PNW Bikepacking--Part 1
Day One, Victoria BC
I've been trying to figure out the best way to structure my writing about this experience. It's so loaded with doings and feelings! I laughingly told a friend halfway through that I felt like this was a micro Eat, Pray, Love....Hitchhike, Nervous Breakdown, Eat, Pray Some More kind of thing.
My first day entailed the actual getting to Victoria. I had previously used FedEx to ship my bike to Broad Street Cycles, a local bike shop I found on Google (great customer service btw). I called before hand to confirm details and arrange for them to trade out my tires for Schwalbe Marathons (a fantastic choice!). One of my biggest concerns was getting through airport security with all of my camping gear (I was so scared to check it and then it would get lost and where would I sleep and all the money 😩 to replace my gear...#catastrophizing). I will grant you the gift that I had to wait hours for and let you know right off that it all makes it through just fine.
This trip was initially going to be longer and originally I was going to spend more time cycling around Vancouver and San Juan Islands. But by the time I arrived, I was short on time and already antsy to begin the actual biking south. I also decided to make Olympic National Park a priority. So, I wandered around the city, picked up my bike and used the interwebs to create a rough plan for daily mileage goals. If you feel panicked at this lack of detailed preparation prior to arrival, brace yourself--it's kind of my style.
It was here at my hostel that I found the love part of this Eat, Pray, Love journey. Ok so....maybe "love" is an exaggeration. What I found was actually an attempted blind date set up. Given my illustrious dating history, this sounds good right? Haha just you wait. Random as random can be, I met a Mormon woman in her 50's who just happened to have served a mission in St George in the 1980s and just happened to be staying at my hostel. She said she had a friend in Utah she thought I would be perfect for (an age appropriate friend even). She was complimenting my adventurous spirit of course but per my Facebook evaluation of this gentleman I deduced he was of the "Provo Bro" variety. Tragically this is where the love part of the story ends, for both geography and my own self respect prevent me from fraternizing with the bros of Utah county. But still a comical coincidence.
All jokes aside, this was a pretty nerve wracking day. So many thoughts of self doubt we're running through my head. I wasn't sure I could do it. I mean I told myself I could but deep down there were some well-primed seeds of self doubt. My sleep was restless.
Day Two, Victoria to Heart O' the Hills
I woke up early to assemble all of my gear and prep my bike. Honestly, this was my first real, fully-loaded dress rehearsal (remember I warned you I fly by the seat of my pants?). I was scared I would chicken out if I tested stuff out before I left home...better to be committed by circumstance and by giving myself no way out but through the hard.
Today was my first thrill of genuine excitement. It was still dark when I left for the ferry. On my way, I passed the parliament building and it was all lit up like Christmas. It was so beautiful! I got this rush of adrenaline. I was on my bike. I was doing this!
That five minute ride was pretty taxing so I was looking forward to napping on the ferry. Instead I talked to this lady and explained I was going to ride up Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park. She gave me this face 😳, which was naturally very reassuring.
Long story short I make back into the US and start pedaling away (yay for having cell service/GPS back!). Good grief I was already winded. This was not a good sign. When I reached the Hurricane Ridge road I began to realize why 😳 is definitely an appropriate response. It's seriously like riding up Foremaster hill in St. George. But it never ends. After 7 miles walking/biking/hobbling up that hill, 😳 became this 😩 and then this 😭. I thought "there is no way I can do this all the way to Oregon."
Then I really came undone. I started wearing socks with sandals and personalizing mile-marker signs, calling them condescending sons of...seabreeze. When I saw the sign for Heart O' the Hills campground I sighed a sweet breath of relief. I panted. I panted a sweet breath of relief. No way I was going 12miles up that road! I gave myself permission to opt out of this side trip. But guys, it was ok because the campsite was BEAUTIFUL. The was forest all dewy and misty. My first picturesque, Pacific Northwest moment. It was magic. I pitched my tent and took a long nap while it rained.
The campsites here have metal lockers to store food so bears don't eat you or your food or your tent. Because bears are a real thing here. I kind of wanted to see one until I had flashbacks from the Revenant. I just don't have the necessary willpower to Leo DiCaprio my way out of a bear attack. Lucky for me these storage lockers not only protected my foods but also contained a beautiful gift.
Airport security may have allowed my tent poles, but I was pretty sure they wouldn't allow an MSR fuel canister on board...And I definitely did not get one before heading up the mountain (oops). But a Good Samaritan left extras behind in the food locker. I was so excited! This fuel literally lasted my whole trip and I was able to pay it forward to another group of cyclists on my last day. Hot eats tonight baby!
Day Three, Port Angeles to Lake Crescent
It took me about two hours to pack up my stuff and reload my bike. As a side note, if your tent is SOAKED, the bathroom hand dryer will take care of most of your issue--hand dryer also works for damp clothing and also if you're cold.
Today's plan was to get from Heart O' the Hills campground near Port Angeles to Fairholme campground near Lake Crescent. It was my first real test. Yesterday's low mileage just inflamed all of my fears about being inadequate. I couldn't even post to social media because I was afraid of public failure. I HAD to know I could do an actual planned mileage.
It is kind of annoying that what took me hours to cover yesterday only took about 15 minutes to cover thanks to gravity. But, I started to feel like I might really be capable and man was it a gorgeous ride. I mean 22 miles never felt so long but I was so glad for 1) downhill parts 2) level parts 3) that I wasn't mowed down by truckers. (Parents and protective family members skip the following).
Can I just say oh my scarrrryyy!!!! The shoulder by Lake Crescent was tiny mctinykins! And the truckers were the worst. Strike that. Two ONCOMING truckers thundering down the road were the most frightening. They came like 2 inches from me I swear! Then the gust of wind after they passed would almost blow me over. Obviously, I was praying all the way through this section. (Maybe that's the "Pray" of this Eat, Pray, Love thing?). At last, I hobbled into Fairholme campground around 3 and set up my tent. Tomorrow's plan held 13 additional miles and I was even more scared and insecure given current levels of exhaustion.
BUT angels decided to camp here! I had to walk through by their campsite to reach the food lockers and I asked about stops along the way to Forks and if the road became a two lane highway. They said yes to the road but that it was pretty bleak on the food front as there were very few if any gas stations/convenience stores in that direction (until Forks). Food was a bit of a challenge because I didn't want to overpack and have a lot of extra weight. But I wasn't expecting there to be no convenience stores either. And it took me a long time with going mostly downhill today so I was afraid that tomorrow would take me all day to reach Forks.
Then the guy is like "we have TONS of food here!" and starts handing me stuff out of his car. I was embarrassed but too scared of not having enough tomorrow to reject it. We started chatting and it turns out his wife went to BYU for a bit. They love St George. The wife gave me her cell number in case I ran into trouble on the road. I felt so taken care of and much less worried about facing tomorrow. I almost cried with relief at their kindness and friendliness. Still nervous about tomorrow but anxiety was interrupted by gratitude.