a fairly humane distance each day.

The difference between the route we took on that trip and this one, though, is that we took Highway 30 between Portland and Longview. The traffic on that stretch of road drove Carolyn to distraction, which was the impetus for me to scout out the alternate route on the Washington side. It's a more challenging road, but more scenic and more pleasant, too, so on the whole, probably a better way to go. If you're interested in making the trip to Seattle, you can choose either way to get to Longview -- just know what the pros and cons are of each.

From Longview, the route takes the tried-and-true StP route all the way to Spanaway, with a modification between Napavine and Centralia -- my route stays out of Chehalis, instead going on 603 to Shorey Road, joining up with the main route again near the Centralia airport.

In Spanaway, the route goes around the back of Spanaway Lake on the Spanaway Loop Road, and then takes a combination of Ainsworth, Sheridan, and M Streets to get into downtown Tacoma. In Tacoma, it's best to try to stay on top of the ridge above the urban core, because you'll just have to climb back up it if you go down. From there, wind through the neighborhoods in the northern part of the city to Point Defiance, where you can take a ferry to Vashon Island.

This is the inspired part of this route: you don't have to deal with the wearisome Puyallup-Sumner-Auburn-Kent-Renton stretch of southern Seattle suburbs. Instead, once you get through Tacoma, you take a nice ferry ride, pedal across bucolic Vashon Island, and then take the passenger ferry from the northern tip of the island right into the heart of downtown Seattle. Much better. Be sure to stop in at the bakery in the village in the middle of the island (should be at around 176th street.)

Here is a link to the detailed map on the gmaps pedometer.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Sorry about the long silence. It's the end of the term, and I've got lots of other writing to do for the moment. Another week, and I'll be good to go again.

In the interim, this might be of interest. Here is a list of what I consumed during the 508:

396 ounces water
396 ounces water mixed with 34 scoops of perpetuem (4420 calories)
24 ounces of Ensure (1050 calories)
18 doses Hammergel (1978 calories)
16 ounces Starbucks Frappucino (300 calories)
1/2 peanut butter sandwich (200 calories)
2000 mg ibuprofen
43 Endurolytes capsules

Total calories consumed: 7898
Average calories per hour: 220