The epic week around Olympic Peninsula became a reality!
July 2014, John and I finished our longest tour yet at 3 full days, and we started seriously talking about a week-long tour. The following weekend, our precious bikes were stolen from our condo garage while we were sleeping. The theft stalled our touring plans for the rest of the season. That’s why we were so eager to do some cold weather trips earlier this year.
Less than a year later we had new and upgraded bikes, a new house where we had better storage solutions, and a determination to literally get back in the saddle.
Most of the blogs, forums, and facebook pages I find are about tours that last week to months to even years, many of them international. When John and I decided to use our summer vacation to take a 1-week tour around the Olympic Peninsula, once again we felt like there was a lack of information about a mere 1-week trip. How much should we bring? How far can we expect to ride on consecutive days? The long distance tourers seem to do a lot more sight-seeing, travel less daily miles, and take frequent rest days (also laundry days). Here was the only information I found from someone doing a similar trip. Circling the Olympic Peninsula 2008. Skyler’s account gave me hope that our plans were totally possible.
Around 400 miles in 7 days
Day 1: Seattle to Potlatch State Park – 50 miles
Day 2: Sequim Bay State Park – 70 miles
Day 3: Klahowya Campground – 60 miles
Day 4: Kalaloch Campground – 60 miles
Day 5: Lake Quinault Lodge – 40 miles
Day 6: Ocean City State Park – 45 miles
Day 7: Olympic Club Hotel in Centralia, WA – 80 miles
Day 8: AMTRAK back to Seattle
I’m not going to do a step-by-step trip log because we were almost always on the main road that one would use to drive to these locations (mostly US 101). If you happen to have a question about any specifics, feel free to ask in the comments section.
This blog post is to celebrate some of our favorite parts of the tour we’ve been dreaming about for a year.
I had been worried about the 9-mile stretch of road through Olympic National Park bordering Lake Crescent since John first mentioned 101. If you’ve ever driven it, it is curvy with limited sight lines, no shoulder, lots of logging trucks, and recreational vehicles. Also it has a spectacular view that is too hard to look at because you are busy paying attention to the road. By bike, it turns out it was quite the opposite!
At either end, bikes are encouraged to activate a signal that includes 1-hour of a flashing light on a “bikes on roadway” sign.
On a Wednesday afternoon, the cars usually gave a good buffer while passing, there were limited RVs, and most of the logging trucks were going the other direction. There was a pullout every mile or so that was easy to pull over and look around for a minute, something I wouldn’t do in a car.
Halfway through there is a short road to the Lake Crescent Lodge, where President Roosevelt authorized the creation of Olympic National Park. This is another side trip that is a no-brainer by bike, but if you think about it too long in the car, you’ve already passed it. I want to come back and stay in one of the little cabins so bad! It was so tempting to grab a drink in the fancy bar, but there was a big climb waiting for us in a few miles.
There is no need to fear the traffic on this road (fear the elevation gain on the west side), but I would not recommend doing this on a weekend. I suspect there is much heavier traffic, which also means cars won’t pull as far into the other lane when passing.
I got all dressed up for safety day, but Lake Crescent was safer than I expected
US 101 Northbound along Hood Canal
Hood Canal does not get enough credit. We biked along bigger and more obvious bodies of water: Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Pacific Ocean. Do not underestimate Hood Canal!
The road ran right along the water with beautiful views most of the way. There were frequent parks to stop at for a break or for the night. If you’re into oysters, there were many opportunities to buy them fresh. I wanted to have some on principle, but I don’t exactly love oysters, and they sounded even less appetizing while exercising on a hot day.
Many bald eagles were spotted, and one even got a little too close for comfort. I would recommend that you ride this stretch by bike if you get the opportunity, but a car trip would be worth it too. This stretch had the most to do and see, as opposed to some long lonely stretches on the west side of the peninsula. You many not have realized this without studying a map, but the road along the west wide of the peninsula isn’t actually along the ocean for very long.
Lake Quinault Lodge:
This lodge was like an oasis on Day 5. The two days leading up to this destination had some long stretches of nothing going on. I got the point where I asked myself “ok what should I start thinking about now”. Here are a few road photos:
I really did not know anything about this area, but from Google Earth I could tell there were a number of campgrounds and hotels, so it seemed like a destination. I got nervous when the turnoff was not well signed, had low traffic, and had no development for the first few miles. When the lake finally came into view, I got really excited!
Somehow on a Friday afternoon there was an available room at the Lodge, and it was a huge relief to let our carefully packed bags explode all over the room. This was also the hottest day of our trip, so the lake water was just what we needed.
Did all that stuff really come out of our panniers?
We arrived early enough to enjoy a happy hour snack, walk along the lake for a bit, and even jump in the water a few times. Then we enjoyed the Adirondacks on the lawn with a glass of wine, and was just heavenly.
Luck was on our side again when, with no reservation, we managed to get a window dinner table for 2 in time to watch the sunset. I would love to go back to Lake Quinault! I really want to explore the north side, which is within the National Park area. Riding a bike the whole way around and jumping in the lake after would be really fun. Just relaxing on the lawn would be an amazing day.
So that summarizes some of the vacationy parts of the trip. Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will describe the more bikey aspects of the trip like our creative rest stops, essential gear, and lessons learned.