A short bike trip on the Olympic Discovery Trail

It’s been awhile since I’ve written here. I finished my Camino storytelling and even though I had a couple more adventures in Barcelona and Southern Spain the wind had left my sails and adventures felt far away. I wrote a short thing for the LWT Summit I went to a couple months ago but 2018 has weighed hard on me and I’ve basically been an emotional wreck. Oh and then my site got hacked and I didn’t even notice for a couple weeks. Woohoo! I guess my definition of “adventure” has really taken a turn.

But the winds are changing and I needed to get out there again, back on the bike, and I’ve been trying. I took a short 2-day jaunt up in the Olympic Peninsula following a small portion of the Discovery Trail nestled between those majestic mountains and the calm bays of the South Puget Sound.

Bottom heavy in so many ways…

We started in Port Townsend, which is about 4 hours from Portland. It’s a little farther than either me or my friend Robyn, who had driven up from San Francisco, wanted to go, but places we were looking at on the Oregon Coast we’d either already done (see coverage of my trip 2 years ago!) or they were almost as far, or hard to get to. We really only took an afternoon to plan this and I had seen that the ODT was a fairly fleshed out project and I knew the Peninsula to be beautiful. So we decided it was worth the drive and left an evening early to get a fresh start in the morning.

We stayed with a really nice older couple we found on Warm Showers (a resource for people who want to host cycle tourers) with an adorable mini-Aussie who had done a ton of long-distance bike trips for many years. Dan had been a city planner and we had several former colleagues in common. They were also the first of many to warn us off of Hwy 20, even though it was on our route carefully constructed by the Washington Parks Department and which I had Ride with GPS turn by turn directions for.

Tchotchkes and me at the Blue Moose Cafe. Photo by Robyn Navarro.

Day 1

Even though it was Mother’s Day we took a chance at a breakfast at what clearly seemed to be the most popular brunch spot the Blue Moose Cafe. It was busy but we didn’t have to wait and it was good to have a hearty breakfast before tackling the 30 or so miles we had planned. We parked at the Transit Center across the way and started getting our act together. Genius that I am, I had forgotten my helmet but thankfully our hosts lent me one. Even so, this step took us awhile. We even managed to perhaps drain the car battery but time was wasting and we had to get a move on before afternoon so we got outta there and figured we’d worry about it later.

At the beginning of the trail, we met another older gentleman from the small nearby town of Chemicum who also warned us about Hwy 20 once again. He even gave us his info and said if we needed to stay with him just ask the townsfolk where Phil and Eleanor’s place was. He was a Warm Showers host too. Ultimately, another route would have added 6-12 additional miles and we decided the highway was ok. We did eye the shoulder on the other side suspiciously though as it seemed smaller and not positioned as well. But again, a problem for later.

Me and Fat Smitty. Photo by Robyn Navarro.
Old train cars reimagined as a cannabis emporium. Oh Cascadia…

When we reached Discovery Bay we took a short break for some photos at Fat Smitty’s and I kind of wished we had eaten there too, but we trudged on past the coolest weed shop I had ever seen in an old train and waited a few more miles before stopping in the shade of a tree in the lawn of a volunteer firefighting department where we made sandwiches.

Not too long after that we came upon the first of the many buildings and businesses of the S’Kallam tribe whose land we traveled through. Since it was a Sunday none of the community center was open but the whole compound was beautiful and we were able to use a restroom and get fresh cold water. Blessed be the native people of this land of the past and the present. Thank you.

By then we were pretty close to Sequim Bay State Park which had a hiker/biker campsite where we planned to stay. None of the park was particularly full but the hb site was completely empty, even late as it was, and we had our pick of the 3 sites so we chose the farthest back, tucked in a corner beneath the pretty bridge we rode over to get into the park. It took us a bit to get situated, figure out the coin-operated showers etc. Some of the State Parks here the hb sites might even be free since you’re not parking a vehicle and therefore don’t need a Discovery Pass but these ones were $12 a night. With 2 people still a pretty good deal.

S’Kallam tribe totem pole.
S’Kallam tribe seal

Since this was my first trip of the year, the first multi-day since Europe even, we were pretty tired and dusk was coming soon so we decided we didn’t have it in us to try and either build a fire or even cook some of our meager portions in our tiny travel cooking pots. Besides, the S’Kallam Casino was less than 2 miles away so we backtracked (sans equipment) a couple miles, parked our bikes at the sketchiest “bike rack” I had ever seen, and had some mediocre but filing lasagna as well as stocking up on some much-needed sugar, mayo, and other packets.

We biked back in the dark, which you realize is really quite dark when you’re not in the city but we each had decent headlights so we were fine as we went slowly. We had just enough time and energy to enjoy this random joint that the previous tenants of this campsite had left, either intentionally or not, before crashing into our respective tents.

Day 2

We had really only planned the first day because we knew we’d have to make it back to the car as an out and back because there was no loop. So after a bit of discussion, we figured we’d follow the trail as far west as we wanted to go and just come back to our established campsite and we’d know exactly how our third day would be. This meant that we could ride around unencumbered from our many pounds of gear. That also left us some time to chill out and make a nice camp breakfast with protein pancakes and eggs that Robyn had carried on her panniers all the way from PT! We even had some leftover salami and Babybels to put in the scramble. It felt quite luxurious for bike camping grub. This trip is easy livin’.

We didn’t make it out to the lighthouse itself but I did my best King Kong impression at the visitors center miniature. Photo by Robyn Navarro.
Railroad Bridge over the Dungeness River.

Port Angeles was about 20-25 more miles ahead and some part of me would have liked to make it that far but round trip that would definitely have been too much for a first trip of the season. I mean, I haven’t trained at all, that’s for sure. So we just went through Sequim and checked in with the Visitor’s Center there. The woman gave us several spots she thought would be scenic or fun to bike and we continued west to a high bridge over a river that was much bigger than we originally realized at Railroad Bridge Park. Then we came back through town and left the path to go north towards the Sound where she had told us there was a nice beach you could see the lighthouse from. At the end of a 5-mile spit, the lighthouse was supposed to be cool but would have taken most of the day to walk there and back…on sand…that maybe changed with the tides? It seemed way too sketch.

The wind was ferocious and we could barely see the lighthouse but we did get to see a cool old schoolhouse in the town of Dungeness and got our dinner (when we were a little over-hungry) at a cute little farm stand. We decided to have burgers and Robyn carried the frozen beef in her jersey the whole way home to defrost it. She runs hot so it worked well for her. We surprised ourselves by eating the whole pound of meat and then made tiny s’mores with mini-marshmallows over our camp stoves and Golden Grahams cereal as the cracker. We built a real fire too, which was nice on a chilly night.

Mini s’mores. Photo by Robyn Navarro.
Sunset over the bay.

Day 3

Originally we had planned this day to bike all the way back to Port Townsend and then drive home but that would be a tough thing to do in any case and in this one we knew we had to get the car jumped and that Hwy 20 would be a lot busier on a weekday than a Sunday. We opted to take the bus. It only came twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon and had 2 spots for bikes so we had all kinds of contingency scenarios worked out in our heads but it ended up being a non-issue. It was only a couple miles back to the S’Kallam center where the bus came to we even had time stop at the Longhouse Deli (also the gas station) that everyone had been raving about. It was an impressively large gas station with a nice sandwich shop, coffee stand, and really cool totem poles outside but other than that it was pretty much just a glorified rest stop. Still, I could put creamer in my coffee, which was more than I could do at camp.

As we boarded the bus and road past all the sites we had seen two days before I realized both that traffic probably would have been scarier on a weekday but also that I would be back to do more of the ODT in the future.

Trail foolin’. Photo by Robyn Navarro.

4 thoughts on “A short bike trip on the Olympic Discovery Trail

    1. I don’t think it was my most impressive trip but the mini-s’mores were fun and new and it was really good to get the season started early. It was a little cooler than at home, which was almost 90, so it was perfect for us there at 80 and below. I wanna do some of Vancouver island or maybe the San Juans this summer…

  1. Glad you’re blogging again. Sounds like a lovely trip. Tell Robyn I said thanks for all the great pictures of my kiddo!!!

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