Olympic Discovery Trail has something for everyone

Supporters hope it eventually connects the Puget Sound and Pacific Ocean

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photoIn this July 23, 2013 photo, a sign is displayed along Washington's Olympic Discovery Trail. The Olympic Discovery Trail is a multiuse paved path supporters hope one day will stretch from Port Townsend to LaPush. (AP Photo/The News Tribune, Craig Hill)

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photoIn this July 23, 2013 photo, Rick Beitelspacher rides the Olympic Discovery Trail east of Port Angeles, Wash. The Olympic Discovery Trail is a multiuse paved path supporters hope one day will stretch from Port Townsend to LaPush.

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photoIn this July 23, 2013 photo, Russ Meyers and Rich Beitelspacher visit the pastureland east of Sequim, Wash., via the Olympic Discovery Trail. The Olympic Discovery Trail is a multiuse paved path supporters hope one day will stretch from Port Townsend to LaPush. (AP Photo/The News Tribune, Craig Hill)

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photoRick Beitelspacher takes a brief side trip July 23 off the Olympic Discovery Trail to ride Ediz Hook, a narrow, 3-mile sand spit in Port Angeles, Wash.

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BLYN -- If it seemed as if we were in the middle of a dream, it's because we were.

The dream is the Olympic Discovery Trail, a multiuse paved path supporters hope one day will stretch from Port Townsend to La Push.

"Connecting the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean, that is the vision," said Andy Stevenson, president of the Peninsula Trails Coalition.

At the middle of this dream is a 40-mile stretch between Blyn and the Elwha River that's already reality. And, as some friends and I discovered during a July bike tour, the trail, despite being only 40 percent complete, already is like no other trail in the Northwest.

It winds through trees and pastureland, crosses rivers, visits Port Angeles and Sequim, a state park, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and offers easy access to numerous side trips. It rolls and twists more than the Northwest's flatter, straighter and better known multiuse trails, such as the Foothills, Chehalis-Western and Burke-Gilman.

"It's good variety, so it's not just a flat boring ride," Puyallup cyclist Russ Meyers said on our ride. Vicki Heckman, owner of Port Angeles' Sound Bikes and Kayaks, says the trail is the ride she most often recommends for visitors.

"You can go out for an hour or you can spend all day," she said. "It has something for everybody."

In total we'd ride about 77 miles on the completed section of trail. We would typically finish a ride of that distance before noon, but this time it would take us two days.

At a bike shop in Sequim, the staff recommended we skip certain sections of the trail and ride on U.S. Highway 101 if we wanted to go faster. Even in this finished section of the trail, there are stretches of unpaved trail that won't faze most users but might make road cyclists stop and push.

Heckman agreed. "The trail isn't the place for a training ride," she said. "You can't go whomping along at max speed. You can get great training rides in on the shoulder of the highway, but the trail is more for commuting and enjoying the scenery."

Dan Russo, an avid cyclist from Tacoma, rode a short section of the trail for the first time in August after pedaling up to Hurricane Ridge.

"It twists and turns and has a little bit of everything," he said. "You are not going to break any speed records. … But I really enjoyed it, especially the section that was right along the water. I'd recommend people check it out if they are in the Port Angeles area."

Perhaps the trail's best amenity is the famous Olympic rain shadow. The completed section of trail sits in this area that receives less rain than the rest of Western Washington.

While there is no estimated completion date for the 130-mile trail that passes through 11 different local, tribal, state and federal jurisdictions, Stevenson holds on to hope that the dream will come true sooner than later.

Until then, the 40-mile sneak preview between Blyn and Port Angeles has plenty to offer.

"It kind of reminds me of an Eagles song," said Rick Beitelspacher, a Puyallup native making his first trip on the trail. "You have 'a peaceful easy feeling' as you're riding it. It's nice, relaxing and enjoyable. … It's a nice time to think and enjoy the scenery."