Olympic Peninsula Circle Tour – 2019

Now late into 2020 and together with the rest of world I’m in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, any long distance touring has been out of the question this year. Nevertheless, I have been riding for short stays to my local Southern Gulf Islands here in British Columbia – more about that in some future posts.
I’ve been very lazy with my blogging over the last couple of years (writer’s block?) but Basil had a word with me and told me to dig out my notes and photos to write up some bike touring trips from last year. So here goes…

The map above is interactive allowing you to scroll and zoom

Day 1 – Port Angeles to Fairholme Campground

My Olympic Peninsula tour started from Sidney, BC. And rather than riding the 30 km early in the morning from Sidney to downtown Victoria, I elected to load my bike and gear into the back of our vehicle and be driven (courtesy of my wife) to a location very near the Coho Ferry terminal in Victoria, BC – not too exhausting so far! Anyway, I unloaded the bike and fitted the panniers on plus other baggage, said a quick goodbye, then rolled down a short hill to the ferry parking lot. A quick visit to the USA customs shack for a precheck of my credentials and then a short wait for the ferry arrival – coffee time! As I waited, the mild westerly breeze that I was experiencing was getting stronger, so I figured the crossing of the Juan de Fuca Strait to Port Angeles in Washington State might be a bumpy one, and it was! No problem for me, but some other travellers were looking a little green!

After the bumpy crossing, the ferry arrived at the dock in Port Angeles and I was eyeballing a large USA flag that was fully stretched out by the wind, oh well only a short-ish ride of about 50 km to my first stop, hmm! Once off the ferry, all the foot passengers and cyclists have to walk off the ferry to pass through US customs/immigration, then also agriculture personnel for the usual interrogation, “where are going?, why?, any food products to declare?” etc. Now I always make sure not to have any food whatsoever with me as they can be quite picky about what you may be bringing into their country. Once I had a package of dried ramen noodle with me and they confiscated that! I think it was their lunch time though! So food supplies required a short ride to a local supermarket in Port Angeles. From there I negotiated some quieter streets to route out of the town and onto Highway 101 west. Once I reached the highway, even though the weather itself was warm and sunny, I was getting the full force of the wind and it was unpleasant riding getting a faceful of that steady wind. But I forged ahead for about 15 km until I saw a road sign declaring ‘Roadworks – Road Closed Ahead.’ “Crap! Oh no!” But traffic was still visible travelling in both directions leaving me a bit puzzled? I reached a small grocery store up ahead, popped in, grabbed a cold drink and asked the lady what the hell gives with the road closed sign? She explained that there was paving ongoing “Down the road a piece,” and it went on for quite a distance, but she did say it was one-way traffic and not completely closed. OK, soldier on I thought. Now I knew that I could possibly access the Olympic Discovery Trail (Spruce Railroad Trail) on the north side of Lake Crescent at some point but the conditions were unknown to me and the last information I gleaned (from the internet) was that an old railway tunnel was blocked, so best to stay with the devil I knew! Nevertheless, I did manage to ride for quite a distance with no hold-ups other than the bloody wind in my face.

Not long after crossing the Elwha river I saw a big line of traffic ahead – all stopped, so I tagged onto the end of the line and waited for a while… no movement but traffic was moving in the opposite lane which indicated that at least the road was open. I got fed-up with waiting at the back, so rode down the shoulder to see what gives at the front. I passed dozens upon dozens of vehicles and discovered that they had already been waiting a half-hour. “Crap!” I kept going until I reached the head of the queue and there was the flag person. “Sorry,” he said, “you can’t ride your bike through the road works as it goes on for miles.” “Crap!” “But we will give you a ride through if you take all the bags off the bike.” No problem, I was sick of the bloody wind anyway. The contractor’s pick-up arrived shortly after and we loaded the bike and gear into the box to drive off in style. I actually got a ride up until about only 8 km from my intended stop of Fairholme Campground, so that worked out in the end to give me rest from the headwind.

Upon arrival at Fairholme Campground (Waypoint “2” on the map) I discovered that all the walk-in camping sites were full, “Crap!” But luckily a couple of regular rv or car camping sites were available, same price anyway, so I grabbed one of those.
After setting up the tent, getting cleaned up and preparing some food, I sat back and enjoyed the scenery. Later on I had a wander round and had a chat with a few of the campers who were enjoying the lake views. Of course, now that I was settled, the wind was waning, go figure!

Crescent Lake at Fairholme Campground
Crescent Lake at Fairholme Campground

Day 2 – Fairholme Campground to Bogachiel State Park

I woke up relatively early and stuck my head outside the tent to see a sky that was promising some rain possibly , so outta the sack pretty sharpish to get packed up before my gear got wet. It’s no fun packing up a wet tent at anytime! I knew that there was a good breakfast restaurant about 24 km west of Fairholme as I’d dined at the Hungry Bear Cafe on previous jaunts to this area. After packing up and a quick drink of water and a banana to tide me over, I was on the road in no time.

The ride to the cafe was uneventful with a quiet road and no rain… yet! After about 20 km, I felt a raindrop which forced me to pick up the pace a bit (as much as one can on loaded touring bike!) and try to get to the cafe before a deluge drowned me. I was lucky as the deluge didn’t start until I was just riding into the parking lot of the cafe. “CLOSED” the sign on the door stated, “Crap!” Oh, but opening at 9:00 a.m.; it was 8:45 a.m. which left me only fifteen minutes to wait – good enough! To stay somewhat dry, I squeezed myself and the bike in under the eave of the building to try and get some cover from the rain and wait out the expected opening. As I waited, three motorcyclists pulled into the parking lot, they were completely soaked from the heavy rain squall, so I was the lucky one missing that downpour! We all packed in under the eave hoping that the restaurant would open on time, and it did. We all barged in and grabbed a seat to enjoy some hot coffee and a cooked breakfast.
FYI… The Hungry Bear Cafe property includes the Bear Creek Motel and Bear Creek Campground is almost adjacent to the cafe.

During breakfast, I noticed that the rain was easing up and sure enough by the time I was floating in coffee and ready to leave, the sky had cleared up and the rain had stopped. Back on Highway 101 with a full belly, the sun peaked out and the road was rapidly drying. I rode on enjoying the rain forest scenery and numerous bridge crossings of the Sol Duc River.

Riding on, my next objective was lunch, yes, more food! Or fuel to us touring cyclists. Destination, the small town of Forks, WA, another town that evolved around the now declined lumber industry. There is a decent grocery store in Forks, so I pulled in there to go forage for some lunch and also pick up some supplies for the evening when I would be camping again. Forks is a good stopover for many travellers as it has a fair complement of motels, eateries and other stores. Nevertheless, I was heading farther south to the Bogachiel State Park (Waypoint “3” on the map) for an overnight. Bogachiel is a State Park within the Olympic National Forest, which borders the Olympic National Park around which my tour was taking.
On arrival at the small park, I located a couple of hiker/biker sites and picked out, what I thought was, the better one. It was a very nice site next to the shower and washroom building, that didn’t bother me too much until I noticed campers actually driving to the facility! This is a very small park and for someone, other than the handicapped, to drive to go to the toilet is just plain laziness in my opinion. Anyway, it quietened down later in the evening and I had a peaceful sleep.

Continued on Page 2…

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