It’s been a noteworthy week on the Willapa Hills Trail, Lewis County’s increasingly impressive pathway from Chehalis to all points west.
It began when my friend Chris Brewer, a cycling enthusiast and past president of the Lewis County Trails Association, decided that he would ride the entire length of the trail from the trailhead near the Veterans Memorial Museum all the way to the end of the line, out at South Bend — and then ride back in the same day.
It would be a historic ride. It’s possible that someone has done this journey before, but this would be the first time that anyone had done the ride and fully documented it. (Brewer posted his live location using a GPS device, so people could track his progress along the way).
It’s a 114-mile round trip, more or less. That’s a long ride, but experienced riders can easily do 100 miles or more in a day. Thousands of STP riders do 200 miles in a day from Seattle to Portland every summer.
But the Willapa Hills Trail is different.
The former rail line is in the middle of a decades-long rebirth. It’s a great trail, especially the portion from Chehalis to Pe Ell, but in the more remote stretches it’s still a vigorous ride. Big gravel, grassy patches, a few detours along county roads, that kind of thing.
Several of us who were watching Brewer’s progress online decided to meet him at the finish line. We whooped, hollered and cheered as he made it back to the main parking lot at the trailhead. I was so excited that I ran with him the final hundred yards to the official “mile post zero” start of the trailhead, singing the “Chariots of Fire” theme in celebration of his historic journey.
Brewer, who has done the STP in one day several times, told me this ride was way harder.
As he rested up after his long ride, other users of the trail were getting excited about the completion of a major new piece that will turn our great trail into an even greater showpiece.
The new pedestrian overpass at Littell (the wide spot on state Route 6 between Chehalis and Adna) officially opened this week.
It will make traversing the trail much safer. Until now, riders had to carefully cross the state highway in an area where drivers have limited visibility. That’s a scary crossing, especially if you have kids.
Now the overpass eliminates that risk.
The timing is perfect, as this summer hundreds of people will come to the annual Ride the Willapa (RTW) event, a kind of east-west version of the STP. The event is three weeks away. Learn more at www.ridethewillapa.com.
Brewer is marketing director for the Ride the Willapa. He timed his one-day round-trip trek on the trail to help raise awareness of the trail in conjunction with the overpass opening and the upcoming RTW event.
“With the opening of the Littell overpass, the trail is functionally complete in Lewis County,” Brewer told me. “You can ride all the way from Chehalis to Pluvius, about 30 miles one way, car-free, without having to ride on any roads. And it’s not just good news for cyclists; it’s huge for equestrians, runners, walkers, birders, you name it — all types of trail users.”
He noted that work is ongoing in Pacific County. He had to divert onto state Route 6 between Pluvius and Frances because construction is taking place on two bridges to continue enhancing the trail.
The Willapa Hill Trail keeps getting better.
“It’s just wonderful to see,” Brewer added.
The Political Question
When I first thought of writing up Brewer’s historic ride in my column, within a few moments I realized that I probably shouldn’t. It’s certainly newsworthy, but Brewer recently announced that he is running for a seat on the Centralia City Council. This column might seem like it’s promoting his campaign (for the record, it’s not.)
However, in the interest of avoiding any such concerns, I will offer equal space in this column to any other candidate for that city council position who does something of similar epic scope and newsworthiness. Contact me. Whatever it is, I’d love to tell that story.
Dad Joke of the Week
Before the joke, let me make a request. With Father’s Day coming up, I’d love to hear from all the dads out there. Send me your go-to joke or a notorious pun that you have used to surprise, delight or dismay.
In that spirit, my family gave me a T-shirt a few Father’s Days ago emblazoned with a fitting slogan:
“Dad jokes are how eye roll.”
Brian Mittge can be reached at email@example.com.