Day Three: Lake Sylvia State Park to The Promised Land
This is the third installment of 9 stories about our 360-mile bicycle trip around Washington State's Olympic peninsula.
Our third day dawned wet, windy and cold. The ground outside the door of my tent had acquired a slick, slimy and clinging texture in the downpour. One look at that muck made me want to pull the sleeping bag hood tight over my head and hide from the world. But it was already after 6:00 and we had many miles to go. There was nothing for it but to get up and face the new day and whatever it might bring.
I carry 4 panniers on my bicycle: 2 small bags in front and 2 larger ones in back. The amount of equipment and supplies add up to better than 50 pounds and I usually store it all in my tent at night. On a dry day I can reload the panniers outside and it’s not too cumbersome a job. But when it’s raining, I have to organize and pack the panniers inside the tent.
Now my tent is pretty big as backpacking tents go but you can’t quite play basketball in there. I’ve got head room enough only to sit up or crawl around on hands and knees so sorting through all the clothes, stuffing the sleeping pad and bag, packing up the cooking gear and all the other sundries and supplies and arranging them in the panniers becomes a difficult and a back-aching ordeal. And it’s slow work. So by the time we hit the road it was well after 8:00 AM.
Mike, climbing the hill out of Lake Sylvia State Park in a rainsquall.
As we ground our way up the hill leading out of the park neither of us was in the greatest of moods. Even though we were bundled up in the best rain gear money can buy nothing can keep you dry in a serious Olympic Peninsula rainsquall. By the time we reached the top of the ridge we were both damp and sweating and cold all at the same time. We pulled over to consult the map. We had discussed the day’s route the evening before and there was some question about which roads to take. If we stayed on Highway 101, we knew there’d be heavy traffic. An alternate route looked more rural, but a section appeared to be unpaved and on a wet day like today it would probably be mudded out. So we opted for the busier 101 that would take us through the small towns of Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Humptulips.
It rained all day and passing traffic kept up a 5-foot deep fog of wet road haze. I carry my sleeping bag and pad on my front rack in a stuff sack and I’d brought along plastic bags to keep them dry, but had misplaced them so that by the time we reached Hoquiam my bedding was soaked through. We found a laundromat and pulled in. I guess we looked pretty pathetic, because the minute we entered, the manager, a friendly lady in her 60’s brought us dry towels. “Nice day for a ride,” she quipped, “… if you’re a duck!” She smiled. “Here,” she said, leading us to a bench next to a heater, “you fellas sit here and get warm. I’ll get you some nice hot coffee.”
After running my stuff through the dryer and getting somewhat dried out ourselves we went back out into the storm, which had increased in intensity, and reluctantly climbed on our bikes then headed north toward Humptulips. The laundromat lady waved goodbye from the door. “Enjoy this nice weather,” she said cheerfully, “it’s supposed to get bad tomorrow.”
After 45 wet, miserable miles, we stopped at the only store in Humptulips. “How are you?” I asked the young woman running the place. A pool of dirty water was forming at my feet.
She looked me up and down. “Dry.” She smiled.
“Is there any place to camp around here? I asked, ignoring her comment on my soggy condition.
The young woman thought a moment. “Well, there used to be a campground a few miles away, but I don’t know if John is still running it.” She grabbed the phone. “Ill give him a call.” After a short discussion she hung up. “Nope, he’s out of the business, but there’s always the Promised Land.”
“The Promised Land?” I said, “I’m old but I don’t know if I’m ready for heaven…”
She rolled her eyes, “Not that Promised Land, the campground. Three miles up 101. It’s closed for the winter, but you can go ahead and camp there. There’s even a shelter you can sleep in.”
Since this was the last store before camp, we loaded up on provisions and bought a bottle of not bad Pinot Noir
We reached the Promised Land in about 20 minutes and true to her word, there we found a picnic shelter. It was dry enough, and we set up our tents with the stoves running full blast inside to dry them and our clothes and bedding.
The shelter had a brick barbecue and there was a stack of firewood next to it. We crumpled up some paper bags, doused the kindling with white gas from our stoves and threw in a match. There was a momentary flare up as the gas ignited with a whoosh. With great hopes, we watched the fire as it slowly died down to a few glowing embers. As hard as we tried, we couldn’t get that fire to burn, although we did do a good job of smoking up the shelter.
Mike, drying out at our hobo camp at Promised Land campground outside Humptulips.
Mike snores. Man, does he snore. Whenever I can I pitch my tent as far away as possible, at least a couple of hundred feet, still, even at distance it sounds like someone giving a duck a hard time.
Anyway, after lights-out, Mike’s snoring took on a new, increased volume, echoing off the cement walls so loudly that sleeping anywhere near his tent became impossible. I had no choice but to drag my tent out into the storm where I spent the night comfortably enough in blessed silence, lulled gently to sleep by the the occasional blast of a passing semi’s unmuffled compression brake.
To be continued...