Pacific Coast Tour: Day 2
Day 2: 10 miles outside Port Angeles, WA to South Beach Campground, Olympic National Park, WA
Approximate mileage ~ 90 miles
Approximate total mileage ~ 195 miles
Approximate elevation gain ~ 3200 feet
Approximate total elevation gain ~ 4700 feet
The start of day 2 was a stark contrast from day 1 as it really felt more like a continuation of day 1 with 2-3 hours of sleep at the very most. As the daylight finally came around 5:30 am I was more than ready to get back on the bike and keep riding – if nothing else to allow myself to thaw and regain feeling in my hands and feet. As I shimmied out of the bivy and rose to my feet I was surprised to see that I had been rolling around all night directly beside a large patch of poison ivy! Luckily I’ve never had a significant reaction to poison ivy in the past and again escaped with only a few minor locations of irritation on my legs. Before heading back out on the road I quickly packed the bags on my bike and backpack. On days like this it was very easy to fit everything in the limited bags as I was wearing nearly all the layers of clothes I brought in order to stay warm.
Getting back on the road I was primarily using Google maps at this time as this is not the route suggested in most of the guide books or the ACA maps. This route continued on the small highway on which I left Port Angeles and then it led to continue west on the Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway (112) going through the tiny towns of Ramapo and Joyce. I stopped at a gas station near Joyce for breakfast and snacks for later (Clif bars, Powerade, chocolate milk). Here I inquired about the options of continuing on west toward Pysht versus taking a small road and the Olympic Discovery Trail south toward Crescent Lake in the northern part of Olympic National Park to then continue on highway 101. The locals were unsure if the trail had been reopened after recent repairs. Additionally, they recommended staying off highway 112 at all costs due to really high numbers of logging trucks and narrow shoulders. Placing far too much faith in Google maps’ relatively new bicycle guidance feature I decided to head south toward Crescent Lake on the Olympic Discovery Trail.
This began as a very enjoyable moderate climb up a small and fairly well maintained road which led to the descent back down. There was construction part way down the descent as I was stopped by the road worker. She too was unclear whether the trail I needed was reopened. She said she had been on it about a year ago and described it as an easy mountain bike trail. I was committed at this point and continued on after given the all clear. Eventually, after twisting and turning down the steep descent I came upon what appeared to be the trail I needed. Initially, it consisted of a steep climb on freshly laid large uneven gravel. Again, I was far too committed to turn back at this point. This terrain would be no problem for a well equipped mountain bike. However, my gear was set up strictly for riding on well maintained pavement. Continuing on very slowly and carefully to avoid tire punctures or flats the rough gravel later gave way to a single track mountain bike trail. This made for very slow going for around 4-5 miles. The trail runs along the north edge of Crescent Lake and at times the tire of my bike was inches away from plummeting 30 feet straight down into the clear and surely frigid water. The views this provided were enchanting due to the combination of clear calm water surrounded by tall green forest all encased in haze from fog and smoke from nearby forest fires.
After being extremely careful for the past 4-5 miles to avoid tire problems or any unintended bath in the lake I was absolutely delighted to be greeted with what appeared to be a very freshly laid asphalt bike path in pristine condition. This was such a welcome sight at that time I thought it more likely to be a mirage than real life. The next six miles were absolutely blissful seeing only one other cyclist the entire time and even being welcomed by a hummingbird with continued natural beauty all around. The perfect trail quickly ended at a trailhead and it was time to continue onto Highway 101 – a highway I became very familiar with over the coming weeks.
The next stretch of Highway 101 continues for a good number of miles before coming to the next town named Forks. There was one cafe called “Hungry Bear Café” which I had spotted previously on Google maps and looked to the perfect stop for a large breakfast themed meal. The Hungry Bear Café appeared after many miles of numerous large logging trucks zooming by only a couple feet away. By this time my hunger had reached a peak level. Upon arriving I was greeted by a worker saying that the café would be closed for the next few hours due to the fryer being cleaned with nothing else for sale during that time. Quite disappointed I went back outside and searched for some sustenance, a Clif Builder bar. While enjoying the last of my food supplies onboard a family with a camper trailer stopped and had the same idea as me. Outside the café I let them know the response I received but welcomed their efforts to buy some food. They quickly returned outside with a similar disappointment. They then returned to their camper. A few minutes later one of their sweet daughters came back out from their camper with a bag of Doritos she was offering me and she also insisted I come have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the rest of their family. How could I turn her down? I then met this wonderfully pleasant family, ate PB & J sandwiches and traded stories. Chad was the father/husband and he is a Canadian citizen. Interestingly, he also served in the US military so he had dual citizenship! They were going to Olympic National Park to visit some of the hot springs. After a short and greatly appreciated visit along with numerous curious questions from the children I thanked them for such kindness and generosity and continued along the 101.
The next stop was a town named Forks. This came after many more miles of speeding logging trucks, hills, some shoulder, some lack of shoulder, cloudy skies, and great scenery all the way. Forks is a small town and like many small towns appeared to have some a few well known small town restaurants. I stopped at one and had a great pulled pork sandwich with sides for an even better price. After departing Forks it is another 27 miles to Ruby Beach which is located in a strip of Olympic National Park situated along the coast of Washington. The ocean was a very welcome site after a long day! Here, at my first site along the Pacific Coast there were a group of grey whales swimming off the shore. Truly a magical sight like out of a dream. Suddenly, I was brought back to reality by a bee stinging my calf. Luckily, I’m not allergic. It was getting later in the day by this point and I needed to find a place to sleep. I saw that within the next ten miles there were two campgrounds and one lodge. The first campground was Ruby Beach which had a sign that said it was full. I then stopped at the Kalaloch Lodge which was also full for the night. They did have drinking water so I made sure to replenish my supplies and warm up a bit in the cozy entry. I then went on to the last option – South Beach Campground which also appeared to be full judging by the sign. I proceeded onward hoping to find otherwise. Indeed the campground did appear quite full. It was a really cool site being perched upon a cliff overlooking the ocean with walkways to the beach below. By this time it was quite chilly, misting, and foggy. There happened to be a touring bicycle leaning upon a picnic table with a tent set up nearby. No one appeared to be present. Hoping someone would show up I took a seat at the picnic a table and waited a while. Soon enough another cyclist approached me also looking to find a place to stay. His name was Joel, a fun guy from Canada who was nearing the end of his trip back to his home in Vancouver. About ½ hour passed before Jim showed up – the rightful owner of the campsite for the night. He too was very kind and extremely knowledgeable about cycle touring. He shared maps, tips, and stories as well as the offer to share his campsite. He also suggested trying to stay in the “day use” area perched above the rest of the campground. Technically no camping was allowed there. However, Jim and even the campground attendant predicted no problems for Joel and I to camp up there for a night. After eating and admiring the view from the campground, Joel and I ventured up to the day use area and set up our camps – his tent and my bivy. This area had an even more spectacular vantage point and plush green grass which was key for me being able to get any sleep whatsoever without any sort of sleeping pad. It turned out to be another wet and cold night giving way to very little sleep. It became evident very quickly that a sleeping pad at the very least and preferably a tent and sleeping bag would be helpful for getting better sleep.
After this long and eventful day two things lingered in my mind. One is the kindness of the family who shared their lunch with me out of their camper. The second is there is no doubt Olympic National Park is a very special place to which I would highly recommend a visit.