(2007) Quilcene

Friends, Forest Roads and Fun

Time to get out and find some new roads! And what better way to do that than to hook up with some old, new and long-missed friends?

May 13, 2007
Total Miles: 268 miles, 1 day
Seattle, WA to Quilcene, WA
Map Link (I’m really guessing at this route)

My friend Chris from Olympia and I were planning on exploring a bit of mud last weekend and had decided to head for the Hood Canal on the Olympic Peninsula. The plan started out as a weekend ride with camping tossed in for the night. But then the First Plan changed and Chris said that he would not be able to camp, so I figured that perhaps I would stay and camp after our ride. But then The Plan changed yet again and Chris I would hook up with two other guys, Doug and Steve from Victoria, BC. We would ride around Saturday and then I would then camp with Doug and Steve after Chris went home that night. The next day Doug and Steve would continue south on their weeklong tour and I would go home. Finally! A Plan had been made!

I caught the 8:35 ferry out of Fauntleroy, a mere 2.5 mile from my house. The KLR was packed with some camping gear and some items that I had picked up for the Canadian visitors. I found out soon enough that I would have to make some adjustments to my packing system if I was going to seriously enjoy off-roading, but that was one of the reasons for this ride: it was a test of my equipment and my packing abilities. And my abilities were failing me. Good thing I didn’t have far to go!

While on the ferry I struck up a conversation with a Buell rider named James. I should say that he struck up the conversation with me, but that’s neither here nor there. But we were both surprised when we found that we both are friends with the guy who turbo’d his dirt bike. Not too many turbo’d dirt bikes in Seattle so as soon as he mentioned the bike, I knew it had to by Ryan’s. We laughed at that and soon enough the ferry had docked at Southworth and it was time to go. James had wanted a picture of me with my bike for a website he posts to and I said that I’d be stopping at the store at the end of the block to meet Chris and that would be a good place for it. Chris was standing by his bike when we pulled up, the photo was taken and Chris and I were ready to go find some dirt roads!

I keep hearing about Gold Mountain and the dirt roads that it affords, but I had yet to find it. When I brought my friend Carolyn here in January we rode around in vain looking for this area. We eventually gave up and headed for Tahuya. It took a little longer, but Chris and I suffered the same fate. We found a trail head but there were signs plastered all over the place, most of them proclaiming that this area was closed to motorized vehicles. We searched out another possibility but came up empty-handed yet again. I looked at Chris and said “Well, there’s always Tahuya!”.

So we arrive in Tahuya and I lead him to the wide, gentle jeep trails where I took Carolyn five months ago. The trails were drier and the air warmer but there was still quite a bit of mud on them. We exhausted the trails that I had previously explored with Carolyn and I suggested that Chris take the lead, going at his own pace and route. And he left me behind.

He zipped up hillsides, over rocks and roots, through mud and around trees. I lost him in the corners and would see his taillight flash through the branches. I caught up to him only because he stopped to wait. Chris had tricked me. When planning this ride he told me that he had very little experience taking his KLR out on the dirt. Silly me interpreted that as saying “I don’t know how to ride on the dirt”. What he meant was “I kick butt riding in the dirt; I’ve just never done it on this bike”.

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Chris’ 2006 KLR

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My 2000 KLR

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Waiting to cross the first puddle of the day

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But not ready for these mud bogs!

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Mud and roots everywhere

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Climbing up to drier ground

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Almost out of the woods

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Chris looked quite dashing as he stood there, arm rakishly propped up on the bike, bottle of water in hand, looking into the distance while his trusty steed stood ready

Eventually we ran out of time and trails. We were to meet Doug and Steve in Quilcene, some 70 miles north of us and it was time to go. We skirted the edge of the eastern arm of the Hood Canal before looping around to the southern side. I had heard of a road that followed the ridgeline instead of the slower shoreline and decided that we had time for a little detour. Chris must have wondered what I was up to as I turned off Rt 106 and onto some small back road. But instead of paralleling the shore, this road went south, the complete opposite way that we needed to go. I kept riding because I was so sure that somewhere, somehow, a road would appear that would take us west and allow us to join up with Rt 101. I was wrong. We kept rolling through unremarkable countryside until the road spit us out near Shelton. Chris never said a word to me about this, so I can only imagine what he must have been thinking during my wild goose chase.

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Meeting up in Quilcene. Two KLRs, one GS1150 and a KTM 950, all ready to ride into the sunset. Or at least for the afternoon.

Our ride up 101 to Quilcene was a fun one. The road closely follows the shoreline, with its dips and rises and dives away from the water. Traffic was minimal with only the occasional RV to be dispatched and there was no evidence of revenue generators in the area. I kept up a lively pace, my GPS counting down the miles to our destination. Chris pulled up next to me and motioned towards his watch. “Are we on time?” he was asking me. I checked the GSP – we had 30 miles to go and would be rolling in 4 minutes late. Not too bad considering my detour.

The sun was out and the temperatures were warming up slightly. Not too hot, not too cold; it was a beautiful day for a ride. The last few miles into Quilcene were marred by some slow cars that I couldn’t get around due to the curves in the road, which made being trapped behind traffic all that much more unbearable. But I was soon put out of my misery by the sight of our rendezvous point: The Loggers Landing restaurant. There were three bikes out front, two of which obviously belonged to our friends by the way they were packed for adventure.

Perfect timing, Doug and Steve were returning from the local ATM machine just as Chris and I were taking our gear off. We found a table in the back patio and sat in the sunshine. I was excited because Doug had brought some BC Back Roads map books for me, Doug was excited because I had picked up a tent for him and Steve was excited because I had brought him a jacket he had bought online. It was like Christmas! Lunch was eventually served and we passed almost two hours of time talking about maps, gear, routes and bikes, among other things. But dirt roads awaited us and it was time to go. We paid our bill and geared up.

Not to be fooled twice, once I heard that Chris was familiar with the forest service roads of this area I put him in charge of leading. Just a few miles south of Quilcene he pulled off onto FS 2620. He did not fail in his quest for excellent roads and adventure. In fact, he once again outdid himself as he deftly negotiated barely-marked turnoffs and taking us over berms intended to keep vehicles off of unmaintained roads. The roads started out in excellent shape with occasional debris from the winter’s winds still on the surface. Any large trees that had blocked the road had already been cut and cleared and our wheels crushed the bark further into the dirt. Chris kept up a lively pace while Doug, Steve and I followed happily. The sky wasn’t exactly blue, but we were enjoying some bright sunshine and comfortable temperatures. Dust was minimal through this section and we saw only two other vehicles, both of which were pulled over to admire a waterfall.

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FS 2620

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Up and up we go!

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Excellent roads

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An easy fallen tree to navigate

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Steve and his new KTM 950

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Miles and miles of roads to explore

Stopping to check out the view

Not enough time to make the run up to the lookout

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Another Forest Service road, at your service

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View of a road we didn’t take

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The road gained steadily and almost imperceptibly, but the increasing views as we came around corners belied just how high we were climbing. At one of those vague “which-way-do-I-go” junctions Chris mentioned that around the next bend on the trail we weren’t taking there would be a nice view of Hood Canal. Always looking for nice views I agreed that we should check it out. I was rewarded with a view of Hood Canal as well a glimpse of Puget Sound in the distance (which of course did not come out in the photos I took). The road continued, but we did not. I snapped some pictures of the spring wildflowers, of the bikes and of the view and then we were went back to the junction and were on our way once again.

View of Hood Canal – this photo doesn’t show Puget Sound as I could see it that day in the distance.

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Springtime flowers at the edge of the road

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Steve checks out the view (and the drop)

Chris knows these roads so well he didn’t even hesitate to ride over the berm of rocks that some thoughtful work crew had dumped across the road in an attempt to thwart anyone from continuing on. The roadway had been damaged and it had been deemed impassable. But that meant nothing to Chris. He passed right over that berm and around the bend. Doug easily navigated his GS over it and then I scooted over the rocks on my KLR. I watched Steve in my mirrors as he picked his line and rode the KTM over as well. The KTM was new to Steve, having picked it up a matter of weeks before this trip. But he was no stranger to dirt and his riding thus far had melded fine with the rest of the group. Until now…

Around that first bend lay a couple of surprises. The first one was a large tree, neatly creating a triangle of space beneath it as it hung down from the hillside. A small ditch ran along the side of the road providing a bit of space to ride under, which Chris promptly did. But I watched him and the loose soil and didn’t like the looks of it. Instead I watched Doug duck ever-so-careful under the tree on his big GS. He paddled the bike under the tree, but just barely. I figured that if his GS could do it than my little KLR could do it. And I did, but just barely.

Doug had pulled aside to wait for Steve and I kept on riding to where Chris was waiting at the next bend – on the other side of a talus field. Quite a few rocks had slide down and covered the roadway, leaving a slight flat area where others before us had packed the rocks down. But not packed tight enough that they didn’t wiggle around under my tires and give me a hard time getting over them. But I made it (only stalled out once) and then parked the bike to await Doug and Steve. That’s when I saw Doug walking back towards Steve (who was now out of sight) and I knew that Steve’s bike would be on its side. And I was right.

A couple of well-placed shoves brought the KTM out of the ditch and eventually through the rubble. We all blamed the problems on the poor tires of the KTM, as we were sure that Steve could have ridden a better shod bike though there with no problems. And now we were off to continue our adventures!

Oops. The first fall for the new bike.

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Chris and Doug helped get the bike out of the ditch. I took photos.

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Followed by a nasty rocky landslide

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Not much of the road is left

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Steve makes his way through the rocks

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Our reward for getting through the tricky spots

The rest of the ride was fast. The roads were strewn with rubble and boulders but they were for the most part easy to get around. There was one more tree across the road but it had been kind enough to fall in such a way that it was possible to ride around it instead of under it. Then the roads really opened up and we were coming down from the mountains. Bit by bit the view diminished, dropping down from lofty height, down into dense dark foliage and then through the fresh spring green of deciduous new growth. The dirt road ended unceremoniously just outside of Brinnon back on 101, just 4.5 miles south of where we had left the highway.

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Lake Cushman

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Heading back down to earth (and pavement)

We kept going south some more before one more attempt at the mountain roads. This time flying up on the paved road to Hamma Hamma campgrounds, we leaned our bikes gracefully into the clean and empty corners of the mountains. We rose up higher, reversing the descent we had just enjoyed from FS 2620. A few miles later we took a turnoff and crossed a bridge. I had been here before the previous autumn when scouting out fall colors so I was pleased to be on roads that I knew, and knew were good ones. But once again Chris’ knowledge shined as he took us on a detour that added miles and smiles to our route. I had no idea there were so many good roads available!

But to all good things there must be an end. Our detour only lasted so long before we were once again on pavement, this time in the hamlet of Hoodsport. We gassed up and said our farewells. Chris would be heading south to home, while the three of us would return to Seattle, changing plans yet again and negating any thought of camping. It had been a great day but the sky was clouding up and the temperature was dropping. Maybe it wasn’t such a pleasant night to camp after all.

Tell me what you think! I want to know!