Ride Report: Lower Big Quilcene

There are certain ingredients for a memorable mountain biking trip. While not necessary for enjoyment, they certainly do add to one's ability to remember the ride. The list includes, but is not limited to: uncrowded singletrack, wonderful scenery, good company, mechanical mishaps, injuries, inclement weather, routefinding errors, bonking, lost equipment, noteworthy post-ride eats & drinks, and unique transportation. Saturday's ride on the Lower Big Quilcene trail on the Olympic Peninsula wasn't particularly awesome, but I'll certainly remember it for a while.

Kristin and I, along with our dogs and Kristin's friend Dawn, piled into our Element and caught the 7:55 ferry over to Kingston, crossed the Hood Canal Bridge, and were soon in the microscopic town of Quilcene. Several miles of snow-covered dirt roads later, we arrived at the trailhead. Kristin and Dawn immediately put boot to tread and began hiking the trail while I waited for my ride partners to arrive.

The Lower Big Quilcene trail is just over 6 miles in length but runs through seemingly remote old-growth forest alongside the namesake stream. The area had been hit hard by a winter storm earlier in the week, but the noteworthy snow was restricted to areas above 2200 feet. We wouldn't hit that elevation until we were over 5 miles up the trail. Much of trail did have a serene dusting of snow atop it, but also many other signs of this winter's strength. There were a couple areas where the trail had washed out, many large blowdowns, and a couple of deep bone-chilling creeks to ride through. Each creek crossing was rideable, but one in particular was far too deep to avoid getting soaked.

Me zipping past some old-growth cedar. Photo by Tim Banning.

The trail isn't very technical, nor very steep (about 1,050 feet of climbing in 6 miles) but the quiet and the size of some of the surrounding trees added to the enjoyment. I rode with BBTC's Tim & Travis and we stopped quite a few times. The pace was quite pedestrian on the way out due to photo ops and later on because of the snow we encountered. After some snacks at the turnaround point (a picturesque cascade) we began the ride back to the trailhead.

It was shortly after turning around where the ride got a bit more memorable for me. I was working the bike through a few inches of snow when I suddenly heard a loud pop and felt my seat rip out from under me. The bolt that clamps the seat to the seatpost had sheared in two and the seatpost clamp broke off. Fortunately, I didn't impale myself on the aluminum seatpost but this was not a failure I can repair in the woods. Tim helped me gather the busted parts and remove the seatpost from the bike. Sure, my bike was suddenly a pound or so lighter but I had to ride the remaining 6 miles without a seat. When I had a hardtail I almost always rode standing up, but since moving to full suspension I've gotten lazy and spend way too much time in the saddle. Breaking one's seatpost will surely cure that problem! It took a half mile or so to get used to not having a seat under me or between my thighs, but it eventually felt natural and as actually kind of fun, especially when the trail descended out of the snow and back onto dirt.

Tim spending his birthday the best way possible.

I finished up the ride with some extremely tight and painful calf muscles (especially during the final climb to the trailhead) but this pain was masked by my frozen feet. Two pairs of wool socks were not nearly adequate protection against the wave of freezing water kicked up during the creek crossings. Fortunately, I did bring a third pair of socks and was able to warm up before long. After providing Travis with a jumpstart, the five of us headed into town for some grub. Quilcene doesn't have much, but we did find a bar with some decent burgers and fried oysters, Port Townsend Amber Ale on tap (pretty good), and a half dozen 45-foot long shuffleboard tables. They apparently take their shuffle board pretty serious in Quilcene.

Final Word: The Lower Big Quilcene trail rises from 1400 feet to just under 2500 feet in elevation in about 6.25 miles and is a fun stretch of non-technical singletrack. It's not necessarily worth the drive from Seattle (and definitely not from points further east) but I would ride it again as a shorter cool-down ride following a more arduous ride on the previous day. For those looking to ride the Dungeness/Gold Creek loop (highly recommended) and then camp near Sequim, this would be a perfect ride to do on the next day prior to heading back across Puget Sound.

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