Rocksport to Seattle - The Subduction of Seaweed John - CycleBlaze

September 2, 2014

Rocksport to Seattle

and the rain came down.

Sawmill outside of Darrington. Lots of second and third growth logs. If you are wondering, yes, the new trees are GMOed.
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The valleys will be filled,

and the mountains and hills made level.

The curves will be straightened,   
 and the rough places made smooth.

   -Luke 3:5

The morning ride along the Sauk River is picturesque and flat.  Today was windless.  There were plenty of stops to take pictures and take in the flowing river, but my mind kept returning to Ross Dam trying to figure out what really took place beyond the immediate theatrics that were visible to all.  Who told DHS my intentions and why didn’t that person or agency tell me I would be in violation of the regulations?  Who were all the actors in this modern staging of the ancient Philippian drama?  And to what possible purpose or was it just a Hellerian Catch 22? 

Save for the machine gun being bandied around, the whole incident was rather farcical.  Two diabetic middle aged DHS border agents supported by two young Coast Guard Seamen Apprentices with weight room GED certification all clandestinely detaining an old man innocently riding his bicycle on holiday during one the most American of holidays.*

*As a back note for younger readers, Labor Day was originally on May 1st and known as May Day and/or International Workers Day and still is in most of the world.  It started with the commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago on May 1st 1886.  It was under Franklin Roosevelt the current middle class three day shopping weekend was instituted on the weekend of the first Monday of September.

*  *  *  *

I stopped at the historic mill town of Darrington to check emails, phone messages and the weather forecast for the first time in over four days.  Heavy rain with flash flood advisories were posted.

Sauk Valley.
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Catching up with the world and the impending weather.
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It was to be a two day ride to Seattle taking in the scenic byway from Darrington to the town of Index along the Cascade foothills.  But what had my focus and the reason I was on the west side of the Cascades at all and not the east side was the tiny community of Oso between Darrington and Arlington.  I should say the former community of Oso, for it no longer exists.  The whole town was swallowed up in a cataclysmic mudslide on March 22, 2014.  It happened on a Saturday late in the morning.  Forty three of those who were in their homes died with four more seriously injured. 

The mountain that collapsed was the remains of an ancient delta from the last ice age.  There had been slides long before but engineers and geologists considered the area safe.  Of course the question that always comes up is what part did human activity play in the disaster?  The hillside had been heavily logged complete with dirt access roads, which my many days of riding on paved and unpaved logging and USFS roads have shown to be tentative at best for stability and durability.  It was a wet winter, but there are lots of wet winters in Western Washington. The slide did occur after several days of heavy rain. The mud and debris flow is estimated to have traveled at 100 kph through the town and across the Hwy 531.  There was no escape.

And then there is Seaweed John.  The regional news outlets several times a year run mega-scare features about the "big one" that is absolutely certain to rock the Pacific Northwest.  The Juan de Fuca plate is pushing under and against the continent at a rate of one foot (30 cm) per decade.  The geological record shows there have been many earthquakes here on the magnitude of the 2011 Fukashima earthquake in Japan and some of even greater magnitude.  Then there are the tsunamis that almost always follow these subduction earthquakes generated deep under the ocean.  What is not discussed much on the news is that there are thousands of fault lines throughout the Northwest.  Most have not been detected or mapped.  Small earthquakes happen all the time, ones that barely rattle the glassware in the cupboard.  One of these tiny magnitude 1-2 earthquakes occurred near Oso on the day of the slide and is thought to have been the trigger for the ground that was already primed and loaded to go off.

When the news about the slide was flashed across the nation, emergency response personnel were quickly at the scene to rescue trapped survivors.  When it became apparent there were none to be rescued, they went into a recovery mode to retrieve the bodies, but this effort proved much too dangerous to the rescue workers who were being trapped in the quicksand like mud and then there were public health concerns, so Oso was abandoned to nature.  

But Federal disaster money came through to rebuild Hwy 531 high above the mud flow.  Signs understandably tell motorists not to stop, but I think at least a few from the outside world need to pause and reflect.  No one glanced at the elderly cyclist as he leaned his bike up against the no stopping sign and took a few pictures while pausing for a moment of silent reflection before riding on.

Hwy 531 is a busy road as cars and trucks use it as the southern entrance to the North Cascades Highway from the Puget Sound to eastern Washington.  There were three flagging stops to negotiate while dodging large dump trucks and the many tractors and other road building equipment.  This required a bit of sprinting time on wet gravel and dirt, but I survived and stayed upright if not always pointing in a straight line.

Entering Oso.
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The east side of the highway was mostly untouched by the mud flow. The for sale sign is perhaps understandable.
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Oso being entombed.
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A new elevated highway was under construction.
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As the rain started pouring down, I called my friend Daniel in Seattle for a much smaller rescue effort.  We met in Arlington.  The ride to Seattle was a downpour with thunder, lightning, hail and torrents of rain the likes I have seldom experienced, even in the tropical Pacific. 

I was shown to Daniel's Air BnB named "The Center of the Universe". An amazing Thai dinner in downtown Freemont and lots of conversation ended the day.

Today's ride: 196 km (122 miles)
Total: 542 km (337 miles)

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