Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cycling Hurricane Ridge

Cycling Hurricane Ridge may not have been the most well planned out biking trip we've done, but it was an adventure for sure. Because of a crunch for time, Craig, Stephen, and I decided to bike on Sunday. However, we all went a Seattle Mariners baseball game on Friday night and, after a few drinks, convinced ourselves that starting out Saturday morning would be the better option.

Hurricane Ridge is on the Olympic Peninsula, meaning that it's across the Sound from us in Seattle. The fastest way to get there is by taking a ferry across the water. With three of us traveling in two separate cars, this proved to be logistically more difficult than anticipated. 

On the morning of the ride, Craig and I realized we had no food in the house for lunch so we picked up sandwiches at a nearby sandwich shop that opens at 6am. This place has been my lunch savior on multiple hiking trips. We made it to the ferry terminal around 9:15a to find that it was packed with other travelers. Realizing that we might not all make it on the boat, we phoned Stephen and found that he was lined up a row behind us for the ferry. Being this close, I was pretty confident we were all going to make it across.

Fortunately, I am not a betting woman and didn't place money on these odds because he was just short of getting on our boat! Doh! Once crossing, Craig and I waited for an hour on the other side of the Sound. After Stephen finally caught up with us, we high-tailed it to the mountains so wouldn't loose more time from the ride.

As fate would have it, right as we approached the bridge crossing Hood Canal, another large body of water we had to transverse, the road barrier dropped and the bridge opened up to let a ship pass. I looked around for a nearby boat that was holding up our schedule and found a distant crane being pulled by a tug. It was so far away and seemed to be barely moving! We were held up here for at least 30 minutes. Everyone got out of their cars to catch the local entertainment provided by the sea animals. In the short span of time we were there, we saw loads of pigeon guillemots, jellyfish, porpoises, and seals.

Waiting for a ship to be towed through the crossing.

The two ships we're waiting on.

After crossing the bridge, we drove another 1.5 hours and finally arrived at the park's visitor center, our starting point. Without much delay, we suited up and were on our way! Immediately after leaving the parking lot, we started climbing...and it never stopped once until we reached the summit ~5500 feet above us. 

I'll be honest and say that it was one of my least favorite bike climbs I've done. Granted, I was in a lot of pain for almost all of it with a combination of back problems, legs cramping from eating too much before starting out, and being tired from the night before. Aside from the few (gorgeous) lookout areas, it also wasn't a very scenic or dynamic ride. We were mostly in the trees and the climb was brutal at times with little visual reward for motivation.

As we were inching along up the hill, a car passed us going the opposite direction and I suddenly heard what sounded to be my name being violently screamed out a window. I turned back and saw that the vehicle has stopped and the screaming continued. Someone got out of the vehicle and threw their arms in the air saying, "Erica, what are you doing here?!" I then realized it was on of our best friends, Chris, who was just coming back from a hiking trip off of the same road! It was totally random, especially considering we have been trying to coordinate our schedules for a backpacking trip for months now. So random and hilarious!


One of the fantastic view points along the way


A quickly eroding cliff face and my bike.

The crew on the way up.

After hours of huffing, puffing, and my complaining, we finally made it to the top! I've never spent much time in the Olympics mostly because of the difficulty getting to them. Seeing them up close at Hurricane Ridge made me eager to to summit some of the peaks beckoning from a distance. 

We spent a few minutes at the top taking in the views, but were quickly getting chilled by the evening air. Knowing we had a quick ~45 minute, cold descent ahead of us, we didn't dally for long. I'm happy to say that the ride down made up for the misery on the way up. It was fast with steep pitches for most of the ride; I would guess we picked up speeds of 45mph. Although I was still having terrible back pain and was so cold my legs were trembling (not something you want to experiencing bombing down a mountainside on a bike), it was super fun and gave us the downhill adrenaline we've been looking for. 

We did, however, lose poor Stephen on the way down. He got a slow flat along the way, but we were gone too quickly to hear him yelling for us. Fortunately, someone saw him fixing his tire and just took him to the bottom of the hill to save him the trouble.

Stephen near the top of Hurricane Ridge.

Almost to the top!

Deer in a meadow fronting the Olympic mountains.

We made it! Now for the bomb down.

Profile of our ride.

I never would have said it on the way up, but the downhill portion made me think I might try this ride again someday. Of a higher priority now is climbing some of those Olympic mountains we saw from the top of Hurricane Ridge!