Words: Ryan Taylor
Photos: Stirl and Rae Media Haus
Hurricane Ridge is a route that provides a small taste of Europe in the Pacific Northwest. Offering untamed rugged, snow-capped mountain views, combined with perfect pavement, Hurricane Ridge is a ride that has a tendency to reinforce why we ride bikes. The weather there is uncertain and constantly changing, but this only adds a sense of adventure to the route. Despite its short distance of 34 kilometers, it gains a knee-crunching 1900m for a full day of climbing accompanied by breathtaking vistas and a raw remote feel only a few places offer so close to civilization. Back in July 2018, we took the opportunity to ride the Ridge, taking the route that many in Northern Washington and Victoria BC treat as a yearly pilgrimage. Here’s our ride report.
Our day started by rolling onto the Port Angeles ferry with bikes underneath us and kits on. It moaned and groaned its way slowly to the start of our route giving us just enough time to settle into the worn leather chairs and to meet our ride mates. Hands clasped around warm espresso cups, we watched the smoky mountains in the distance approach. As the ferry meandered its way toward our port, those familiar feelings of anxiety and second thoughts arouse as the only certainty that the sky offered was rain.
“Should I have taken an extra shell?”
Any true cyclist has ingrained memories of riding when the weather went to shit, experiences that tend to reinforce the need to take extra food, gel, patches, …just in case. What never changes is that all of these little anxieties subside as the pedals begin to turn, and the blood begins to flow. When you push into the adventure and get into the meat of it, it is always then when you realize perfect preparation doesn’t exist and your mettle takes over.
Rolling off the ferry, we ducked into a nearby coffee shop for another espresso waiting and hoping in vain for the sun to peak out. Despite the impending wet ride our spirits were high, and warm coffee was only bettered by the conversation. New friends were introduced, and fresh relationships made, but it was impossible to ignore every- one’s quick glances into the sky hoping for the sun.
As we realized the day was what it was, we rolled out of the car park to see the road immediately pointing up. Rhythm is hard to find on cold rainy days, but we zipped up our shells and found what we were looking for as the blood started to flow and experience and muscle memory took over.
We all hid from the cold and the rain in our own ways as we settled into a steady pace and kept the conversation flowing. The rains fell and the clouds passed offering quick glimpses of magnificent long wooded mountains still holding onto their winter snow. Meter by meter we went up as temperatures dropping down, and with this came the realization that the while the vistas were what lured us to this spot, the real discovery was not of epic nature unseen.
Up and up we went with the weather only getting bleaker. The cold crept in and the rains continued to fall harder as fresh optimism turned into sunken eyes and gritty road grime between our teeth.
Signs teased at the promise of the peak mere meters away, and as we pushed onward, finally, we crested the final bump. The shallow promise of a breathtaking view disappeared behind a bold layer of thick clouds only to leave us wondering what we had missed that day. But, as with most adventure the experience we took from it was not of reaching the peak, but of the relationships made along the way.
We tucked into a small tourist cafeteria as everyone was in quiet need of sugar and a warm coffee. We collectively quietly dreaded the upcoming decent that promised to chill us to our bones. Reluctant to finish our coffees, we slide on our extra layers and began rolling downward hoping that the warmth we absorbed in the cafe would hold us to the bottom.
Leaning into every corner we pushed on as Hurricane Ridge offered every sensation of a European descent. Long, tight twisting roads our knees hugged tight to the top tube, elbows tucked, and eyes squinting we descended.
It was impossible not to notice the view to my left. Slow thick clouds teased of the rugged peaks behind. While beautiful, my quiet appreciation quickly wondered back to counting down the kilometers and to a warm shower watching road grime tumble down the drain.
Finally, our port came into sight and we coasted to a stop with grinding gritty brake pads. High-fives were had all around as a recognition that everyone had found their limit. My mind wonders what normal people do with their friends on a Sunday as we collectively lean on our bikes allowing euphoria to set in.
The Beatles said, “happiness is a warm gun”, but cyclists would say happiness is a warm hand dryer in a public restroom after a wet ride.