Two fam­i­lies take the trail to Se­quim

Two fam­i­lies take a short but de­light­ful cy­cling trip on nearby Olympic Dis­cov­ery Trail

Times Colonist - - News - PA­TRI­CIA COPPARD

‘Where are you headed to­day?” the U.S. bor­der agent asks, look­ing slightly amused, as I stand in cy­cling gear hold­ing three pass­ports at the Coho ferry ter­mi­nal in Vic­to­ria.

“We’re cy­cling from Port An­ge­les to Se­quim,” I say. “No hills, right?” “Just one,” he says. “Yup, that’s what I heard.” I must pause to note here that U.S. bor­der of­fi­cials are much friend­lier than they used to be — at least to those of us cross­ing from Vic­to­ria. I even no­ticed a poster in Port An­ge­les in which bor­der au­thor­i­ties — and I’m para­phras­ing here — pledged to be re­ally nice, and to let you talk to their man­ager if they’re not.

It’s not like the old days, when they barked in­tru­sive ques­tions about your travel plans and per­sonal habits with all the warmth of a max­i­mum-se­cu­rity prison guard — as if ev­ery out­let-store-bound Cana­dian had a pocket full of heroin or planned to start dig­ging a foun­da­tion for a new home the sec­ond they crossed the bor­der. The only thing that seemed to give them a flicker of plea­sure was con­fis­cat­ing con­tra­band fruit.

Any­way, the other per­son who had told me about the one steep as­cent on our 40-kilo­me­tre Port An­ge­les-to-Se­quim bik­ing route was my ridicu­lously fit col­league Roger White, a marathoner and triath­lete who had run the trail mul­ti­ple times, prob­a­bly as a pre-break­fast work­out af­ter swim­ming across the strait.

It’s funny how when peo­ple tell you there is One Hill on your bike jour­ney, ev­ery time you have to gear down for a slight in­cline, you won­der: “Is this the one?”

Clearly, it wasn’t on the first part of the day’s ride, which was only a small por­tion of the 209-km Olympic Dis­cov­ery Trail that starts at the sea­side west of Forks and runs east to Port Townsend.

Our jump­ing-off point was in front of the Red Lion Inn in Port An­ge­les, where the trail is flat as it skirts the seafront for the first few kilo­me­tres. More than half the ODT is walk­ing/cy­cling paths cre­ated from an aban­doned rail cor­ri­dor, and much of it is paved.

On the re­cent Oc­to­ber Sat­ur­day when our group of seven ped­alled it — in­clud­ing my 10- and 12-yearold daugh­ters and our friends, with an 81⁄2 - and 11-year-old — there was al­most no one else on it, save a few dog walk­ers.

That meant the only sound as we cy­cled was waves smash­ing against the rocky shore on the left, and the hiss­ing of our tires rolling over wet yel­low leaves shed by the bank of alders that rose steeply to our right.

Even­tu­ally, the trail turned in­land, pass­ing be­hind a sub­di­vi­sion bor­dered by a fence dec­o­rated with blue and red elec­tion signs pro­mot­ing can­di­dates for judge and sher­iff (I was so busy read­ing them, I sideswiped a bol­lard, leav­ing my front brake rub­bing the tire for the next 30-odd kilo­me­tres). Then it wound be­hind small acreages un­der a mixed canopy of trees, the trail now lit­tered with huge or­ange maple leaves that made a wet slap­ping sound un­der our tires.

At that point, we started a grad­ual as­cent that seemed to go on for­ever. “Is this it?” I won­dered.

Alas, it was not, as even­tu­ally, af­ter par­al­lelling High­way 101 for a short pe­riod, we ducked back into the woods, then came to a steep de­scent to a cov­ered bridge. Ah, fi­nally: The Hill.

A drop into a ravine, then back up in a hair­pin turn (on the way back, I noted that any­one go­ing too fast to make the turn was at risk of plung­ing into the ravine, held back by only a flimsy bar­rier of a cou­ple of boards nailed to­gether. Is this why there were so few cy­clists on the trail? We peered down into the ravine look­ing for bod­ies, but saw none).

It turns out that when peo­ple say One Hill, what they mean is One Re­ally Frickin’ Big Hill. It’s not as if you never have to shift down the whole rest of the trail, alas.

Mer­ci­fully, how­ever, most of the re­main­ing jour­ney to Se­quim was through rel­a­tively flat farm­land, which of­fered a stim­u­lat­ing sound­track of roost­ers crow­ing and cows moo­ing, with the snow-capped Olympics loom­ing in the dis­tance. Mostly, it’s a paved trail, but oc­ca­sion­ally the route be­comes a bike lane at the edge of a coun­try road.

Once you get into Se­quim, how­ever, the path isn’t well marked, and I re­gret­ted not down­load­ing the trail map. At one point, the slow end of our group of seven got a bit lost and had to ask for direc­tions. The Se­quim­mers — is that what they’re called? — we met were friendly. In fact, they were so friendly that while we were ask­ing one man for direc­tions, an­other stopped his truck and called: “Need any help?”

Af­ter we all con­sulted a small map that was printed on the trail brochure we found en route, we de­ter­mined that we were only about a block off the trail, and quickly found our path, run­ning ad­ja­cent to High­way 101.

By then, a down­pour had be­gun. Af­ter fol­low­ing the trail for an­other half-hour in the pour­ing rain, we grate­fully turned left to­ward the ocean and the cabin we had rented, near the John Wayne Ma­rina. Soon, the in­te­rior of the cabin looked like a circa 1890s laun­dry. (On the com­ment sheet, in an­swer to the ques­tion: “What did you like best about the cabin?” our friends wrote: “It’s dry.”)

In the end, it had taken us about 4 1⁄2 hours to do the ride — about two hours longer than planned. That in­cluded get­ting lost, and tak­ing lots of breaks on the many long, wooden bridges that dot the route — as well as bath­room stops at the green Bill’s Plumb­ing Sanikans.

None­the­less, I was a bit con­cerned about the fol­low­ing day’s ride back to Port An­ge­les, as we had to make a 2 p.m. ferry, the last of the day.

We also had lit­tle food, since we had as­sumed we would pass a gro­cery or con­ve­nience store en route. That never hap­pened, so we were stuck with the prospect of head­ing back out into the pour­ing rain in wet shoes and jack­ets to find din­ner, or din­ing in on gra­nola bars and gummy bears.

Luck­ily, there is an ex­cel­lent — al­beit pricey for Cana­di­ans — restau­rant at the nearby John Wayne Ma­rina (named for the ac­tor, who ap­par­ently spent a lot of time in the area with his boat), and we con­sid­ered a fine din­ner there a fair re­ward for the day’s labours.

The next day, we got up early to bike back to the restau­rant in the Hol­i­day Inn Ex­press, just off the trail, and for­ti­fied our­selves for the ride ahead with a large break­fast. Partly be­cause of the carb hit from the 10-cen­time­tre-tall bis­cuits and partly out of ne­ces­sity, we made the trip back to Port An­ge­les in just three hours.

En route, as the sun came out, light­ing up the vivid yel­low, or­ange and red of the leaves over­head, my friend Sheilagh struck up a con­ver­sa­tion with a teenage boy wear­ing foot­ball gear and no hel­met as he cy­cled be­hind us. “I’m rid­ing a re­ally long way to­day,” he said. “Oh — where are you go­ing?” He named a lo­ca­tion about seven kilo­me­tres down the trail. “We’re rid­ing to Port An­ge­les,” Sheilagh said. I think he was im­pressed.


Cate Coppard-Reuten cy­cles through a farm­ing area on the por­tion of the Olympic Dis­cov­ery Trail be­tween Port An­ge­les and Se­quim.


Lucy Borth­wick, left, and Cate Coppard-Reuten on the Dun­geness River Bridge.


Cy­cling past farm fields on the Olympic Dis­cov­ery Trail from Port An­ge­les to Se­quim.

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