Author: Mike Hassur
The road to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center in Olympic National Park takes you 17 miles south of and 5,000 feet above Port Angeles, WA. It is listed as one of the 100 Toughest Cycling Climbs in America.
|Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center...|
About mid-week of last week, I received an email from Les Becker asking if I would be interested in doing a ride up Hurricane Ridge on Sunday. I had been planning to do Hurricane Ridge all summer. I was hoping to do it in September as I wanted to be in really good shape (the goal being to have the best time in my age group on the Strava Segment which encompassed the entire climb). Having the opportunity to do it with someone else – particularly someone like Les who rode about the same speed as me – was too good to pass up. I said “sure – I’m in”.
By the time Sunday arrived, Conor Collins had also committed to do the ride with us. On Sunday morning I met Conor in front of my house, loaded his bike in my van, and we were headed to our meeting point with Les by 5:00 AM. We were to meet Les at a “Park and Ride” near the Narrows Bridge at around 5:30 AM. We were a little early, and – by 5:30 – Les was pulling into the parking lot. We were delighted to see that Dwaine Trummert was with Les. All of a sudden the little duo of Les and me had doubled in size – this was sizing up to be a fun ride!!
The weather was perfect (cloudless sky and temperature in the 50’s), and the drive to Port Angeles was uneventful. We parked at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles, hit the bathroom, got our gear ready, and were heading up the 17.6 mile climb by 7:45 PM. We had decided that our goal was to ride together “briskly” and to maintain that as long as it was acceptable to everyone in the group. If someone wanted to “take off”, that was fine. By the time we arrived at the Ranger Station (a little over 4 miles into the climb), we were warmed up and feeling good. There was a line of cars waiting to enter the park which had the potential to cost us considerable time. Luckily, a second Park Ranger appeared. He checked my National Park Pass and waved us all through. We had lost a full minute regarding our Strava Segment time, but it could have been far worse.
Because of our early start, there was very little traffic. The temperature was still around 60 degrees, and we climbed steadily at a good pace. Conor could have easily left us at any point of this ride, but he chose to stay with the group for most of the ride (also, he chose to goad me about the seconds that I was losing by not riding as fast as he thought I should – I’m going to miss Conor when he leaves for college next month).
At about the 12 mile mark, I noticed that I was beginning to have beads of perspiration running down my face. It had warmed up some, but it was not hot (probably in the low 60’s). I had chosen to wear a Cyclopath cycling cap under my helmet (really helps to cut the glare on sunny days) and that was probably contributing to my head “heating up”; but the MAIN reason for those beads of sweat was exertion. At about this same time, I started to have trouble keeping pace with the rest of the group – NOT GOOD. I whipped out my Clif Mocha Gel Shot, sucked it down, and drank some Power Aid. Soon, I was feeling better and able to maintain the group pace pretty easily.
While I my “mini-crisis” was occurring, the rest of the group looked good and seemed to be moving up the mountain easily. This is a beautiful climb with stunning views of Vancouver Island, the Straights of Juan De Fuca, Port Angeles, and the Olympic Mountains. Unfortunately, we were so focused on the work at hand that we missed all of the grandeur (at least I did) until we reached the top.
Between 14 and 15 miles into the climb, Conor decided to pick up the pace a bit. He took off and was not seen again until we reached the top. Dwaine was riding very strongly; and, soon, he was off on his own as well. Les and I continued at our respective paces and made it to the top feeling good about our efforts. Conor did the climb in 1:42 (1 hour 42 minutes), Dwaine was 1:48, and Les and I were around 1:50 (not accounting for the minute that we lost at the Ranger Station). If Les and Dwaine had ridden on their own the whole way, I’m confident that Conor would have been in the 1:20’s and Dwaine in the 1:30’s.
|View from Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center...|
The view at the top was spectacular – as usual. We took a photo or two, refilled water bottles, ate, and visited with other cyclists who trickled in after us.
|Visiting with Lhaslo (?spelling?) who arrived shortly after us... he took the ferry over from Victoria to do the climb...|
The ride down was fun though we got stuck behind an SUV right at the top and had to follow him for about the first 10 miles of the descent. It was obvious that we could go faster than the motorist; but we didn’t want to do anything foolish/dangerous by passing him out of frustration, and he refused to pull over despite passing one “turn-out” after another. Finally, he pulled off; and we shot down the remaining 7 miles or so of the descent – ONCE AGAIN MISSING MOST OF THE FABULOUS SCENERY!!
By the time we arrived back at our vans, we were all enthused about what a wonderful experience this had been. After visiting a bit about the ride and changing clothes, we packed up the vans and headed home.
Next Ride: Windy Ridge on Mt. St. Helens (this coming Saturday). Can’t wait!!!