Pacific Coast Tour: Day 1
Day 1: Vancouver, BC to 10 miles outside Port Angeles, WA
Approximate daily mileage ~ 65
Approximate total mileage ~ 105
Approximate daily elevation gain ~ 1000
Approximate total elevation gain ~ 1500
There are multiple routes to take on the tour of the Pacific Coast. Most cyclists choose to travel from north to south for a number of reasons. Two of the main reasons are that going this direction allows to be on the right side of the road most of the time in order to provide scenic ocean views much more frequently. Secondly, this direction provides more frequent tailwinds as the wind oftentimes is directed from the NW toward the SE. This is not to say that riders don’t ever go from south to north. In fact I came across many cyclists heading north, although they didn’t always appear to be quite as happy!
Navigating your way from Canada to Mexico by bike is a highly personal decision. I met people along the tour using printed maps, state road maps, GPS, Adventure Cycling Association maps, and maps contained in the guidebooks such as Bicycling the Pacific Coast by Vicky Spring. Any of these are perfectly acceptable and depend on personal preference. Personally, I chose to purchase the Adventure Cycling Association maps and use them in combination with GPS on my phone. You can purchase the maps on the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) website. With these maps the route is divided into five sections with a different map for each section. They are extremely helpful in planning your route providing details along the route such as bike shops, campgrounds, grocery stores, and much more. I highly recommend them. If anyone would like to borrow mine just email me through the website contact form.
Day 1: This day couldn’t have started any better. One of the primary reasons for choosing the Samesun hostel is that they have a free breakfast every morning! Anyone who cycles knows that you expend an incredible number of calories while doing so. As such, I consumed as much food as possible during this free breakfast consisting of pastries, bagels, toast, peanut butter, fresh fruit, eggs, orange juice, and coffee. To my delight this trend of massive quantities of food would continue the remainder of the trip :)
I then set off from the hostel toward the Bridgeport train station and rode south out of the city toward the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. Once out of downtown I maneuvered to Annacis Island then over the large Alex Fraser Bridge continuing southwest. The city quickly became more rural giving way to farms and beautiful fields of lavender and blueberries. The approach to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal is a long narrow peninsula. There was a long line of cars awaiting permission to board the ferry. After purchasing a ticket to Swartz Bay I was able to quickly bypass the long line of cars as bicycles are allowed onto the ferry first. This was a BC Ferry which is basically a small cruise ship making daily trips. Aboard the ferry are places to relax and soak up the views of the bay and nearby islands, cafeterias, and best of all a full all you can eat buffet for about $20. Naturally, I opted for the buffet which was complete with fresh salads, fruits, seafood, curries, and delectable desserts with seating surrounds by windows giving way to spectacular view for the hour and a half ride. (This is one variation from the ACA maps. I desired to see some of Vancouver Island and the city of Victoria rather than heading southeast toward Bellingham, WA as directed by the ACA maps.)
Once arriving in Swartz Bay on Vancouver Islands, bicyclists are first allowed off the ferry. Navigating south toward Sidney is simple with smooth roads and little traffic. The city of Sidney was welcoming with quiet roads and a nice little bike shop where I met a local who recommended taking the Lochside trail south toward Victoria. This proved to be a great recommendation as this route is a peaceful 18 mile spin through lush farm fields and trees eventually giving way to a well maintained trail in Victoria continuing all the way to downtown and the spectacular harbour. As the capital of BC government building surround the harbour, and it is filled with Victorian architecture. After soaking in some of the views I purchased another ferry ticket. This time aboard a Black Ball Ferry en route to Port Angeles, Washington set for a 7:30 departure. With about an hour to spare I completed some paperwork which was required for beginning a job after completion of my tour (the paperwork involved in all aspects of healthcare is never ending). After boarding the much smaller ferry and locking up my bike I found my way to the top deck which proved to be perfect for viewing the harbour and its stunning sunset. Food from the small cafeteria was tasty as my appetite had returned after the massive buffet earlier in the day.
After sunset the weather quickly turned to dropping temps, wind, and misting rain. I retreated inside and met the only other cyclist aboard who had been touring about the Canadian Rockies the past few weeks. She had close encounters with massive grizzly bears with pictures to prove it. Due to spreading forest fires in the area she was forced to change her original plans and now was headed south toward San Francisco. She had done some more planning than I and already had a place lined up in town to sleep. I thought it would be a good time to see how well my lightweight “camping” gear would serve me. Upon arriving in Port Angeles everyone lined up to cross into customs. Surprisingly enough none of my bags were searched although the customs agent did request to lift my bicycle. Apparently it passed the test as I was allowed to return to the USA. During this time the temperatures really seemed to dip as I layered up and affixed the light on my bike in the dark, wind, and misting rain. Salt Creek Campground is about 18 miles from Port Angeles so I started off in that direction. As it grew close to 10 pm I decided to find a nice quiet place down away from the side of the road to crawl in my bivouac sac for the night. Using my headlamp and best judgment in pitch black conditions I packed down some soft grass, put on every layer of clothing I had and crawled into the bivy for the night. Being the first night out in the middle of nowhere there was very little sleep to be had. Other than the mid 40 degree temperatures I was kept awake by howling coyotes which seemed to grow very close before finally abating. Then after drifting off for maybe an hour I was awakened by an ATV around 3 am riding only a couple yards away from my feet. This was pretty alarming as I may very well have been trespassing. Luckily, they didn’t stop after riding by a couple times. Finally, I was able to drift off for another hour or so then lay there patiently awaiting the first sign of sunrise to continue on for the next day. By this time I was shivering and both feet were completely numb. There was no question I made the most of day one.