Olympic National Forest
My birthday happens to fall on August 26th and years ago I celebrated it while on an extended tour in British Columbia with my dad. Nearing my 32nd birthday I decided to celebrate by taking an extended ride up around the Olympic Peninsula with a stop in Seattle to celebrate the union of two good friends of mine at their wedding.
The plan was to bail out of Portland right after work on a Friday and get as far up into the Peninsula as I could before nightfall. Luckily my work day ended at 2:30 which gave me a few extra hours of daylight. I may have also forgotten about a time change or something because I was on the road by 1:00. Eh, work will understand.
I left on Highway 30 through Scappoose and cut across into Washington at Longview. I tend to try and do my best to avoid freeways, especially on sunny friday afternoons. From there I took Highway 4 along the river till it met up with 101 headed north. Sort of a mad dash to get as close to the Olympics as I could. The sun was nearing the horizon just as I approached the edge of the Olympic National Forest and I took a chance on NF-2258 in hopes of finding a spot in the trees to set up camp. While the ridgeline has some promising views it didn't have quite what I was looking for, plus the signs of some recent bear activity had me moving down the road. I turned in towards Lake Quinault and picked up a map of local campgrounds. There were two near the lake itself and a third not too far up the road. The two lakeside campgrounds were full so I was left to race daylight towards the third which ended up being a bit further than the map showed (by almost 15 miles).
I made it in time to set up camp at a deserted campground surrounded by some epic trees. Ah the beauty of camping inside a national rainforest.
The ride back out of the valley in the morning led to an impressive sunrise through the Olympics.
I know I've said before how epic the sunsets are on the Peninsula, but damned if the sunrises aren't equally as impressive.
So back out on 101 after a quick oatmeal breakfast I couldn't help but be dismayed at just how bad the logging is on the Peninsula. Riding through years ago I'm not sure if I simply hadn't noticed or if things have gotten that much worse. It's right up to the National Forest boundary. Generations to come will truly never know what a tall pine tree looks like when they're perpetually cut down every few decades. I suspect that to an outsider reading this blog it might seem like I'm getting all "hippyish" here, but I think if you were to travel this length of 101 it'd be tough for the absence of large trees to go unnoticed...
When the road finally meets up with the ocean it finally offers a break from the destroyed forest. A necessary respite to clear the mind. All the better on a cold clear morning in August.
All of my internal monologuing about man's impact on nature was also disrupted by a sign that simply read, "Big Cedar".
Yup. Thats exactly what it is too. Damn big. Amazing that someone didn't see dollar signs when they viewed this and felt they should save it instead. Thanks, whoever you are. I'm hoping it stays around for a while. And I encourage everyone to turn east for a few hundred yards and check it out yourself. It's over there. You can't miss it.
Oh yeah, and here's a fun bit! While celebrating my birthday my bike had a birthday of sorts too and rolled over to 30k just south of Forks (something something vampires...)
The last time I traveled through this area I had taken the Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway, but this time I opted for sticking to 101, and I'm so very glad I did. It took me down alongside Crescent Lake. Had I bailed out of work altogether on Friday this would have definitely been my preferred place to have set up camp. The road running along the south side of the lake makes for some amazing riding, and the view lakeside is stunning.
Again with the huge trees in the campground too...
Once you get into Port Angeles I highly recommend heading up to Hurricane Ridge. It's a 30ish mile detour up and back and you do have to pay a small day-use fee, but the panoramic view of the Olympics from the top is unparallelled. This also happens to be the location of the last remaining "ski area" inside a National Forest and if you time it right you can get both your snowboarding and surfing sessions in the same day. Boarders take note. The earlier in the day you can hit this road the better too. The retirees like to amble up there early and getting stuck behind a motorhome can ruin what this road has to offer. Though be mindful of cyclists on the road as it's often used for summer training sessions.
From Port Angeles I dropped down around the East side of the Peninsula (which also happens to be 101) and cut across into Bremmerton. Not a bad ferry terminal to be stopped at. There's coffee nearby and plenty of starfish to give you something to look at while you wait for the boat.
I wont bore you with the wedding details, but suffice it to say it was wonderful. A nice shindig at the Seattle Art Museum's Outdoor Sculpture Garden. And the next morning an excellent brunch over in West Seattle with a killer view of downtown. Sometimes I almost miss this city.
I left town and headed down towards Randle, Washington on Highway 7. It makes for a great way to bypass I-5 and catch some breathtaking views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams. It is paved the whole way, but if you keep an eye peeled you can find some fun detours like this one.
...Behind gates that aren't all that well locked to begin with...
All in all it was a damn fine way to spend a birthday. On top of seeing my good friends get married, and the weather being awesome, the bike did great and I had opportunity to try out some new camping gear. I think the next trip up into the Olympics I'll try and spend more time exploring the middle of the Peninsula. There's a wealth of dirt and hidden campgrounds throughout. I still kick myself for not spending more time in it when I lived in Seattle, but luckily the ride up there from Portland is pretty damn fun too.