The Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT) is a magnificent idea that is steadily becoming a reality, thanks to an equally magnificent, decades-long effort and commitment by the Peninsula Trails Coalition.
Those of us who live here on the Olympic Peninsula’s northern edge get to ride parts or all of the ODT anytime we want. For many of us, parts of the ODT are like old friends—we know them well, we’ve developed a solid, dependable relationship with them, they’ve just become part of our cycling world and we know we can rely on them to give us comfort and joy even if the sense of adventure or, well…discovery, has been tempered by familiarity.
But every once in a while we’ll venture out to a part of the ODT we don’t ride very often—or that some of us have never ridden before.
And that’s when the sense of adventure, discovery and wonder is rekindled—when you realize how fortunate we are to have this trail almost literally at our doorstep.
Recently a group of Sequim cyclists took our Wednesday ride out of town–west of Lake Crescent for a 50-mile out-and-back on the ODT from the Fairholme campground to the village of Sappho. It was a perfect day for a ride and a perfect day to enjoy a great segment of the ODT.
We got rolling around 9:30, with about 30 minutes of easy climbing on a perfectly smooth, paved surface through cedar forest with thick stands of sword ferns close by on the banks rising up on each side of the Trail. Only birdsong and the soft whirring of our pedaling broke the sun-dappled stillness. From the top of the climb it was a nice, leisurely descent to where the ODT crosses the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway—US 101. A few miles further west, the smooth asphalt of the newly built sections of the ODT gave way to rougher chip seal where the Trail follows paved Forest Service roads that basically parallel US 101 to the south.
Rougher pavement aside, this segment of the ODT, known as the Camp Creek section, is still a beautiful place of utter peace and quiet, winding for 10 miles through hemlock and cedar. Except for two small pickup trucks, we had the road completely to ourselves.
Coming around one turn, though, much to our surprise, we saw a mobile bike shop! Marc Hilt, who owns and runs Shining Star Cycles, had parked his van at milepost 3832 on the Mary Clark Road stretch of the ODT where, as he says, he spends a “huge amount of time.” He’s there because there are no bike shops west of Port Angeles, but also because he loves to ride out there, and on the day we met him, he’d brought three bikes since he just wasn’t sure when he left home in Chimacum that morning whether he’d be doing a road route or mountain bike route—or some combination.
The ODT, for now, basically ends at Sappho, where it curves back north to intersect with US 101 again.
But that’s a perfect excuse for turning east on US 101 for a quick couple of miles through Sappho to the Hungry Bear Café, where you can indulge yourself with a well-earned (huge) slice of homemade pie, a very generous “single scoop” of ice cream, or a milkshake. Of course you can also linger longer and have lunch, too!
At this point, you could head back west to Mary Clark Road and retrace the route east along the ODT or pedal east about 10 miles, make a right on Cooper Ranch Road, and pick up the ODT at that point. The shoulder along US 101 is comfortably wide and sight lines are such that you’re unlikely to be surprised by traffic approaching from behind; but be extra careful on bridges—there are no shoulders.
If you’re looking for a perfect ride capturing the essence of the Olympic Peninsula, and the beauty and wonder of the Olympic Discovery Trail, you can’t go wrong with this route!