Out and back on the Olympic Adventure Trail
August 25, 2020
The Olympic Adventure Trail (OAT) is quickly approaching legendary status. Steve B, Blaine F and I crossed the trail during our recent bikepacking circumnavigation of the Olympic Peninsula, and we even had a brief discussion about riding the trail on our loaded gravel rigs. Fortunately, we decided against it (as it would have taken us to a dead end due to construction and forest fire closures), but I made a commitment to return and ride the route before the winter rain arrives. Little did I know that I’d be returning so soon.
Steve B, Erik O and I hatched a plan to camp at the Log Cabin resort – on the western end of the trail – and then ride the OAT both out and back for a total of approximately 50 miles of single track. We elected to do the ride on a weekday in order to both avoid crowds on the trail and to increase our chances of securing a campsite – the pandemic has caused a flood of interest in outdoor activity which has filled nearly every campsite through the month of September.
The Log Cabin Resort on the north shore of Lake Crescent didn’t disappoint. The clear water, verdant hills and quaint cabins recalled TV images of resorts that dotted upstate New York in the fifties and early sixties – “nobody puts baby in the corner.” The campground was crowded, but surprisingly quiet, in hindsight we, with our bonfire and beer drinking, were probably the rabble-rousers.
As we stared into the fire Erik speculated on all of what was burned onto the blackened grate, Steve referred to the char as “iron burl.” Steve now had his trail handle – he would henceforth be known as Iron Burl.
We had a leisurely breakfast finally rolling out of the Log Cabin Resort day lot a little before 10:00 AM. The road leading to the Spruce Railroad Grade Trail is technically closed, but the kind flagger let us roll the short road section leading to the start of the OAT. The other option would have been to climb the Piedmont-Joyce Road to where the trail crosses the pavement.
Steve and Erik rode “traditional” gravel rigs with 38mm rubber while I rode a converted Yeti ARC hardtail. I few years ago I had replaced the Fox front suspension with a steel fork custom made by Chris Igleheart down in Portland – I also added drop bars to make it a truly all-road machine. The bike has 26” wheels fitted with 2.3” wide Rene Herse Rat Trap Pass tires. The OAT is either a gentle mountain bike trail or a rough gravel bike route. Steve and Erik were feeling the bumps whereas I was riding the gray area between hardtail mountain bike and gravel bike. All that air in those fat tires smoothed out the rough stuff.
In truth there really isn’t all that much rough stuff, nothing that was too challenging even for a beginner gravel rider. The folks who put together this trail knew what they were doing; this thing flows. There are around two dozen, some ascending some descending, hairpins turns; all are negotiable, simply look to where you want to go and roll it. Wherever the trail crosses a road or ATV track the builders installed motorized vehicle barriers which are two rectangles of steel pipe – one high one low – separated by a ten inch gap. The idea is to pass through with one pedal up and one down. As Steve said, “just get some speed, raise your pedal, relax and everything will be fine.
We hit the eastern trailhead along Highway 112 a bit later than expected, so we had a quick lunch and turned around to do it all over again. I found the westbound hills to be a bit more challenging than eastbound, but that could have been my tired legs talking. Whatever direction you chose difficulty is six of one and half a dozen of the other.
At the end of the day we had a debate as to what would be the perfect ride for this route. Going one way (25 miles) doesn’t really require any suspension and any gravel or cyclocross with 38mm tires would work just fine, but going out and back perhaps a hardtail with 100mm of suspension would have eased the trail fatigue a bit.
The OAT is a fantastic asset for us here in the Pacific Northwest and I hope that inspires riders of all abilities to get out there, appreciate our natural world and increase that heartrate.
Route information can be found here: https://www.strava.com/activities/3966475178