Day 3: Over the Top: The Cascades

September 5, 2002
Skykomish to Lake Wenatchee State Park
44 Miles Google Map

It took me around three hours, including rest stops, to reach Steven’s Pass from my starting point outside Skykomish. The first half of the sixteen mile climb wasn’t too tough; it’s the second part that tries to do you in. So many long stretches of inclines that level ground begins to seem like a novelty.

I managed to survive the ordeal by basically plodding along, counting my pedal revolutions and when I neared a certain threshold, began looking for a place to pull over and take a short break. The spectacular panoramic views of steep, forested slopes made these rather enjoyable.

Reaching the top gave me a sense of accomplishment I had not felt in years. Certainly the weekly meetings of the IT group I’d worked in had never left me in such elated spirits. I took my lunch by the closed-for-the-season ski lodge and listened to music someone working nearby was playing: The Who, John Cougar, and my all-time favorites, The Beatles. Like that tune off of the Sgt. Peppers album, I truly felt on this fine, sunny day that I was “in the sky with diamonds”.

After finishing my scenic summit meal, the next couple of hours were a biking free-fall with minimal peddling required. I only had to be careful that I didn’t build up too much momentum and end up flying off the road and into some tree. The near-constant attention this required prevented me from taking in much of the scenery that rushed by.

Restaurant Note to Myself: Anytime the menu says “big” or “hearty”, order a la carte, regardless of how ravenous you may feel. I believe my breakfast of this morning must have cost the lives of two large potatoes. I had trouble even finding the scrambled eggs, buried as they were beneath the spud avalanche. This made for sluggish going for the first part of the climb as my body tried to balance digestion with exercise.

Tonight I have decided to skip the hotel scene and camp out. According to my map, the nearest accommodation is close to fifty miles away, albeit downhill. A bit too much after the day I’ve put in. Also, I’m feeling a tad guilty about lugging my tent and sleeping bag along and not putting them to use yet.

[Editors Note: This would be the only time our intrepid traveller camped out during the trip.]

I received a bit of rain while making camp, which motivated me to a new, set-up-the-tent record of fifteen minutes.

Tonight there’s a stiff breeze coming off the lake onto the beach where I’m relaxing and doing my writing. I take it as a good omen.

Same Day — Late Evening
I’m nice and cozy — the tent is zipped down and the sleeping bag zipped up. It’s now me versus the great outdoors. A one night engagement. The breaking waves from the lake will serve as a soothing soundtrack.

A good time to talk about my music!

Somehow, the idea of recording a number of my songs, many of which I wrote way back in college, snuck onto the task list back in mid-June after I had wrapped up my short-term contract at work a month early. With the unexpected free time — and an apartment I could freely play and sing in without anyone complaining — I realized this would be a rare opportunity to finally get my musical efforts onto tape.

The month of July was used to work on the five unfinished piano tunes. I had purchased a small four track recorder which I used to layer multiple vocals on top of the instrument. (Just like the Beatles, except without the talent.) It required a lot of tedious repetition to get acceptable results, but I found it rewarding overall.

Likewise, August saw me scrambling to wrap up the guitar compositions. A tough challenge; I’m not sure for example that I always had the damn thing properly in tune with the piano for the couple of songs that required both instruments.

Once everything was recorded, it was time to mix the tracks onto a single cassette. This turned out to be a real headache at times, tweaking first the level of the instruments, then the vocals. Back and forth. During the final week leading up to my glorious departure for this trip, I was putting in eight and nine hour days on this while at the same time packing up my apartment.

At least the story had a happy ending: the songs all ended up sounding pretty good. At least to my untrained ear. Almost all of them had been circulating in my brain’s creative department for over two decades and I’m happy I finally found the time and motivation to clear them out. It made the summer extra special.

    Today:       44 Miles
    To Date:  114 Miles / 184 Kilometers

Lovely scenery as I labored my way up…
At last!

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