...this is the kind of stuff I'd post on it.

Monday, September 06, 2010

My volcano is better than your volcano

When the conversation over which mountain in the US is the best comes up (and honestly, you can't tell me it doesn't come up all the time), I think we can all agree that Mt. Rainier is the biggest and baddest of them all.   In the words of one of my fellow cyclists, "it's willingness to fuck shit up at a moment's notice" is something that demands to be reckoned with.

Mt. Rainier defines any scene it's a part of, whether it's driving south on the aptly-named Rainier Ave towards my 'hood, or on the side of a beer can, and it was only fitting that I get around to riding up it at some point.

There's a pretty straightforward 200K ride that goes up to Sunrise, the highest elevation you can reach on Rainier by road.  As you'd expect, it's 100K of climbing, and 100K of descending.

The trip up the mountain is breathtaking, with plenty to look at to keep your mind off the miles and miles of non-stop climbing.  The surroundings are part Western Washington, with fir and ferns packed into the dense old-growth forest, and part Eastern Washington, with the arid piney scent that I grew up smelling.

Since I went on a weekday, there wasn't as much traffic going up and down the mountain either, so I had many stretches where I could just chug up the mountain in near silence, with only the sound of my breath and purr of my drivetrain to keep me company.

The top gives you a chance to admire the mountain, catch your breath, and eat some food before you fly back down.  (NOTE: The cafeteria at the top of Sunrise is probably the most overpriced and dismal cafe you can imagine.  Bring your own food, no matter what.  You have been warned).

Screaming down the mountain was great, even for a timid descender like myself.  I watched over 35 minutes fly by without me having to offer so much as a single pedal stroke.  The trip back down Highway 410 isn't as much of a fun descent as you'd think though, since there's a strange headwind that's always blowing up the mountain on that stretch.  No one likes to have to pedal down a hill.

Since this ride, I've been back to Rainier several times, both on and off the bike.  I know that I'll be drawn back to this mountain over and over as the years go by, and I'm fortunate to have it right in my backyard.

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