After San Juan Island, Orcas has the largest amount of forest riding. Moran State Park itself allows biking on many of the trails and paths there including up Mt. Constitution. Last time I was on Orcas I rode the main (paved) route up Mt. Constitution and doing it again, even offroad, wasn’t very compelling. Plus my goal was to be in the woods where less people would be and Moran is among the prime draws of Orcas. No, instead I headed to Turtleback Mountain all the way on the west side of the island. This of course would require me to do the Eastsound to Moran stretch of road four times on this trip but, large climb notwithstanding, I had no complaints.
I had to ride a ways up Orcas Road before turning off onto Crow Valley Road which runs to the west of the more central main route. From there I was able to turn off at the Turtleback Mountain trailhead which did have a few cars parked there. The trailhead begins with an old logging road and immediately starts climbing. And Climbing. And Climbing. It was pretty much a straight climb from about 150 feet to over 1200 feet with several quite steep sections. There were a couple of side trails with scenic overlooks, of which I took one that had a lovely view of Waldron Island and beyond to the Canadian Gulf Islands. Turtleback mountain has a valley running down the middle of it and the trails split there and you can ride the ridges on both sides. You lose a lot of altitude to cross over, but you are able to ride both the west and the east in a loop with the high point on the eastern side. I went west first and pulled off and made my way through the woods to a grassy area for my picnic lunch. After all that climbing it was quite welcome. I lingered in the gloomy sun before riding down to where I could begin to ascend to the west side of the mountain. There wasn’t any open space from the “summit” so I just kept riding. It was a long, fast descent which, as I whipped down, I saw more and more people hiking up. I was leaving right at the opportune moment.
I backtracked to Eastsound where I had some food, my second time at an eating establishment, again outdoors, again sparsely attended. Again it felt weird, but worked out okay. I lingered a bit and then it was the old familiar route to Moran State Park where I read, had dinner and retired again all on my lonesome in the hiker/biker site.
It’s already mid-spring on the riverbank,
blossoms fallen, and sun still rises clear.
Hearing a bird, I look up to find nothing.
Turning back, I answer … no one there.
I read, skipping over hard parts with ease,
pour wine from always full jars.
That old Eyebrow Mountain sage is a new friend:
he knows it is here, in idleness, I am real.
-Du Fu, translated by David Hinton