1. Ellensburg to Cle Elum

including the Thorp tunnel detours

 

Just by luck I hit Ellensburg at the start of a 3-day music festival. It's called Jazz in the Valley, but also included a number of great blues acts, and it was a deal - $35 for a 3-day pass to all the venues in town. I don't know that I could've pulled in at a better time. That last weekend in July also featured an "Overland Rally" at a ranch outside town, and a triathlon at a riverside park Sunday morning. On top of that it's a cool Western town, with Central Washington University, a big music store, and a 1st-class bike shop. It even has a Starbucks that opens at 5 a.m. for early-rising roadsters.

The Milwaukee Road trailhead is on the northwest corner of the town. Just head north out of downtown - the trailhead's around 14th Avenue and D Street.

Note some of the trailheads require a "Discover Pass" for motor vehicle parking, available on-line for a fee. You got a car you're asking to get hit on.

It doesn't take long to get out in the country. It's 6.8 easy-riding miles to the Thorp trailhead. En route you can easily hop off to hit a big nearby minimart at mile 5 or 6. Maybe you should - next supplies are 20 miles ahead in Cle Elum.

A few miles past the Thorp trailhead things get a little tricky. There are 2 tunnels ahead on the grade, both "closed", with a 14.5-mile road detour.

Per a report on the closures in the Seattle Times 1/31/09, there's no danger of a tunnel failure - rather there's a danger of unspecified "falling debris", according to a "staff manager" for the state parks commission - which might include loose material on the slopes above the portals. The article failed to clarify.

Too bad about these tunnels. There's a long stretch of very pretty grade running above the the river, not accessible without passing through them. They are in fact wide open, so you can decide for yourself to take your chances or take the detour. Click here for a photo of the detour map big enough to print out 8X10.

Know ye now you'll need fail-safe lights to get through pitch-dark tunnels. 2 lights is far better than 1.

Me, I picked up a couple of used gizmos around Area 51 in 2009 that got me past the tunnels - a telephotomic lens and a transporter. Little guy named Floyd under a bush said he was trying to raise money for a liver transplant. He did look kinda green.

Whichever way you proceed, 18.5 miles west of the Thorp trailhead you'll see a herd of cabeese for rent at a bed-n-breakfast on your left. Right ahead is the old Cle Elum depot.