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(RE: United States, Pacific Northwest, greater Seattle Washington area):

Since many local PacNW mountain passes are at minimum partly-thawed for the 2012 season (as of mid-June), I've been doing a bit of "Adventure Riding" recently. Nah, not real adventure riding like the Darien Gap route (Central America: Yellow Fever, "Yanqui go home!", mudslides and giant mosquitoes). More local fire roads, of which there are thousands of miles in the Cascades. The "Adventure" is mostly in getting where I need to go without sliding off into a ditch and grinding plastic.

Still, there is much to see in Washington State via said-fire roads. A preparation, map consultation, ask around, never know what you might find.

The concept of "ghost towns" is always attractive to me. There are several here in WA, though supposedly less than one might expect: the verdant foliage tends to rapidly reclaim the doings of man. Ask any homeowner about "mold," they'll explain in-detail. That notwithstanding, the two I know of relatively close by to greater Seattle are Monte Cristo (abandoned mining town) and Lester (abandoned timber town). I've been to Monte Cristo, though nature wiped out the road a few years ago and revisiting is now improbable at-best, downright hazardous at-worst. Mostly by-foot, too. But I hadn't been to Lester, and the road in looked interesting.

As usual, Wikipedia has an informative article: look it up for more info.

Bottom line, for adventure motorcycling purposes, is that the one fire road in is gated off on either end, (east and west) a few miles out from the former townsite, to at least slow down the lookie-lous (like me!). Wasn't sure what to expect, but I did prepare for a hike as well as ride.

From just east of Snoqualmie Pass (I-90), I took the exit south to Stampede Pass. Time for "Enduro Mode” on the MTS1200. Roughly thirteen miles of well-maintained fire road FS 5400 brought me over Stampede Pass (moderate amount of snow, still, at this writing). Spectacular views of both Mt. Rainier, not too far to the south, and the valley below the pass.

The rail line nearby is active, passing through a nearly two mile long tunnel somewhere around Stampede Pass. FS 5400 also more-or-less follows a massive straight-line set of high voltage lines. Presumably that, and the active rail line, are reasons the road stays well-maintained since there isn’t too much else out there besides timber and coyotes.

Eventually the road terminates at a gate, with various locks for railroad, telecom, and other personnel. Bikers and bicyclists not allowed. Motorcycle chained up, hiking gear on, scratch that: it's pouring rain, keep the Roadcrafter on. Off we go. Yes, hiking in a Roadcrafter. Easier than it sounds, though nice in nippy temps, too (high 40s F).

Spoor and prints everywhere. Deer and bigger critters, definitely, including elk. Coyotes, too, and plenty of them. More dusk and dawn type of creatures, these, and little threat to hikers. Seldom seen or heard, in the daytime, though this day would prove the exception. More on that in a bit.

Per the Garmin GPS, a lazy two mile hike down the straight road leads to an interesting triple junction of rail lines. One spur, to the north, appears little used. The other two, east-west, are definitely active. FS 5400 continues to the west, and I choose the rail line for a stroll. Hard to get run down by a train here, given the good sightlines. Signs of old buildings, no more than charred wood and concrete foundations. Nature has the upper hand.

Another half mile hike brings the bulk of the (former) "town site" into view. By far the highlight is several residential buildings next to the rail line. Decayed, abandoned, but not for too long, it would seem. Dollars-to-donuts this is the former abode of the town's last resident, a Mrs. Gertrude Murphy, who passed away in 2002 at the fine age of 99. A bit of nosing around reveals they probably just up and walked off after Ms. Murphy's passing: furniture and most everything else are rotting and less disturbed than one might think. A bit of graffiti, couple empty beer bottles, but it's all actually remarkably intact. Appropriately-spooky, indeed.

After a set of photos, atmospherically helped by the mist and intermittent rain showers, I called it an afternoon. Oh, on the way out, east side of town, the coyotes chose to open a chorus. I only heard two for sure, but my my: weren't they loud and not terribly far away. That jolt of primal fear was ferocious: call me superstitious Irish, but it was truly a lonely sound for an abandoned place. Coyotes aren't trouble for people, but it seemed about as appropo as can-be as I hiked back and rode back to civilization. Rest in peace, Ms. Murphy: hope I didn’t disturb your things TOO much…keep the dogs at bay.

What a great adventure, for a place only 80 miles from my front door, near Seattle. I would call this more of a “pocket adventure,” since it only took five hours including 2 hours of hiking and on-site. As-mentioned, the Forest Service road in was well-kept, mostly second and third gear on the Multi. No drama there, either: Enduro mode made short work of it. Aside from mud and grit, no mechanical drama and I am continually surprised how well it handles in lightweight offroad while standing up (for a 1200cc twin: it ain’t a Honda CRF250X, however).

Slideshow:

Lester WA USA Ghost Town Ride June 2012

Sample Shots:





 

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Discussion Starter #4
Modern Tools Make it Look Easy

Thanks. Lighting was great that day (overcast to p. sunny). Shameless, unpaid plugs for two products (or maybe three):

1) Canon S95 (and older S90, or newer S100) camera: amazing pocket cam. Fast glass. Image Stabilization. Great sensor. Effects (“gimmick” modes, for purists). Best pocket cam I've owned to-date, good for riding. I bring the Nikon DSLR for serious work, but the Canon sees far more action as a walkabout.

2) SnapSeed for iPad: easy photo effects. Only costs a few bucks via Apple Store.

Oh, and:

3) iPad, for those who really don't like spending hours on Photoshop, Lightroom, and similar to edit photos on laptops or PCs. Get an SD card adaptor: quickly imports photos, centralizes for easy editing. iPads have a few other uses, too ;-)
 
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