MVBC Loop Tour 2015 - Olympic Peninsula
Around the peninsula counter clockwise. Starting and ending in Montsano, Wa and heading north along Hood Canal and Puget Sound, around and back down the coast. Highlights inlude the Olymipc Discovery Trail and the coast.
The MVBC Loop Tour itself was 9 days and about 450 miles, but then I kept riding back to Seattle and then up Whidbey Island and over to Mount Vernon. I took the Amtrak to Olympia to start the ride, and then from Mount Vernon home. There were about 35 riders on this tour with Lon, and Robert driving SAG. We had nearly perfect weather troughout. A little light rain early on but then mid 70's around the top, and 80 degrees when we hit the beach. A great time was had by all. I don't believe there were any flats on this ride.
Below is my log for each day of the tour. Use the navigation controls to scroll through the days .
With a little help from Amtrak.
Day one started early for me. Up at 4 and out before 5 to catch the train in Albany. I got there early. Then a relaxing 4 hour train ride to Olympia. It was raining when I got there.. Surprise. I found shelter and got out my rain jacket. Turned in to one of those days where the rain, and the jacket, were on and off all day. And as it was too warm with it on I was just as wet either way.
A couple of really nice bike paths between Lacy and Olympia, then the city streets gave way to country roads, and finally the long slog on 101. Nice shoulder with a rumble strip and then 8-12 feet of bike lane. This lasted to Shelton but then deteriated from there.
I was the last one to arrive at camp so I guess my ride was a little longer or everyone else got started sooner. Campground was nice but the toilet was not.
A little of everything and some really steep hills. Started out along the south shore of Hood Canal to Belfair which may have been the most scenic part of the route. I made a wrong turn in Belfair and added an extra 6 miles before I was back on course. Then some big hills to avoid the traffic in Bremerton. Getting through Bremerton was a real chore.
When we got to the park it looked nice, along the water, but that was not where we were to camp. Our campground was beyond the park and up a hill. Once again a nice place to camp with inadequate toilet facilities. Showers were back at the main park and required tokens, but were very nice.
The picture is the Skokomish River
Woke up to a gentle rain whip persisted through the morning. Mostly sunny when we got to PT. The first interesting thing on our route was the Hood Canal bridge. This is the famous bridge that was blown away by a hurricane in 1979. I had fun riding across the bridge with John. Right after the bridge was a steep hill which led to more hills throughout the day.
Right before we got to Port Townsend we got on a nice little bike path along the bay, and came into town through some ship yards. This was very scenic and i liked Port Townsend right away. Our campgrounds for the night was the fairgrounds which was a mile or so up out of town, a pattern that would be repeated several more times on this tour. Before heading up to the fairgrounds I went with John into town to look for a bike shop. The main part of town was about a half mile further from the harbor area where we came in. We found a nice bike shop but it didn't have the part he needed. On the way up to the fairgrounds we passed the food co-op and a vaguely remembered something about Port Townsend having one of the original co-ops. I would come back and check it out further in the morning.
The campsite was great. Plenty of room and by now the sun was out so we could dry out our tents, which we had packed up in the rain in the morning. There was a stiff breeze which helped the drying process. I'm pretty sure there is always a stiff breeze at this spot. After getting setup and squared away I headed back downtown to explore and find some dinner. I ran into John and Paul at a nice seafood place and had a great meal and some good beer. A very fulfilling day!
Another awesome day of bike touring. 30 miles of bike trail along Discovery Bay and more. Super hospitality by the Women on Wheles in Sequim, and the mayor and more of Port Angeles.
This would be a long day. I started out solo but ran into Lyle right away on the path heading out of town, just as he had stopped to take this picture of a family of otters heading back out into the water. The rain was long gone now and it was shaping up to be a gorgeous day.
We then had a highway or two to navigate before getting back out on some quiet back roads. That's where we saw the awesome Jefferson County fire station where we took a break. They had a beautiful antique fire truck inside, which I neglected to photograph. As usual at a fire house the firemen were friendly and happy to let us use the facilities and fill our water bottles. Lyle was wanting a longer break than I was so I jumped on with the next group of riders that came by. This proved to be a nice challenge as they were setting a good pace, but by day 4 of the tour my legs were feeling up for it.
After a few more back roads got to Blyn, we hit the crown jewel of this tour, the Olympic Discovery Trail, which would take us the rest of the way to Port Angeles. I can't rave enough about this trail. To be able to ride a long distance, away from the cars, and trough some beautiful woods was an amazing experience.
And while I'm talking about amazing experiences we had one waiting for us when we got to Sequim where the Women on Wheels club had setup a rest stop for us. How nice! They knew how many riders where coming and had a little packet of goodies for each one of us. Plus brownies, cookies, and watermelon! A perfect break as it was pretty warm now. They even provided us an escort out of town to get us back on route. Many thanks Women on Wheels, you made us feel right at home. I hope they decide to come ride through Corvallis one day and let us host them.
Pretty soon we were back on the Olympic Discovery Trail. This section of the trail crossed many streets and the trail heads were not always obvious. Many thanks to Tim for his excellent navigation skills on this section. On my own I would have missed the trail for sure. Tim also set a great pace. It was a spirited ride, augmented by some steep swoops down and up where they took out the railroad bridge and built the bike path along the contour of the land.
Eventually we found ourselves back on the waterfront as we approached PA (local vernacular for these two towns is PT and PA). When we ran into Lon along the waterfront we though it was beer time, but now we had a steep long climb to get up to the fairgrounds. Not satisfied with 70 miles I managed to ride right past the fairgrounds and had to back track. Oh well. once again we had great place to camp with an incredible view of the Olympics. After showers we all piled into the sag wagons and head to town for pizza and beer, hosted by the mayor, ex-mayor, and other very friendly people. Another awesome day of bike touring.
Bike trail to Elwah River and Ediz Hook, and some cruising around PA.
Some of the more hardy riders were going for Hurricane ridge, but I was ready for an easy day. About a mile from the fairgrounds the ODT started up again for a short stretch out to the Elwah river where they had built a double decker bridge, the lower deck being the bike path. The Elwah is well know in environmental circles as it was a test case to see how a river would recover after the dams were removed. Evidently pretty well.
It was only a few miles out to the Elwah and I was up for some more exploring so I headed back down to the waterfront and took the bike path out to Ediz Hook. Ediz Hook is a skinny spit of land that sticks out into the Straight of Juan de Fuca and forms the bay and harbor for Port Angles. At the base of the hook is a big mill that the bike path winds right through. Then it's not much wider than the road with a few rocky beaches on the bay side. It widens out at the end which is a Coast Guard station. Just before that is a nice little park where I stopped for a bit. It was sunny and warm but quite windy.
It was a pretty good ride into the wind heading back out of Ediz Hook, but then a tail wind back into PA. I explored a bit before heading back to the campground.
Spectacular ride around Crescent Lake. Even some MTB trails.
Today's route was a matter of discussion and speculation the whole tour. We had three choices. A longer route sticking close to the Straight on a smaller highway with possible log truck traffic, the most direct route on highway 101 the whole way, with lots of traffic but a decent shoulder, or a route around Crescent Lake that included 3 miles of rough mountain bike trail. Needless to say I jumped on the third option as did Tim, John, and Paul R. Everyone else did 101.
First stop was Joyce for second breakfast and snacks for the day as we didn't expect to see another store before Forks. We dallied here for a bit enjoying the morning sun, before continuing on back roads further and further into the woods. When we first spied the lake it was absolutely spectacular and we stopped again for pictures and to take it all in. At this point I was riding with John and Paul, but a bit later Tim caught up with us.
Lon was waiting at the trail head, which was nice. We had no idea what to expect. We had shed all of our bags, and Tim his trailer, to go as light as possible on the trail. It started out wide and smooth and I was wondering what all the fuss was but then it quickly turned to single track and took a dive down to the lake. I fell into the bushes immediately, which then had me being a little extra cautious for the rest of the trail. Tim and I both had wider tires (35 mm on my bike) but John and Paul were riding skinny tires which certainly made it harder. We got off and walked a lot, Tim least of all and me somewhere in the middle. It was a great trail that would have been lots of fun on an MTB, and the views were incredible.
About halfway through we stopped for a break and Tim jumped in. Check out the look on his face. Think the water was cold? I explored an old tunnel which was partly caved in. This was all railroad at one time.
After about 3 miles or so the single track ended and we were back on the ODT. While the rest of the group was pushing a big climb on 101, we had gentle railroad grade on a smooth gravel path, which soon turned back into pavement. Pretty soon we ran into Robert who and come in from the far end to look for us. He alerted us to another section of th ODT they had found which would cut off another section of 101. It just kept getting better.
The next section of the ODT started out climbing some wonderful "S" curves and then settled back into a gentle slope. Eventually it came to an end on 101, but there was a sign saying it picked up again in a couple of miles. When we got there it was just a logging road which we took, crossed a river, and headed into what looked like a steep logging road through a clear cut. But then just before that road started, almost hidden in the trees, was another trail head for the ODT. This section was what I called a bike super-highway. It was wide smooth and flat. We were in the middle of nowhere but there were lots of people out doing trail maintenance. One man even had a sweeper/blower and was sweeping the fir needles off of the path! Unbelievable. I was very impressed with the ODT and the state of Washington for building it. It made me feel like Oregon is really far behind. Just think if we had a trail like this from Corvallis to the Coast. No doubt it would get far more traffic than the ODT as that part of Washington is really remote.
Eventually we had to leave the woods and suck it up for the final 10 miles into Forks on 101. On any other day this would have seemed like a very nice stretch of road, but after what we had just ridden it just seemed wrong to have to share the road with cars. Soon we were at the Elks Lodge for another great camping spot and some wonderful hospitality.
No question that this day was the most spectacular of the tour.
Another high mileage day. Not much climbing though. 101 the whole way today as there are no other roads out here. Very remote. Nice and warm at the beach and little wind. Rode through the Hoh rainforest on a sunny day!
Lots of "head" time today as it was a long ride with not many places to stop or things to do. I recalled the last time I had been in this area was January 1973. It was raining then and it really felt like the rain forest. Not so much today. I don't know how many sunny days they get here and today was certainly one of the finest.
It was great to see the ocean again, especially on a warm day with little wind. Maybe the Washington coast is a secret banana belt. In Oregon if it's hot in the valley, it's usually foggy on the beach. This part of the coast did not have a huge amount of tourist traffic either. We'd see that the next day further south. There weren't many places to stop or get down to the beach along this stretch.
Once again we had a wide open field to camp in at the Quinault high school. While we couldn't see it, we were right above Lake Quinault. What we could see was the amazing view of the Olympics. We also had a spectacular sunset that evening.
The colors of the sunset may have been aided by smoke from the fires. We didn't see any fires, or smoke, but there were some burning nearby. Once again our timing was perfect on this tour.
Mostly downhill to the beach, then steep rollers like the coast, except we were on a state road with no trucks and not that many cars. 80 degrees at the beach!
We were now entering the summer tourist area of the Washington coast. Plus it was the weekend. Our campground was at a state park, which was just past a casino, so lot's of traffic. A relatively short day on the bike, which gave us plenty of time to enjoy the beach. On the beach the kites were out in full force. It was a huge beach, opened to drive on so there were lot's of people, but the kites seemed to be the big attraction.
This was our last night camping together which means the traditional group potluck where we are supposed to all contribute whatever food is left in our panniers. Somehow we missed that point and many of us went shopping for more food. So we had a feast, and leftovers. Happy campers we were.
The last official event was the group photo. Henry did the honors and then Ann had some parting words for us. Tomorrow would be a short day back to the start at Montesano.
Today was the last day of the Loop Tour, but I would be continuing on, not sure exactly where I'd end up. It was a short ride back to Montesano but I got off route in Aberdeen and wasted a bunch of time. I was about to just follow the highway, which said it was only 8 miles to Montesano, when Lon came along and got me back on route. I hung out at the high school for a while saying goodbye to people and waiting for Robert who was carrying my ukulele in the SAG wagon. Then I was off on a solo ride.
Since I had started my ride in Olympia I did not ride the day 1 route, which is what I followed today. This was the least scenic route of the tour and it was getting hot, but I was making good miles. Much of this ride was through logged over timber land with young regrowth. Not many towns along the way. I was pretty parched when I got to Matlock and got a cold drink. The miles were adding up but I didn't think I'd have any problem getting back to Hood Canal where I remembered passing a nice state park on day two.
When I hit 101 I was now retracing the ride from day one, past the Indian fireworks places and up to the big casino at the bottom of Hood Canal. I checked the map and it turned out the park I wanted to get to was still 12 miles off. I found a wonderful farm market and stopped for a break and some ice cream. I had a nice tailwind the rest of the way which really helped as I was already over 80 miles.
When I finally got to Twanoh state park and pulled in there were two other bike tourists who had just pulled in and were talking to the ranger. He said the hiker/biker camping was close to the road and we could just use a regular tent site for the same price. So i shared a campsite with Hazel and Ian, a young couple from England that were here touring. They had also done a loop of the peninsula and were now heading to Seattle and then on to Montana. One thing I like about touring solo is the people you meet.
So at 92 miles this was the longest day I had ever done on a bike tour. I felt great and it was really good to know I was capable of that kind of mileage.
I was up and ready to go well before Hazel and Ian so I said farewell and headed off to Bremerton. I started out on the same route as day 2 but followed the highway on to town as I was heading for the ferry. There were some hills and traffic but not too bad. Got to the ferry and cruised right on, no charge! Evidently the ferries charge bikes and pedestrians leaving Seattle but not returning. It was great coming into Seattle on the ferry.
I took Jackson and Cherry up the hill to my daughter Tabitha's house. I had already been to Seattle twice this year and this was the easiest route yet as it avoided the biggest hills.
No pictures of today's ride.
I took a rest day in Seattle and went out and got some new padded shorts. The shorts I took for the tour did not have padding and I had developed a saddle sore. And I got to hang out with Tabitha and Sophia some.
It was an adventure getting out of Seattle on the Interurban trail. I had good directions plus the Seattle bike map, plus Google maps. I needed them all. The ferry ride from Mukeltio to Clinton on Whidbey Island is only about 20 minutes. At first traffic was light on Whidbey, but then the next ferry came in, and it never slowed down after that.
Lady in a store tipped me to a back road into Casey park, which would have been great had it not been for the fierce head wind.
Campground was quite nice. The cleanest rest rooms and showers on the trip. H/B was small but hidden behind a fence. Camping is right next to the ferry terminal. I walked along the bluff and explored the old fort as well. Very interesting how the fort was built into the bluff so that it was invisible from the water. It was a very strategic location on the Straight of Juan de Fuca. I have no idea who the enemy was at that time or why we needed a fort. It was cool camping across the sound from Port Townsend where I had been the week before. It looked really far. I could only see the smoke from the mill.
Once again met some more bike tourists. Two young couples, once from Seattle out on a short ride, and one from Colorado. Always fun to swap stories with other bike travelers.
Whidbey Island is home to a Navy air station. They wait until just after dark, and then buzz the campgrounds. Must be fun for them, it was hell for us.
The Easy ride, although much more hilly than yesterday. Started out on a quiet back road, and then found a bike path, but was soon forced out on WA 20 which was very busy. Good shoulder but still too many cars.
Oak Harbor has a nice beach front, but it's a big town and the traffic was terrible. I did see a bike path join the road past town, so there probably was a way to avoid the traffic.
Deception Pass SP is quite nice. H/B campsites isolated in the woods. Beach wraps around facing both west and north. The weather is still wonderful. Highs in the low 70's. Might rain tomorrow though.
Started raining just as I was breaking camp. Cool wet ride over the bridge and on. Lots of traffic which was beginning to wear on me. A signed section of USBR 10 let me to a protected lane over another big bridge. Nice.
Stopped at the Skagit Food Co-op in Mount Vernon and had some lunch and got some food for the next few days. I found the Kulshan Trail bike path that took me most of the way east to highway 9 and then took the highway south to Big Lake and then Walker creek road. Still raining on and off.
The next 3 days would be music and partying with old friends. What a way to end a tour!
That was it. I retraced my path back to Mount Vernon and found the Amtrak station no problem. The train as on time and I had a mellow ride home. I got home and another great bike tour came to an end.