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We finally got away for a summer backpack trip but unfortunately it was probably one of the worst days of the year for visibility in the Central Cascades.  Numerous fires have been burning in eastern and northern Washington and this particular weekend, a high-pressure system snuck in, made the air stagnant and pushed the smoke down toward the ground.  So while the skies above were totally clear, the air in all directions was a smoky haze.  We could smell the smoke when we got out of the car at the Little Wenachee Ford Trailhead but either we got used to it or it dissipated a bit throughout the weekend because it did not spoil a marvelous loop hike on the Cady Ridge, the Pacific Crest, and Little Wenachee trails.

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This was Naomi’s first overnight backcountry trip.  She carried a sleeping bag, her pad, and her jacket.  The trail up Cady Ridge was very hot, dusty, and steep.  This got the bulk of the elevation gain out of the way early in the trip.  By midafternoon, we were hiking across huge grassy meadows along the ridgetop.  We made camp just a few hundred yards from the PCT at a clearing with a view of Glacier Peak.  It is so rare to find a campsite with a view like that.  It was a shame that the views was so hazed over from the smoke.

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We quickly headed over to Lake Sally Ann to fill up with water.  The ridge was completely dry and the leaves on the blueberry shrubs were bright red.  Most of the wildflowers were done blooming and were struggling to survive.

We enjoyed a night out under the stars after eating our great sandwiches and playing a little cards.

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Sunday was fairly easy.  We followed the PCT to Dishpan Gap then took the Little Wenachee Trail down through a hanging meadow called Meander Meadow before descending through long stretches of overgrown brush.  Naomi saw lots of crickets and grasshoppers, a few pika, and a grouse.

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We Like Trains

It’s been a long time since I’ve visited Wisconsin (too long!).  Two things struck me the last time we visited.  One: there a lots of people to visit and we spend a lot of time in cars driving from one place to another.  Two: I remember being on roads thinking it would be fun to ride these quiet country roads.

From those two thoughts came the idea for a summer adventure.  If I’m going to spend precious vacation shuttling around Wisconsin, I want to do it on a bike. When the logistics finally settled out, the plan was to ride Amtrak to somewhere in Wisconsin and make some sort of loop, couch-surfing along the way until all the nieces, nephews, parents, brother and sister were visited.

We were able to bike from our house to the train station in downtown Seattle.  When we walked through the doors of King Street Station, we were instantly transported into Train World.  Time becomes a fungible notion and all are at the mercy of the vagaries of the rail system.  But we settled in.  Eventually the train left and we rolled comfortably through the city and up along the Sound to Everett.  The tracks are right on the shore for most of that part of the trip and it feels like you are floating on the water.  The golden sun on the water was beautiful.  The trip over Steven’s Pass (or rather under Steven’s Pass) took a long time.  The train crawled through the canyons and up the grade.  We settled into our seats for the night in Wenatchee.

Watching the oil train pass

Watching the oil train pass

Still looking out the window

Still looking out the window

I awoke on our first morning and stumbled back to the lounge car.  It was very peaceful as we crawled along a twisting river in Idaho.  By late morning, we were again climbing slowly through Glacier National Park.  It was quite scenic but we really were on the very edge of the park and did not see much of the amazing scenery on the inside of the park.

We spent the 2nd night rumbling across Minnesota and finally made it to Columbus, Wisconsin by mid-afternoon on the 3rd day.  Tana and Peter whisked us away to their home and we immediately got on bikes and pedaled to downtown for dinner and a stroll around campus and the capitol.  That evening really opened my eyes to the fact that there are other enclaves of cycling besides Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver.  It also brought back to me how nice the summer evenings can be in the midwest, where summer rains water the lush countryside.

The next day was quite stormy in the morning, so Tana drove us up toward Juneau and the start of the Wild Goose Trail.  After 25 hot and steamy miles of pedaling on some very nice gravel, we arrived in Fond du Lac.  We spent the evening at Dad’s and slept at Mom’s.  In the morning, Noah and I pedaled out to Taycheedah and rode the hills down to Kettle Moraine Lake to hang out with Rebecca, Joseph, and John for the day.  We did a lot of walking and biking with the boys, first walking around a nearby lake, then biking around it several times.  The boys were tireless.  It was a gorgeous day, not too hot or humid.

Robins nest at Aunt Tanas

Robins nest at Aunt Tanas

Sandhill cranes in a field

Sandhill cranes in a field

Noah biking in the humidity on the Wild Goose Trail

Noah biking in the humidity on the Wild Goose Trail

We pedaled back to Mom’s that evening after watching the boys’ baseball game and stopped at Kelly’s for a very quick cone.  This became the joke of the trip, that it took us 12 days to get to Kelly’s and back.  I got a major flat tire on Van Dyne Rd about a half mile from Mom’s house so had to get a new tire the next morning.  Then we packed up all our stuff and pedaled back over to Karen’s house.  After a quick trip up Dundee mountain, we spent the afternoon fishing and then rode with Karen’s family to Rebecca’s softball game in Farmington,where I spent most of the evening playing pickle with the boys.  On the way to Farmington, we got to preview a few of the roads we would take to get to Bill’s.  That part of Wisconsin is definitely not flat!  But the rolling hills made for some very fun biking and the little ponds and woods along the way are very scenic.

Lil John

Lil John

Bunny ears, Noah and Joe

Bunny ears, Noah and Joe

At Kellys

At Kellys

Rightfielder

Rightfielder

Becca and Karen

Becca and Karen

The Volzs at Dundee Mountain

The Volzs at Dundee Mountain

Turtles in the pond

Turtles in the pond

Fisher

Fisher

Gals in the dugout

Gals in the dugout

The weather was again great for the trip to Bill’s.  We had mostly favorable winds, and our route took us on lots of hilly and curvy roads.  Eventually we got to the lakefront and we took a long rest at Concordia College.  What a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan from the cliff-top campus!  We stopped for lunch in Whitefish Bay and pedaled the potholed and rough roads Lake Shore Drive.  It really feels like in the 25 years since I’ve lived there, the Milwaukee has not repaved a single road. Juneau Park was quite busy with a big volleyball tournament but we made it through on the path and took a new path past the Art Museum and around the Summerfest grounds.  We were surprised by the amazing bike path down through Cudahy and South Milwaukee but the parkway in Grant Park was as busted up as ever.  We finally made it to Bill’s by late afternoon.

Noah on a cliff at Concordia College

Noah on a cliff at Concordia College

The new Milwaukee Art Museum

The new Milwaukee Art Museum

Bill took us to the Seven Bridges Trail in Grant Park on Sunday which brought back a lot of memories of riding down to there from Marquette.  I really enjoyed exploring Milwaukee and that was one of my destinations.  It’s funny how much that is like the forests of the Pacific Northwest, with trails and streams and beaches.  We played a game of football with Bill and Patrick and played a lot of games and dolls and Legos with Molly and Patrick.

Molly jogging around the yard

Molly jogging around the yard

Pushing the mower

Pushing the mower

Skipping rocks with Patrick

Skipping rocks with Patrick

All my nieces and nephews are growing quite nicely and have some very fun and defined personalities.  I will enjoy watching them become young adults in the next few years.

We backtracked to downtown Milwaukee on Sunday.  The train left only an hour late.  It was delayed a few hours in North Dakota due to thunderstorms and we arrived in Glacier Park right after the sun went down.  The last bit of scenery from the trip was in the morning snaking through many coulees and canyons on the east side of the Columbia River.

We finally rolled back home by late afternoon on Tuesday.

Lounge car bound for Portland

Lounge car bound for Portland

Dusk near Glacier National Park

Dusk near Glacier National Park

Jafar

Beaver Lake survived its first “junior” musical.  It was strange and awesome, both at the same time.  Noah surprised us all once again with his evil Jafar laugh and ability to carry whole scenes.  His dry humor finally got a stage on which to shine.  We certainly missed Mrs. Woodman and Mrs. Worthington but change happens and we still fortunate to have a musical in the community.

With Bro and Sis

With Bro and Sis

Part of the cast after the final show.

Part of the cast after the final show.

Photobombed

Photobombed

With Iago and Razul

With Iago and Razul

Dancing

Dancing

Jafar

Jafar

Arch-dowg

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Doing a little remodeling.  It pays to have small people who can get into tight spaces.

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Improving

When asked what he likes most about Cross-country, Noah said improving.  Last week he finished 28th, this week 16th!

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