Thursday, September 23, 2010


Hopped on the ferry yesterday for some painfully beautiful riding on this jewel of the San Juans. Above, is the well-known shot from the top of Mount Constitution; Bellingham there in the far corner. At 2,409 feet, Constitution is the highest point in the San Juans. She's a bear of a climb to get to the top, that's for sure. The toughest part of the 5.5-mile climb from Cascade Lake to the top being a two-and-a-quarter mile stretch that climbs 1,174 feet. That's 10 percent to you and me, folks. (Click here for my post about the Mount Constitution Hill Climb bike race from a couple years ago. Here's the race website; sometimes it's an annual event, sometimes not.)

Thing is, I'm not sure Mount Constitution is the most challenging thing about riding on Orcas.
Orcas Island and Mt. Constitution as seen from the ferry.
Orcas is a lumpy island so you're either always climbing some short crazy-steep pitch or descending the same. Not a flat spot on the island, he wrote a tad hyperbolically. I rode exactly 50 miles--ferry landing to Eastsound (via about four miles of gravel road on Dolphin Bay Road; felt like I was in the Giro D'Italia), up and down Mount Constitution, to Olga and Doe Bay, then turned around back to Eastsound and eventually the ferry landing--and climbed 5,800 feet. Take away Mount Constitution and it still would've been 4,000 feet of ups.
All that said, Orcas is a beautiful island to ride. Not a lot of cars, certainly a lot of variety, and of course just that cool island-hippy-organic-affluent-artistic-nice stuff vibe. Beautiful farms, llama lands, cool weird sculptures, Doe Bay funkiness, and all those spectacular island vistas. It's an incredible one-stop biking spot because it's also one of my favorite places to mountain bike. See here for a Seattle Times story I wrote that includes a bit about Orcas' fat-tire side.
Coming up: most likely, this Saturday's Tour de Whidbey century ride. Weather looks promising. Hope to see ya' there! 

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