Big Road Trip – Days 1 to 4, Hood River to Taft Montana

Key Points

• Volcanic craters
• 4 volcanic mountain views
• Amazing wildflowers
• Wonderful back roads through farming towns
• Steptoe butte
• Fantastic rail trail at sunset/moonrise
• Wildlife seen on bikes: elk, marmots, deer, porcupine, all sorts of waterfowl, bats, millions of song birds, MOOSE
• Wildlife heard on bikes: coyote, owls

Day 1, July 7, 2017 – Hood River to Mt. St Helens

The house is packed up. We slept in the van. That’s about 90 square feet of living space not counting the bed which is over the bike garage.

90 square feet of living space.

It’s not easy packing for 2 plus months, 2 bikes each and, in my case 2 more sports, running and swimming including open water gear.
We left the house with 2 vehicles and are down to one having finalized the sale of the Fit. Once that was all taken care of, we promptly left town.

We arrived at the Ape Canyon area with enough time to do an evening ride up to The Plains of Abraham.

There’s bound to be a bit of confusion here. If you’re Canadian you learned about the battle of The Plains of Abraham in school and you know that the Plains of Abraham are in Quebec City. Well, turns out that there is a Plains of Abraham west, on Mt. St Helens. It’s a trail high on the mountain, near the crater. Something of a moonscape with wild flowers. It has inspired a theme for the trip, Plains of Abraham West to Plains of Abraham East. We had a fantastic 2 hour ride with owls hooting, coyotes yapping and a full moon rising.
We made dinner with steaks on the grill care of Balanced Earth Farm then drove to a sleeping spot with our sights on riding Windy Ridge in the morning.

Day 2, July 8, 2017– Windy Ridge to The Middle of Nowhere WA

We woke up to a beautiful view of Mt St Helens.


After my morning coffee and a bit of breakfast we drove down to the sno-park at the base of Windy Ridge Rd. The ride up to Windy Ridge is 15 plus miles, mostly up hill, some of that pretty steep.



It’s exposed but the views can’t be beat. From forest, into the blast zone, past Spirit Lake and up to the crater at Windy Ridge view point. We were lucky enough to hit the last road closed to cars weekend of the season. I don’t know if I’d feel safe riding that road with cars whose drivers are distracted by the views.

On our ride we saw elk, deer and really fat marmots.

When we got back to the parking lot, we had opprtunity to watch many Saturday drivers come up, disappointed that the road was closed to cars and motorbikes, they would turn into the lot and enjoy a break. Including this rolling, mostly vintage, car show.

We chatted with lots of people, trying to embrace one of the main concepts of Blue Highways, engaging with people who are from different backgrounds than ourselves. After lunch and some conversation, we headed in the direction of Yakima. The road over White Pass is really something to see. It was clear with amazing views of Ranier. But HOT!!! So we napped at a primative campsite alongside a creek through the hottest part of the day.

We started our drive again at dusk through the more boring parts of Central Washington eventually settling down to sleep at a rest stop not far from Washtucna, WA.

Day 3, July 9 – Washtucna WA to Harrison ID

We woke up to another scorching day. I tried going for a run along a rail trail in Washtuca, but it was already too hot. First road trip lesson, don’t believe Google maps. Google showed what looks to be miles of developed rail trail. It was maybe 1 km long and in the middle of town.

Next stop, Steptoe Butte State Park via small roads through farming towns in the Palouse countryside. The people we saw along the way, working in gardens or just sitting on the porch were all friendly and waved at us. Tom and I realized that to them we’re city folk. What a strange thought.

Steptoe Butte is worth the trip. It looks big from below but you can’t really get a sense of how high it is until you drive to the top. There is a crazy road that goes round and round the butte, in tighter and tighter circles. The butte summit is 3612 feet high, 1000 feet higher than the surrounding countryside.

Like the day before at Windy Ridge, we ran into a most unlikely group of Asian tourists. Out in the middle of nowhere WA.

Our goal for the day was to check out more rail trail but based on our morning experience in Washtuca, we weren’t holding out much hope. We headed to Plummer ID, the Western end of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. In this case, we were pleasantly surprised. There is a beautifully developed trail head in Plummer and 72 miles of paved rail trail that traverses most of the Idaho panhandle and ends in Mullen. Both of us being quite fair skinned and sensitive to the Sun, we opted to nap in the shade, eventually driving to Harrison ID for ice cream, where I got pooped on by a mourning dove all in the name of killing time until we did a sunset/moonrise ride on the trail from Harrison to Plummer and back over a bridge nearly a mile long.

I had to wear 2 pairs of shorts as my bum was sore from riding 2 days in a row. (Yes, I’m definitely out of endurance cycling shape and my road bike saddle is really firm). My neck and back ached, my feet and thumbs were trying to go numb. But in spite of all that it was a magical evening. Photos of

Day 4, July 10 – Harrison to Mullen.

I rode the first 27 miles from Harrison to Cataldo. Bum starting to improve. Perfectly flat trail through wetlands with pink, white and

Cow moose and her calf just outside of Harrison ID on the Trail of the Couer d’Alenes

yellow water lilies.

My trip was a bit delayed by a cow moose and her calf on the trail!
Tom finished the trail, riding from Cataldo to Mullen, about 29 miles. I can’t say enough about this trail. It’s a wonderful, relatively flat 70 plus miles. GO RIDE THIS RAIL TRAIL. You won’t regret it.


From Mullen we continued east to Taft MT where we found a lovely campsite by a creek, close to the trail of the Hiawatha. More rail trail for day 5! This time on mountain bikes.


One thought on “Big Road Trip – Days 1 to 4, Hood River to Taft Montana”

  1. Thanks for this…love seeing pics and hearing about your travels. will watch for the next post 🙂 xoxoxo Liz

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