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Cruising Southern Washington: Expanded horizons

By Shannon Parker

This summer I have been trying to stretch my comfort zone and have been on a quest for the perfect back road. Often, we find ourselves going on the same road to the coast or another ride to the Gorge. Now don’t get me wrong, when you live in the Pacific Northwest choosing a beautiful road is as easy as sipping a cold beer on a hot summer day, as beauty is easy to come by. I wanted to find a great ride that all could enjoy, but still make it back to town for the evening’s festivities. I scoured the map for an offbeat route that was still close enough for a half-day ride—ultimately we settled on the East Fork Lewis River in Southern Washington. We wanted obscure but beautiful, so we donned the leathers and set out for an adventure.

Cruising Southern Washington under the watchful eye of Mt. St Helens

Cruising Southern Washington under the watchful eye of Mt. St Helens

The weather was perfect, the sun was out and puffy clouds were floating by—it was a great day already and we had not even fired up our engines. Leaving the concrete jungle behind, we headed north to Vancouver on I-5 just to get a jump-start on the trip. Next we headed east on WA14E, making a quick stop at Love’s Leathers in Battle Ground. Hosting an out-of-towner, a stop at Love’s for the always-fresh hot coffee and good vibes was a must. Several small groups were already in the lot prepping for the day’s adventures. Love’s event board was packed full of Independence Day celebrations, and after a quick review and some banter with fellow riders, we determined none seemed to be more attractive than our pre-selected route. Goodbyes were said; we fired up the bikes and motored on down the road.

Cruising Southern Washington

Cruising Southern Washington

Once on NE 172nd Avenue in Battle Ground, we headed North under the watchful eye of Mount St. Helens. The views were amazing. The road is a straight shot, the mountain hovering in the horizon with her snowy peaks sparkling in the sunshine. This road is pretty busy with campers and boaters heading to pristine lakes that dot Southern Washington, but soon we turned east onto NE Lucia Falls Road. This small, two-lane road was just what we were looking for. In less than a mile, the road narrowed and the traffic dropped to zero. The tree-lined route offered an easy ride with gentle curves and awesome views of the undeveloped river. Although some homes dotted the shoreline, for the most part it’s just towering trees and open road.

Our first stop was at Moulton Falls State Park. A small riverside parking lot offers a well-paved, even swath of asphalt. This is a perfect spot to stop and enjoy the spectacular views. Offering several short trails, even in full gear you can walk comfortably along the banks of this pristine river. If you wanted to make your ride a full-day adventure, you need go no further than this state park. A number of picnic tables dot the shoreline; a tidy comfort station and an awesome swimming hole are all part of the charm. We enjoyed watching daredevils leaping from high rocks into the deep pools of crystal-clear mountain water. A short trek led us across the iconic wooden arch bridge, affording a bird’s-eye view of this lush state park. You can continue on to make the short one-mile loop, enjoy the falls or turn back over the bridge for a shorter jaunt back to the parking area.

Moulton Falls State Park offers a quiet rest stop

Moulton Falls State Park offers a quiet rest stop

Back on the bikes, we headed up the road to Moulton Falls Winery. The winery offers another great spot for a picnic. Not in the mood to nosh? No worries—the relaxed and rustic setting creates a friendly, low-key vibe perfect for hanging out while enjoying some of the “Big Reds” eastern Washington is famous for. If you have time, the winery offers live music on the weekends along with fresh-made brick oven pizzas and other tasty dishes.

Heading back to town, I was beginning to regret not trying the food offerings at the winery. Wanting to show off the unique and tasty grub PDX offers to my traveling partner, we took the Alberta exit from I-5 and headed east, stopping at the Tin Shed. With ample door-front parking, we secured our spots and stepped inside. Known as one of “the” places for breakfast, the Tin Shed also offers tasty afternoon fare for low, happy-hour prices. Their secluded side garden provided a quiet space to unwind from the day’s ride while enjoying our tasty salmon tacos and rich, red amber ales.

Heading back home, reflection was the word of the day. It was Independence Day and how lucky was I to get to gear up and just ride where the wind would take me. Even for a short trip, we found the ride along the East Fork Lewis River clears your mind and reminds us we have a lot to be thankful for here in the States. We can ride when we want to, where we want to, and there are no authorities to tell us “No.” So get on your bike, celebrate your freedom—ride like the free bird you are, enjoying the journey of traveling in the free and independent American wind.

 

Finishing the day with a tasty nosh at Tin Shed

Finishing the day with a tasty nosh at Tin Shed

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