We booked two nights in Port Angeles with the intention of using the day in the middle to explore Olympic National Park, an area of mountains, lakes and forest in the north west of the USA that we had heard only good things about. We could see the snow-capped mountains of hurricane ridge from our motel and the Internet told us that the 17-mile road up there was steep and winding and would provide us with some amazing views and wildlife sightings. Perfect. Except when we woke up on Tuesday morning and peeled back the curtains, there was no sign of our mountains – all we could see were tree covered hills that disappeared into thick cloud.
A call to the hurricane ridge information line confirmed our suspicions – visibility at the top was non-existent, and in fact worse because it was zero degrees too meaning the ride would be through freezing fog. We checked the webcam and there was very little to see. Oh and the café was closed, a deal breaker! A little disappointed we took out the map the motel owner had scribbled on for us when we checked in to see what else was around, vowing to stay on lower ground. He’d highlighted three places on the coast, one of which looked very interesting and without much more research we made it our destination for the day. The good thing about touring like this is that we can take and act upon the recommendations of random strangers who choose to provide them, and they are normally a very good way of having a nice day. This isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last that we take advice.
Riding along the 112 in Washington State.
Cape Flattery is the north western most point of the contiguous United States. Right at the very top left corner of the mainland; cross the water and you’re in Canada. It’s part of an Indian tribal reserve, home to the Makah Tribe, who charge an entry fee to the area much like you pay to get into a state or national park. From Port Angeles you start on the 101 before picking up the 112 – and basically ride along there until the paved road runs out. There are a couple of left turns but they’re obvious and you’re staying on the same highway.
A quick rest stop to see the sea.
The road itself is not particularly fast to ride; the speed limit is anything between 55mph down to 20 depending on what’s going on around you. It twists and turns through forest and along the shore, making it very enjoyable. The surface was a bit uneven in places courtesy of landslides and water damage, but still nothing anywhere near as bad as the main roads back home in Lincolnshire! Truck drivers just pelt it regardless though, how they throw those huge and fully loaded things around the tight corners I have no idea.
Views of Canada (Vancouver Island) from the USA.
We stopped for lunch at a café at Neah Bay, just inside the Makah tribal area. One tuna melt and some chicken strips later, and with our area passes purchased – $10 per vehicle for the whole year – we continued to the carpark at the end of the road. The trail to the cliff edge and view point is less than a mile and we were promised would be well worth the effort, the terrain was not particularly easy going but as it was only short it was doable in bike boots and jeans. As we started the trail we spotted two signs; one saying to stay on the marked paths as other ones may not have been made by humans, and another saying there have been recent cougar sightings in the area. Cougars? Ooooo!
Hiking in motorcycle gear. Not so bad.
We didn’t see any big cats, or any bears, but LincsGeek did nearly step on a little Garter snake that must have felt his foot descent and darted into the bushes just in time. We also saw bald eagles flying around overhead, a very common sight in this part of the USA, and heard the cries of sea lions as we walked. Oh and a little superbly bright red bug thing, like a beetle or something like that – it stood out like a sore thumb in amongst the green and brown of the trail.
Cape Flattery Trail. Through forest to get to the cliff edge.
There were several viewpoints around the Cape allowing us to see the ocean in all its roughness along with Canada and some cool looking caves. We saw sea lions and thousands of sea birds enjoy the water, and maybe a whale in the distance although we are not experts and while we know they might be there, it could have just been rocks and waves. The scenery was completely stunning, well worth the ride and the walk, and we were definitely glad we headed that way rather than up into some foggy mountains.
Views from Cape Flattery.
Apparently Cape Flattery was named by James Cook when he was out exploring. As his ship came around he said the land there “flattered him with promise of a harbour”. All I know is it’s a beautiful rugged place to visit and while I did enjoy our trip around the compass points of the UK, this beats Ardnamurchan Point somewhat!
Back on the bikes, we retraced our steps and rode the 80 or so miles along the winding 112 back to Port Angeles, back to our motel and for some dinner. The mountains still hadn’t shown their faces and it was cold and windy so we knew we’d definitely made the right choice this time. I’ll just have to write about our mountain riding experience another day.