Touring - West Coast Tour
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04-15-07, 09:49 PM
I recently came up with a plan to do a short tour from Seattle, around Olympic Nat'l Park, down to Hood River, OR, ending back in Portland. The date will likely be in early July. I've planned out a rough route, and will get the Oregon Bicycle Guide to help. I don't have much time, ten riding days to be exact, so these seem like two large, airport-harboring cities spaced far enough apart to do a solid tour. I'm very excited about seeing Olympic Nat'l Park and the Columbia River Gorge. But, since it's likely I'll be going solo, I'd rather save the wilderness trips for a later date and instead cover more ground and meet more people. Five hundred or so miles over ten days shouldn't be pushing myself too hard, as I'm surprisingly in better cycling shape than I expected to be in after a dormant winter.
I'd be interested in any local advice and would love to hear from anyone interested in riding with me. This forum has been a great resource for me and I appreciate all the informative posts.
04-15-07, 10:30 PM
there's free basic state or some other land holding entity campsites along the 101 in washington....just inside/outside (?) of olypmic nat'l park..., i'm just not too sure about the exact boundaries and geography...and theres lots of private campgrounds in that area too...beautifiul area... great great choice..
04-15-07, 11:29 PM
Sounds like a lot of fun! Cycling in the NW is pretty easy overall. I'm sure you have the basic books already-- The Mountianeers Books puts out a couple of great guides.
Some stuff to think about.
1. Do you have any friends out here? Someone to pick you up at the airport? Riding out of an airport really sucks. It can be done, but getting a ride is an easier start. Also if you have a buddy in Seattle, you could get picked up, driven to the Greyhound Bus station, take a bus to a small town in Oregon and ride back to Jet City. That way you can book a cheaper R/T ticket and not an open jawed one.
2. Get ready for rain. Make sure your tent can handle it, stay away from gear filled with down, bring rain gear. Mentally perpare for it. It's no big deal really.
3. Be flexable..... Money goes a long, long ways helping out with this. Due to changes in weather, my health, mechanical problems, or other pitfalls....I'm always ready to ditch camping for a Motel 6. This freedom that cash allows makes touring a whole lot more fun.
04-16-07, 09:18 PM
I hope others with more recent knowledge will chime in, but I grew up in the Seattle area, and my recollection is that the highway around the Olympic Peninsula is mostly very boring - 2-lane with tons of logging trucks and not much to see except trees and more trees. It doesn't get near the ocean very often, and you can't see the mountains either. At least, that's what I recollect.
Don't get me wrong; the Olympic Peninsula is one of the most beautiful places on earth, but you have to get away from the highway - either inland up into the mountains, or out to the ocean. Plus, the west side is among the wettest places in the country. If you see it when the sun is shining, it's magical. Most people only see it in the rain, usually with low-lying clouds that obscure any views.
The east side of the peninsula is another story. It's in the rain shadow of the Olympics. The locals refer to it as "the banana belt". That's one reason the San Juan Islands are so popular. It doesn't rain there nearly as much as other places in the region.
Get the Kirkendall/Spring book, and read some journals on CrazyGuy. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope so, if that's where you're going.
04-16-07, 09:52 PM
That's exactly the kind of information I was looking for, I appreciate you chiming in. I'll have to do some more reading. Since I've yet to make any concrete plans, can anyone recommend another route on the west coast that's more scenic or with better weather? Is it worth taking 101 down the eastern side of the peninsula?
Is riding down 410 past Mt. Rainier interesting? Seems like I'd gain 3500 feet in the first 30 miles, but coming down would probably be a blast.
I'm open to any suggestions, as long as I can fly into and out of relatively large airports to keep the plane tickets cheap.
Thanks for the help.
04-16-07, 10:47 PM
...the highway around the Olympic Peninsula is mostly very boring - 2-lane with tons of logging trucks and not much to see except trees and more trees. It doesn't get near the ocean very often, and you can't see the mountains either. ...
Maybe I'm wrong. I hope so, if that's where you're going.
No, you're right. About the rain, about the boring road, about the magic and the beauty, about the tunnel through the trees. I think most people would be surprised how isolated Hwy 101 is, on the north and west sides of the Olympics. There are some dots on the map, but mostly the only services are gas stations and taverns. This is the stretch between Port Angeles and Hoquiam.
I've always wanted to ride around the Olympic Peninsula, as part of a longer tour, but the weather forecast and the time involved always get in the way. I've driven it and I agree, it's worth a couple weeks to explore the side roads to the beaches and up the valleys.
Just be prepared for long days between services. If you're lucky enough to get several days of sunshine, you'll be tempted to stay -- heaven is on the mountain of the gods. But just in case, bring rain gear...
04-18-07, 11:22 AM
So, you're basically saying that almost half of my tour will be on roads that are desolate, quite rainy (I expected that) and not particularly scenic. Can anyone suggest an alternative route? I'm pretty flexible with locations, just not with time.
04-18-07, 10:03 PM
Riding from Portland to the Cali border is over 400 miles-- it's the best coastal route in on the West Coast-- maybe the best ride of NW, or even the USA. And I'm not even from Oregon :) The Rest of 101-- the Wahington and California parts are not a nice-- they have really nice spots, but there's a lot of boring stuff in between.
The Colmbia Gourge is a darn nice trip as well.
It's quite possible to do a 10 day loop through The San Jaun Islands and a little BC coast. There would be a lot of ferry rides and some rain, but the milage wouldn't be high. There is a lot of climbing, however. The Oregon Coast is much flatter.
I agree with tacomee. I did the west coast from Victoria, BC to Crescent City CA last summer and the Oregon coast was for sure the best part. Consider doing it one-way with alternate transport back (we rented a car one-way). It took us just over two weeks but my brother was pulling a child trailer with a four-year-old and I had my 13 year old son on the back of a tandem. Shaving a day or two off the time should be fairly easy.
A nice loop into Canada would take the Anacortes ferry to Victoria, up Vancouver Island to Courtenay then down the mainland (search Sunshine Coast for route info) to Vancouver. I've done the loop twice and aside from some climbing it's pretty nice. Can be fairly easily done in 5 or 6 days. If you decide to do it PM me and I'll give you some tips on the Vancouver Island part. Lengthen the trip by spending some extra time in either the San Juan Islands (as tacomee suggests) or the Canadian Gulf Islands. There is also some nice cycling in and around Vancouver. Search for the Vancouver part of the Transcanada Trail. Vancouver to Hope and back could be done in 4 or 5 days without too much problem - do it as loop with a different route back.
If I had to pick though, I'd say Oregon.
04-18-07, 11:57 PM
I gotta agree with tacomee and rickl: down the Oregon coast, or a loop through NW Washington/BC.
But to get to your specific question, the Adventure Cycling "Pacific Coast route" goes down the west side of Puget Sound: Whidbey Island, Port Townsend, Bremerton, Hwy 3 to Shelton, Elma, Centralia, then south. These are generally great roads, saltwater to pastoral fields. But it has the feel of "just getting there" -- the real joy of the NW is along the coast, or through the mountains, or along great rivers.
Other ideas.... but they're limited by the in-and-out in a major city, and by the 10 days: Crater Lake. North Cascades highway. My top choice would be through the Columbia Gorge and into the Wallowa valley. Breathtaking scenery, stark contrasts in climate and geology, from espresso bars to steer-ropin' cowboys, and camping at a glacial lake. The problem is it would take 2 weeks, Portland to Wallowa Lake and back. Here's where you could use a local city (Pendleton, Walla Walla, Baker City) for alternate transportation.
If "meet more people" is a goal, as you said above, I'd head for the coast. Very popular in mid-summer, with cyclists and vacationers. It's a summer experience and you'll be bound to hook up with other riders.
04-19-07, 12:38 AM
We cycled around the Olympic Peninsula last summer during June, almost peak season. It rained every day. There were very few cyclists (we saw one going in the opposite direction) and the towns are few and far between. There are some narrow stretches of road where the fog can be quite thick (see the photo below where they have a special blinker light warning drivers of cyclists on the road) and the loggers are everywhere, but they are not as rabid as I expected and would often move to the far side of the road to avoid us.
That said, there are some beautiful places Quinault Rain Forrest (http://www.quinaultrainforest.com/) is spectacular and lives up to it's name. Kalaloc (http://www.visitkalaloch.com/)k (where Amanda is stretching in the sun) was a wonderful campsite overlooking the beach.
But without a car it is difficult (though many have done it) when doing a continuous tour to cycle up into the Olympic Park then back to the highway, or down to the coast and back. It may just be me but cycling out and back by the same route is psychologically difficult.
04-19-07, 01:42 AM
I think you are smart to start in Seattle and go south from there. i have lots of questions and you may get in touch with me. perhaps we can do some of the ride with you. Bill Abbey WSCC
Several of us did the ride last summer. we had a great time. However I might suggest that you head across Kitsap and then south along Hoods Canal. You can access the Olympic National Park and get an idea about it for the next time you come. You could then head for the coast at Shelton and have a great ride along the coast into Oregon from there. Hiker biker campground rules mandate that if you arrive on foot or bike that you will have a camping place, even if the campground is full. Once you are on the Oregon coast you can end it when you want and you will be only one days ride from the Amtrak. Don't spew here. Between Eugene and vancouver BC, bicyclists are treated royally. No tear down and boxing. They have bike racks in the baggage cars and panniers and Bobs are baggage. The Amtrak people answer questions and solve problems. It is amazing. food, leather recliner seats- but you have to walk to the dining car to order. By the way, the best ride of my life was from Florence (Oregon) to Eugene over Low Pass. Anyway, you can get off in Portland and ride either side of the Columbia Gorge or you can ride it all the way back to Seattle depending on time. Lots of people do the Adventure Cycle Coast tour so you will have bicycle company. Let me know what you need. We'll help if you want.
04-19-07, 09:28 AM
One suggestion would be to start in Bellingham. You can get there on Amtrak or via Greyhound from Seattle. Take Chuckanut Drive south - an absolutely beautiful road, but not much shoulder. I've ridden it many times with no trouble, but there's traffic. (For the first 7 miles or so you can take the Interurban Trail through the woods - a kind of rails-to-trails trail.) At the south end of Chuckanut, head towards Whidbey Island. That's the Skagit delta - very flat and open through farmland with, perhaps, fields of tulips. You can take a small detour and stay at Bayview State Park, or continue on to Whidbey Island and stay at Deception Pass State Park - a spectacular place with rocky beaches, big trees, and a huge bridge overlooking one of the wildest tidal current zones around - it's entertaining to watch the fisherman manuever their boats through the whirlpools.
Head down Whidbey Island. I used to ride on the highway because I didn't know of any alternatives. It wasn't bad - there was a shoulder - but if you search you'll find alternative routes off the main road. Whidbey Island is one of the San Juans. Lots of people think it's different because it's connected by road on the north end, so it's busier (plus it has a Naval Air Station in the middle), but the trees and beaches and lack of rain are similar, and it has a bit of the same feel. Stop in Coupeville for a funky, island-type town.
You can camp at Fort Casey halfway down, or South Whidbey a little further. Fort Casey is an old fort, built to protect the waterways leading into the Seattle/Tacoma/Bremerton area from attack by sea. It has some historical sites, including old guns, concrete bunkers, etc. South Whidbey is a typical northwest campground, with big trees, ferns, nettles, (blackberries in season) and a narrow, rocky beach.
There are some options to consider along this route. One would be to take a side trip to the San Juan Islands. Instead of riding directly to Whidbey Island, keep heading west into Anacortes and catch the ferry. Visiting the San Juans by bicycle is kind of a right of passage among northwest outdoorspeople.
[NOTE - I'll finish this later. I've got to go to work!]
04-19-07, 10:07 AM
One suggestion would be to start in Bellingham. You can get there on Amtrak or via Greyhound from Seattle.
Good suggestion from BigBlueToe. You could even start in Vancouver, BC and ride south towards B'ham and points beyond. Vancouver airport is bike-friendly and is south of the city a ways so you wouldn't be starting in the middle of an urban configuration.
If I had the time & opportunity, I'd start in Vancouver & pick mainland/islands to tour then Amtrak back to Vancouver.
04-19-07, 11:26 AM
Thanks for the tremendous amount of advice. I've got some great ideas to think about now.
Bellingham to the Mount Vernont/Burlington area on Chuckanut Drive is awesome. I haven't ridden it, but driven it many times. There's a used book store.. more like a big shack at the south end that I would spend hours at a time in. Going out to Deception Pass is pretty cool, too. I"ve been to Anecortes, but don't recall much about it other than the cool houses.
04-19-07, 06:41 PM
July is usually drier than June. You might (or might not) see more sun than Losligato did. However, the heavenly sunny, dry days inland make for very foggy days on the coast.
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