Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Sue Nicholson, John Ernest Berry III and Bob Myrick of Washington State for sharing this memoire of a bicycling trip on the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail taken in late-Summer 2019. We thought it was time for a little inspiration—and a demonstration of what’s possible—on America’s trails!
“Awesome! Totally Awesome! We did it!” That’s how John Ernest Berry III described his five-day, 100-mile tricycle trek across the Cascade Mountains of Washington State with friend and mentor Bob Myrick on the 223.8-mile developing Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail in August 2019.
The Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail is a host trail of the 3,700-mile developing Great American Rail-Trail connecting Washington, D.C., and Washington State. Learn more about the route through Washington at greatamericanrailtrail.org.
The two friends first met while promoting bicycle safety programs at the state legislature: Bob is the legislative representative for the Tacoma Washington Bicycle Club, and John—a Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition board member, who’s been an advocate for trail accessibility and bicycling safety since an accident at age 21—is equally as passionate.
Neither Bob nor John has any qualms about knocking on doors to urge legislators and others to improve bicycle safety and build new trails.
John became a staunch advocate for wear-a-helmet programs after the accident that would change his life. While bicycling downhill, a car pulled in front of him, resulting in a collision in which he was propelled through a windshield at 38 miles an hour. He was not wearing a helmet. As a result of the accident, he suffered a brain injury that caused severe short-term memory loss, speech and vision problems, and partial paralysis on his left side. He walks with a cane.
Bob became a staunch promoter of trails after three car-bicycle accidents. (He holds up three fingers to emphasize that three is more than enough!) Since the mid-1990s, he has been dedicated to promoting nonmotorized transportation; he has served on numerous boards and commissions and has been instrumental in the development of at least six major trails, including the Foothills Trail.
A Great Partnership
While John never expected to cycle again, Bob saw the possibilities; he helped John acquire a recumbent tricycle, which needed just one adaptation—bicycle clip pedals to secure John’s left foot. John uses his right hand to control both the rear disk brake and the rear derailleur, while using the middle chaining on most terrains to avoid switching gears. (To switch gears, he must reach across his body with his right hand—a difficult maneuver.)
John affirms that cycling has definitely had a positive impact on his life. “The trike gave me back a part of myself that I used to have and proved that being disabled isn’t the only way others look at me,” he said. “Riding signifies never giving up—and having the will and discipline to keep at it no matter the odds.”
According to his family, it was a challenge for him to learn to cycle again, but he was very determined. “John was so happy to get back into cycling. He gained a new sense of independence that he really appreciated,” said John’s sister, Leslie.
Challenges and Aspirations
John often rode the popular 31-mile Foothills Trail near his home; however, to reach the trail required a ride on a busy road between city sidewalks and the trail. He began to call on county and city officials and urged them to extend the trail for greater safety. His persistence paid off—and in recognition of his efforts, the quarter-mile extension of the Foothills Trail was formally dedicated and named the John Ernest Berry III Trail on May 31, 2014. A year later, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Foothills Trail Conservancy for his for his “long-time” advocacy for trails.
One of his greatest aspirations: to cycle across the Cascade Mountains on the Palouse to Cascades Trail. It would be a challenge for the tricycle.
The 223.8-mile trail is an evolving dirt and gravel trail that follows the historic Milwaukee Road route across Washington State. The western section of trail straddles the Cascade Mountains, climbing 22 miles eastward at railroad grade through forests and across high trestles to the Snoqualmie Tunnel. On the eastern side of the tunnel, the trail skirts Keechelus Lake and drops 15 miles to Lake Easton State Park.
Along with Bob—who supported the quest—John began making test trips to gauge level of difficulty for both the trail and the handling of gear. On their first attempt, they divided the camping gear equally between John’s trike and Bob’s bike, which proved to be too heavy for John on the initial uphill climb. Subsequently, Bob acquired a bike trailer to transport a majority of their gear, while John carried a few essentials.
The fourth and successful journey, which took place in August 2019, began at Rattlesnake Lake, the western trailhead of the Palouse to Cascades Trail, with day one including a 10-mile trip and an overnight stop at Alice Creek, a primitive campsite with a picnic table, sand-covered tent pads and a vault toilet. The only water was from a nearby stream.
The next day, they reached the Snoqualmie Tunnel, whose eastern end—located 2.4 miles from the western side—is not visible. “It was so dark! I didn’t know which way I was going,” said John, adding that, despite bumping the tunnel wall with his recumbent trike several times, the tunnel was his favorite part of the trip.
From the tunnel, they rolled 15 miles to Lake Easton State Park, which contains an ADA-accessible campsite with hot showers. A bonus: The proprietor of the local general store had a lunch counter and served great meals!
They attempted to ride the trail beyond Lake Easton, but the heavy gravel was too much for the trike, and they turned back. After exploring the area for another day, they turned homeward and made their last camp at the east entrance of the tunnel—returning home the next day in one 25-mile single stretch.
Just 200 feet from their car, John’s journey ended abruptly when the front wheel of this trike struck a rock.
That night, Bob posted on his Facebook page: “Brain-injured and partially paralyzed, John Ernest Berry III, age 55, and Bob Myrick, age 75, survived five days and 100 miles on the Ironhorse Trail from Rattlesnake Lake to Lake Easton and beyond.” (August 2019)
John continues to promote use of helmets and tells everyone: “Use your brain; wear a helmet.”
Bob continues as a board member of the ForeverGreen Trails Association and other groups advocating for more trails and promoting safe cycling.