A Five Day Detour: From Coast, Through Mountains, Across Rain Forest

A green cross is where you buy marijuana legally.

A green cross is where you buy marijuana legally.

This past week has solidified my love for bike travel, despite the odds. My first two days out of Portland made me skeptical of whether I should trust anyone in Washington. Every car I heard rattling down the highway seemed to be at least 20 years old. I saw a lot of single white dudes with long beards in cars stopped on the side of the road next to other single white dudes with beards in cars (which, in my mind, reads as a drug deal). I saw very few women, no people of color, and few families with children. The riding was easy and uneventful, but for some reason I felt uneasy about the humans around me. I also heard a lot of country music playing everywhere, and an unidentifiable accent that was a mix of Midwestern and redneck.

Then I reached Elma. Elma is a tiny town. There is no grocery store. There is no coffee shop. There is a Visitor Information stand which has Wifi and is open from 10 AM – 2 PM. The Visitor Information stand also has the only gas station in town. A kind woman there handed me lots of brochures, let me use the internet, and helped me figure out where the next few days of biking around the Olympic Peninsula would lead. In that little red visitor’s stand, I realized that I would have to ride about 65 more miles to get to the next campground. I got on my bike with vague aspirations of riding 65 more miles (yeah, right). After 20 miles of ugly highway, I reached Aberdeen.

Aberdeen is the hometown of Kurt Cobain. More importantly, it has the first Dairy Queen I have ever entered, where I consumed my first ‘Blizzard.’ (Yes, I even asked the cashier what a ‘Blizzard’ is.) When I got back on my bike, I felt like a superhero. In the pouring rain, I proceeded to ride another 45 miles to the campground. When I got

Perfectly clear reflections off of Lake Quinault... unfortunately, covered with milky white clouds. Here was my first Olympic campground.

Perfectly clear reflections off of Lake Quinault… unfortunately, covered with milky white clouds. Here was my first Olympic campground.

there, I turned on my phone and realized it was 8 PM. It was still light out. I washed my bike shorts (which I don’t usually do), confused by how I possibly could have made it. I cooked dinner. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and almost yelled with joy. It had rained all day and I had ridden 78 miles; one of my longest days yet for the second day in a row. It was the kind of day that is the epitome of why I love bicycle travel. I don’t know where I’m going to end up, but I know getting there is going to be epic. I will push the limits of what I think is possible without

even realizing it. I will casually accomplish more than I have ever done before. At the end of the day, no one will be there to celebrate me except myself, and that’s the only celebration that I need. There’s no guarantee that I will make it where I want to by the end of the day, so when I do, it’s like all of the little cheerleaders in my mind are ecstatically waving and screaming in recognition.

I set up camp and slept for 14 hours.

Because here’s the great thing: when traveling solo, if I had a hard day, I can just sleep in. Heck, I can take a whole day off if I want. Instead, I leisurely cooked breakfast over a fire that I (me!) started in the rain and went on a nature walk through the rain forest. (Casually.) Then I biked around 30 miles to Kalaloch Campground. It is one of the sections of coast on the Olympic Peninsula, and it is, to me, the most beautiful beach I have seen on the Pacific Coast.

Oregon and Washington 290With my skepticism held at bay, I have been astounded by the beauty Washington’s Olympic Peninsula has yielded. Forests on top of coasts, whose trees fall into the ocean and return as bleach-white driftwood logs. Glacial lakes with water filled with so many blues and turquoises and greens that I actually don’t believe what I’m seeing. (I constantly do double takes, take my sunglasses off, and attempt to capture the colors of the water with my feeble camera and even feebler mind.) Rivers that reflect the deep greens of the forest around them. Trees that stand on stilts because the ‘nurse logs’ that they once grew atop have fully decomposed. Layers and layers and layers of mosses and ferns in the rainforest. I had high expectations for the Olympic Peninsula, and damn. I have not been disappointed.

I don't know if this counts as a nurse "log"...more like a nurse stump. But that industrious tree is making due!

I don’t know if this counts as a nurse “log”…more like a nurse stump. But that industrious tree is making due!

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