I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to present this weekend’s adventure, and decided it would be best to split it into two posts. I’ll begin by describing the ride itself.
I spent last weekend camping in Icicle Canyon, outside Leavenworth, got up Sunday morning, and enjoyed a road ride up a narrow mountain valley until I was stopped by the snow. This was my first ride of the year in a tee-shirt without a jacket, and my first sunburn of the year. This is exciting for a person who lives in Seattle.
The ride started in the lower canyon, and I went east on E Leavenworth Road. This is a very handy bypass that avoids the main strip in town, going from Icicle Road to the far end of US 2, near the Safeway. It’s also a scenic ride, especially in the spring; it offers views into Icicle Canyon as well as of the mountains that surround Cashmere Valley, including Icicle Ridge, a dramatic rise to the west. Of course, this is most scenic with snow on the peaks.
Most of Icicle Road goes through national forest land, but E Leavenworth is more populated. It’s still pretty sparse. Immediately as you join the road, you pass a ditch with an irresistible view of the mountains. Sadly (for photographers) there isn’t a compelling foreground, but my bike is always ready to stand in.
Most of the views in this direction are to the side, and it’s a pleasant, low-traffic road. I decided to simply enjoy the ride, and get a few pictures on the way back.
Eventually the road joins US 2, and I wanted none of that. I turned around and headed back for the canyon. Now that I was approaching the mountains, the straight-ahead views got much nicer.
East Leavenworth and Icicle Roads meet in the “lower” section of the canyon, on the outskirts of town, and the area is still lived in. You quickly enter the national forest, and suddenly there’s almost no development, only the road ahead of you, and the mountains and pines all around. You’ll also notice a lot of granite slabs, and the climbers who love them, plus a few camps and trailheads for the hikers.
The road through the canyon is beautiful. Most of it is generally flat or a very easy grade, punctuated by a few short and steep sections. The road winds back in a half circle, following the contours of the river and the canyon, which gets the rider a variety of nice vistas to take in.
As of this weekend, the road was closed at the Johnny Creek campgrounds, and I believe this is where it was closed when I did the ride last year. It hit 86 degrees Fahrenheit, if my Garmin is to be believed, and the road may already be rideable beyond this point.
From here, with a road bike, the only option is to enjoy your achievement and then turn back for a fast and furious descent. Be aware of possible cross winds when you pass through exposed sections, watch your line for potholes and gravel, and don’t forget to take in the scenery. You probably didn’t look behind you on the way up, and it’s gorgeous.
When I did this ride last year, I started in Tumwater Canyon on Route 2, several miles above Leavenworth. It was beautiful, and a great ride, but so was this route. Choose your starting point based on the distance you want to ride, and on how much gravity you want to fight.