Wednesday, November 11, 2015

San Juan vacation day 3: Return to the magic

Way back in on December 7, 2004, when Drew was roaming around the western US, unattached, and hanging with friends in various mountain bike destinations on his days off, he got an email from notifying him that some girl “winked” at him. That girl was me.
That day he was filled with the excitement of possibility, and he went riding the trails around Mount Constitution in Moran State Park on Orcas Island the next day. 
Since the day Drew and I met, he has been talking about getting me to ride these trails to complete the circle. Yesterday, we rode them.
We started the day with breakfast at Island Skillet in the island’s only town of Eastsound.  Then, onto Moran State Park.  I will admit that I was moderately apprehensive.  We had the best weather we could hope for; partly sunny, no rain, high of 48, a day the locals described as “just beautiful”.  I am, more and more, a fair weather rider, i.e., I’m good with 60 or warmer.  But, given the history of this trail for Drew, I knew I was going to ride it one way or the other, so I put on all my warm riding clothes and saddled up.  
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Two bald eagles soared overhead, urging me on.
There are a lot of trees here. A LOT.  We basically rode through trees for 3 hours with various twists and turns of the trail and a few open view points.  The pictures below are heavily weighted to the areas with a view. 
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Climbing up a “fire road”, which I think is a hilarious name for a place dripping with water, to Mount Picket at only 1850 feet above sea level.  Even though we were out of shape, we could breath.

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To the top of Mount Pickett and then down a very fun single track to Twin Lakes.
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The sunnier of Twin Lakes. It was 2:30 in the afternoon and the sun was almost disappearing behind Mount Constitution.
From the low point at Twin Lakes, we climbed up wide, then narrow, single track, sometimes really steep but never technical, to the north side of Mount Constitution.  Either because we were higher in elevation, or because we were on the windward side of the mountain, we entered a foggy forest wonderland.  It was even more silent than the first part of the ride, as eerie as the forest where Sasquatch lives, and ever so enchanting. Here is a ~1minute video of the sound of the forest and some wildlife.

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We rode along in near silence, letting our bikes carry us into the shadowy fog.

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Around the corner of the mountain, the clouds thinned and color of the moss changed from chartreuse to sage.  The biomass of moss on this mountain must be enough to power the entire island if it could be harvested.
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A few small clearings provided some evidence of daylight as we began the descent back to the park headquarters.
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Thirty-two switchbacks of forest trail madness through gigantic trees …
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brought us back to the car.  The high temp for the day was around 50 with no rain, not bad for the San Juan Islands in November, but the excessive humidity chilled me to the bone whenever I wasn’t exerting energy to move my bike. 
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To the car to warm up as we drove up to the observation tower atop Mount Constitution. We arrived to the top just as the sun was setting.

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The last rays of sunshine glinting off Mount Baker (the snow topped peak barely visible off the horizon in the center of the photo), and Twin Lakes (lower center of the photo), where we had just ridden.

I didn’t get a good picture of the observation tower, but I did have fun almost locking Drew in it.
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Back down the road, there is a nice view point that we shared briefly with two cold-looking hikers that bummed a ride back to their car from us.
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The view from the lower lookout point over to the Olympic Peninsula.
Night falls early near the 49th parallel. We hit the brewery at 5:30 PM and we certainly were not the first there.
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A welcoming site: the Island Hoppin’ Brewery.
Inside, we ran into a fellow traveler the Drew had struck up a conversation with at our West Beach resort. We also made friends with Kirt, the bartender, a couple that had just driven in from Salt Lake City, and another couple that loves beer as much as us.  A very, very friendly, warm and inviting place with superb beer.
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A hoppin’ Monday night at the only brewery on the San Juan Islands: The Island Hoppin’ Brewery. 
Their exceptional beer is served with your choice of a few bar snacks, such as cheese and crackers, peanuts, or smoked salmon, but no real fuel for hungry mountain bikers, so we searched town and found only the Lower Tavern, as most restaurants are closed on Mondays here in the off season. Decent food and more friendly people is about all I can say, but it worked to make us sleepy and content after a great day of mountain bike magic.

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