55.4 mi / 11.5 mph / 2003 ft. climbing
Staying at Emerald Valley Inn Campground
Often, the things that sound the scariest, end up being the best. The most-challenging part of planning this route was navigating along the northern side of the Olympic Mountains. Adventure Cycling’s route (which we’ve largely been following) sends you way up north near the Sound, on a fairly remote and hilly road that added a lot of distance. Another option is the Olympic Discovery Trail, a bike path that traverses the north shore of Lake Crescent. While it looked really cool, it had some sections of insane gravel with drop-offs straight into the lake, so given Rett’s non-native biking skills, that was a no-go. Oh, and the route is closed for construction until October anyway (at which point it will all be paved… yay!) So that left US-101, on the south side of Lake Crescent.
We’ve come to learn the US-101 sends a demonic logging trucker barreling at you every 10 minutes, and due to the mountains being right up against the shore of Lake Crescent, the road loses its shoulder for the curvy, 10-mile stretch. They have giant yellow signs at each end warning cyclists of the danger, and a button to push that will turn on flashing lights for an hour to warn loggers (and other marginally-less-demonic drivers) of the cyclists that might dirty their 10-foot high grille with their splattered blood and guts.
Even before we got to that point, we took a detour off US-101 that added a couple miles because we wanted something quieter. And wow, quieter was what we got. On this alternate, an on-road section of the Olympic Discovery Trail, we saw about 6 cars over the 10-mile stretch, including during our roadside lunch break. And 3 of them might have been the same guy. Downside was that the road was paved with some of the chunkiest, tire-sucking aggregate we’ve seen so far, so it was slow going. But we could take both sides of the entire road looking for the smoothest spots! Sometimes changing things up can trick our brains into thinking the miles are going by faster, even if the clock says they’re going slower.
Then after a long downhill from our high point of the trip (1100 ft.) we pushed the button, and girded for battle with the terror of Lake Crescent. Except, it turns out, we fell in love with it. The traffic, slowed by the curves, by the views, and *maybe* by the bicyclist warning lights, ended up being less-scary than many other sections of US-101 we’d already done. The road was smooth, flatter than anything we’ve been on for the whole trip, and even had a hint of a shoulder.
And that lake! Oh my, the lake! Clear green-blue water, reflecting the sunlit mountains onto our cool shady side. Unfortunately the viewpoint turnouts were all on the opposite side of the road, and the hour-long duration of the warning lights meant we didn’t have time to stop for photos anyway. But as usual, moving at bicycle speed is the optimal way to absorb your environment. Rett gave a hell of a push, which ended up catching up with her on the far end, as an endless uphill during which it seemed the shoulder would never reappear was beating her legs to a pulp. But finally the shoulder returned, and any of the pain was temporary, as Granny’s Cafe was only a few miles further!
It was time for our first private campground of the trip, which was just 7 tent sites behind the Emerald Valley Inn. More importantly, Granny’s Cafe is also part of the property, so Rett got a day off from cooking, as we made four separate walks up to their order window during our stay, the most-important being Rett’s blackberry pie just after our arrival. And they have a small menagerie to entertain us too.
Alive and full of pie, what more could we ask for?