Almota Road - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

May 5, 2020

Almota Road

Today is perfect.  Sunny, warm, light winds; a day we should make the most of.  With rain and severe winds in the forecast for tomorrow, we opt for a bit longer ride than we’ve been taking lately, knowing that we’ll just be loafing around the apartment tomorrow.  We’re going to bike to Colfax, taking the long way around - a nice 47 mile loop with a bit of climbing.  

We begin by biking west out Wawawei Road/Route 194, reversing the last part of the first ride we took here, that 25 mile loop through Albion.  Wawawei is a beautiful cycling road, especially going in this direction with the open country spreading out in front of you.  If you continue on this direction it eventually drops to the Snake River and then continues upstream along the river’s edge all the way to Lewiston and Clarkston.  Someday before we leave here, we’d like to make a two day 90 mile loop out of it, biking to Clarkston along the river one day and then taking the high route back by climbing up the fabled Old Spiral Highway.

Wawawai (rhymes with Hawaii), by the way, is the name of a former orchard town.  Now 80 feet under water, it was inundated by what is now Lower Granite Lake when the Lower Granite Dam was completed in 1975.  The town’s name was originally Wawawa, the Nez Perce word for council ground.

Westbound on Wawawai Road. Barn shot? Horse Shot? Rocky road shot? You be the judge.
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Patriotic scarecrow, Wawawai Road. The flag in his right hand, by the way, is the WSU banner. Go, Cougars!
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Still westbound on Wawawai Road, the scenery just keeps getting better.
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We’re saving that steep 2,000’ drop to the Snake for another day though.  About 6 miles into the ride Route 194 and Wawawai Road separate, with 194 turning north toward Colfax.  We follow it for another four miles, gradually dropping as we follow slender Union Flat Creek and still reversing our Albion Loop ride.  At the bottom we finally leave that route and continue on 194 as it climbs away from Union Flat.  From here on out we’re finally seeing new territory.

A shy, bald-faced colt. It was out in the open when we first biked up, but it immediately fled for shelter and wouldn’t come out again until I left.
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Four endearing yappers, Union Flat.
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Shawn AndersonCute Corgi's! Although small, they are great herding dogs.
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Shawn AndersonI doubt they’d take as big a bite out of my calf either. If we ever get a dog again some day, corgis would be a good candidate.
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3 months ago
I’m glad I took the time to look up this brand. This is Keizer Livestock, which raises horses and Corgis. Their Facebook page, along with the associated Keifer Corgi page, yielded the following two photos.
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From the Keifer Livestock Facebook page.
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From the Keifer Corgi Facebook page. I want a puppy!
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Jen GrumbyHow about a puppy and a bike trailer?
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThese guys are small enough that you could just stuff one in the pannier, along with The GBO and the travel consultant. They could keep each other company.
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3 months ago

After a short, moderate climb up from Union Flat Creek, we leave the forested valley behind and enter what must be the most breathtaking stretch of the Palouse that we’ve biked through yet - an unending expanse of gently rolling, velvet hills.  Freshly plowed earthen slopes contrast with emerald green fields of young wheat.  After topping out, we enjoy a glorious coast down through this ethereal wonderland for the next five miles.

Turkey! Dinner, Rocky cheerfully shouts out, but I’m too slow and the hen escapes into the underbrush.
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Breathtaking!
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Ethereal!
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Fantastic!
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So colorful!
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I give up. I’m at a loess for words.
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Suzanne GibsonThe loess words, the better!
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonI considered declaring this my pun of the day.
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3 months ago
Jen GrumbyWaitaminute. I looked up the pronunciation and 3 out of 4 said "LOW-ess".

Here's a limerick:
Rocky had a friend named Lois
They rode bikes through Palouse on the Loess
A dirty afair, but colorful where
Loess got in hair of poor Lois.

(OK .. it's a stretch, but maybe just a little entertaining?)
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyMaybe. Just a little. Actually I’ve been avoiding reading up (or listening up, I guess) on the pronunciation so I could use it multiple ways. Could rhyme with less, loss, loose, louse, lots of possibilities. Lois hadn’t occurred to me.
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3 months ago
Ron SuchanekTo Scott AndersonWell, as they say, loess is more.
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2 months ago
Pterodactyl of the Palouse.
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Like Wawawai Road, Highway 194 continues on and eventually reaches the Snake River at the small riverside community of Almota.  That looks like it would make a fine out and back,so we may be back here again someday soon.  Today though, our plan is to bend north on Almota Road and follow it to Colfax before turning back toward Pullman.

Almota Road looks like a beautiful ride also, except for the worrisome roadside sign just before the junction that warns of a highway closure 2-1/2 miles ahead.  We’re not even sure which road it refers to - this one, or Route 194; but in either case we continue with the plan.  If the blockage is on our route, perhaps it’s passable by bikes anyway; and if not, this will still be a terrific ride as an out and back.

A few hundred yards later, we come to a bend in the road.  Torn up, excavation equipment around.  So now we know.  There’s no one around though and the road is an easy-riding dirt surface, so we continue.  A few hundred yards later, we’re back on pavement again.  Odd, when the warning sign indicated the closure should still two miles away, but we continue.

northbound on Almota Road.
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Video sound track: Gravity, by Jesse Cook

On Almota Road. This shot is from Rachael’s GoPro - she accidentally had it set to single image photography for a few miles, so we might as well take advantage of it.
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The dirt doesn’t last long - just far enough to score a rare photo of me riding off-pavement.
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Two miles on, we come to the real issue.  This one stops us cold.  It looks impossibly impassible, even by bikes.  We don’t even consider asking anyone about possibly letting us through, but I do bike up closer for a photograph.  A minute later, a voice pipes up from my left: You’re not thinking of biking through, are you?

The voice comes from a sheriff’s vehicle.  I don’t know where he came from, but maybe he’s been tracking us for awhile.  I reassure him that we know we’re stopping here, and I’m just getting a photo for the memory book.  We chat a bit.  He says with luck the road will reopen in late summer, but he’s sceptical.  He says if we did try to get through we’d be staring at a six foot cliff we’d need to scale.  He also points to the rough gravel side road we could take around the closure - two miles that look like they’d be similar to yesterday’s Saddle Ridge Road.  No way, today.

Almota Road - impassible for maybe the next half year.
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So, we turn back.  We backtrack for about two miles and then stop at a church to eat lunch sitting on a wall before continuing uphill on Route 194, not minding at all taking a second pass through this amazing landscape.  Seven miles later, we’re back at Union Flat, considering our options.

Barn of the day, Route 194.
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At Union Flat, we have a choice to make.  We could backtrack all the way, past the cute corgis and bald-faced colt again and home along Wawawai Road, but instead we decide to return through Albion, reversing the rest of our Albion Loop ride.  It’s hillier and about five miles longer, but that’s the sort of ride we’d signed up for anyway.

It begins by climbing up Harrison Hill, from the much steeper western approach.  Once over the top we briefly have a long view east to the tip of what must be Steptoe  Butte, and then gradually drop to Albion.  Ten miles later we’re back in Pullman climbing up Stadium Road, cursing silently to ourselves for not the first or last time this month our decision to rent an apartment at the top of a steep hill.

Leaving Union Flat, steeply climbing up Harrison Hill Road.
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Cresting Harrison Hill, we see what must be the crown of Steptoe Butte in the distance.
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East on Pullman-Albion Road, with Kamiak Butte ahead. This is the formation we passed yesterday also, on its east side.
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Ride stats today: 45 miles, 2,500’

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