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Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5 - Olympic Mountains Reflections

The last day of this all too short tour was another perfect summer day.  Blue skies, streak with thin white clouds, the temperatures warm but not too hot.  It was going to be a pretty short day, so there wasn’t much of a need to rush. However I wanted to be in Bremerton for lunch so while I didn’t rush I didn’t linger too long either. My companion in the hiker-biker site hadn’t caused any trouble and we only exchanged pleasantries before he rode off for the day. He had told the ranger yesterday that he’d pay for another night after returning from town today.  I never asked but I can’t deny some curiosity as to what this guys story was.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5 - Looking back up Hood Canal

I’ve certainly noted in these page how much I enjoy riding on Hwy 106, especially on a weekday morning when there is little traffic. Well today was one of those ideal days on this canal side highway.  Beautiful views of Hood Canal, the Tahuya hills across the water and in the distance the Olympic Mountains.  The blue sky was streaked with thin white clouds.    Things were still, there wasn’t much wind and the canal was calm, allowing for the reflections to have a high degree of fidelity to the original. Which is the original anyway?

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5 - Seattle Ahoy!

Highway 106 ends at Belfair, of which there is nothing to write home about.  However the Old Belfair Hwy, is a nice route rolling gently through farmland and woodland all the way to Bremerton.  I was on track to get to the city by 12:30 or so, so it was able to really enjoy this ride.  Old Belfair turns into West Belfair Valley road at a certain point and then there is along descent where it is near highway 3, which is the direct route between Belfair and Bremmerton. I’ve ridden 3 as well and while there is a huge shoulder and it’s relatively flat, it is just punishing with all the traffic.  West Belfair valley is much more preferable and while I oft hit 3 for the final segment into Bremerton this time I took the Adventure Cycling route which has a punishing climb up the valley walls and into hills west of Bremerton.  From there you descend into town just past the Navy Shipyard turnoff.   I arrived in town a bit before 1pm stopped for lunch and then rode that last hill into downtown Bremerton and the ferry terminal. I caught the 1:45 ferry to Seattle.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5 - NFE on the Ferry

This crossing was less eventful then the one that began this trip.  I mostly stayed inside and journaled, but as many times as I’ve been on the ferries I have to go outside and take in the views.  It remained a lovely day with just enough clouds to keep things interesting.  It was the end of my trip and it felt to me like it was just getting started.  I’d like to spend more time in Olympic National Park, but riding the forest roads and hiking the many trails.  This trip was a good survey of at least one part of the park. I’ve ridden all around the peninsula on several occasions and I have a good sense of the ride out to all corners.  It is past time that I begin to make forays into the interior.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5 - Farewell to the Olympics

Photos from this day: Olympic Mountain Dreams day 5
All photos from this tour: Olympic Mountain Dreams

Posted from Seattle, Washington, United States.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Small little waterfall

It was a lovely morning and tempting to spend another day in the Olympic’s, but it is a fairly long and rough road home. I didn’t want to just repeat the route I took here, so my return trip was going to go south and east to Bremerton and the ferry to Seattle. Thus I’ll have done a nice Hood Canal Loop in the course of this short tour. Since I didn’t have too far to ride on this day I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and time by the Dosewallips before I set out.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Dosewallips Falls detail

When I rode up to the campground I was chasing daylight so I didn’t linger. Well on my trip out I took the opportunity to checkout the several waterfalls, explore the Elkhorn campground, take little side trails and of course capture plenty of images. The trail being mostly downhill as well as not trying to push through as quickly as I could meant it wasn’t nearly as exhausting as the trip in had been.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - The "road" is basically just a trail up here.

There were numerous other hikers returning on this day, it being the end of the weekend and all. But also as I got closer to the trailhead I encountered numerous mountain bikers just out to ride the on the old road. They still had to get past the first two (and in some cases third) major washouts but I suppose pushing a mountain bike when you only have a daypack isn’t nearly so hard. But as a there-and-back route it didn’t strike me as that exciting of a mountain bike route. Beautiful scenery of course, but not very technical.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Beautiful little waterfall in the woods

There were two little waterfalls just off the trail that were well worth parking the bicycle and tramping off to see. This one, with it’s two free falling sections cascading down moss covered rocks was especially lovely. There is a hike off of the road to Lake Constance that is two miles in length but gains 3300 feet! It is mostly a scramble up a riverbed and I image it is like the terrain below this waterfall.  But once you get up there, there is a hike in campground with only six sites.  Would love to get up there sometime for an even more secluded Olympics experience.  A lot more to do up here; I will be back

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Ob. NFE in the National Park

The other campground along the road, Elkhorn, features numerous sites on the river, but also a set of sites in the woods.  It seemed even more overgrown than Dosewallips Campground, perhaps it is less visited as it is pretty close in.  Just past it is the other end of the major washout. I walked down to the end of that and found that there is basically a short drop-off that one could scramble up with the help of a fixed rope, but it would have been impossible to get the loaded touring bicycle up. Glad I hadn’t tried that route.  I backtracked and once again took the steep switchbacks above the washout.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Looking north from the big washout

Most of the way down the other side of the washout I took another little side trail that give you a good overview of the washout. You can see from the above picture that basically the whole riverside just sloughed off. No sign that a road had ever been there.  From this point on it was an easy ride back to the trailhead, which of course was the first washout but wasn’t nearly so hard to bypass.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Looking west up the Dosewallips

This day had dawned cool and overcast, but it had pretty well cleared up. But clouds and mists kept pouring over the hills and like the day before I was sure that it would cloud up again toward evening.  But as I rode out of the National Forest on Dosewallips River Road it became increasingly clear.  By the time I reached Brinnon and returned to Highway 101 it was blue skies with big pillow like white clouds.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - The Dosewallips makes it to Hood Canal

It was near lunchtime now and I pulled of at Dosewallips State Park and in the day use area had lunch. The park was right at the end of the Dosewallips River where it flowed into Hood Canal.  The wind had picked up blowing the big clouds around.  My route on 101 would wend along Hood Canal, always going up and down, with small little tourist areas in the rare flat spots.  It being the end of the weekend and all these spots were jammed with people trying to get in a last bit of recreation on their way home.  There was a line out the door at the Hoodsport Coffee Company and I’ve never seen so many people at the Union General Store.  Both times I would have stopped at those places for a break, but just too long of lines.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Summer clouds hovering over Hood Canal

I was going to camp at Twanoh State Park, which has a very limited Hiker/Biker area but I figured Sunday evening wouldn’t be too bad.  There was a stiff wind heading East on SR106 and I was feeling the end of the day.  When I got to Twaoh there was  tent in the h/b area but no sign of it’s occupant. I’ve shared the space before so I went into the campground proper to register.  They thought it was “full” but checked their records and found that no-one was registered for tonight. This was good as the main campground was full.  I mentioned there was the tent there and they sent a couple of junior rangers down to check it out.  When we got their I began to setup and they investigated the tent.  They kind of ripped it open and reported not much inside. They said it looked abandoned and headed out.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4 - Sunset over Hood Canal

I finished setting up and had begun to cook dinner when the tent’s occupant arrived on a folding bicycle. He said “hi” and sat down to eat some take out food.  A bit later he checked out the tent and asked me if I’d seen anybody messing with it. I mentioned the rangers had been looking in it.  He said “Well they basically destroyed it!”. He had a beer and then set out. I ate dinner and washed up and went out to watch the sunset over Hood Canal.  I heard raised voices from camp and the ranger was there trying to talk with the guy. He accused them of destroying his tent and got pretty shirty.  There was some words from the ranger, basically noting that he wasn’t actually paid up and shouldn’t be there and such and eventually he left.  I was sitting in my tent a bit later when he retuned and squatting down at my tent entrance asked me to verify the guys story. I confirmed that the junior rangers had inspected the tent but I didn’t see them rip into it or anything.  He asked if I felt safe with the guy there. I said he seemed okay and I didn’t mind that he was there.  The ranger went and gave the guy some duct tape so he could do some field repairs and then left. The evening ended uneventfully. The guy repaired his tent the best he could and retired as did I.

Photos from this day: Olympic Mountain Dreams day 4
All photos from this tour: Olympic Mountain Dreams

Posted from Union, Washington, United States.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3

Friday, September 1st, 2017

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - Water through the moss

patches of moonlight
wavering through branches —
watering an ancient tree

I awoke a few times through night to an exultation of stars peeking through the canopy and very late a thin moon made it over the valley walls. After a my nights sleep with the ever present white noise of the river, I woke to a grey morning with mist streaming down the valley walls.  Over the course of a morning spent in contemplation down by the river and making breakfast in camp, the mist burned off to mostly clear blue skies. While I was breaking my fast a volunteer ranger came by and gave me the skinny on day hikes in the area. He also let me know that most of those washouts I had to clamber over one the way here were from this year.  It had been the rainiest winter on record in Washington State and it brought down a lot of rocks.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - Crossing Station Creek

I lingered in camp until after lunch and then hoisting my daypack I set out to checkout the local trails.  Past the campground is the old ranger station and then past that begins the trails.  There is a the remnants of an old nature trail which does the traditional loop, with a branch off of it into the broader trail network.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - Money Changers in the temple

The trail heads off up the river valley to the Dose Forks campground. This is a true backpackers campground, a few miles from the Dosewallips Campground, which was the furthest in you could have driven back before the washouts.  There were a few people camping at Dose Forks though I didn’t seen any of them there.  I was continuing up to what the ranger had described as the High Bridge at the West and North Forks of the Dosewallips.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - Wasp

Between the two campgrounds I was up the valley walls a ways and primarily hiking in the woods.  There were numerous creeks to cross — Station Creek, Pass Creek and named trickles — but I was far enough away from the Dosewallips that it was only a very distant rushing sound.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - Looking back

At Dose Forks Campground I was back right on the river and had to cross it to continue on the the High Bridge.  The character of the hike there was subtly different.  It was more rocky and I was clearly on a sort of spit of land between the two forks of the river.  There were a couple more little stream crossings which the trail often descended to cross and then had to climb back out.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - Flowing water

This part of the Olympic National Park, cut off from the car campgrounds, seems to be slowly returning to nature.  Rangers have to hike anything in and the old car campgrounds are slowly deteriorating.  Nobody is going be be packing in a replacement picnic table!  Out here though it is the trail crews that keep falling logs off the trails, bridges from collapsing and the trails generally clear.  Past the high bridge there are trails deep into the Olympics and it hooks up to the cross park — and state! — Pacific NW Trail.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - High Bridge

There was sign of these trail keepers all through these hikes, cut logs, repaired bridges and general trail clearing.  This corner of the park feels pretty abandoned. I’m sure it was never was the draw that the Hoh, Hurricane Ridge, Lake Quinault etc have been, but with no car camping now, it feels pretty remote.  The High Bridge is well named, a solid wood bridge on a rocky promontory crossing the West Fork of the Dosewallips.  Looking east you can just see where the North Fork cascades in and merges with the West Fork.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - North and West Forks of the Dosewallips River

I spent some time on the bridge and around the branching trails just past it. I rested, ate a sandwich and just existed.  A wind had picked up and there were ragged trails of cloud reaching into the piercing blue sky. I just sat and listened for a spell until finally I retraced my steps back to camp.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3 - Blue skies over green valley walls

the tiger swallowtail
returns again and again
dancing over flowing water

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Photos from this day: Olympic Mountain Dreams day 3
All photos from this tour: Olympic Mountain Dreams

Posted from Brinnon, Washington, United States.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017
Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Onward into the woods

NFE in Olympic National Forest

out of the dense green canopy
the sound of a lively stream

I awoke to a sunny and clear day in the woods outside of Port Townsend.  On this day I planned to ride all the way to Dosewallips Campground in Olympic National Park but I also wanted to spend a little bit of time in Port Townsend. So I quickly packed up and rode down the Olympic Discovery Trail, through the marina and into downtown to my favorite PT coffee house: Better Living Through Coffee. There I enjoyed sumatra pour-over and broke my fast.  I had a few more errands I wanted to take care of and so I ended up staying in PT through lunch. It was nearly 1pm by the time I finally rode out of town.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Pirate Ship in Drydock

Clearly a pirate ship here in dry dock

I had about fifty miles to do this day, but this included a pretty long climb into the State Park and about 16 miles on trails, so I felt I was leaving pretty late.  It was also all backtracking for the first 15 miles (and then on pretty familiar roads) so I mostly just pedaled through it.  I couldn’t resist a quick stop at Finn River Cidery once I was back on Center Rd. I’ve ridden past them many a time but I’ve always been pushing through to PT and never stopped.  I figured on this day, with long summer nights and no riding planned for the next day, though I could spare the time.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Finn River view down Beaver Valley

The view from Finn River looking down Beaver Valley

I’m glad I stopped — good cider and a lovely locale with long views up Beaver Valley. But after leaving I knew I had it maintain a steady pace to get where I was going by nightfall.  The wind was with me as I rode down Beaver Valley and through the hillier section the lies beyond the intersection with 105.  There is a good climb up into hills above Quilcene followed by a long descent to the intersection with Hwy 101.  I stopped in Quilcene at the market there where I bought a Blackberry Ice Cream cone where they must have put near a pint of ice cream on it.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - NFE at sea

NFE in Quilcene

The next stage was a stretch on Hwy 101 from Quilcene to Brinnon.  This includes crossing Walker Pass, which at 741′ barely qualifies as a pass climb, but it is a gap between Mount Walker and you do climb up for most of the five miles between it and Quilcene.  Once you descend there is a stretch along the coast a few ups and downs and then you come onto Brinnon.  Right before you cross the Doeswallips River is the turnoff to Dosewallips River Road, which begins my journey into the National Park.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Dosewallips River Valley

Dosewallips River Valley

It was stretching into late evening now and I was hoping that I could make this last 16 or so miles in relatively short order.  At first the road was paved and it climbed steeply nearly immediately. I was following the Dosewallips River, which was pretty active with sections of rapids, but also these beautiful coves and pools.  There were houses and then farms and what kind of appeared to be a cult compound before the paved road ended and became gravel.  I was in the National Forest now and after a mile or two the road ended at the washout.  There were a number of cars parked here for those hiking in to the campground, day hikers and dog walkers.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Dosewallips River road after a car has passed

Dosewallips River road after a car has passed

I walked the bicycle through this first washout and then it was just like the gravel road had continued on. The trees were a little closer and the road was less washboarded and of course there were no cars. So pretty nice.  Then I came to the second washout.  This one was as if an entire hillside had washed down into the Dosewallips River.  There was a goat path on it, clinging to loose rock on the hillside and also a path that steeply wound above it.  I park my bicycle and explored along the hillside route first.  That clearly became impossible to push  bicycle through so I returned and checked out the path above.  It had a series of switchbacks and was pretty steep but seemed passable.  So I pushed my bicycle up which I have to say was pretty difficult. At the top it was like I was on a hiking trail for a spell until it descended in a similarly steep set of switchbacks.  Then I was back on the gravel road.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Dosewallips Trail 2

Dosewallips Trail

Past the second washout the trail narrow and was a lot more overgrown. This was really great riding, as it was fairly flat, empty and yet deep in the woods near a rushing river.  There were several more rocky washouts, but these were small and I just had to dismount and pick my way over them.  But I was pretty tired and hungry now and ready to reach the campground.  When I came to the Elkhorn Campground, the first of two, I was really tempted to stop.  I gone a long way, it was right on the river and looked nice.  But since I planned to spend the next day exploring the area I knew that the Dosewallips Campground would be better and it was my destination after all. So I pressed on.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Further up Dosewallips Falls

Dosewallips Falls

The trail immediately began to climb at this point and was much closer to single track.  Apart from the multiple washouts and a couple of bridge crossings, it pretty much was uphill the rest of the way.  I could ride most of this, but I was pretty hard work.  There were numerous washouts, again usually of the big rocky types.  I passed a couple of hikers during this stretch, one couple commented they had passed me riding on the road a ways back. “I managed to catch up!”, I quipped.  The highlight of this stretch was Doswallips Falls, which was a rock falls with a short free fall section. The road alongside was super steep and there was an old sign informing vehicles that they shouldn’t stop on this section.  Apart from all the washouts it was pretty hard to imagine cars ever driving this road.  I had to push the bicycle up this section and I was pretty close to bonking. It was after 8pm and I was tired and hungry.  Happily it wasn’t too much further from the top of the falls and it was a flatter stretch with only a couple more washouts.

Olympic Mountain Dreams Day 2 - Dosewallips River Valley walls at sunset

Sun sets behind the valley walls

Finally I arrived at the campground which probably half a dozen of the sites — all along the river — were occupied. I pretty quickly settled into the last really viable site at the north edge of the park. The river was an all encompassing presence here and looking up above the trees, the high valley walls were golden with the magic hour light. I filtered water, cooked dinner and setup.  As I was about done for the day one of the hikers I passed on my way in stopped by and told me he had forgotten a key part of his water filter.  I was using my new gravity filter that I bought after my stint on the Sierra-Cascades where I found I needed to filter a lot of water so I was able to filter a gallon or so of water for him in short order.  It was fully dark now, so after he departed water bags in head I retired to the tent and a well earned nights sleep.

Photos from this day: Olympic Mountain Dreams day 2
All photos from this tour: Olympic Mountain Dreams

Posted from Brinnon, Washington, United States.

Journey to the East – initial Stages

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

When I lost my job at the end of July 2011 I was thinking I’d set right off on a cross country bicycle tour. However all of the business involved in the lay off necessitated that I be in the area for at least a month and ideally three months. So I took my shorter 2011 tour and began planning for the cross country tour in 2012.  I have always found it the case that for the last, say 10% of the tour one finds ones thoughts turning primarily toward the post-tour. That is to say at that point you are ready for it to be done. I use the percentage because this time scales depending on the length of the tour. That is to say it may only be the last couple of days on an 2 week tour but perhaps the last week on a 10 week tour. This has held true for me on all my (self supported) tours which have ranged from 9 days to 103 days.  But for the cross country trip I wasn’t sure how touring in the months range would go – my longest tour at that point was just under four weeks (2009). So taking this into account I planned the tour in stages.

The five stages of the tour were:

Stage 1: Seattle  to Olympia
Stage 2: Olympia to Anacortes
Stage 3: Anacortes to Glacier National Park
Stage 4: Glacier to Minneapolis/St. Paul
Stage 5: Minneapolis to Bar Harbor

Now I should say that the “planning” for this was pretty loose. I basically have reached a point now where I can just pick up and tour and if I use the Adventure Cycling maps I don’t really even need to think much about the route (beyond getting on to their route that is – usually the first few days).  In all honesty I really planned out the first three stages and was rather coy about touring beyond that (see my initial Journey to the East post). The latter two stages, while really always expected, were defined in situ.   To give a good overview of the entire tour I’ll describe each of these stages both as planned and as they turned out in two posts. In this one I’ll cover the initial three stages – which is only about a quarter of the total tour – and in the next the last two.

Stage 1: Seattle to Olympia; 2 days (April 30th — May 1st);  88.5 miles

I’d been living in Seattle since returning from my 2011 tour and the first stage involved all the preparation for the tour. I had a storage place while I lived in Seattle and I spent much of the months I was living there selling stuff out of it. I was in a massive downsizing mode. My goal was to get to having all my stuff fit into a 5′ x 10′ storage unit. I also went car free during this time, for the first time since college. Two days before move out day I put everything into a van and put it into a storage unit in Olympia. I returned the truck in Oly and took the bus back. I was then in my apartment with only my touring gear and some cleaning supplies. I cleaned the apartment, checked out and by noon on April 30th I was bicycling away. My Journey to the East had begun.

I had the full load on my bicycle plus an extra dry bag of stuff (mostly clothes) from leaving the apartment.  I knew I’d get out of Seattle fairly late due to the check out appointment so I had a pretty short days ride planned. I rode to the downtown Seattle Ferry terminals mostly via trails and took the ferry to Bremerton. From there I took back roads to Twanoh State Park where I camped right on the water. The day was a relatively easy 42 miles but it was definitely tough with that heavy load. This is also the earliest in the year I have camped and it was pretty cold that night. The next day was just a bit more miles to Olympia via the reverse of the route I’d done on several occasions (including the year before). A blustery rainy day it was a good test of my new rain gear.

In Olympia I spent the next 3 days getting ready. I decided to get ride of some of the stuff I was carrying based on the last couple of days ride. I bought an initial supply of alcohol for my stove at REI as well as other needed supplies. My maps from Adventure Cycling arrived (I had waited until the last moment to get these to get the updated maps). The whole packing up my apartment and moving had been pretty strenuous so this break was welcome.

Stage 2: Olympia to Anacortes; 10 days (May 5th — May 15th);  429.2 miles (517.7 total)

The next stage of the tour was getting to Anacortes the start of the Northern Tier. Now I had just the year before ridden from Olympia to Anacortes over three days along the inside of the Puget Sound.  However I had several considerations beyond a quick route to the Norther Tier in mind so I decided to do a loop around the Olympic Peninsula. First and foremost all the passes (Rainy/Washington) on the North Cascades Highway had had not yet opened up and it wasn’t looking like they would for at least a week. Secondly while a loop around the Olympic Peninsula is nearly 500 miles it never is that far from cities where I could get any needed repairs, missing supplies and the like. Basically I spent an extra ten days doing extensive shakedown on the gear. With new wheels on the bicycle and a bunch of new camping gear I felt this was a good idea.  The final consideration was that I really wanted to go the most NW corner of the United States. Bar Harbor isn’t quite the most North Easterly corner but it is pretty close. Anacortes, though the town I grew up in which I dearly love, is not even on the Pacific Ocean: tt is on the Puget Sound (which I also love). For me a cross country trip should at the very least go from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

I had ridden counter-clockwise around the Olympic Peninsula a number of years before (tour 2007) this so I knew the basic route. But I picked up Adventure Cycling’s Washington Parks route as it differed from my previous route in that it bypassed hwy 101 around Lake Crescent which I felt was the most dangerous section of that road and looked to be even worse east bound. Plus it connected with the route I’d need to take up to  Cape Flattery (the most North Western corner of the US).  The ACA route had a few deviations from the route I’d taken before which was welcome.  I also worked out my first day of riding out to Lake Sylvia where I connected with the ACA Washington Parks route.

This first part of the tour was interesting; cold, especially at night and the parks mostly empty. I also found a number of the places I intended to camp either not open or permanently closed. The addenda that ACA provides for the route was of course not updated for this year so it was always a crap shoot on whether I’d find a place to camp. My second night at Lake Quinault I found none of the four campsites open and ended up staying at a hotel.  The night after that I was in the large Kalaloch campground which had only a few other people there besides myself. That night a raccoon unzipped my front pannier and stole my food bag. Luckily I was able to have breakfast the next day at the Kalaloch Lodge and resupply that afternoon in Forks. From that point on I either used a little padlock on my pannier or hung up my food. That same night the campsite I was heading for was closed and ended up going off route a bit to stay at a DNR campground (which doesn’t charge anything for cyclists which is pretty nice. No services though).

Campgrounds were either empty or packed with fisherman. As I headed out toward Cape Flattery I stayed at a campground that catered to fisherman and due to the start of halibut season it was just crazy packed. I stayed there two nights as I rode out to the Cape. The fishermen were generally good people and though the fishing didn’t seem so good this season (nobody I talked to caught their limited of one (1) halibut) they were having a good time. The next day the campground I stayed at was empty again. After two days on hwy 112 – which was a new route for me – I arrived in Port Angeles and the route was now very familiar – The Olympic Discovery Trail (third time riding this) then various roads to Fort Townsend State Park (only person in the hiker/biker area) then a rest day in Port Townsend staying at Fort Flagler for the first time (again the only occupant in the H/B area). After the day off I took the ferry to Whidbey Island and rode very familiar roads (I grew up on these islands) to Anacortes and the end of stage 2.

As I said most of this was familiar routes but with enough variety to mix it up.  This is one of the most beautiful areas in the states and I never tire of riding out here. Doing so in the spring and taking some different routes just added to the experience. Everything worked out with the bicycle and gear so by the time I left Anacortes (the biggest town I’d stay in for quite a while) I was in good shape.

Stage 3: Anacortes to Glacier National Park; 19 days (May 15th — June 3rd );  780.7 miles (1298.4 total)

I was now on the official Northern Tier route which begins in Anacortes. I more or less took the same route from Anacortes to Sedro Wooley that I used in 2011. This route is partly my own devising with overlapping segments with various published routes. I also chose to use the Cascade Trail from Sedro Wooley to Rasar State Park as opposed to the ACA route. This is basically because the route while on very nice back roads is on the other side of the Skagit river. To get to Rasar State Park you have to cross at Concrete and backtrack (which I did last year). Now there are other parks but Rasar has a great hiker/biker site, is on the river and I for one prefer City/State/National/DNR campgrounds over private. Plus it made for a better days ride distance ride at this juncture. I was again alone in the H/B site.  The next few days were a repeat of the previous years crossing of Rainey/Washington Pass. The North Cascades National Park campgrounds had yet to have opened up but luckily one of the parks had winter camping which was free, though there was no services.  The hwy had only been open for a week or so at this point and there was huge snow walls as I rode over the passes. There was a lot of people engaged in x-country skiing, snow shoeing and other snow based activities at the top of Washington Pass. Once again I wondered why there was nobody handing me a beer as I summitted. Clearly life does not mirror our advertisements.

 

 

Coming down Washington Pass I found the campground where I stayed the previous year full and once again skipping the published route I rode into Winthrop. My main motivation in this was going to the Old Schoolhouse Brewery though that necessitated staying at a KOA which I’m generally not in favor of. The next day after a couple hours of riding I turned onto the road up Loup Loup Pass concluding the section of this route which overlapped with the previous year and I was from now on always riding new territory. There were three more passes to do which I did in pretty quick succession: Loup Loup followed with a day off in Omak then Wauconda Pass where I camped a few miles shy of the summit and finally Sherman where it snowed on me as a sumitted. The campground I stayed at near the summit of Wauconda I was again the only occupant. In fact they weren’t technically open for the season so the proprietor let me stay there for free. I ended up having dinner at the gas station/general store/restaurant in Wauconda with said proprietor and his son. I signed the book at the restaurant which was filled with previous Northern Tier riders. This was the first place I’d been to where people knew exactly what the route was all about and were quite familiar with tourons from years past. I received many stories from these guys from various years as well as more info about the area.  I also heard about for the first the people that were “ahead” of me – this was a trend that would continue. There was apparently a Scottish fellow who was about a week ahead (and thus crossed Washington Pass the day it opened) and who was determined to be “the first person to complete the Northern Tier in 2012” – he would write such in the books that I’d see as I rode across. There was also a couple that had stayed here a couple of days prior.

After Sherman Pass there is a long descent and you arrive at the Columbia River. I’ve been all over Washington State – first camping as a kid with my parents and such and later on my own and then of course the last decade of bicycle touring but there are still many places I haven’t been. This northeast corner of the state is one of them. Even after the long descent you are still at a pretty high altitude. This would persist all across the “high plains”. The terrain is pretty interesting too – its all scrub and juniper and the like in between the Cascades and Sherman Pass but then you descend to cross the Columbia and enter the Colville National Forest. There is is much more like the Pacific NW with denser undergrowth and evidence of a lot more water. This persists until East Montana. The Colville National Forest is more or less the end of Washington State and at Newport I crossed into Idaho – the second state of the tour.

 

The weather had been pretty rainy, though in the typical spring on and off style for the last week or so. I was rained on less on the Olympic Peninsula in the rain forest than I was during my couple weeks of negotiating mountains. Of course as clouds cross mountains they do tend to lose water so not a huge surprise.  It was cold, especially at night during this period, dropping below freezing the night I camped at Wauconda. This would more or less persist until I was out of the mountains and into East Montana. I took another rest day in Sand Point Idaho where I was able to stock up on locally roasted coffee and drink beers in the local brewpub. The motel I stayed at was the best deal of the tour and was quite nice. It even had a little kitchen which let me continue to make my own breakfasts as is my wont. Soon enough I was back on the road and also quite soon I was in Montana – the panhandle of Idaho could be easily crossed in a typical touring day.

I would be in Montana for a long time – it is the widest state on this route. There were a lot of alternative routes on the ACA maps and I would take them or not as the mood struck. Mainly as long as I could get to services and campgrounds I needed I would take the more out of the way and deserted routes. I was on one of these alt routes, riding on a dirt road as matter of fact, when I unceremoniously crossed into Montana.  The first campground I stayed at in Montana was empty except for the campground host as was the next. These were both on lakes and just fantastic. The campground host at the second of these camps regaled me with stories of wildlife and other bicycle tourons he had encountered.  I had thought I’d seen a wolf with cubs the day before and he did confirm that that was an area he had seen wolves so seems likely. I’d seen a bear cub the day before (the third bear of the tour) so it really was fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities here.

 

 

While most every day on tour is a great day you’ll still have better days than others. For some reason the day I rode into Libby was one of these. I was in this city campground that was just really beat and exposed and wasn’t feeling it too much. So I hung out at the library and then went to a hardware store where I got my windup radio. There being a super market right next to the campground I was able to get get some heavy items I normally wouldn’t want to carry and had a good solid dinner listening to NPR. So was back in good spirits by the next day. It was only a few more days of riding until I reached Glacier and these were some of the wettest days of the tour. Particularly the day I rode into Glacier it had poured rain and I lingered in Whitefish for as long as I could trying to wait it out.  It was still drizzling when I finally set out and would continue to do so – with bursts of real rain – all the way to Glacier. This was also the only period where I couldn’t find any HEET for my alcohol stove but it worked out as I ate most of my meals at the restaurant at Glacier.

It rained most of the time I was at Glacier and thunderstoms  predicted the day I ended up leaving. So while I had intended to stay at least three days there I only stayed two. The inter park shuttle system had started up yet and barring riding all over the park I had no way to see much beyond where I was. So I ended up taking on of the Red Bus tours which drove to several points around the park. It was again a rainy day and while I got to see much a lot was pretty fogged in. The Going to the Sun road had yet to open so I was not going to be able to ride out of the park on the main route. A pity but I know I’ll be back some day.

So that is the initial stages of the tour.  All in all it went pretty smoothly and there hadn’t been anything I could handle. The early days when campgrounds were not certain to be open was the most problematic but it all worked out. There was of course some down days, but surprisingly few. Most importantly by the time I’d reached Glacier I was at thirty-five days of riding and I wasn’t burned out on touring at all.  I knew I could continue on from and make it to the east coast of which I’ll recount in the next post.