Day 37: A helluva bike ride and some more Olympics exploration

by Kate Djupe

The kids and I had a few hours to kill this morning, so we explored more Port Angeles parks.

This was the most well constructed, natural materials kids play area I have ever seen.

So that 17.5 mile drive to Hurricane Ridge we did in the car yesterday - the one that ascended 4700 feet? Yeah, Paul rode his bike up it. And after we met him at the top (in the car), he rode his bike down it.

He is going to have to tell you about that.

(Here's Paul). I've been to the Olympic Peninsula a handful of times now and one thing I haven't done is go up to Hurricane Ridge by any means -- foot, car, bike. I did hike up to Klahane Ridge (about the same height, just one ridge north toward the water from HR). How stupid! What an amazing place. So, the natural thing upon realization of this pavement that never ended was that I should ride it. This was the dream ride I didn't know was a dream until this trip.

I started fairly early from the campsite, which is 5.5 miles up Hurricane Ridge Road and enjoyed a 45+mph descent to the base of the climb -- the start of HCR near the Olympic NP information center. Immediately I got a sense of the brutality I was about to endure for the next 2 hours. That is, I think the Forest Service has a different set of standards about road grade and pavement quality than the Park Service. The first 5.5 miles are on Forest Service standard pavement, which is bumpy and steep. I was feeling good, but the pitch ate into me in a way I didn't expect. For a few miles I was grinding away at a paltry 6-7mph before the road levelled and I hit the Ranger station.

At this point, I entered nirvana. The sun came out and for the next 12+ miles, I was riding on Park Service pavement, which was smooth and a bit less angry of a pitch, which enabled a slightly higher rate of pedal turnover. I was in the zone, turning over the pedals at a steady cadence around the never ending series of turns and switchbacks up to the ridge.The cruel thing about this climb is that near the end I kept thinking I was almost there, it was just around the corner, when in actuality it was at least another 2 turns. So, I nearly blew out just before the ridge. 

A 17 mile climb is a long way. Interestingly, it's not the longest climb I did this trip (that was the 20 mile climb on the south/west side of Mckenzie Pass), but this was by far the greatest total elevation gain. The greatest rate of ascent was Teton Pass, which gained 3000 feet in 10+ miles (300 ft per mile compared to 280ish/mile for Hurricane Ridge). The most euphoric ride, too, was my 40th birthday ride over and back on McKenzie Pass given the incredible descent on the SW side of the pass and of course the family meeting me at the top. But this was a special ride given how much I've come to love the Olympics. 

Oh, and the descent was pretty fun, too. I didn't break speed records (coming off Teton Pass at 58.7mph was the high by about 10mph for the trip), but I did pass a few cars, which is always fun. And, as you can see below, I won the campsite sign sprint over the family car. PAD>Pacifica!

(Back to Kate) He gave me a 5 minute head start so I could get a picture of him descending. This is all I have:

And since our car couldn't catch up with him, this is a view I caught around one of the turns down the mountain. See him?

Oh - and here he is after slowing down to turn into our campgrounds (PAD: winning the sign sprint!): 

Three of us had pho for lunch; Bear had a hamburger. Of course.

We took a couple of hour drive to a different part of the Olympics to swim in some pools fed by natural hot springs.

We left the magical forest for the magical rainforest part of the National Park.

And we took the long way back to our tent so that I could see a little of the undeveloped part of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

It might have been a bit too curvy and detour-ish for at least one person in the car.

This was our last night sleeping in the perfect forest. We tried very hard to get a photo of all of the stars peeking through the tall tree ceiling before giving up and admiring them just as they are.

And then playing cribbage and canasta until we couldn't keep our eyes open.