Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Forests, Rain and Vampires: Washington (8th - 16th Sept '10)

Our first day in Washington had dawned grey, which dampened our enthusiasm for our planned ride up to Hurricane Ridge (17+ miles up into the mountains!). With bad weather brewing we decided to miss this side trip and hit Highway 101, the route that was going to take us around the Olympic Peninsula and then down the coast. We headed west along the base of the mountains of Olympic National Park and in and out of some regal forests. The forests were great to ride through; everything here was green and lush. Unfortunately either side of the forests were miles of clear-cut areas that were not so nice to ride through, and which seemed to drag on for ever.
The first couple of days our legs were still feeling sluggish after our two-week break, and since we had already thrown them into a 110km day on our first day out of Vancouver, we now took it fairly slow and just enjoyed being back on the road. We were enjoying getting back into our travelling and camping routine and of course the simple pleasures, such as sitting and watching the sunset over a lake, walking along a blustery beach or eating breakfast deep in the rainforest. We had some short days riding, hiked to waterfalls, had a morning swim in Crescent Lake and did a side trip out to La Push, a gorgeous wild region of the coastline. We had an awesome campsite out there in the forest and the beach in this area was wild and beautiful with big sea stacks and massive driftwood; the huge logs that litter the Northwest coast and make your realise how powerful the ocean is – tossing around huge trees like they are twigs! We watched the pelicans swooping down and surfing along the waves as they were breaking, looking like clumsy surfers attempting aerials.
After La Push we cycled back to the 101 and through the small town of Forks. Forks is the setting for the Twilight series and they have certainly cashed in on it.. we accidentally arrived on the weekend they had declared `Stephanie Meyer Weekend`, because it was Bella`s Birthday, and so the town was a bit mad; lots of tourists around; young girls without many clothes on or wearing their affinity across their chest (Team Cullen etc), guys with long flapping cloaks, random cheerleaders on the street and all sorts of souvenirs for sale. It was raining when we went through the town (of course) so we sat in a cafe, drank coffee, watched the world go by and listened to the friendly locals discuss whether the army had the technology of invisibility and the ability to see through walls.
It rains a lot in Washington.. it's not just a stereotype. It really does. The good thing is that Washington seems very bike-friendly, there are so many cyclists doing the Pacific Coast trip that it is very well set up. They have hiker-biker campsites (usually cheaper but more primitive.. just like us!), and bike warning signs (`beware cyclists`) and at one point, on the narrow road around Lake Crescent we could press a button and get some orange lights to flash and warn cars that we were on the road!
Everyone we met in Washington was very friendly and hospitable. One misty evening we cycled into a campsite feeling pretty chilly and wishing we had a campfire (the first time we have wanted one all trip). Jules is pretty tough most of the time, but one thing she cannot handle is the cold. The first time the temperature dropped (probably only to about 10oC) she declared she was getting frostbite in her fingers and acted like she was on death's door until I got her bundled up in extra clothes and a sleeping bag. Anyway, on this chilly (ish) night in camp Jules was doing the thing that she does when she is very cold, and which causes me endless embarrassment. She tries to warm up her extremities by waving her arms around in the air and slapping her hands against her body at high speed. So here Jules was flailing her arms around and moaning and our next-door neighbours wandered up with some firewood and started a fire for us! If it was me next door I would have packed up and moved to the next campsite (which I was considering doing anyway) but here they were bringing us wood and starting us a fire. We ended up chatting with Glenn and his wife for ages, who gave us lots of insights for our trip down the coast.
We met a lovely couple, Kate and Sue walking their pooch, Max, on the wild Ruby Beach. We ran into them later as we rode into the campsite that we were going to stay at that night. They offered for us to share their site with them and invited us into their camper-van for dinner, where we had a lovely warm night of yummy food and great chats, and we managed to dry most of our wet things! The next morning they even cooked us up a delicious fried breaky and coffee to set us on the road, and we joined them on a walk on the beautiful, wide Kalaloch Beach. I think the people that we have met along the way, and the great connections we have formed have been the absolute highlight of this trip! So we got off to a great start that morning, plus it was the start of two stunning days of sunshine and we had a nice couple of days riding along gorgeous beaches, through forests and hiking in the rainforest at Quinault Lake.
Our days of sunshine ended as we left the Olympic Peninsula area and headed into southern Washington. Here started the days of endless rain. On our first day of rain we treated ourselves to our first meal out, a good American lunch of burgers (tho' of the vegetarian kind), fries, coffee and hot cakes. Oh yeah. On our second day of rain we left our sheltered camp late and tried to ride right through to the next campsite without having to take a break (it was a short day luckily). However, when we were riding alongside Willapa Bay, Jules yelled out “flat”. I was a little cold and wet and cranky and short-temperedly asked her why she insisted on always getting flat tyres when it was pouring rain and we had to stop and fix them in the wet. Later, after we had set up camp and I had warmed up and eaten something I had to sheepishly apologise for blaming her for the flat tyre... though I warned her that I would leave her the next time she got a flat in the rain.
Even with the rain the southern section of Washington was still a very beautiful area. We enjoyed exploring the lovely coastlines, lush farming areas, and the rugged headland of Cape Disappointment, overlooking the Columbia River at the southern tip of Washington. Southern Washington was also the first place we started running into a number of other cyclists. There were a few groups and individuals that we ran into in campsites or on the road, and it was fun to be able to exchange stories and discuss the weather (ie. moan about the rain). This was the first part of our whole trip where there were quite a few long-distance cyclists around, and it was nice because it made us feel a little less crazy...
It was raining when we left Washington.. We unloaded our bikes and caught the bus across the 4 mile long Astoria bridge over the Columbia River, as we had been told we weren't allowed to ride it (of course we found out later that we probably could have!).
We were in Oregon.
And it was still raining...

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