Pushing the Limits Through the Cascade Mountains
Posted in Biking, Blog, Climate Change on September 28, 2023
Jason Brown, our Sales Director, recently went on a six-day, 500-mile biking trip through the Cascade Mountains in Washington state.
Jason is an avid biker and has done many biking trips over the years, including a recent trip through Utah exploring the Aquarius Trail and a trip from Durango to Moab utilizing the San Juan Huts through the beautiful high elevation back country. He loves exploring new places on bikes, so when his friend hatched a plan to do The Cascade 500, a biking trip that goes through the Northern Cascades, down the eastern side through the high desert, and then returns to Seattle by going back up through the Mission Ridge Mountains and Snoqualmie Pass, Jason was in.
His long-time friend Peter, who lives in Seattle, planned all the details for the five bikers on the trip. The trip started from Peter’s house, and they set out from there with a route that included four campsites and one much-needed hotel room.
This trip was more challenging than others not only because of the 500 miles ahead of them, but because they also had to do bike packing, bringing their own tents, clothing, and supplies, which added significant weight to the bike.
During the trip, the group pedaled between 65-115 miles a day, biked for 10-12 hours each day, and climbed nearly 30,000 feet in elevation. The route included a lot of off-roading and required riding on paved bike paths, single-track trail, and gravel rail trails for 70-80% of the trip. They also had to contend with RVs and logging trucks as they traveled on the one and only road that traverses the Northern Cascades, where there wasn’t much room to play with as they rode the shoulder alongside the vehicles.
For Jason, these trips are a way to challenge both physical and mental abilities. Each day proved what he was able to do and allowed him to see a new part of the country. “Part of the allure is that you’re not just looking out a car window,” Jason said. “Looking through the windshield is almost like watching television. Biking makes you more connected to the environment, nature, people, and the landscape. That’s the big draw for me and why I’ve stuck with cycling so long.”
These epic trips are also a great way to reconnect with old friends and spend time with new friends. “We have fun and expend big effort during the days while we’re biking, but at the same time, we have a tremendous amount of fun hanging out at camp,” Jason said.
One of the biggest payoffs for Jason is the campsites themselves. “You get to find these amazing, secluded campsite spots,” he said. “That’s the reward for all the hard work – beautiful, little tucked away spots that you wouldn’t find otherwise. You can only get there by bike.”
When Jason does these multi-day biking trips, he reflects a lot on the intersection of climate, nature, and people. On this trip, he was struck by the effect of drought and wildfires on the Cascades.
As he explained, it’s become routine now in the Seattle area that there will be summer wildfires, and there will be corresponding effects of the smoke on the residents and the landscape. During the ride, he saw areas that were completely burnt and scorched – thousands of acres of conifer forest destroyed. It was an amazingly stark landscape to pedal through and equally amazing to see that a few years after fires burned the forest, life is rapidly returning.
When he did his trip, they had good air quality because luckily there hadn’t been any wildfires yet during the summer. But just after they completed their trip, a lightning strike started a fire closing North Cascade Highway. If that strike had happened before or during their trip, they wouldn’t have been able to complete the ride, something that drives home the fragility of our natural spaces.
Another big thing Jason noticed was shade – and the lack of it – on certain parts of the trip. “As soon as you gain elevation, you get into trees and shade, and on those sun-filled days, every little piece of shade you can get is a blessing,” he said. As they rode through the dry desert and eastern slope, they were sunbaked and hot. Water became the most precious commodity.
“When you get up into the mountains, it feels similar to being up in a skyscraper, and you get different weather and landscape. With each foot climbed, the temperatures dropped and the shade grew, and we found some special little parts of the mountain range. I saw blooming alpine plants that would thrive on a green roof – at a high elevation and in a harsh environment that is excessively dry.”
These experiences really resonate with Jason’s role at our green roof soil company. “You cannot help but see the climate change and glaciers shrinking and wildfires becoming more and more commonplace, and you know we have to do something,” he said. “If we’re going to continue to build hard surfaces in cities, we need to soften them with green roofs and cool neighborhoods off to help combat the urban heat island effect. I hope that green roofs will help us all have less and less of these extreme weather and climate events.”
Although this trip left him more physically tired than he’s ever been before because of the terrain and conditions, he loved every minute of it. “I love pushing into new parts of the world under my own power, and I love to go out and explore on a bike,” he said. “That’s why I put in the time to stay fit. A well-tuned body and bike allow moments I couldn’t have anywhere else, and that’s why I keep cycling.”
Jason Brown is a native of Landenberg, PA and is the Sales Director at Skyland USA, creators of rooflite. He has 24 years of experience in the green industry, which includes introducing the Knock Out® family of shrub roses, designing and selling beautiful landscape enhancements, and selling perennials, shrubs, and trees to independent garden centers throughout the Mid-Atlantic U.S. He is happily married for 19 years and a proud father of two beautiful children, Phoenix and Aspen. When he is not working to beautify the planet with green roofs, he enjoys spending time gardening, bike-packing, and camping with his family.