Friday, October 11, 2013

Northwest Road trip with Bikes: Orcas Island and Mt Constitution

Tent site at Lopez Farm
our camp on Lopez Island
After spending two wonderful nights on Lopez Island. Our plan would take us to the largest of the San Juan Islands--Orcas Island. We woke up, de-camped, and packed our gears onto our bikes. We leisurely pedaled to the ferry dock and waited for a mid-day ferry, saying goodbye to this wonderful island along the way. From everything we have read and heard in conversation, Orcas is the hilliest of the major San Juan Islands. Our apprehension only got worse when a tourist riding a Surly LHT told us how he struggled on the roads. The place we planned to stay was in Eastsound Village, so we didn't have much of a choice. After taking a couple swigs of water and a bite of energy food, we began rolling.

Alpaca Farm
Alpaca Farm on Orcas Island
The road pointed north first before turning east toward Eastsound. It was early afternoon and the sun was out in full force, but the breeze from the sound kept the temperature down and the conditions quite pleasant. We were more observant of our efforts so as not to over-ride and struggle later on the supposedly hilly terrain. Though to our pleasant surprise, the terrain, even with our load, was nothing to worry about. I guess our usual riding and touring in the Bay Area hills prepare us well.

Crescent Beach
Crescent Beach outside Eastsound
Orcas is simply beautiful. Quiet country roads, evergreens and pastures everywhere. We took a bypass road that's even lighter in car traffic than the main road, then soaked in the bucolic atmosphere. The 9-mile ride to Eastsound Village went by quickly. Soon we had to slow down to enter this quaint town that sits in the middle of the island. We stopped to call our host for the night to get direction to his lodge/campground.

Riding toward Mt Constitution
Riding by Alpine Lake in Moran SP
We rode by Crescent Beach, upped a hill and arrived at the lodge. Our host Dave was very nice and showed us around. M. was tired so she took a nap on the hammock while I set up camp and went back to Eastsound to get some groceries for dinner and breakfast. We also had plans to get out for a sunset ride up Mt Constitution.

Our camp
our campsite on Orcas Island
After dinner, we relieved our bikes of panniers and locks, and rode toward Moran State Park. At 7:30 it was still very bright, though the temperature was beginning to drop. We rode at a good pace in the crisp but fragrant evening air. Moran State Park is a clean and serene area with big patches of evergreen forest and several alpine lakes. Soon we came to the fork and began climbing on Mt Constitution Road.

Wide panorama
Wide Panorama of Puget Sound from the top of Mt Constitution
Mt Constitution Road is a significant climb that gains 2000 ft in 5 miles. It reminded us of some of our favorite climbs in the Bay Area--BoFax Road from Alpine Dam or Bolinas to Ridgecrest, Kings Mountain Road, and Pinehurst Road. It was very well shaded but with a challenging gradient. We worked hard to crest to the top and enjoyed the output of effort. We were also rewarded with an expansive and jaw-dropping panoramic view of the Puget Sound. The climb itself was enjoyable, but the vista definitely put this climb to among our favorite roads to ride.

Alpine Lake Sunset
It was dusk now and we only have perhaps 30 minutes of civilian twilight left. I put 2 maps on my chest to maintain my core temperature for the descent turned on the dynamo light and headed back to the campground. We cleaned up and ate a snack before getting into our tent, under a tall evergreen, and went into a deep slumber. Tomorrow we will leave the island, but we will surely come back to this lovely place again.

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