Buzzing through Mt. Rainier National Park

Ah yes, the joys of roughing it in a rustic camp ground. Who needs an expensive hotel room. There were three tents each with a happy motorcycle camper in our campsite. It was $15 of bliss split three ways between me and my riding companions, Jeff and Dan.

Mt. Adams as seen from Takhlakh Lake CampgroundThe Takhlakh Lake Campground in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is an out of the way destination of a campground. I call it a destination, because you have to traverse more than 20 miles of winding loose dirt road to get there. Is it worth it? The view of Mt. Adams across the lake at the campground is worth the trip alone. It is truly amazing.

The price of bliss is paid by not one of us having a good night sleep. We made quick work of tearing down camp and loading up the V-Stroms. Jeff was first up and loaded his DL1000 in no time flat. Dan and I loaded up our DL650s and all of us were out of camp by 7 a.m.

Today, we’re taking a series of fire service roads back to Randle; through Mt. Rainier via  US 12, Washington SR 123, SR 410 and finally SR 164 into Enumclaw. In all a ride of about 115 miles which takes nearly three and half hours with all of the stops along the mountain to take in the views. Here’s a map of the route.

I’m still working on my dirt riding skills. I grew up in an area where half the roads were dirt. Riding dirt bikes and ATVs down those roads was second nature to me. I was determined to make a smooth exit this morning along the fire service roads from the campground to Randle. My ride in to the campground the night before was less than graceful.

Dan and Jeff shared insight into how to make the ride smoother. I did as suggested and stood up almost the entire way back to Randle. Stepping down on the inside peg in the corners to turn. I was surprised at the difference the technique made. It was like I was a kid riding my dirt bike again. Funny how we lose skills if they aren’t used.

The south entrance to Mount Rainier National Park on SR 123After hitting the pavement my suspension felt really soft in the corners. It was soft enough that I decided to pull over and take a closer look at the bike. My suspicions were confirmed. My rear tire picked up a piece of metal and was flat as a pancake. Luckily, I carry a small air compressor and a tire plug kit for just such an occasion. We didn’t plug the tire just yet. A group decision was made to leave the metal in the tire, fill it with air and ride it back to Randle (15 miles) before making a more permanent fix. I nurse the bike back to town and pull into the Chevron Station. Within a half hour the metal is removed, a plug is installed and the tire is filled.

This is where Dan splits ways with us. Jeff and I head east on US 12 and have Mt. Rainier in our sight. A few miles east of Packwood we turn north on SR 123 over Cayuse Pass. This route weaves along the mountain side and affords great views of Mt. Rainier. A great side route is SR 706, also known as Stevens Canyon Road, up to Paradise. I have yet to ride this route, but I’ve driven it and it is certainly on my to-do list. We continue up SR 123 until it ends and we continue north on SR 410.

SR 410 can be busy during the summer weekends. It is a popular route and only has one lane in each direction. Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful road with great curves. It just stinks to get stuck behind an overloaded RV that can’t get out of it’s own way up the hills. We were lucky that it was early enough that traffic really wasn’t an issue.

V-Strom motorcycles striking a silhouette in the morning sun at Mt. Rainier National ParkThere aren’t many fuel or rest stops along the route. The only one on the north side of Mt. Rainier National Park is in Greenwater. It is a super busy station and the bathroom tends to have a long line. I don’t suggest holding the bladder until you get here. Enjoy the privacy of being in the woods and find a covered spot to pull off to the side of the road. Trust me, you’ll be much better off. The only caveat to that is I don’t recommend a high-visibility Aerostich Roadcrafter suit when trying to hide behind a tree. High-vis doesn’t allow privacy if you get my drift.

The closer we get to Enumclaw the more traffic builds. It has been a fantastic weekend of riding through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mount Saint Helens National Monument and Mount Rainier National Park. All of which are within eyesight of one another. Do you get why I like riding in Washington State? There’s scenic motorcycle rides around every turn.


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