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.
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!
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.
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: