Hurricane Ridge by bike!

Yesterday was a beautiful, fabulous day on the bike! Spoiler alert: the climb to Hurricane Ridge (and the descent) is spectacular!

In the morning, I popped out of bed much earlier than I otherwise would have been inclined to, loaded up the car, and hit the road. A ferry ride and some scenic driving later, I was parked next to the water in Port Angeles. I figured if I was going to do this, I was going to start at sea level and get credit for every inch of elevation that I could…

Over the few days previous, I had obsessively read as many accounts of this climb as I could find (when nervous and/or faced with a new situation, I deal with my anxiety by what some might call over-preparation…) so I knew that the steepest part was in the beginning. That said, my bike computer never showed greater than 9%, and usually less than that. While 7-9% is nothing to sneeze at, it’s nothing like some of the vertical walls I’ve been making myself go up. I wasn’t competing to set a landspeed record, so I climbed at a pretty relaxed tempo, and still had a few gears in reserve.

Once out of Port Angeles, the road is shoulderless chipseal. Not great on paper, but the road is really wide, so cars can pass with tons of room, and right now the chipseal is worn enough that it’s relatively smooth. Still, there is some effort involved in biking uphill on a rough surface.

Then the miracles start (angels singing and all). First the slope lessens noticeably–after the previous couple miles of effort, I suddenly felt like Superman on a bike. Then you enter the National Park ($5 for a bike, an amazing deal) and the road surface turns buttery smooth. Double Superman on a bike!

From there the climb never quite gets as steep as the first part, and even almost levels off a couple times. But it’s pretty much relentlessly upwards–if your legs aren’t moving, neither is your bike.

And so why go to all this effort? Because it’s fascinating and gorgeous! At first you’re surrounded by lush woods–the air is so fresh and rich that it’s a taste more than a smell. Then you climb enough that the ecosystem changes–the trees thin out, the vegetation goes from moss and ferns to wildflowers, and the views start to open up.

A few flowers, and a little bit of the view

A few flowers, and a little bit of the view

I started to feel sorry for the people going by me in cars, because I was enjoying the climb so much. I was torn between wanting to get to the top and have that sense of accomplishment, and wanting the climb not to end. Of course it did end, I did get to the top, but by the time I did, my cheeks hurt from smiling.

19 miles uphill, over 5,000 feet of steady elevation gain, and I very much enjoyed the most delicious chocolate milk and hot dog that I have ever had. Thanks, Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center!

Proof that I made it!

Proof that I made it!

View from the Visitor Center

View from the Visitor Center

More view from the Visitor Center

More view from the Visitor Center

The descent was pretty great too–though I was very glad for the extra clothing that I had brought. The corollary of a not-too-steep ascent is not needing to touch the brakes on the way back down (unless you’re stopping to take photos, and then stopping again to, on second thought, go ahead and put on that wool cap you brought. And then stopping again for more photos.) There’s not as much admiring of the scenery on the way down–it’s a little more necessary to focus on the road–but that’s the part where you can convince yourself that you can fly, because that’s what it feels like.

Partway down, and you can see out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Partway down, and you can see out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Next weekend is the Ride the Hurricane event, where for part of the day, the road is closed to cars, and bicyclists have it to themselves. I’m thinking of going back for this, both because I really enjoyed the climb, and because once you’re out of the urban environment, you really notice how much noise cars make. My audio progress uphill was something like “birds, insects, wind–oh, I can hear a car way down the road that will eventually pass me–ahh, quiet again, birds, insects, wind.”

At any rate, for a ride that I was expecting to be a challenge, it definitely was, but it was also a lot easier than I had anticipated. This was partly because the slope is never viciously steep, partly because I wasn’t pushing to be fast (and the relative gentleness of the slope allowed me to pedal easily), and partly because it was such a rewarding environment to get to spend a couple hours admiring. The climb never felt dreary, or like I just wanted it to be done, as there was always something to enjoy.

So maybe next weekend (I’m not ashamed to be a delicate princess about the weather…) or maybe some other time, but it’s definitely a ride I want to do again.

A few more photos:

Trees

The really good patches of wildflowers were not next to road pullouts, so this will have to do.

The really good patches of wildflowers weren’t next to road pullouts, so this will have to do.

Another not-great photo of wildflowers that were pretty great.

Another not-great photo of wildflowers that were pretty great.

More from the Visitor Center

More from the Visitor Center

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6 thoughts on “Hurricane Ridge by bike!

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