Vancouver to San Francisco Tour 2016 – A Cycle Tour by someone who’s never cycle toured before – Day 3 – Victoria to Lake Crescent, WA

I left Canada for to the USA. There are 2 main ways to negotiate Washington (from the book). One was the Inland route (East of the Olympic Mountains), and the other was being the Peninsula route (West of the Olympic Mountains). You can summarise this by either the Dry (inland) or Wet (peninsula) way. I chose ‘wet’ because I thought the rain forest would be pretty.

I rose early to catch an 8 am ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, WA. I managed to negotiate border control fine (easier than getting in to Canada!) and actually this was one of my more pleasant experiences. They even had some fun . . . “That visa is $360 for you today Sir. How would you like to say for that?”.

” Err with a ‘jog on'”

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And there was lift-off

As we left the harbour we were flanked by some sea planes taking off. It was a hive of activity at 8 am but it was just pretty cool. The further we got from Victoria of course the quieter it got. We turned the corner and this is when I had the first look at the Olympic Mountains. They were absolutely incredible. Far more interesting than Dover – Calais! Although pretty chilly, this is where I spent most of my time for the crossing. Leaning on the front of the ferry, taking in the views. 

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Looking over to the Olympic National Park, Washington, whilst sailing on the Straight of Juan de Fuca

Whilst waiting to offload the ferry I met Paul and his brother-in-law John (aka. Oz). Paul was from Oregon and John, Washington. We of course had to start talking to each other – they were two other guys with packs on their bike! The conversation went mostly like “Where are you coming from” and “Where are you going”? After finding these answers we discover that we are all going the same way and even to the same camp ground. Armed with this knowledge (and knowing they are locals) I coyly ask them if I can ride. They gladly accept. Unknown to me, they would become my riding partners for the next 6 days. 

Jon took it upon himself to lead us as he had all the maps. This was the first time of the trip that we deviated from what I had in the book. This made me a little nervous to start but what was the first that could happen? The first turn took us in the wrong direction. Turning around we were back on track as we took West Hill Street – It certainly was a hill! This was also the first sign that I saw for Tsunamis (My mum was worried about this trip as she saw a documentary on San Francisco and the earthquakes. Little did she know of the terror that lies along the whole coast line!). You only get signs for Tractors in England.

The three of us got to know each other through the morning following the usual chat; work, home, “why are we riding the west coast?”, “Oh, you have a Surly too?”. I began to like these guys very quickly.

We followed the cycle path  out of town which led us over the Elwah River and into the Forest of Douglas Fir. We decided the join the Straight of Juan de Fuca highway rather than the Highway 101. The thinking behind this, one that was replicated over the whole trip, was that the quieter the road, the better (and safer!). This was true on this stretch for the RV’s however we still managed to attract the logging trucks. I have to admit, they were generally good drivers. They gave us plenty of distance when over taking and just very careful… Unlike those RV drivers and some cars. Plus the smell of Cedar was pretty good.

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Cycling over the Elwah River

It was noticeable what the main industry of the area was. Not only the logging trucks, but the number of clearings that you would come across. Suddenly the forest would stop to have huge clearings of tree stumps. It was pretty sad and brings you back to reality with a slap that you’re not really that far from the impact of people.

It was approaching lunch time. We had penciled down that we should get to Joyce for our afternoon break and food stop. Now, this was a real introduction for North American Distances. I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting of Joyce, but the further we cycled, I started to wonder “have we missed it?”. I mean, how could we miss it, it’s got pretty big letters on the map so it must have SOMETHING there. We hadn’t missed it. We came across a fire station . . . and then the General Store. This turned out to be Joyce. We had cycled maybe 20 Miles and the only thing we saw was a General Store with one gas pump. There would be more distance ahead with just as little. Inside, there were a hodgepodge of products from tinned meats & vegetables to hammers and sand paper. It did feel like it had one of everything and had the character I would expect to get from a rural shop. The only thing it didn’t really have was fresh produce. Here we met another cyclist, who Jon got chatting to. They were discussing possible routes for us to get to the campsite. As it turns out this guy was the chairman/secretary of the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT). He knew the area inside out and gave us some good advice where we needed to go. 

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Joyce General Store, WA

We took the ODT towards Lake Creasent, and took the Easterly route as the ODT wasn’t complete for the Westerly route. The hills were rolling and there were some good switchbacks but then we got down to the lakeside and what a view. Lake a trees – that is all you saw.

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Just arriving at Lake Crescent

We stopped at the lake so that Jon could change his tire. He had a flat. We hugged the lake around until we joined the 101. With the 101 came the RV’s and cars. The shoulder was pretty tight in places but there were many passing areas where we would pull in to let traffic pass. We didn’t mind taking it slow because it was just beautiful. The rain forest began to live up to it’s name as it started to drizzle. The road was wet so we become a little more careful on those fast downhill parts and sharp corners – even if we were keen to get to camp before it started to get heavier. On the map, the lake didn’t seem so big . . . but as it turned out, it really was. One’s judgement of size and scale are really put into perspective when you are on a bike. You feel the hills and distances so much more, especially when you’e been cycling all day. It looked like it had been raining for the last few days as the ground was pretty saturated and as the rain got a little heavier we had no choice but to pitch up in some wet squidgy ground. Because we were under trees, we had protection from the clouds but the rain would collect on the branches and leaves to deposit in some nice big dollops. There was no cover in camp so we had to cook in the driest spot we could find, which wasn’t that dry.

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Oz (left) and Paul fixing that puncture

We saw some latecomers trickle into camp as we were cooking – a couple we recognised from the ferry, and two other guys . . . We would see them later on the trip. Soon enough it was bed time. I was ready for a peaceful sleep.

  • Find the route HERE

Cheers, Scott

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