Union Gap to near Thorpe

Saturday, July 2, 2016
Disc Trucker

The Yakima Greenway Trail, Yakima Canyon and the Iron Horse John Wayne Trail.

The start of the Greenway Trail was very close to the motel I stayed at in Union Gap. There was a detour right at the beginning but it was probably even nicer than the main route. The Yakima River is wide and fast flowing here. I completely skirted Yakima on a nice bike path which ended somewhere near Selah. From there it was a few connecting roads to road 821, a.k.a Canyon Road.

Canyon Road should be on every cyclists must ride list. Its closed to trucks which is good as it is narrow without much shoulder. This being a big holiday weekend there were a lot of cars, but everyone was courteous and gave me lots of room. It was a very scenic ride. As to be expected on a road that follows a river up a canyon the road would climb up off the river, and then zoom back down. There were a few steep climbs, but they were pretty short. There were a number of BLM recreation areas that were full up for the weekend. Lots of river rafting and fishing.

As I approached the top of the canyon the mountains came into view. It was a joyful moment to see the mountains again. While it can be beautiful in its own way I'm not that at home in the desert and I was really looking forward to getting back into the forests and mountains.

But first there was the wind. Ellensburg may be one of the world's windiest places and I was riding straight into it. It wasn't far from the end of Canyon Road to the junction of the John Wayne Trail. Although it is called by both names it is officially the John Wayne Trail, which runs through Iron Horse State Park. I was pleased and relieved that the trail was well packed gravel and very ridable with my 2 inch tires. I know further east there is a lot of sand and I wasn't sure about this section. There were some spots with loose gravel but my fat tires just floated right through it. I was really going to enjoy this ride, that is if I wasn't riding into a 25 mph headwind.

The first 10 miles or so was through farmland and fields. The trail parallels I-90 an in some spots was close enough to hear it. I was getting tired and beat up by the wind and started looking for a place to camp. There was not much as the railroad bed is raised up and drops off steeply to either side. Somewhere near Thorpe it crossed a side road by a freeway exit where there was a store. I had a nice ice cream break and met a father and son who were riding mountain bikes from Cle Elum. Must be nice with the wind at your back. A little further up, and still battling the wind I met a woman walking her dog. She pointed ahead to were the trail entered the trees and said I'd be back in the river canyon and the wind would not be as bad. Sure enough the trees offered some shelter. The trail was now on a wider ledge a hundred feet or so above the river. I soon found a decent place to camp for the night that was already getting some shade from the trees and ridge to the south.

The river was wide and very fast here and pretty quiet. The wind however roared all night. I was able to get my tent up during a lull. At first I left the rain fly off but I got up in the night and put it on to better hold the tent down and offer some protection from the wind. Even with the wind I slept quite well. I was dead tired from 2 long days of riding, and finally away from it all and camping in the wild.


Path closed
Two mornings in a row my route was blocked by a gate. This time however there was a nice detour on a gravel path. This greenway trail got me all the way through Yakima.


Yakima Canyon
This sign was at the other end as I missed the one going in.


Bikes on road
The canyon is a popular bicycle route.


Train in the Canyon
The road would climb way up from the river and then drop back down.


Down by the river
After a big climb the road came right down to the river to a BLM recreation area, with camping. There were a number of these along the canyon, all full for the big 4th of July weekend.


Bald eagle in a tree
Can you see the Bald Eagle in the tree?


The Yakima River
There were lots of people out rafting, kayaking, and otherwise enjoying the river on this warm holiday weekend.


The John Wayne Trail through Iron Horse State Park
The trailhead in Ellensburg. To the east it goes all the way to the Idaho boarder, but my path is to the west.


Gravel trail
The surface was very ridable. The scenery would change but the surface and grade remained constant.


Camping along the John Wayne Trail
No need to go stealth. Just pitched my tent right off the trail, on a bank above the river.