Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge
September 28, 2012
I researched this trek the week prior as it was touted to be one of the hardest rides in the Washington State. I usually add mileage to the mountain ride to ensure I get a good workout. Based on what I read on the various web sites about “The Hurricane”, I elected to do the mountain only. This brought the total mileage to about 1/2 of my average Mountain Quest rides. If this mountain was half as hard as people described it, I would need all the strength I could muster up to finish it. After my last ride I now paid very close attention to the elevation changes throughout the entire route. This one was very up front. You start uphill, continue uphill, then repeat step two for the rest of the trip to the top.
I was very happy to see that the weather forecast indicated partial clouds with clearing in the afternoon. I left the house in the car around 6:30 am with my faithful horse hitched to the rack on the back of the car. I entered the Edmonds area and was greeted by a beautiful double rainbow. As much as I wanted a photo of the rainbow, I would have had to take it while driving which was not an option. I had just enough time waiting for the Kingston Ferry that I was able to send off a few text messages updates and emails. One of the perks of living in the northwest is being able to experience the many different ferries that connect the islands to mainland. Kingston was framed by the impressive Olympic Mountains that rose to the sky behind. I felt a sense of excitement as I anticipated the challenge that lie ahead.
It was a pleasant drive as I made my way through several small coastal towns on the way to Port Angeles. I found the Olympic National Park Ranger Station Visitor’s Center which is on the appropriately named, Race Street. I was happy to see that the threat of rain had all but disappeared. It was a very comfortable temperature but I resisted the temptation to pull the rain gear and some extra clothing out of my bags. My Dad’s voice in my head ensured that I always had “Backup systems.”
I left the parking lot at 10:00 and was immediately greeted by a road that had a good uphill grade. By “Good” I mean hard. After sitting in a car for many hours my legs were not a big fan of this jumping right into it thing. The advantage to having some miles of moderate grade to start a ride is that it gives your body and mind a chance to adjust to the pain. Many years ago I trained with former USMC Sergeant Jerry. He was a SWAT instructor at the National Academy in New Mexico. Many time I had heard him bellow the phrase, “Pain is just weakness leaving the body”. That phrase now helped me drive on. It wasn’t long before I lost my biking pants and enjoyed the freedom of wearing only shorts and light clothing above. I stopped after about 90 minutes to drink some water and enjoy the view of Port Angeles below.
There was very little traffic to deal with. As people drove past me they all seemed to have that “Oh my God do you need help” look. The trees began to thin as I ground up the hill allowing an ever increasing view of the surrounding terrain.
I stopped to admire the view and take some photos of the ancient Lake Morse. It was so amazing to think that this entire section of valley had been underwater so many years ago. The Glacier that had once moved into position to dam the valley has since melted away.
It seems that the mountain beaver population is doing well in this area. The hillsides are dotted with evidence of their countless burrows and paths. Occasionally I would see a flash of one are it ran from an open area to the safety of the nearest hole.
About ¾ of the way up the hill I was surrounded by butterflies or possibly moths. I had to slow my speed and move back and forth to avoid having them run into my spokes. It was a pretty cool feeling having so many of them floating around me in this incredible mountain view environment.
After over three hours of grinding on the pedals, I crested the hill. As I made the last turn into the observation point parking lot I was greeted by the amazing Olympic Mountain peaks. From this vantage point I was surrounded by over a dozen mountain peaks. Center stage is held by the appropriately named Mount Olympus. In keeping with the Greek mythological theme, Zeus’ throne has Mt. Hermes and Athena by it’s side to help rule the Olympic Mountain range.
I was sad to see that Blue Glacier on Mt. Olympus has shrunk to almost nothing. There were comparison photos displayed from 1909 which showed how much these glaciers are disappearing.
I met and talked to quite a few people as I sat at a picnic table and refueled my body. I find it interesting to see where others are from and to hear their stories. The still burning Eastern Washington forest fires left a haze throughout the valleys. Unfortunately the smoke did not allow the photos to bring out the true beauty of this area.
I put some warmer clothes on in preparation for the fast ride back down the mountain. In no time at all I found my pedals worthless due to my speed. I kept a tuck position and was ever vigilant looking for any road hazard which could disrupt my happy. I covered the first ten miles in approximately 11 minutes. I say approximately as I didn’t dare move my hands to check the time. At about 11 miles down I saw a big deer run across the road. It was approximately 50 yards ahead of me. As she looked back over her shoulder from where she came, I realized there likely was another one on the way. I took some speed off and uttered a word that I will not write down out of respect for my sensitive readers. I was glad to pass the deer hazard without mishap. I hit my pedals a few times on the way down but seldom could use any but the top few gears. I reached the Ranger Station parking lot in 31 minutes and could not believe how fast the trip down had gone.
After packing up my bike and gear, I headed for home. The Ferry ride back to Edmonds was very nice. With the sun shining off of the waves behind me I reflected on the day’s events. This had been a very enjoyable trek and another step closer to my Mountain Quest goal. I contemplated the next ride I would do. Maybe something closer to home like Snoqualmie Pass.
Thanks for joining me.