Saturday, May 24, 2014

Columbia Plateau Trail - Spokane to Ice Harbor Dam

Eric, Jayce, Andrew and I met last Sunday morning at the Spokane Fish Lake Trailhead off Gov't Way and hit the trail.  From Spokane we rode to the official CPT start on the outskirts of Cheney; we had 3 days to explore the trail.
Andrew, Jayce, Eric and Shorty
I wasn't much into bike-blogger-stop-&-take-pics mode, but still managed to take 80 some pics. Sometimes it's good to just ride and enjoy it.

After Martin Rd, between the pavement and the railroad rock
Before Lamont, there's a weedy, swampy section that I forgot to mention in our pre-ride meeting at the Shop. I brought a pair of old light shoes for the swamp, but it came up quicker than I remembered. Decided to plow on through and try not to put a foot down. Failed at that - got to the real tall, thick weeds and came to a slippery halt - aagh - plop! Stinky swamp mud gas all over one shoe. Jayce was the only member of our party that made it through without putting a foot down.
before the real weedy sections
After Lamont - a break after the ride through the swamp

Sunday night camp, just before McCall Rd
the John Wayne Pioneer Trail intersection. Its a little
over 19 miles from Martin Rd to here.
darn focus button 
My bike garmin died after this and my battery pack didn't charge it - it worked at home go figure - so I lost track of the miles. But if you're sharp, you'll notice there are mile markers along the trail and can use those and your math skills to figure out mileage.
all types of creatures on the trail
A mile or so before Benge, the Benge-Winona Rd passes over the trail.  Jayce found some owlings underneath the bridge and took some photos:

Andrew's derailleur got bent by more weeds in this section, and his bike was converted to single speed. It's handy to have a mechanic on the ride. We then got off the trail here and rode into Benge. (note: no store in Benge anymore).
old wooden water tank in Benge
Onward to Washtucna:
Cow Creek Trestle - I'm sure it's blocked and/or locked but
you might be able to climb down and hike-a-bike. But then
you need to ford Cow Creek and climb back up. Darn creek
foiled me again.  A spot to go back to and explore. 
the bar in Washtucna where I embarrassed the other riders
by ordering a Mike's Hard Cherry. hey the only choices were
Oly, Rainier, Bud in bottes or cans. or boxed wine. 
Single-speed fatbike through the weeds, railroad ballast, and hilly pavement wasn't cutting it, so Andrew got a ride from family to the Tri-Cities.
cows staring at us - wonder what they were thinking 

Tunnel 17 - we were warned by the bartender in Washtucna
it is haunted but we bravely entered. 

We found a great spot to camp in Devil's Canyon, high above the highway below.
Tues Morning  
Next morning got everything packed, hopped on the bike and discovered my back tire was flat (I never did the sealant thing). I think this was the 3rd flat tire for us. I pumped it up and rode on, hoping it was a slow leak. 

Tunnel 16
Snake River and Lower Monumental Dam 
Box Canyon Trestle - gated and locked. Dilemma time as
there didn't seem to be any way to hike across the canyon,
and heading down to the road might involve some

Wilson Canyon Trestle
We saw a couple more trestles ahead so climbed on down Wilson Canyon Trestle at Wallace Walker Rd and rode down to Burr Canyon Rd (Hwy 263 - it's Devil's Canyon Rd until this spot). Windust Park is right there and a good spot for water, which later I wished I'd taken advantage of.

Real Pelicans! 
We followed Burr Canyon Rd along the Snake River, then rode it up the Canyon to Pasco-Kahlotus Hwy. A lot of climbing which nearly did my legs in.  Then the P-K Hwy to Snake River Rd and a well deserved fast, fun downhill to the Snake River Trailhead.  (There is another primitive road called Neff-Jones Road that connects Burr Canyon and Snake River roads that looked like it involved a lot of climbing, too, but may be a shorter route.)

Snake River Trailhead up ahead!
All along this section it was bugging me, because I remembered reading a CPT report a couple years ago by somebody at crazyguyonabike and I was wondering what he did in this section with the blocked trestles.  I didn't read it again before the trip because I didn't realize we'd make it this far, so I gave myself a little kick in the butt when I got home and read it again. Columbia Plateau Trail by Matt RC - he took another abandoned railroad grade near Windust Park that is below the CPT and parallels it to the Snake River Trailhead. When I read it a couple years ago I didn't understand what he meant, but looking at google maps you can make out the other abandoned line.

Snake River Trailhead - 15 miles to go
yea! no more railroad ballast. The surface is similar to the
Cheney to Martin Rd section.
I crawled in the last 15 miles, low on water and no juice left in my legs. But it was some of the best trail conditions of the trip. The last few miles were a nice small gravel - too bad the wind was against us. Finally had to pump more air into my back tire, but made it all the way without fixing. Andrew came and picked us up, and we went to the Ice Harbor Brewery in Pasco for water, beer, and great food.
Andrew's van at the Ice Harbor Dam trailhead. A perfect fat
bike hauling machine.
 I had them drop me off on Broadway, then I rode home.

We talked about when we might be ready to ride the trail again. Two or three years maybe, or long enough to forget the worst sections.  But my memory is not what it used to be - the headwind we rode against most of the way is already fading. Who knows, maybe this fall I'll feel like heading back out.


  1. Great write-up, Scott. Your bikepacking setup looks really dialed. The only thing I see missing are a couple of cans of Ten Fidy or Gubna. ;-)

    Nice job on accomplishing this trip. It's one I'd still like to make at some point. And ditto on some Cow Creek exploration.

    The cows are thinking "Crazy f#@&ing dudes." Obviously

    1. Thanks, Pat. Yeah before I left it seemed like I was missing something - need to find/invent a little 2-can solar powered cooler. I like my brew cold. I'm happy I bagged this trip finally - would be up for another jaunt on it someday.

  2. Biking, camping, friends and beer are a good mix.

  3. Your bike travel posts are fantastic. We'd like to talk with you about using them on the Washington Bikes blog with a link back to the original posts. If you're up for it contact & tell her Barb sent you.

    By the way, we have you on our list of bike blogs around the state:

    Barb Chamberlain
    Executive Director, Washington Bikes (formerly the Bicycle Alliance of Washington), and former Spokanite

  4. Thanks, Barb and thanks for linking to my blog. I'll contact Louise