This past Saturday Ryan, Joe, Mykenna, Mike and I took the ferry over to the Kitsap Peninsula to ride the Bremerton Gravel Grind. The BGG is an individual time trial wherein the clock starts when you exit the Seattle-to-Bremerton ferry and stops when you return to the ferry dock. The route was posted the day prior to the event and ended up being a 67 mile, mostly gravel (some singletrack) route out to the Hood Canal and back Bremerton Fondo + Manke Shelter – A bike ride in Bremerton, WA (ridewithgps.com). The route was varied and challenging: one minute you’re cruising smooth gravel, the next you’re hiking your bike over downed trees the next you’re scooting across a mossy log laid over a knee deep creek. We joked that it was 67 miles that rode like 100.
Tom, the Race Director, suggested that participants space themselves out among the morning ferries, so we elected to sleep in and take the 10:00 AM sailing. This put us rolling at approximately 11:00. Our plan was to catch the 4:15 boat on the return.
The start was cold, but the steep climbs out of Bremerton warmed us up right quick. After six miles of cushy pavement we turned into the Green Mountain Forest and up the first gravel climb. This is a nice steady grade, on well used gravel. We shared the road with numerous hikers and dog walkers. A solo rider tagged along as well.
At the top of the gravel climb we hit the Secret Squirl Singletrack (AKA Hangman Trail). Ryan, Mike and I had ridden this a month or so ago, but it seemed longer this time. Most of the trail would be a non-issue on a mountain bike, but knowing that I had a long day ahead of me I took the roots and rocks with extra caution – a little care on the front end will pay dividends on the back end.
After the single track we climbed a bit, descended a bit and then hit some pavement. The tarmac was smooth and nearly devoid of traffic, and we put the hammer down pretty good. A gravel road that took us to a disused gravel road led to more tarmac and then we turned into a parcel that had been recently logged. Areas that are actively being logged or that have been recently logged oftentimes seems to be a mixed bag of good gravel, baseball-sized sharp ballast and mud. This was no exception.
The road descended sharply to the midway check point at the Manke picnic shelter on Hood Canal. This was one of those descents that you don’t enjoy because you know that you’re going to have to turn around climb right back up the way you came (except it wasn’t exactly the way we had come). We took photos to prove that we’d made it to the control, did a bit of bike repair and then started uphill.
The climb was shorter and easier than expected and soon we were out of the hole and riding flat ground. The return route did a short bit of backtracking, but soon we were on fresh ground. The trip back to Green Mountain had some water riding, some creek crossings and a few hike-a-bike portions. One nice aspect of doing these organized events is that they take you down paths you normally wouldn’t attempt.
The ride up Gold Creek was the highlight of the day, and after a series of gradual climbs we were back at the top of Secret Squirl. Despite the fading light the descent was easier than the ascent. From there it was an unexpected up and then a big down back to the pavement. I pinch flatted crossing the railroad tracks near the road, so we had a delay of game while I fixed the puncture (normally I ride tubeless but had put in a tube at the midway point due to a slow leak).
We arrived back at the ferry terminal to find that the next boat wouldn’t arrive for nearly an hour, so we turned around and rode up to a Mexican take-out window. I ate two pounds of carne asada fries before getting on the ferry.
The route was great and though it was never what I would consider warm at least we saw no precipitation, and we even felt a little sun. The route took much longer than expected, but hey what’s wrong with a little extra time with your friends. I’m looking forward to the next event on Feb 28 Bremerton Gravel Grind | Facebook.