Friday, August 5, 2011

7 Perfect Days

As I sit here and try to organize my thoughts, I struggle to find the language to adequately describe the magical seven days I recently spent adventuring on the Olympic Peninsula.  While I would like to say that the  experience simply transcends words, my shortcomings in the use of the english language in prose is the more likely culprit.

Climbers are a funny bunch and I like 'em a lot.  Heck, I even tried to identify as one for a good chunk of my life, and still do to some extent.  I have found climbers to be pretty good folks for the most part. They generally value their health, the great outdoors and a cold beer at the end of the day;  I hold all these things dear to my heart as well.  

It wasn't that long ago that being a great climber was so important to me that I thought nothing of hopping in my truck and driving hours to Index, Leavenworth or the North Cascades for a day of climbing to return home the same day.  Somewhere in the past couple years my attitude started to change a little.  Maybe I read too much Kuntsler, Friedman & Heinberg, or maybe the thought that my nieces and nephews might someday have a chance to walk on glacier in the North Cascades became much more important to me than climbing 5.11.

Now I know what your saying because I say it to myself all the time.

One guy out there riding a bike with a bunch of crap strapped on it is a drop in the bucket overall C02 emissions.  Climate change is happening regardless, and putting yourself at risk on a bike isn't going to change that. 

Really can't argue but to say that I am not trying to reduce my footprint; it really is insignificant in the whole scheme of things.  Nor I am trying to recruit an army of beer swigging bicycle alpinists (not a bad idea though), to with roam the mountains.  I just hope that people might wrap their heads around the idea that if a physically ordinary individual like myself can climb Mt. Olympus using a bike, boots and a bucket of calories, maybe using a bike to run some errands close to home shouldn't be out of the question.

Change one mind and change the world.

Livin' the Dream,


I use my Surly Long Haul Trucker for everything, but had it built by the fine gentlemen at Second Ascent with adventuring in mind.  Loaded with full gear for general mountaineering.

Good clean high calorie livin'!  

The Spruce Railroad Trail hugs the north shore of Lake Crescent and bypasses 11 miles of a shoulder-less  Highway 101.  Rideable with full touring gear for all of but a single mile, the trail eventually deposits you at at an unmarked gate across from the Sol Duck Hot Springs Road.

The view for lunch was more than worth the effort!

Forks Washington.  This once a booming logging town has been forced to diversify it's local economy largely in response to the environmental movement.  Forks has recently experienced a boom in tourism associated with the The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer.

Sean Nordquist, partner extrordinaire taking his cough medicine.  A couple days before our trip, Sean came down with a respiratory infection and was unable to ride with me.  Despite the steady flow of green & yellow mucus, Sean rallied and met me at the Hoh River on his Royal Enfield.

MAF Sandwich:  one tortilla, two tablespoons of Sunflower Butter, one whole dried banana and a squirt of honey.

The incredible and edible dandelion.

Photo:  Sean Nordquist

I had always heard horror stories about the death march into Glacier Meadows enroute to Mount Olympus.  I found the walk up the Hoh River Trail through an ancient rainforest to be one of the most pleasurable day hikes I have ever done.

We woke to light rain and brewed and extra coffee for motivation.  Not 500 feet above camp we emerged from a thin layer of clouds into another world.

High on the Blue Glacier.

Photo: Jesse Salk

Photo:  Sean Nordquist

The edge of the high bergschrund on the 4th of July Route.

Jesse and his fiance Sarah over the schrund and on to the steep upper slope.

Photo:  Jesse Salk

Taking pictures of taking pictures.

The route description assigns the rock scramble to the summit of Mount Olympus as YDS Class 4.  I concur with the rating save two moves of low 5th Class climbing.   Due to poor rock quality and bad fall consequence, I recommend the use of rope for those not confident in their rock climbing ability.  A few  large nuts or hexes would protect the crux of the route adequately.

220 miles down, 220 miles to go!  Summit in the clouds. 

Photo:  Jesse Salk
Big clouds.  Little people.  Big glacier.

Photo:  Sean Nordquist
The sphincter of the Blue Glacier.  Notice the upper slope collapsing and subsequent emission of rock and ice debris at the foot of the icefall.  It is likely that someday this will be a large amphitheater with a waterfall cascading through the center.

Sean is excited about our delux accomadations at Glacier Meadows.

Photo:  Sean Nordquist
At 85 mpg fuel economy, the motorcycle is a pretty good option for transportation as well.

The Bigfoot for Brunch.  Hard Rain Cafe Forks, WA.

Photo:  Sean Nordquist

Posted along the shoulder-less portion of 101 around Lake Crescent, this button activates a flashing warning sign alerting drivers that cyclists are on the road.  Despite the unfavorable shoulder and limited sight distance on the road,  I didn't feel overly exposed due to slowed traffic.  The Spruce Railroad Trail is a longer and safer option if you don't mind pushing your bike a bit.

Upper left: Marco, Lucia, Sierra
Lower left:  Josh, Sharah & Kenji
Hospitality defined.  I met Josh and Sharah on the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry.  They were on bikes and looked pretty friendly so I chatted them up for a few minutes on the boat ride.  They kindly offered me a place to crash and I took them up on the offer passing through Port Angeles on my way home.  They let me crash their garden party, fed me and took me in for the night.  The bicycle affords unique social opportunities that the automobile simply cannot offer.

This is a 1000-pound chunk of granite on top of a 12 foot tree stump.  Loggers are artist too!

Hard to believe that I clean-up enough to be trusted with children.  Aboard the Spokane and near a shower, shave, a cold beer and a cute wife. 


  1. "physically ordinary individual like myself"

    hmm. this part of your narration is suspect. but i get what you're trying to say....looks like a fabulous trip hi matt.

  2. A wonderfully inspirational trip, wonderfully told. Thanks!

  3. Great post Matt. Your the best!

  4. Thanks folks. Thanks for taking the time to read!