John Wayne Trail - Army trailhead


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 What:  Good early spring or late fall bike ride since it is so hot here in summer. This is interesting land in so many ways. It is where some of the best hay in the world is grown. It is used for the Kentucky Derby for example. Chief Moses was born near Vantage. Robber's Roost of Ellensburg. Chief Kamiakin's Father stole a horse and rode it to safety here after swimming it across the Columbia. He killed a giant elk here. I could go on and on. I had to climb 5 miles before reaching the Ryegrass summit. I could only average about 5 miles per hour and it was tiresome.It was not steep, but the trail was soft sandy gravel and the tires kept digging into some depth.  I worried about how long I would be in the sun at this rate. I kept wondering when the downhill would begin. Then when I was sure the downhill must start I saw a large hill in front of me and I just couldn't see how I could get the energy to climb over it. Then I came around a corner and saw a large cut in the hill indicating a tunnel. This was a very welcome sight as I had done the Snoqualmie tunnel the week before and enjoyed it. It sure will cool me off for awhile. Then I realized I had no kind of lighting with me this time, because I didn't realize there was a tunnel. It can't be that long though as the Snoqualmie is the longest at 2.3 miles. I went into the tunnel and found that this one curved unlike Snoqualmie. That means that after a short distance in, there is no light and no sight at all. This was very scary. I could not ride the bike at all. Walking was hard enough. I had no choice but retreat or run into the walls and adjust my direction. I almost gave up twice, but kept going until finally I rounded the bend and saw the light from the exit which made all the difference as I now could aim my walking and not fear when I would be running into the tunnel wall. The walking seemed so slow I decided to try to ride the bike even though it was still black dark. I could barely ride as the trail here was 2 inch diameter rocks piled on other 2 inch rocks. You had to keep a speed up to go straight at all. It was much faster though and as I got nearer the end I could see more and the trail improved so that as I came out of the tunnel my fear disappearing a bliss and speed replaced it. It was also now downhill noticeably and with 17 miles to go, I was inspired to keep my speed up so that the sandy sections would not slow us down again requiring an energy robbing restart. Except whenever I saw something worth photographing I would stop. I was now whistling along at about 18 miles per hour and the miles were ticking themselves off in a regular fashion. Ahead I now saw a swampy section. A swamp in a desert? I decided to try to keep my speed up through it as I had just shot quite a bit of time with some photos. The bike and me were splattered with mud going through it, but I kept moving at speed. Next was a creek crossing the trail. Another challenge to maintain speed. Right before the creek I lifted the front wheel and sailed over it. I was really moving now, and even once in a while I could stand up on the pedals and coast a little ways without losing momentum. This was a good rest. My prescription sunglasses were helping with the bright sun. I continuously sucked on the water in my pack a little here a little there. I tried to keep my consciousness off my pedaling knowing that my legs were circling pretty efficiently versus pushing down or pulling up with my feet locked in the pedals. My thoughts wandered from time frames to color of skin in the beating sun to amount of water left in pack, etc when I saw something spread across the trail about six foot long. It wasn't too big so I decided to just go over it as I didn't want to lose my line on the trail as there is a hard line most of the way that allows more speed maintenance. Just as I went over its back I saw the rattles, head, and diamond shapes on the back of the Rattlesnake. It shocked me as I thought through the possible circumstances. I looked back and saw the snake wriggle off the road. I kept going. I forgot my snakebite kit, but it definitely did not bite me. Next there were mini canyon after mini canyon to go through where the railroad had dynamited a hill to make the passage level. Rocks have fallen from the walls here and littered the trail with beautiful and dangerous things. I tried to keep my momentum by steering around them, but a twice I had to grab my brakes and slide to a halt as there suddenly was too much to maneuver through. At this point I would consider how badly my bare knee would be broken if my crash happened at the edge where large immovable basalt rocks lined the way with sharp edges. I decided I would have to look further ahead and decide earlier when to stop to be safe. This kind of trip should be done with two or more people to make it much safer. The rocks were becoming so beautiful now that I found myself stopping frequently to look and shoot photos. Red, white, and black. Some had rings like tree rings, but looked different than any petrified specimens I'd seen. The ride was over too soon. What a blast. My metabolism was racing like a wind.

 Where:  This is the section from near Kittitas to Near Vantage. Permits are available 24 hours 7 days at the trailheads. You must use the brochure since the directions for each end's trailhead are detailed and you must have a permit on you if stopped by officials midway. Permit ticket must be filed at end trailhead. 

ArmyWest Exit 115: N 46 57.038' W 120 17.809'
ArmyEast Exit 136: N 46 50.818' W 120 0.612'
Topological Map

 Cautions:  Watch for massive rock fall suddenly appearing before you, and that you can safely stop before running into it. Bring lighting for the tunnel. Bring a snakebite kit. Definitely bring full gear for tube change and reairing. Lots of sharp rocks make this important.

 List:  Lots of water, suntan lotion, and a light of some sort for the tunnel. Email Us