The weather report looked mixed, but ambiguous enough for a late winter bike trip to the Olympic Peninsula. The locals talk of a rainshadow out on the peninsula that gives Sequim and the Dungeness spit region of the state significantly less rain than the rest of the state.
My plan was to pack for a few days, keep the plans loose, chase the fabled rainshadow and sunshine if I could, and pack it in when the weather went foul. I wound up riding five days of mostly sunny skies after an initial soaking the first night to keep everything in perspective.
FRIDAY, MAR 10. A morning of procrastinating, listening to the weather radio, trying to decipher a pattern of improving weather over the next few days. Go, no go? Go, no go? This was the question all morning as I agonized over my gear and clothing choices. Needing to catch one of the Washington State ferries for Bainbridge Island that leaves once an hour in the winter added a sense of pressing urgency.
About noon I pulled the trigger, threw extra last minute gear into the panniers, and rolled Surly Dan the Long Haul Trucker out the door in time to catch an early afternoon boat. Leaving Seattle by ferry is an immediate departure to a more relaxed pace of Ďisland lifeí and country roads. Fifteen minutes after disembarking I was deep in the countryside, passing cows and fallow fields, breathing the fresh air.
It sure was nice to be out of the city, but the skies sure looked ominous as I rolled the 20 miles up to near the Hood Canal Bridge. I stopped for coffee, and the skies began to spit and precipitate. Better head for the campground pretty quick, so I hightailed it to a county park nearby.
I ducked into the biker/hiker sites, set up the tent and covered it up with a camo poncho Iíve recently begun bringing along. Worked like a charm; Even with a campground host in residence, no one came around to collect the campground fee, and I couldnít seem to find any envelopes to pay the pipe. Bummer. I sat around in the dark, eating under a tarp in the rain, drinking tea until 9 or so and called it a night. 22 miles for the day.
SATURDAY MAR 11 The rain had stopped. I cooked up breakie, then packed the panniers and hit the road, crossing the Hood Canal Bridge onto the Olympic Peninsula about 9 AM. A few sun breaks tempered the snow on the higher hillsides I crossed on the way towards the start of the Discovery Trail, a 30 mile (and growing) off road pathway linking the pastureland and lavender fields around Sequim with the rugged foothills surrounding Port Angeles a little further west.
As the sun breaks hit with the air temps in the low 40ís, I got into the touring groove and cranked out the miles on the way into the fabled rainshadow. The skies were turning bluer but the winds increasing a bit as I drew closer to Sequim, popped into a grocers for some dinner foodstuffs, then continued alog the trail five miles or so to the turnoff to the Dungeness Spit National wildlife refuge and associated campground, my destination for the afternoon. 45 miles for the day or so.
I pulled in about 3 and found a great sunny, sheltered campsite right next to the bluff and unpacked all my wet gear to dry out a bit. Strung up a couple clotheslines and brewed afternoon tea, lolling in the sun and out of the wind. Cooked an excellent pastrami sandwich and soup up on the Trangia, and watched the nearly full moon rise in the east before hitting the sack.
SUNDAY MAR 12 Sunrise and cold. Frost on the ground, 30ís all morning. Coffeed up and rode off the spit a little late after waiting for the sunshine to hit the campsite and add a ittle defosting action to the tent and tarp. Ran into a big bike race preperations just off the Spit; looked like a few hundred roadies getting ready to do 13 mile laps in a wierd off season road race of some sort. I stopped to chat with a couple of the people there but didnít get the full picture.
Back on the Discovery Trail for more of this rainshadow riding. I was liking this. The temps stayed in the 30ís and low 40ís all day but the sun was mostly a constant companion, adding a lot of cheer as I got turned around several times en route to a campground out to the west of Port Angeles. Having left the Discovery Trail in PA, I rode into the land of big timber, far far removed from the metropolitan world less than 60 miles as the crow flies from Seattle. 80 percent of the vehicles were now logging trucks, dumptrucks, oversized pickups and dualies. I could smell the freshly hewn timber as it flew past my head at sixty miles an hour on the way to the mills. Wildcat loggers even work on Sunday.
I pulled into the virtually deserted Salt Creek campground by five. Pulled maybe 40 miles Sun. Late afternoon sun was casting a surreal glow to the campground as I set up with views to the west of the northwesternmost point in the continental United States. I messed around with the camera, taking shots of the sunset and, much later in the morning, the moonset over the straights of Juan de Fuca and Cape Flattery.
MONDAY MAR 13 I woke up after the moonset session dreaming of pizza. I had inquired about slices on my way thru Port Angeles the afternoon before. The women at the coffee shop couldnít name a good slices place in town, so the pizza cravings had actually begun Sunday afternoon, but the hit monday morning with a verngance. These cravings set me off on a mad dash back across the discovery trail and 20 miles back past Sequim up towards Port Townsend, one town out here I knew had killer slices. The afternoon headwinds picked up with a vengance and punished me for my pizza weakness.
I pull a long and hard 60 miles into the wind that day, dreaming of slices in Port Townsend. I pull into town, ride up to the pizza window and see a dreaded ďCLOSED-water main breakĒ sign in the window. Curses! NO PIZZA!
I ride the last few miles up to Fort Flagler broken spirited and pizzaless. Set up camp, deployed the anti-campground host camo tarp, and avoided paying campground fees for another night. Bummer.
TUESDAY MAR 14 The winds had picked up heavy over the night, and the weather radio was calling for rain, so instead of riding north onto Whidbey Island in search for good pizza pie, I turned Surly Dan the Long Haul Trucker south, en route to the ferry terminal back to Seattle. a couple hours out of Port Townsend I see a yellow jacked cyclist pulling up the hill behind me. Decide to stop at the intersection and see whatís up.
Itís Evan, a cyclotourist out on a overnighter from Seattle and back to the ferry terminal as well. Heís pulling a BOB trailer, and Iím loaded with full panniers, but we cut an evenly matched, pretty good pace back across the Hood Canal bridge. The rain held off and we were blessed with sunshine and temps in the upper 40ís for the rest of the ride back to Bainbridge and the boat terminal. 45 miles or so for the day.
Evan and I got some slices on Bainbridge Island, just before hitting the ferry back to Seattle. After 3 days of craving pizza, they was some of the best slices iíve had. We rolled first on, first off onto the 2 PM ferry and sank into the padded seats on the last leg of the tour, relaxing for a half hour on the boat back to Seattle.
The tour was a success.Total mileage: maybe 210 tops. One flat, one rainy day, lots of great riding. Five days, mostly sunny and in the low fourties. A quick winter trip into the fabled rainshadow of the Olympics reaped a great winter respite from the rainy skies of Seattle.
Pictures below, top row, L-R: sunset at Dungeness Spit Sat.; 2 sunset pics from Salt Creek towards Cape Flattery Sun. bottom row, l-r: Moonset early Mon. morning, towards Cape Flattery; Evan in front across the wide half of the Hood Canal Bridge Tues.; first in line to load the boat, Tues.