When I cross the Columbia via the giant, 4-mile-long Astoria-Megler bridge, Washington welcomes me with the rainiest day of the trip. Not a dry minute today! Luckily Highway 101 is flatter in Washington than back in Oregon. Less hill climbing means a more comfortable (cooler) ride when all zipped up against the elements.
This weather finds a flaw in my clothing system. After 3-4 hours, water has gradually seeped through my shoes and soaked my feet. Now they slosh unpleasantly. I’m amazed, however, at how good I’ve become at disregarding physical discomfort. I’m enjoying the ride and paying no attention to my feet.
The light is flat and gray, making it hard to tell time. Normally I like to have a rough idea of time to set my pace, but today I don’t care. I’m still on Highway 101, but it’s empty and remote here in southwest Washington, so natually I enjoy it very much despite the complete lack of grand ocean views like Oregon’s. I’m floating through a sea of green.
Water is abundant all around — as soft pillows of fog on the hills; as streams and rivulets flowing, seeping, oozing everywhere; as crystal droplets suspended on leaves and grass blades; and of course, as rain. It nurtures a dense, overgrown jungle of grasses, wild berries, birch, maple, and tall stands of magestic spruce, hemlock and fir.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that not far from here, on Olympic Peninsula, lies the largest temperate rain forest in the U.S. (Hoh Rain Forest). I consider doing a loop around the Olympics, but deside against it because it’s a big detour (two-three days) and because I’ve already been there a couple of times.
When I pass some pastures I notice with surprise that cows pay no attention to me, though earlier in the trip my bike would often scare cows away or at least give them a start. Then it hits me: the 101 is a big cycling destination, so the cows simply have become used to bikes!
Signs of logging activity (mostly by the paper giant Weyerhauser) become more frequent. Whole hillsides have been stripped of forest. The scarred hills show various stages of regrowth: from swaths of ugly stumps to young, 10-20-year-old stands of fir that have by now fully concealed the former devastation. When I pass the stumpy hills I feel acutely alone, as if I’ve entered a room supposedly full of friends and have found it empty.
The road crosses a few sloughs and smal rivers. They snake motionlessly in their wide floodplains as evening begins to descend on the Evergreen State. I’m staying in Montesano, one day’s ride from Seattle.