Posted by: fergy1008 | March 11, 2011

Wynoochee Dam in the record books

With our minds made up that we were going to try to snag the first dam of the DamTour 2011 season, Angela and I were up and out the door early on opening day, Saturday, Feb 26th. Ignoring the snow in the yard and the still icy side streets, we pulled out of the drive at 4:16am with the temperature at 17 degrees and our Gerbings set on high.

Boy it was cold this morning....but we headed out anyway

Even with our warm gear the open highway proved to be chilly. Just past Hawks Prairie, we pulled off on Marvin Road to put on our Turtle Fur neck wraps which made a surprisingly big difference.  With our necks and faces now protected (we prefer to ride with our visors open a bit) we were much warmer and comfortably rode the rest of the day.  The traffic was light at that time of the morning, as you might expect, and the roads were dry and bare.

At 6:45am the temperature had risen to 19 degrees, we’d made it to our destination and we (hopefully) had the money shot. While the highway riding had been easy, the last two or three miles to the dam proved a little challenging.

Originally we had been planning to take Cougar Smith Road out of Shelton to the dam, but with the road conditions, we decided to use a route we thought might be in better shape, traveling south on I-5 then west along 101, 8 and 12 to Montesano where we turned north onto Wynoochee Road. Although there is an 8-mile section with no shoulder and a few areas with rough road, there are signs warning of both and I had no problem with either. The first 20 miles of this 31 mile section, the pavement was bare and dry though I was cautious in treed areas where the sun hadn’t yet melted all the snow/ice. When we reached the National Forest sign, there was smooth, new tarmac, though again I had to watch for shaded areas as there were some slick spots. Because it leads to a recreation area the roads are fairly well cared for. But all this leads us to the last 3 miles! We camearound a bend and suddenly the road was no longer bare and dry but instead turned ugly, covered with snow and ice, and we nearly turned back. After a little surveying, I decided to test it out a bit further and was glad I did. There were tricky areas but we took it slow and, since I had the road to myself, I drove the bare spots regardless of which lane they were in.

Slippery when......icy we had to get to the dam we wanted to be first

While there were signs for Wynoochee Dam just off 12 and again a few miles up the road, when it came to the turn off there was no mention of the dam, but rather a nice sign for the Wynoochee Coho Campground. We passed this by but soon realized we’d gone too far. The road conditions worsened and there was a sign saying “Pavement Ends”. We’d obviously lost our way. We double checked our map and GPS then backtracked to the campground sign and made that turn. It wasn’t until after the turn that we saw a small brown sign listing both the campground and the dam as being ahead. (Tip of the day: If you reach forest service road 2260 you’ve gone too far. Go back and take a right toward the campground on Forest Service Road 22.)

We’ve arrived! And perfect timing as the sky has just begun to lighten. There was a gate closed against close-up access but we had a clear view of the dam just a short distance beyond it. We pulled in as close as we could, set up the tripod and got to picture-taking. Angela stayed close to the bike so she could remain plugged in to her heat source while I nearly lost a hand to frostbite setting up the camera and re-taking shots. After getting the official placard pictures, we dodged around the gatepost and snuck our selves a closer up view. Only a small trickle of water was passing through an outlet valve but the viewpoint gives you a real close-up look at the dam. Though it’s only the first dam of the season, Angela liked it quite a bit and thinks it might end up being one of her favorites, tucked into the woods like it is. After a little play in the undisturbed powder behind the gate we walked back onto the right side of the law and around the corner onto the bridge. Looking over the rail we found that the stream below had a good portion frozen over. A few more pictures and it was time for the return trip. Now that it was lighter and I knew the road conditions, the ride back was less tense.

When we arrived it was a little snow on the ground

All of our efforts paid off we were officially declared first to snag a dam!

There's always a little time for play

Angela gets to be the first to trace through virgin snow

Our original plans had us taking Donkey Creek west to 101 but a snow covered road and another sign warning “Pavement Ends” sent us back along the Wynoochee Valley Road route. It meant repeating a lot of asphalt but better safe than sorry. Plus, this brought us back to Montesano where we enjoyed a wonderful victory breakfast at the Bee Hive Restaurant. (The day before our ride we decided to call a business in the Montesano area and ask how the weather was. The Bee Hive was randomly chosen and they were so kind in answering our questions we thought it only proper to give them our business in return.)

Go slow.....

Upon arrival at the restaurant, Angela found that she had lost a mitten. Or should I say, ANOTHER, mitten. This is second year in a row she’s lost a mitten on the first-dam trip. Apparently, this is now a tradition and a required good-dam-season sacrifice. As we left the dam she had tucked it into her coat in order to more easily take photos on the road and, somehow, someway, somewhere, it fell out. As I was not driving that road again, she spent the remainder of the day with one hand toasty in a mitten-covered heated glove while the other hand was simply warm-enough encased in only a heated-glove.

After a chilly morning of riding it was time to fill the bellies

Angela & I certainly were hungry after we finally sat down. The breakfast was hot and the coffe was certainly welcome

Full of warm, good food and with the temperature skyrocketing to 24 degrees, we headed out for phase 2 of our day, snagging #6 and #29of the Wing Washington photo tour, but you can read about that in another blog entry. But first another tradition – a stop at the Aberdeen Wal-Mart followed by a Girl Scout cookie purchase – the first of the season – upon exiting. We donated a box of Thin Mints to the troops of course.

After securing some cookies for the troops we then drove on to take our picture in front of Imperium Renewables in the Port of Grays Harbor. After a quick stop for directions, we found the place, took our photo-proof and scooted down the road to Ocean Shores for a picture in front of the sign of the Quinault Marina and RV Park, a bonus location for our Wing Washington challenge. We then took a brief ride onto the beach figuring since we’re in Ocean Shores we might as well check out of the ocean while we’re here. Plus, the temperature was now a balmy 34, perfect for a day at the beach! After refueling us with some hot chocolate and the bike with some gas, we began the “easy” return ride home, expecting to be home within a couple of hours. It was not to be.

Shortly after a stop in Aberdeen to quick rinse some of the salt and road grime off the bike, I pulled into the Elma rest stop to use the facilities, check out the bike which had begun acting “squirrely”, and try to figure out why Angela’s Gerbing gloves are suddenly not working. Finding the back tire low I decided to head into McCleary to re-inflate then drive to the Tumwater Jack-in-the-Box for lunch and another pressure check. After lunch I checked to see if air put in tire in McCleary is holding. Turns out it’s not. The 50 lbs we left McCleary with has been reduced to…zero. AAA to the rescue. Only a 25 minute wait and they were onsite to load the bike and get us home.

Not road worth the great people at AAA dispatched a great towing company that loaded our bike like it was their own.

Flat indeed

Steve easily unloads the bike with the help of the terrific tow truck operator.

Still a good day with just a little twist the bike is safely home and we went inside for a well deserved nap.

By 5:30 we were home safe, with the injured Wing tucked into the garage to be dealt with on Monday. It was a day of adventure and certainly one to remember.

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  1. This looks great, honey! That day was a great adventure!

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