On Sunday, I took my bike to Cle Elum, parked ‘downtown,’ and rode to the end of the pavement in Teanaway country. For a while, though, I thought I might have dozed off and wound up just outside Yosemite.
In a lot of ways, this was a new experience for me, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Truth be told, I’d barely heard of the Teanaway before, and a vague idea that it might be nice was about all I had to go on. The map showed a paved road that more or less followed the river, but I didn’t even know what it was called. I assumed I’d find out when I got there. Like the day before, the reality was much better than my wildest dreams.
For starters, I expected Cle Elum and the area around it to be like a town in Arizona: sun bleached, full of tumbleweeds, perhaps abandoned during the cowboy era… What I found waiting for me, was a lush and verdant, but sunny, paradise. This ride starts in farm and ranch country, but climbs into airy ponderosa pine forest, and, in the spring, lots of snow.
I followed Cle Elum’s Main Street out of town, and took highway 970. This turned out to be unnecessary, as a string of back roads goes to the same place. But loops are nice. I knew there’d be a left turn, and hoped it would be labeled; it turns out that road I saw on the map is called Teanaway Road, appropriately enough. 😀 Once you turn off 970 onto Teanaway, the traffic stops, almost completely, and, slowly, the (already wonderful) views improve.
Now is a good time to mention that the photos get more spectacular as you scroll down. I’m posting them in the order I saw them, and the ride goes from idyllic farmland to spectacular mountain country.
The road goes on like this a while, with rounded and snow-covered mountains off in the distance, farms on the side of the road, and a small hill to the right. A group of deer ran across my path, climbed into the forest, and ran off on a game trail. Deer aren’t the most impressive form of wildlife, but it was still cool.
The river itself isn’t visible for a lot of the ride. It traces a path across the far side of the valley from the road. After the West Fork departs, and its road with it, the Teanaway makes an appearance:
Probably less than a mile down the road, the river makes another appearance, smaller this time.
Washington is the land of micro-climates. It was starting to get … not arid, exactly, but closer to it by the time I shot the two photos above. But the changes happen slowly, enough to be hard to notice, like the old yarn about cooking frogs.
The plant life isn’t the only thing to change. Eventually, there are no more buildings or driveways. The only sign of human activity is the road. The cyclist is now alone with mother nature.
Despite the trees on the side of the road, the land gives off a powerful sense of, well, open space. I’ll post some photos of a ride over Snoqualmie Pass for comparison … later. Snowy meadows started to line the road. Teanaway Country is a meeting ground, a place where the warm sun of the nearby desert meets the rugged mountains.
This was further than I had planned to ride, especially after riding up and down the mountain yesterday. But my surroundings kept getting better; it wasn’t hard to decide to press on. The maps on my Garmin make it pretty hard to see where the road ends, but, it isn’t far. I would have regretted turning back here.
This would be an excellent place to end this post. I’ve made it to the end of the road, I can go no further, and I’m a bad ass. Right? Things aren’t exactly as they seem. Here’s the road beyond the sign:
Still, skinny road tires weren’t suitable for this kind of road. I was able to ride, more slowly, but I wasn’t sure how long that would last. And, anyway, I had made it to the end of the pavement and seen (or “discovered”) a lot of beautiful scenery. It was getting late, I was getting hungry, and this was a good place to turn around.
First, though, I spent some time taking it all in. Four trucks and jeeps came down the mountain, obviously traveling together, with ATVs and mini-motorcycles in the back of two of them. A while later, a pickup truck came down from the high country; I flagged it down, and asked the driver to snap a picture of me. He kindly obliged, was a little surprised to hear I had just put 25 miles behind me on a bike, and had 25 more to go. The man told me I’ve just reached the point where the scenery gets good, and that it gets much better.
I had parked in Cle Elum, because I didn’t plan this trip meticulously enough to know what my options were. Turns out there aren’t all that many options. You can park downtown, and ride about an extra 17 miles getting to Teanaway road. Or, you can find a pullout on the road, but these don’t start showing up until the end of the farm lands, several miles in. If you haven’t been here before, I’d suggest taking the long way. The beginning of the ride is very pretty, and it adds variety.
- Cle Elum has street parking.
- Follow Main Street out of town, heading east.
- About 4 miles in, you’ll come to a junction. Turn left, for SR 970, to avoid SR 10 to Ellensburg.
- Turn left on Teanaway Road, about 8.5 miles from Cle Elum. This will come up shortly after you pass the Teanaway River, and it will be the first turn with a dedicated turn lane.
- I stayed on the main road; West Fork branches off, eventually, and Middle Fork after that, leaving me on North Fork Road. I’d like to come back and explore them all. If you have time and energy, you should.
- On the way back, about a mile before you reach 970, turn right on Red Bridge Road.
- Turn right on Masterson Road.
- Turn right on Airport Road.
- Where Airport hits the highway, turn right, and then left, immediately, onto 3rd Ave.
- Follow 3rd Ave into town. It parallels Main Street, so you’ll have to turn left to get back to your starting point.
This route is 44 miles, and only 1,200 feet of elevation gain. The high point is about 2,800 feet, and is currently snowy, but the road is bare.
Riding on the highway (970) wasn’t bad at all. The shoulders were very wide, and, anyway, the scenery was pleasant enough to distract me from the auto traffic. Except when somebody going the opposite way would pass another car; seeing a Honda coming at you doing 80 mph is a little alarming. On a clear spring day, the highway section is quite pretty. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.