April Overnighter

April Overnight Day 1 - Atlantis, loaded for bear

Atlantis, loaded for camping

The end of April graced us with several spectacular days. Around noon on the 24th I decided that I was going to go on an overnighter up at Potlatch State Park, which I had been to on my 2011 tour and knew wasn’t too epic of a route.  So began a flurry of packing and prepping  and by 2:45 I was on the road. A brief stop at a downtown Olympia grocery store and I was on the road.

April Overnight Day 1 - End of Puget Sound

Mud Bay

Day 1
It being mid-afternoon when I hit the road it was pretty much at peak temperature in the low 70s (F). I was riding in as light of clothing as I ever do – seersucker shirt, shorts, sandals – which is so nice.  This route is a pretty familiar one for me having ridden parts of it on three different tours and various other parts in my rides around Olympia over the last year. I still had Google Maps generate me a route to see what it would suggest. It had more options off of the highways, which while adding some miles made for some nicer riding.  However as seems to be increasingly the case it had some quirks to it.  The first of these was just past Mud Bay where it routed me over hwy 101 and toward what was labeled as a dead end road. Now it looks like you can get into the Capitol Forest and wander around on logging roads and trails and make it back to 101 a few miles up the road, but not an even remotely reasonable route fully loaded and without a lot of time. So I took 101 on that stretch but did take advantage of Google Maps routing through Shelton.  This added a few miles and did put me on some busy county roads but still nice to be off 101.  Going through downtown Shelton I noted that it had been rather built up since I’d last been here. There was a brewpub and more coffee houses and touristy sort of places. Nice to see.

April Overnight Day 1 - Google maps routed me up this

Google maps routed me up this trail out of Shelton

Google Maps then threw me another monkey wrench.  From downtowan Shelton there is a serious climb out from the sea level town back up to 101.  I’d ridden up that hill fully loaded (and with serious knee problems) on my 2007 tour) but Google Maps instead put me on a trail up.  The trail up Library Hill turned out to be a dirt path with a series of switchbacks. I pushed my bicycle up which might have been about as much effort as riding the road up the hill. At least there was no traffic.  Back on the bicycle it was back roads through this part of Shelton and then onto 101.

April Overnight Day 1 - Olympic Mountains in the Distance

Olympic Mountains in the Distance on hwy 101

It was magic hour now, with the sun dipping behind the Olympic Mountains.  101 at this point is a two lane highway and really pretty decent riding.  Its mostly downhill to Hood Canal and I made good time. I arrived at Potlatch State Park a bit after 7pm to find one other party camping, plus the campground host.  Half or more of the campground was closed for the season including the section with the bulk of the hiker/biker sites. There was one in the open loop so I moved in and setup camp. As per usual I cooked as I setup and within 10-15 minutes of completing my setup was eating Green Curry Noodles. Nice thing about an overnighter is you can put together a meal at home, ready for cooking at camp.

April Overnight Day 1 - Full moon over the Hood Canel

Full moon
shimmering in the water —
the purr of the frogs

By the time I’d finished cleaning up, it was dark and a beautiful full moon had risen over the hills. I walked down to the water and enjoyed views of the moon, reflected in the water.  It was cooling down, but it was a nice early spring evening. Soon enough I retired to my tent for reading and such before sleep.

I rode 41.9 miles on this day.

April Overnight day 2 - Campsite

Old trees in Potlatch State Park


Day 2
I was in the tent reading when another camping showed up. He came in, parked and then walked around camp looking for his spot before relocating there. With nearly the entire campground empty he chose to move into the one space between myself and the one other group of campers. Odd. I’d only taken this spot as it was the only H/B site; personally I like a little more space between campers when I can take it.  Still not so bad as there was a big space between my site and his. I slept all right though it eventually got colder than my gear is really rated for. Even though the day was in the 70s (F) the night still got down to the uppers 30s (F).  In the morning I performed my usual tour routing of cooking breakfast as I packed up.

April Overnight day 2 - Old trees

Old trees in Potlatch State Park

Doing a spur of the moment trip like this you are bound to forget something.  Well I had forgotten my coffee mug which of course also has my coffee filter in it.  So as I had ridden out here I kept stopping at stores and gas stations until I found a place that sold a metal mug.  I also grabbed a couple of coffee filters from a gas station and thus was able to make coffee is not as nice as I’m used to. My usual oat bran with dried cranberries and walnuts accompanied said coffee.  Not being at all in a rush on this day I leisurely enjoyed my breakfast, reading the news on my iPad (which I also didn’t have to worry about keeping charged).  I washed up and finished packing and now I was ready to go.

April Overnight day 2 - Beach

The tide is out in the Sound

But as I noted I had plenty of time so taking my coffee with me I walked down to the seashore.  I walked on the beach and sat in the sun and just generally enjoyed being on the water on a nice sunny day. I sat on a picnic table and worked on my journal and read from a book of Chinese poetry. This poem struck me on this day:

Passing Rushfields
-Ching An

Where the willow shade is deep…
the water chestnut flourishes.
Endless, silver sands…
where the tide’s retreated.
Thatched booths with wine flags flapping
tell me there’s a market town nearby.
A whole mountain of red leaves:
a girl child carries kindling.

April Overnight day 2 - pink flower

Wildflowers in the woods

From the beach I returned to the campground and then into the woods. There was a system of trails behind the campground, the entrance just south of my site.  I didn’t want to take an epic hike, but I did want to get out into the woods. I’d bought a pair of trail runner shoes and part of the goals of this trip was to see how I’d like them. I felt they worked well in keeping sand and stones out and were fine on the trails.  They are supper light and compact well so seem like a good addition to my kit.  The woods were pleasantly cool with wildflowers blooming.  It was getting toward noon and I wanted to get to Shelton for lunch, so I presently set off.

April Overnight day 2 - wetlands

Lowland wetlands before the climb up to Shelton

April Overnight day 2 - Porter at the Grove Stree BrewhouseIt was a lot more uphill riding to return to Shelton, but this time I didn’t have any time pressures. I stopped frequently checking out trees and streams and waterfalls. There is just an absolutely fantastic section of 101, that climbs for about 2 miles along a stream.  Old, moss laden trees surround this babbling brook and traffic aside it is just a pleasant, pretty stretch. From there it opens up and I was able to duck off the highway and take backroads to Shelton — including riding the steep road down Library Hill bypassing the dirt trail. I’d seen the Grove Street brewhouse as I’d ridden through Shelton the day prior and I made a beeline for it.  I had very good veggie sandwich accompanied by a Golden IPA which was refreshing and citrusy and a classic porter rather in an Anchor Porter vein. A nice break before hitting the road again.

April Overnight day 2 - Olympics behind Shelton

Olympic Mountains behind Shelton

Getting out of Shelton of course meant climbing a big hill on the south side, but it had a decent shoulder and at the top was a scenic overlook where you could see the while town with the mountains behind it and the sound in front of it. From here it was a short ride back to 101.  Once again I alternated with frontage roads and riding on the highway.  101 has a big shoulder and a well placed rumble strip so it really is pretty easy, if not super pleasant, riding. I was always happy when I was on the frontage roads which often wended well away from the highway and was in trees, pastureland and crossed several streams.

April Overnight Day 1 - Wending through the streets of Olympia

Wending through the streets of Olympia

I was definitely feeling the warmth and the several days of riding and was pretty tired when I made it back to Mud Bay.  The return trip has more climbing which at least for this trip was preferable – I was in a rush getting to camp but able to take my time returning. It was even hotter today than the day before, but the low 70s (F) is just perfect riding and nothing to complain about.  Soon enough though I was back at Mud Bay and the long climb back up to Olympia. I made a detour to a store for some dinner supplies and then made my way home. I was back before 6pm, a bit beyond a rigid S24O but still in the ballpark. Less than 30 hours for the whole trip and a good time was had.

36.4 miles ridden today
78.3 miles total for this trip.
Check out all of my pictures from this trip in this Flickr set: April Overnighter.

4 thoughts on “April Overnighter”

  1. With all that nice weather, I was chomping at the bit to go on an overnight on the one day last week that it would have been possible, but commitments, deadlines, etc conspired against me. I hope to be able to sneak away very briefly on Friday night this week, if the weather holds.

    And Robert, I don’t know if you know, but Mason County does have a free bike map. I ordered one a few years back.

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