Before we left Bellingham, I insisted that we buy an actual paper map of the Olympic Peninsula. (I’ve never been much of a look-at-maps-online type of a person, probably because I’ve always used a Mac, and Scott refused to make a Mac version of Topofusion, but that’s an entirely different story.) I wanted to be able to see the big picture of where we were going, what our options were, but mostly because I love looking at a map the night before and trying to imagine what a place looks like, and then have my mind completely blown because it looks completely different. It happens every time.
With a good weather forecast, we opted for a drive up Hurricane Ridge Road, the main road in the National Park. We started up with no clear vision of what we’d do when we got up there. Would we be able to see anything? Would the wind be blowing like mad? Would it be overrun by people like many national parks?
We were so pleasantly surprised on so many levels.
First, we took some pictures of others taking pictures of the cute little deer in front of the mountains. Scott joked that they were robotic deer that they sent out each morning for photo-ops.
Then we opted to pull the bikes out to enjoy one of the few dirt roads that are open to bikes in National Parks, riding up to Obstruction Point. What looked like a fairly benign dirt road on the map turned out to be a beautiful ridge traverse with huge views of Mt Olympus and the surrounding glaciated peaks.
And the road was rough enough that we only saw a handful of cars during our 16 mile round trip. Sometimes I forget that riding dirt roads can be a downright enjoyable experience.
The ride also gave us the chance to look down into a couple of valleys and understand how different trails linked up. ONP is one of the most popular parks for backpacking, and we were starting to understand the landscape enough that we could see how different ridges and valleys linked together. Someday, we said.
Back at the visitors center, we had a bit of lunch before donning the running shoes and heading out Klahhane Ridge. As the one with the watch and GPS, I got to be adventure leader, a privilege that I abused by taking us out farther and longer than we’d previously agreed.
It was worth it as we gained the ridge and had giant views of the mountains to our south and the ocean and Canada to the north. We could even see Mt. Baker to the northeast and another one of the other volcanos (Rainier?) to the east. Man, when the clouds lift…it’s beautiful country.
We went back to the visitors center and bought a pile of fries while taking in the views for just a little bit longer. We’d spent nearly 8 hours up on the ridge and had gotten to see the shadows and light change on the peaks and valleys, something that doesn’t happen unless you spend a full day in an area.
We camped at the National Park campground, setting up the mobile office amongst the trees.
Ron Thompson, multi-time AZT 750 finisher and brains behind (but not the organizer of) the Olympic 420 bikepacking route, invited us out to ride the following day on the Olympic Discovery Route. It was a trail that we would have completely bypassed if it wasn’t for Ron’s insistence that it was worth our time.
While the entire trail is 25 miles long, neither Scott nor I were up for a 50 mile day. We’ve learned that if we want to maintain our energy levels for an entire trip, doing 50 mile days on trail or really long runs is a badbadbad idea. So we did 14 miles out, had lunch, pedaled back, and had a beer at the local Dam Bar. It was a pretty amazing trail in that it never really felt like it climbed on the way out, but we flew on the way back. Low effort riding, I love it.
With the weather forecast claiming that we only had that afternoon of good weather left, we decided to make the most of it, and after grabbing a shower at the local RV park by the Olympic Discovery Trail, we headed west to the coast and the beach near Forks, the rainiest city/town in the US with ~150 inches of rain per year.
The National Park owns much of the coastline, and the Pacific Northwest Trail actually follows it for about 80 miles, ending on the far north end of the Olympic Peninsula. We headed down to the beach late in the afternoon, finding weekend campers ranging from families to partiers camped out among the driftwood.
We left them behind cruising down the beach, watching the waves crash. Neither Scott nor I have spent much time around the ocean and wave dynamics are still fascinating for us so we spent massive amounts of time staring out into the ocean to gleefully exclaim ‘BIG WAVE!’ when one came crashing to shore.
It’s the small things.
We made camp at another National Park campground next to the Ho rainforest. We looked up at the sky while eating dinner, contemplating our next move, Do you think it’s actually going to rain tomorrow?