Bike Touring Orcas Island
We were warned about Orcas Island. Per the Cycling Sojourner guide, Orcas is “the most challenging for cycling. Prepare for lots of hills, dramatic coastline, and picturesque harbors.” Lots of hills. With that threat and more rain on the way, we made an executive decision to get a hotel room.
Orcas Hotel is charming and historic. We picked the cheapest room, but the check-in clerk said she didn’t like that room and because it was a Wednesday and the hotel was basically empty, she upgraded us. Harbor view and candy-striped peach wallpaper? We’re in!
While splurging, we also rented a car for four hours (small island-style) from the local gift shop owner. After several days of bike travel, driving feels like flying. We were excited to scout out the bike route and find the Country Corner laundry mat. Because priorities. Once laundry was finished we had just enough time to drive to Mt Constitution, the highest point in the San Juan Islands (2398′) and reputed as one of the best maritime views in the USA.
Not this day. And where are the birds you ask? I asked that too. All I could come up with was Dark-eyed Junco and Red Crossbill, and poor photos. We returned to the hotel, grateful we hadn’t biked the 2300′ of elevation gain in under 5 miles. Maybe on a clear day.
The next day was rainier than expected, but rested and refueled, we were ready to climb back on the saddle.
While driving we learned that the main road (Orcas Rd) is narrow and has heavy traffic. And like all the islands we figured out, the heaviest traffic coincides with ferry arrivals and departures. But because Tomas is super resourceful he found an alternate bike route with less traffic along Dolphin Bay Rd.
I love this road.
Yes, there were hills. Even gravel hills.
But it was quiet with very little traffic. We had the best silliest time.
I birded along the way, hearing typical NW forest birds, Pacific Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Song Sparrow, and Kinglets. The best I got during the ride was an Osprey. Once we linked back up with the main road we were back to traffic and a pink flamingo farm? Weird.
We made it to East Sound and checked out the bike shop, the local brewery, and indulged heavily in pastries and the best chai tea I’ve ever had at Brown Bear Baking. Seriously, that place is good.
Just after East Sound we passed Crescent Beach, where I found the most birds on this Island.
There were Mew Gulls and Canada Geese.
White-Crowned Sparrow and Northern Pintail.
Biking the 5 miles from East Sound to Moran State Park was the most challenging part of the whole trip. But eventually we made it.
And we were rewarded with some of the nicest hiker-biker sites I’ve ever experienced. Far from car-camping and roads, lots of privacy, and plenty of hammock trees.
And when it poured rain, we set up under the nice pavilion. Not a bad plan B.
The rains came and went, the birds were pretty quiet, and the deer were abundant.
One last island to go.
Tweets and chirps,
Yay, finally stories to go with the photos! I am left wondering how the hell that chickadee got so damn wet.
Yes! It only took me three months and four days!
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