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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

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

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

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1

Sunday, August 27th, 2017
Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - NFE on the stoop

NFE on the Stoop: Ready to Ride

a blue dragonfly
flies backwards down the path

When a retreat that I was going to take part in fell through I suddenly found myself with five free days in mid July. Within a couple of days I worked out a trip I wanted to take that would maximally use those days and take me to a place I hadn’t been to before. I had found out that a road had washed out on the eastern side of Olympic National Park cutting off two campgrounds, but that you take your bicycle on the old road.  This was technically within a days ride, but would, I thought, be a pretty long hard day. I planned to ride to Dosewallips State Park, on hwy 101 which is around 20 miles from Dosewallips Campground, in the Olympic National Park.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - Ferry terminal to BI

Ferry to Bainbridge Island coming in

My touring setup is pretty much set in stone these days, all kept in one bag in a closet. I can pull it out and be pretty much ready to tour within a couple of hours.  Buying and packing some food and selecting appropriate clothing is about the only variables not preset.  Of course I do have several options depending on length or type of tour and for this one, where I’d be camping and then day hiking in the woods, I adjusted things accordingly.  I swapped out my Rando bag for my basket and put on my old Baggins Hobo bag for the rear facing pockets.  This gave me enough space for the supplies needed for time in the woods.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - In which we leave the city behind

In which we leave the city behind

I made it to the ferry terminal by 10am which is pretty good time for the first day of one of my tours.  But I had just missed a boat and when the next one came in there was a crew change and the hauling off of a dead motorcycle.  When we finally departed it was about a quarter to eleven.  I was in the cafe buying a coffee when the woman next to me in line asked: “Is this the bar?” It’s happy hour somewhere… At one point during the crossing the boat slowed and the engines stopped. There was an announcement over the PA for a crew member to come to ‘Fan Room 2’.  Was this going to one of those trips?

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - Coming up on Bainbridge

Crossing the Puget Sound

As I made the crossing I contemplated my preparations and realized I had neglected to bring my headlamp.  That a bit of food I still needed sent me to the little town of Winslow on Bainbridge Island where I also was able to get lunch.  I found my forgotten supplies and proceeded to ride across the Island a bit after noon.  Now his route is one I’ve done several times: Bainbridge to the mainland via Hood Canal.  There are several options and several highways but of course the goal is to stay on backroads.  However right after crossing Agate Pass off of Bainbridge I failed to take a turn and thinking Google Maps had just put me on a different crossing of the Kitsap Peninsula I continued on the hwy.  As I came up on Pouslbo I knew I was off route but I also knew this busy road would get me where I was going. I peeked at Maps on my phone and found an alternative backroad option that I didn’t have to backtrack to.  This road, Big Valley Road, turned out to be just top drawer country riding.  Much flatter then the normal cross Kitsap route I’ve taken, but equally low traffic and scenic.  Nice.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - Waiting on the bridge

Waiting on the Hood Canal Drawbridge

Big Valley Road intersected with Hwy 3 at Four Corners and from there it wasn’t too much further to Hood Canal Bridge. As I climbed up the last hill before I’d descend to the bridge, cars were backed up — the bridge must be open.  I was able to easily wend my way down to the bridge and along the nice shoulder all the way to the barriers.  The drawbridge was indeed up, but for no discernible reason.  There are long views both north and south of the bridge and there was no sign of any boats. Even when submarines come through here — which is often — there are jamming boats along with them.  So perhaps just some sort of test or safety check.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - Clouds over the Canal

Dark clouds down south

There was a stiff wind blowing south, which happily was the direction I was going. But things were dark and forbidding that way whereas the wind was blowing the clouds away from the north.  Once the bridge finally opened I continued west, mainly on Hwy 104 but taking side roads when I could.  Once you climb up from Hood Canal to the north is Beaver Valley which I’ve ridden many time to and fro Port Townsend.  All the sudden I felt a pang of desire to go to Port Townsend. It was almost cold now under dark clouds and there was even the slightest of sprinkles.  As I crossed Center Road which goes north up Beaver Valley to Chimicum and then PT and South to Quilcene where it intersects with Hwy 101 I saw a handprinted mural that read 24 miles to Brinnon. Brinnon was just outside of Doswallips State Park, my destination.  PT on the other hand was 14 miles to the north up Beaver Valley.  To the south was Walker Pass (not an epic pass, but a couple mile climb) and dark menacing clouds.  To the north it was blue skies, easy valley riding and PT with restaurants and pubs.  I went north.

Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - Mount Rainier looms beyond Marrowstone Island

Mount Rainier looms beyond Marrowstone Island

There are three roads that run down Beaver Valley: one on the west wall, one down the center and one at the foot of the east wall.  I was on the middle way, Center Rd. which is the easiest of the three (the west wall is the hilliest fwiw) and the valley protected me from that northerly wind. So I made good time to Chimicum and then to Fort Townsend State Park. This park sits about 5 miles south from PT proper and it is a favorite of mine to camp at. Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1 - At the PourhouseThe Hiker/Biker site is a bit away from the rest of the campground and is basically a clearing in the woods. Of the half-dozen plus times I’ve camped there only once has there been another touron there.  Once!  It is about a mile from the Olympic Discovery Trail so you can easily ride into PT which after setting up I did. I had dinner at a very busy (and just okay) Thai joint and then retired to the Pourhouse for an after dinner pint.

As I rode back to the campground, the sun had set and a light purple glow lit up the Cascade mountains far to the east.  A truly lovely evening.  It was dark in my wooded campsite when I arrived, but I only had to lock up my bicycle and retire to my tent for the evening.  I was happy to be here.

Photos from this day: Olympic Mountain Dreams day 1
All photos from this tour: Olympic Mountain Dreams

April Bicycle Camping day 1

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Port Gamble Park


spring comes simply
with a pale blue

No-thinking; just tour

I was heading out late Sunday morning for a ride and as I was about to board the light rail for a bit of a head start I decided that I should take advantage of the unseasonably warm stretch ahead and go out on a short tour. So I left the light rail station and went across the street to the grocery store to pick up some supplies. Then back home where I packed up, did some tinkeri get on the bicycle, printed out an initial route and headed out.
Sailboat & Mount Rainier
I took the ferry to Bainbridge Island and it was such a fantastic day on the water: clear and windy the sailboats were out in force. Views of Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, the Olympics, Seattle, the Cascades &c. Stunning.  I was leaving late (of course) and I had decided that I was going to head to Port Townsend and then go from there. So I took a pretty direct route, going straight across Bainbridge. Not the most scenic route, but a good wide shoulder the whole way. But once across Bainbridge I was on backroads to Port Gamble.

Fort Towsend
I have have to say I immediately felt free and relaxed once I was on those backroads. Right into the touring mindset. I just wanted to be in the woods, on the water, lingering over coffee and just being out there. After Port Gamble it was into Beaver Valley which I’ve ridden in many times and always enjoy. Rolling hills along the farmland, it ends in Chimicum where I stopped at the farmstand for a bit of a break. But I needed to press on if I wanted to get to camp before dark. Happily from there it was less than ten miles to Fort Townsend State Park where I onc again found myself the only occupant of the hiker/biker site. I setup, cooked and cleaned up in deep gloaming. Shortly thereafter I retired, happily back on tour.

alone in the woods
half-moon shining
through tall trees

Photos from this day: April Bicycle Camping Day 1
Photos from this tour: No-Thinking Tour

Late May Two-Nighter

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Late May Two-Nigher day 3 - The ur-Washington photo

Late Spring on the Sound

We had a particularly wet winter and early spring here in the Pacific Northwest (record setting rain even) but things have really turned around. April was above average temperatures and we’ve had many days in the 70s (f) and even a few low 80s (f). There was a string of weeks where it would be really nice mid-week and then rain on the weekend.  All of this has led to my taking my first bicycle camping outing at the very end of May.
Late May Two-Nigher day 1 - Atlantis at 1616

Atlantis at 1616

My touring plans for 2014 have shifted from a doing a series of two-three day trips to far more ambitious plans (more on that forthcoming) but the situation in the above ‘graph meant that my riding has been commuting with the occasional rec ride.  I’ve been really picking up the rec riding of late and I wanted to get in a few overnighters for both the riding and to test out some changes to the kit.  So with predictions of days (five days it appears now) of warm sunny weather I decided to update a planned overnighter to South Whidbey State Park to a two-nighter trip around the norther Puget Sound.  With thoughts of future touring in mind I also took more or less my entire planned setup, minus only some extra clothes I’d take for more sustained touring.
Late May Two-Nigher day 1 - Everett

Everett in the distance

Day 1: Seattle to South Whidbey State Park
48.1 miles ridden today
Late May Two-Nigher day 1 - Interurban SignageAs is always the case I left a bit later than I’d hoped and I had to make a couple of stops on the way (for lunch and at the co-op for supplies). I left my apartment a bit after noon and left the store in Fremont (about 5 miles away) around 2pm.  I was on the way, taking a pretty familiar route to the ferry at Mukilteo.  I rode on the Interurban Trail for a good bit of the way and then at Lynnwood I left the Interurban and crossed the 99 and rode arterials and suburban roads until it intersected with the Mukilteo Speedway and the road down to the ferry Terminal.  I had arrived just as the ferry was unloading so it was a pretty short spell before I was on the ferry and we were heading to Whidbey Island.
I’ve ridden this ferry countless times – I grew up on Whidbey Island – and it is always enjoyable. It’s pretty short, around fifteen minutes, but it nicely breaks up the ride.  On a nice day the views are spectacular and it’s bracing to be out on the deck.  Soon enough I arrived at the Clinton Terminal on Whidbey Island and rode off the ferry after all the cars.  There is a long hill up from the terminal, fairly steep at first and then it flattens out a bit and is a long steady climb for over a mile.  Then it is rolling hills on Hwy 525. At this end of the Island there are nice scenic roads that route you away from the 525 but they almost always go way out and then back to the highway and can feature steep climbs. So for about 8 miles I stuck with the highway.  Google Maps route me off for one section that I had actually never ridden before. This was a nice scenic route past a wildlife sanctuary and brought one into the tiny burg of Freeland from the backside.

Late May Two-Nigher day 1 - Deep gloaming at S. Whidbey State Park

Deep gloaming at South Whidbey State Park

From Freeland I returned to the 525 but after less than 1/2 a mile I was on Smuggler’s Cove road, taking heavily wooded backroads to South Whidbey State Park. There’s some serious rolling hills on this route and I was definitely feeling it, as I’d ridden pretty much continuously from Fremont to this point with only the ferry trip as a decent break.  But it was good I did so as I arrived at camp just after 7pm. The Hiker/Biker sites are right by the entrance and I quickly picked my preferred site (I was the only one there) and setup and cooked dinner. Then I went and paid up and walked around the camp. The h/b sites are on a bluff and I could see there was a fantastic sunset but there wasn’t a really clear view and it was a steep trail down to the beach.  So I enjoyed the obstructed view and after it was pretty deep twilight I retired to my tent for the night.

Late May Two-Nigher day 2 - Commerce

Blue skies, clouds hovering above the Olympics and commerce

Day 2: South Whidbey State Park to Old Fort Townsend State Park
30.2 miles ridden today
78.4 miles ridden to date
I awoke to a cacophony of twittering birds including the knocking of a woodpecker.  Said woodpecker kept it up for a good hour or so at one point working a fallen log on the edge of my campground.  It’s pretty amazing how just away from the towns, in these relatively small reserves there is just so much more wildlife.  I cooked breakfast and then headed down to the beach.  It was shaping up to be a marvelous day. The winds I’d rode against yesterday had yet to arise and with it already clear it looked to be even warmer.  This was my short day so I lingered at the beach, reveling in the view of the distant peninsula with the Olympic Mountain range. There were numerous families with their kids already down at the beach and more came down as I hike the half mile trail up from the beach. Back in camp I packed up in short order and hit the road around 11:30.
Late May Two-Nigher day 2 - Looking back from the ferry

Looking back from the ferry

It was just over 12 miles to the ferry dock with a bit on 525 and 20 and a bit on side roads.  I arrived there about 20 minutes before the ferry and I got a coffee and wander around the beaches.  Soon enough the ferry had arrived and I was on my way.  This is a longer trip than my previous ferry ride, around half an hour with of course time for the loading and unloaded.  I was in Port Townsend by 1:45 and I headed straight to Waterfront Pizza where I got two large slices of pizza. I wandered around town, mostly just taking in the sights but I did stop at one of it’s small bookstores.  After a bit I decided to ride up to Fort Townsend State Park where I’d camp for the night.  This campground I feel is ideal if one wishes to mainly hang out in the southern parts of PT (where the brewery and best alehouses are) as you can just ride the PNW Trail most the way to the ‘ground.
Late May Two-Nigher day 2 - Towering above Port Townsend

Classic architecture towering above Port Townsend

I setup my camp there and rested for a bit and then headed back into town. I went to the Pourhouse, an alehouse near the port that specializes in craft beers.  I spent and enjoyable evening there tasting several fine beverages and getting a bottle to go as I headed back to camp.  Back in camp I cooked dinner, enjoyed my takeaway beer, cleaned up in near darkness and then hit the tent.  All in all a relaxed and enjoyable day.
Late May Two-Nigher day 2 - At the Pourhouse

At the Pourhouse

Day 3: Old Fort Townsend State Park to Seattle
45.7 miles ridden today
124 miles ridden total
I once again woke to chattering birds and the knocking of a woodpecker (though I never saw this one).  This day dawned overcast and cool, especially among the trees of my campground. I made a hearty breakfast of coffee and oat bran with walnuts and dried cranberries, trying to use up my supplies.  I packed everything up and left the campground around 11am.
Late May Two-Nigher day 3 - Campground at Old Fort Townsend

Campground at Old Fort Townsend

It was sunny and mostly clear now, with streaks of clouds across the sky. The route began on hwy 20 and continued onto why 19 as 20 veered westward.  At the tiny town of Chimicum 19 becomes Beaver Valley road and follows the valley all the way to it’s end. I’ve ridden both sides of this valley on different tours and it is always a pleasant and scenic ride. Though for a sunday afternoon there seemed to be more traffic than I’d have expected.
Late May Two-Nigher day 3 - Atlantis above the low tide

Atlantis above the low tide

The valley ended at a T intersection at hwy 104. As I turned left onto the highway an RV was also making the turn and as it did it’s side door swung open dumping a bunch of stuff right into my path. I stopped before hitting an empty plastic container and watched as the RV kept going a bit and then pulled over to the side. There was something protruding out of the open door that looked like a hobby horse. I had to ride into the highway to ride around the RV as they completely blocked the shoulder.  The route was on 104 for a bit and then a nice section on a frontage road that was right on Hood Canal.  I stopped to take the above picture and eat an apple on a bluff above the tideland.  There was a super killer hill off this side road back onto 104.
Late May Two-Nigher day 3 - Sailboats in the harbor

Sailboats in the harbor

The road came out right above the Hood Canal Bridge which last time I rode it, it wasn’t much fun. The drawbridge bits were steal grating with no shoulder and plenty of traffic. But it has been improved since then and is now totally no big deal. There is a shoulder the entire way and the grated bits have a shoulder as well with decking on it.  I climbed up from the bridge and about a mile from there was Port Gamble where I stopped for lunch. The last time I was here – my first tour! – there was a medieval fair at Port Gamble and it is here this time as well. If it is a “first weekend in June” sort of thing then this would make sense as it was around then of my first tour.
Late May Two-Nigher day 3 - Ferry coming in

Ferry coming in

The route from Port Gamble was on back roads that were incredibly hilly. For narrow winding roads there was more traffic than I’d have thought, but not constant or anything. The road was through woods and farmland was winding up or down almost all the time.  At one point I was passed by a couple of roadies as I was climbing a hill while coming down the other side a man was walking two horses as cars came at just this time from both directions.  Eventually I was down with the backroads and at the Suquamish Reservation I crossed another bridge onto Bainbridge Island. I’ve of course ridden Bainbridge many times, usually the scenic loop along the water. This time though I just stuck to the highway and rode straight across the island to the ferry terminal.  This was an easy ride on long rolling hills with big wide shoulders. Plenty of traffic of course, but it was only about 8 miles before I was to the ferry terminal.
Late May Two-Nigher day 3 - Seattle Cityscape

Seattle Cityscape

As I waited for the boat more and more cyclists arrived to take the ferry back to Seattle. It was a beautiful day, sunny and pretty hot after the morning clouds. So no surprise that a lot of cyclists, roadies for the most part, took the ferry over to Bainbridge for some sunday cycling.  The ferry arrived after 20 minutes or so and I mostly just relaxed on the boat until we docked at downtown Seattle. From there it was a ride on the waterfront, through Pioneer Square, up to the International District and back to my apartment. I arrived home around 6:30 in the hot evening – another successful and enjoyable jaunt.
Check out all of my photos from this trip: Late May Two-Nighter on Flickr.

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.

Tour 2011 – Day 3

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011


I was definitely tired from yesterday’s exertions as I end up sleeping until 9am. I was woken up earlier at first light with the pattering of soft rain, but it stopped quickly so I ignored it. When it came back I got up to cover my saddle which was good as it soon became hard and steady for a spell. It didn’t last though and when I finally did get up it was partly cloudy and warming up.

I took my time at Fort Townsend State Park using the showers and seeing what was there. Turned out to mostly be hiking trails (which looked great) so eventually I headed out on the route I’d taken in to Port Townsend last night.


A marina is at the end of the trail and while there I swung by the Port Townsend Brewery. It’s just a tasting room and I needed food first so I rode around the marina ’til I found the Marina Cafe where I had lunch before riding back to the brewery for a couple of beers. Brewery’s: the real reason to tour. I give their Hop Diggity IPA a thumbs up.


I’d definitely lingered long in PT and it had become hot (this is more August like) so I pretty much rode to the docks and caught the next ferry. It wouldn’t be a WA State tour without a trip on a ferry and this one was particularly nice: clear, with a bit of cloud for interest and warm enough that standing outside was perfect.


The route I’m on now I’ve ridden on several tours so not much new to add. It was warm but I hugged the coast most of the time as I rode back roads as usual. Beat from yesterday’s long haul (and the heat and probably mid-day beer) the West Beach Road rollers really wore me down. However the traffic on Hwy 20 had me missing those hills. I stopped briefly in the center island at Deception Pass Bridge to let cars pass and to enjoy the view.


Now on Fidalgo Island I got off the 20 and rode up Rosario Rd, which goes past my childhood house, which turned out to be a horrible mistake – it had been recently graveled and oiled and was hard, slow, unsafe riding. It seemed that all the side roads had been graveled as well so I stayed on the more direct route and the gravel eventually petered out on Havekost Road. It was getting late and I was really tired so just got a room at the Anacortes Inn.


I walked the rather long distance To the Rockfish Grill which is the Anacortes Brewery’s brewpub. Yes two breweries in one day, this is indeed the life. A couple more pints and I was back I’m sorts. I dug their porter by the cask conditioned IPA they had was the big winner.

Miles today: 42.7
Miles to date 152.3
Some pictures from the tour

Tour 2011 – Day 2

Monday, August 15th, 2011


Blue sky, only a glimpse, and is it
darkening -Hōsai Ozaki

The first half of this days ride was along Hood Canal. The sky was overcast and threatening rain, but it never did. The road hugged the shore and was always going up or down, usually in pretty short segments. The tide was out and people were out in the slob digging oysters. There was that strangely compelling smell of salt air, ocean and decay.


Weeds are just flowers that no-one is minding.

Occasionally there were hints of the sun, shining thorough a less dense part of the sky, or even a tiny tear of blue in the dark grey sky. It was fairly comfortable riding though, a bit on the cold side perhaps.


Eventually the route turned inward and climbed far above sea level up to Walker Point with it’s view of Mount Walker. This was a pretty, long and wearying climb, several miles in length. At the summit there was a bit of mist, the closest it’d come to raining. The pure green mountains with the must pouring off them was a fantastic sight.


Turned into a mountain of new green, into a mountain path -Hōsai Ozaki

The descent was fairly cold but once I got to bottom the rollers returned and I warmed right up. The route turned off 101 onto Center road which was tree lined and nice but not much to see. Here the rolling hills had a lot longer climbs. Eventually it descended into a valley with green pastures and classic farmhouses. At this point the clouds began to break up and there was some welcome sun.

I rode up this Valley for several miles, then through a tiny town and on to Highway 20 to Port Townsend. Only a few miles on the highway before the turnoff to Fort Townsend State Park. Up the best down narrow road to the park which had no-one minding the entrance so right on to the hiker/biker site which was a really great site. It was up a little path into the woods which opened up to this space in the woods with cleared spots and picnic tables.

I ended up having to ride into Port Townsend to get supplies for dinner and smaller bills to pay for the site. It had become a lovely evening with tattered clouds in the blue sky. But by the time I was back to camp it had clouded up again and was rather chill. A long, tiring day, but enjoyable in the main.

Miles ridden today: 75
Miles ridden to date: 109.6
Some pictures from the tour

Tour 2007 – day 3

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

I never seem to sleep well in motels, I think its the soft beds – I’m used to futons. What with the fitful sleep I woke early and vowing not to repeat the sins of the past was out by 8:30. No US Open today, but did catch some NPR, which I have to say is one thing I miss on these trips. I headed back to the old town area to try one of the good looking indie coffee shops but alas they were all closed. So I rode down to the waterfront for a scenic route back to the 20 and the strip malls. In which I found a Starbucks. I got a vente drip (black) and ate an apple and my other muffin. I didn’t linger and soon headed out and up to swing by my old house before I left town. Still there, looking as good as ever. My parents had built thus house but I also found it a bit ostentatious. But still looking good. I took some back roads back to the highway then actually backtracked a bit to take scenic heights road. Good thing too as there was roadwork on the 20 eliminating the shoulder on the steep climb out of town.

Scenic Heights road is not misnamed, it us both scenic and hilly. I tend to take the roads on the western edge if the island so this was some good variety but damn if there weren’t some killer hills. Mostly rollers though and the views of the various coves and inlets us worth it. The road dead ends and you take the hwy for a mile or so then I turned onto Madrona drive. This again us a coast hugging road that wends its way to Coupeville. It passes the Captain Whidbey Inn, where I spent nine months before college as a dish dogger/prep cook. I always wanted to hit the bar there but, well 10:30 is a bit early even for me. Continuing on the road passes Penn Cove where the famous mussels are raised. Madrona trees line this route and while it is up and down its not bad at all hill wise. I passed another tourer not too far from Penn Cove, which is nice to see. Shortly I made it to Coupeville a cute little town that has managed to leverage its former sea industry into a nice tourist town. I just ride through- I wanted to get to the ferry.

I took back roads to the ferry which saved some miles and time on the highway. Also while it had a but of a hill was then all downhill to the ferry. There was quite the backup of cars but of course I just rode down to the terminal. I bought my ticket, which you can do from a vending machine now (nice!). My timing was good, it was 11:45 abs the ferry was due at noon. It arrived I boarded followed by the cars and them we were off. I put away my skivvies which had been drying on my racks and then changed into my pants. A nice crossing, takes about a half hour and it was a nice day of clouds with hints of blue. Arriving in Port Townsend we disembark and I prep my bicycle for travel. But first lunch.

Many a cyclist talks of Waterfront Pizza and the line out the door was definitely a good sign. I locked up as I planned to spend a bit of time here then got in line. It had cleared to just one person when I did so not much wait. Turned out a veggie was just coming out of the oven do I got basically a fresh pizza. They do a deal there where they make a pizza for slices with multiple styles on one pie. So I got three slices of three different veg combos. I have to say IMO Waterfront Pizza is overrated- a decent crust but not a great sauce and too much of it at that. Still not bad and three slices turned out to be way too much food. I walked around town a bit watching done folk music in the park and checking out the shops. It was thronged with people so I really just didn’t want to linger. So I went to Elevated Ice Cream and bought a local bicycle map and an espresso cone. The cone was good but it was a damn good thing I bought the cycling map, finding the trail out of town would not have happened without it.

But find it I did and I’m glad it skipped the big hill out of town.

The trail starts as gravel and runs along the water but then turns into the woods and goes uphill a bit. Toward the end the trail is paved and that is a nice section. Maybe four miles total and then it was all highways. My rear tire had the ol’ “slow leak” and knowing that there was big climbs and descents ahead I pulled off and changed it. Two tire changes in two days and down to one spare tube. Yikes. The highway hugs the coastline that is around this bay, so you go south and later north. The road out of Port Townsend had some good rollers but then this just endless climb. Not sure how long a mile or more I’d hazard, with some good steep sections. And then as it climbs steeper and curves the shoulder goes away. As if we need further proof that there is no god. After this its a two mike descent down to where it joins 101. So then of course you have to climb up the other side.

Climb it did but it wasn’t as bad grade wise but some long hills. Lots of traffic as well, fast and continuous. Huge shoulder so I just stayed to the right and rode. Not much to say snout this stretch beyond that, just rolling hills and traffic. Some good sights now and again and the dun would come and go. I stopped at the Lavender Shop for a chai and got my bottles filled. While there I did a Google search and found Sequim State Park which was just outside of Sequim and a perfect location to stop and that’s what I did.

I arrived at the campground around 5:30 got one of two remaining hiker/biker sites (US$12.00) and headed in. There was another tourist set up so I moved to the far end and unloaded my gear. I set up the tent, the first time for the Eureka Spitfire which us more complicated then my Quarter Dome but still pretty straightforward. A nice tent again Rivendell doesn’t steer me wrong. I busted out my alcohol stove and got water boiling and made the only food I had- oatmeal. I’d expected a store here I’d nearby but alas there was not. So so made do, I’ll be sure to carry some noodles from here on out. I made tea as well and capped I’d with a granola bar. I then replenished my water cleaned up then set out to see the camp.

Not really a lot here one of those campgrounds more for staying at while you do other things. Still down at the water you could see a stunning sunset with the clouds like a garish abstract reflected on the watter. I enjoyed a dram of Irish Whiskey as I perambulated around the camp- a perfect cap to end a nice day.

Miles ridden: 51