Cape Alava, WA → Lubec, ME

July 12, 2015

On July 15, I’m going to be flying out to Seattle to begin a journey that’s been on my bucket list for a long time: biking across the country.

But it’s not going to be just any cross-country bike tour — it’s going to be an epic cross-country bike tour. I’m going to start out by going in the wrong direction, out to Cape Alava, WA on the Olympic Peninsula, the westernmost point in the continental US. And I’m going to ride all the way to Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec, ME, the easternmost point in the continental US, to make it the most extreme coast-to-coast trip.

That’s not all. I’m also planning to visit 20 state high points and 2 other extreme points along the way:

There’s an asterisk next to Charles Mound, IL, because that high point has some unfortunate red tape — it’s on private property and is only open to the public on the first full weekends in June, July, August, and September of each year. If I time it right, I can get there for the last open weekend on September 5–6; if I’m too late, I’ll have to come back another year; and if I’m too early, I’m not going to wait around and burn zero days — I don’t have too much wiggle room in my overall schedule, given my starting date and route.

The astute reader will also notice that I’ve omitted a number of the western states’ high points from my list above. I decided to only include the non-technical mountains which could reasonably be done in a day hike with minimal gear. I could conceivably have climbed Mount Rainier, WA at the start of my trip and shipped my mountaineering gear home afterwards, to avoid the need to carry all that with me, but I decided to skip that and save it for another time, given the extra logistical complications, the need to find climbing partners, and the rustiness of my glacier travel skills. Likewise for Mount Hood, OR. I could probably thrown Borah Peak, ID into my route, but I’m electing to save that for another time as well. Jermoth Hill, RI isn’t on my route either, but since it’s within striking distance of my home in Cambridge, MA, I may bag it as a bonus little side trip after I return home.

I’ve previously climbed a few of these before (NH, ME, RI, CT, NJ, and DC), but hey, why not do them again?

After tagging Cape Alava, WA, I’ll be heading up to Anacortes, WA to begin following the Adventure Cycling Association‘s Northern Tier route. I’ll be following that for about 1400 miles before going off-route to start bagging high points. That’s also part of the reason why I’m skipping Borah Peak — the ACA publishes a fantastic set of route maps, and the Northern Tier passes within about 60 miles of White Butte. From there, I’ll be blazing my own zig-zag path between high points until I get back to the east coast, at which point I’ll pick up the Atlantic Coast route for a bit, break up with that, and then finally rejoin a piece of the Northern Tier going into Maine.

Depending on when I finish and how I’m feeling, I may go for an encore and keep riding into Canada to bag some bonus provincial high points: Mount Carleton, NB, Glen Valley, PE, and White Hill, NS. That would have me finishing up in Halifax and flying home from there. If I don’t have the time to spare for that, I’ll turn around and head back home. (I might also head back to Bangor, ME and catch a bus, but really it’s only another 260 miles or so from Bangor back to Cambridge.)

The total mileage for my planned route is roughly 6100 miles. The Canadian bonus would add another 700. I’m aiming to average about 80 miles a day, though some days will obviously be longer than others. At that pace, combined with days for hiking and other possible zero days, I’m expecting to take about 3–3.5 months to finish, which would have me finishing up in mid-to-late October, at which point it’ll start to be getting cold up in Maine.

These estimates are based on Google Maps routes, so the exact mileage will vary, likely in the slightly higher direction, since I don’t plan to follow Google Maps routes exactly. When I’m not following the ACA routes, I’ll be using a combination of the routes suggested by Google Maps and my Garmin Edge Touring, as well as just plain old looking at the maps and using my intuition to choose a route.

Want to follow my progress on the trip? Follow me on Twitter, and I’ll be posting updates on the go.

See you on the road!

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