Orcas Island Epic

After some initial planning for an overnight mountain-bikepacking trip to Orcas, I decided that the weather didn’t look that fun for Saturday, and instead chose to do the entire ride on Friday. Most trails are open to bikes in the off-season between September 15-May 15.

So, on my day off, I rose at 4:30 am, drove to Orcas, got on the 7:35 am ferry, and sprinted out of the ferry at 8:45 am. It was windy and cool – I put on all my warm gear and was hoping for a temperature increase as I pedaled along. I went to Eastsound via a bypass route on half-dirt, half pavement. One big gravel truck passed me going up a steep hill just as another pickup truck came down. Why is that, Murphy?

In Eastsound, I stopped at the Island Market and filled up on croissants, an apple and banana. The trail at Moran State Park started pretty steep, and I slowed down to keep below 80% HR. My route led me all the way to the far reaches of the park which included some pretty steep downhill, followed by a steep push up to Mt. Pickett.

Cascade Falls.

Cascade Falls.

Big roots, which were still too small for this tree.

Big roots, which were still too small for this tree.

A well-deserved break was had atop Mt. Pickett, listened to the croaking of frogs. Next, a fast & short downhill to  Twin Lakes and then it was more climbing. My legs were beginning to be uncooperative, so I took another short break and drank and ate some more. I decided to forgo pushing my bike up the steep Mt. Constitution trail, and instead took North trail / Cold Springs trail. I was feeling pretty decent for most of it, and managed to hammer out one steep part including switchback.

Not that high, but the trail was very steep.

Not that high, but the trail was very steep.

Riding up Little Summit trail, I saw my third group of hikers: 3 older couples who were just coming back from the top. They said I still had a long ways to go! After telling them that I had already ridden 30 miles, they changed their minds :).

Almost at the top of Mt. Constitution.

Almost at the top of Mt. Constitution.

Atop Mt. Constitution, I claimed a picnic bench for 20 minutes and took in views of the San Juans with the Cascade range behind them. The wind had calmed down and it was very enjoyable. I was beginning to really feel tired at this point – and resting didn’t help much. Heading back down, I took a quick side trip to Little Summit – a really lovely place.

View to the east - Mt. Baker in the distance.

View to the east – Mt. Baker in the distance.

View from Little Summit.

View from Little Summit.

There, I took another short break and was trying to decide what to do next. My energy level was too low to do another loop down&up on Mt. Constitution, so I decided to head down and visit Turtleback mountain. I took the Cold Springs trail down – beautiful DH. I kept my hardtail in check at the rocky parts. At the bottom, I quickly explored a trail near Cascade lake and for a moment felt well enough to give the West Boundary trail a try. It was overgrown, and after 300 ft. I was out of energy. Dang it. Oh well, time for some gas-station coffee and pizza at Eastsound. The snack really perked me up, and after 10 minutes I was feeling good again.

Cascade Lake and the boat rental place.

Cascade Lake and the boat rental place.

A dozen fresh oysters $10.

A dozen fresh oysters $10.

Happily I took off, only to bonk 20 minutes later. I barely made it to the northern trailhead on Turtleback mountain where I took another 10 minute break. The coffee had done a number on me: I was sort of dizzy (hypoglycemic), but my legs were feeling great! It was odd. I was dreaming of bread, but all I had left was another nasty energy bar, which was downed and flushed down with my homemade energy drink. After 10 minutes, my sugar level stabilized, so I headed up Turtleback mountain. The North trail is open to bikes on even-numbered days, so it was my lucky day! After a lot of pushing and resting 2 more times, I reached the tree-covered top on the Grand View ridge (was that really the name?). No views. Hmm, that was unexciting. On the way down I stopped at sign for “Viewpoint” and went 100 ft. to the left. Wow, there was THE view I had been looking for!

Approaching the fab view point on the north side of Turtleback mountain

Approaching the fab view point on the north side of Turtleback mountain

Waldron Island and then Candian islands behind that.

Waldron Island and followed by various Candian islands behind that.

My body had finally recovered, and it was an easy spin back to the ferry landing, stopping for pictures a couple of times.
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In the 2 places were the shoulder on the street was wide on the steep road, there were also bike pull-outs.

In the 2 places were the shoulder on the street was wide on the steep road, there were also bike pull-outs.

West Sound harbor

West Sound harbor

Overall, very good mountain bike ride – but the streets were pretty busy with traffic and hardly any shoulders. GPX track is here: 55 miles, 10k ft., 10:30 hours. I am still wondering what exactly happened after that cup of coffee.

Picture 477

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