Hood Canal Loop: A Teen's First Tour
First, a note from Bill Chiles, Alex's dad: This is a really nice loop from Seattle that we did in August 2010, for my daughter's first taste of touring. The route is about 145 miles. We rode downtown from the Gasworks Park area, ferried to Bainbridge Island, went north around the Hood Canal, down U.S. 101, and back up to Bremerton before ferrying back to Seattle. I've done a cross-country ride and a few other tours, ranging from two nights to two weeks. I discovered the S24O [sub 24-hour overnight] concept, and I love the permission it gives you to just do something without being hung up on The Big Tour. I was SUPER psyched to turn my daughter on to touring. I'll leave the rest of the write-up to her; she did a nice account for a school project and has a route map, packing list, and description of each day. (Subsequent to this ride, Alex and I rode from Seattle to Missoula in 2011.)
My name is Alex Chiles, I am from Seattle. When I was 16, I discovered my love for cycling and, more specifically, touring. At the end of the summer of 2010, my dad and I completed a three-day tour around the Hood Canal. I got the idea of a bike tour from my dad, who did a cross-country trip when I was two years old. I had always wanted to try a tour of my own, but had never been an active cyclist. When my best friend convinced me to go on a bike ride with her, I fell in love with her very lightweight road bike (I had a heavy mountain bike at the time). I soon decided to buy a road bike, and the miles quickly accumulated. I was enjoying being on my bike, outdoors, away from all the city-related stress, pedaling through the countryside with a breeze blowing though my helmet's cracks and the warm sun shining down on my back. I discovered that I truly loved cycling. Once I got into cycling, I wanted a larger goal to work towards, a tour. And thus the planning began.
TRAINING: I bought my first road bike in early April of 2010; this is when my first official training started. (I eventually replaced the road bike with a Trek 520 touring bike.) My dad and I ramped up our endurance throughout the summer. We went on one long ride on the weekends, building up to 75 miles in one day, and one or two shorter mid-week rides. All combined, I rode approximately 1,000 miles before the tour itself. The trip planning was a big process.
PACKING LIST: I dug out my dad's old books on touring and borrowed some newer books from the library. I compiled packing lists from multiple books, creating one extensive list. Next, I talked to my dad and posted questions on a touring discussion forum to learn what items we most likely could do without. I reduced the large packing list to a shorter one, more suitable for a three-day tour.
THE ROUTE: Planning the route was quite a process. I started with the book Bicycling the Pacific Coast. This book had good information about campsites on the Hood Canal, road descriptions, and general touring information. It also outlined a tour going down the Pacific Coast, which had a segment around the Hood Canal. I used this as my basic route, but changed it slightly. I used Google Maps to look more specifically at the roads, making sure there was a somewhat decent shoulder. Next, I mapped the route on a topographic computer program called Delorme Topo. This allowed me to see an elevation profile of the route. I divided our trip into three daylong segments and found campgrounds to sleep at. The planning was finally done.
THE RIDE: The trip itself was an amazing adventure. From my first freezing cold shower to washing laundry in the Hood Canal (with biodegradable soap!), to realizing that one of our planned campsites was closed, this trip was a great adventure. When we left our house with 45 pounds of gear on each of our bikes, I questioned whether we could finish the tour. The first 30 miles went by quickly. We were excited, enthusiastic, and energetic. When we rolled into Quilcene, a small town with our first campsite, we were surprised to hear that the campground had closed. The townsfolk said the next campsite was "a mile or two" up Mount Walker. However, we learned that this campsite had no running water, so we bought a gallon or two of before leaving town and pedaling on. We headed uphill with the extra weight of the water. We got five miles before my dad made us stop and call Mom to see if she could look up where the next campsite was. As it turned out, it was just around the bend.
The next day, we continued up the mountain. That night, we rolled into Potlatch Campground. This is where I had my ice-cold shower. The third and final day was hard due to fatigue. We started with a very strong headwind, but luckily when we rounded the bottom of Hood Canal, the headwind dissipated. We pushed on, making it home in time for dinner. We had the time of our lives, but were completely exhausted.
Tip for this adventure: The campground in Quilcene is closed indefinitely, so you have to ride five miles up Mt. Walker to a very nice campground with an overlook -- but you need to haul all your water for cooking and cleaning up the hill. You might call ahead to reserve the Potlatch Campground if it is a peak weekend or hot weather.