A rare motorized vehicle was sighted last weekend on the Olympic Discovery Trail. The bright orange Kubota tractor dumped dirt on the path through the woods off Discovery Road just outside Port Townsend.
Its operator, Gary Weldon, is one among hundreds of volunteers who keep the two-county trail looking like just another feature of the landscape, along with the many rivers it crosses.
“All this time, the trail has been resilient. It wouldn’t be here without the volunteers,” said Merrily Mount, who brought some bright yellow vests out to the workers on a recent Saturday morning.
Mount is a member of the Peninsula Trails Coalition, a group formed in the 1980s around the members’ wildest dream: a bicycle-pedestrian-equestrian path from Port Townsend to the Pacific Ocean.
The Olympic Discovery Trail today has four sections: the easternmost, 27 miles from Port Townsend Bay to Sequim Bay; the east central, which has nine bridges over rivers and creeks between Blyn and Port Angeles; the west central, spanning 32 miles from downtown Port Angeles to Lake Crescent, and the westernmost leg, 42 miles from the lake to LaPush.
All along the route, at trailheads and city visitor centers, users will find new Olympic Discovery Trail maps; information is also at olympicdiscoverytrail.org.
While many miles separated from motor traffic, there are still gaps in the dedicated path, such as a 9-mile stretch on state Highway 20 in Jefferson County. Earlier this month, the county Public Works Department announced a small victory: acquisition of Rayonier-owned timberlands between Four Corners Road and Anderson Lake State Park.
The transaction cost $125,900, county right-of-way representative Mara Dotson said. Other parcels are yet to be acquired, she added, but the Rayonier piece is the largest in the area where new trail will be built.
“It’s one step forward,” Dotson said. “We’re still working with the other property owners.”
This acquisition and others like it happen thanks to willing property owners and funding resources such as the state Recreation and Conservation Office, she noted.
In Clallam County, one of the Olympic Discovery Trail’s marquee legs is along Lake Crescent: the Spruce Railroad Trail, which hugs the north shore for 8 miles.
“Our big problem right at the moment is it’s closed” by a January landslide, said Gordon Taylor, Peninsula Trails Coalition East Clallam County vice president.
“There’s a whole lot of mess on the sides to clean up,” he added of the slide area, which is between the trail’s two tunnels.
Taylor hopes the stretch will reopened by the end of April.
Until then, “I recommend the section between Blyn and Port Angeles,” he said. “It’s all open, and it’s a very pleasant ride.”
Features of the trail leg include the trestle bridge across the Dungeness River, a repurposed ship’s loading ramp across Bagley Creek and another trestle over Morse Creek.
This past weekend, Jeff Selby, Peninsula Trails Coalition Jefferson County vice president, went out for an extended bike ride on the Olympic Discovery Trail — 48 miles round trip, from Discovery Bay to Sequim and back.
While it was farther than he’d planned to go, he said it was a fine training ride for the late-summer trek he’s planning.
On a morning in August, Selby and friends from the coalition like to assemble at the trail’s milepost zero in the Port Townsend Boat Haven, then ride to Lake Crescent to spend the night at the Log Cabin Resort.
Next they pedal to the Quillayute River, near the trail’s Pacific terminus and the continent’s northwest edge.
The Peninsula Trails Coalition recommends the following trail etiquette guidelines. For more information, see Olympicdiscoverytrail.org.
- Yield to horses
- Dogs must be on leash
- Clean up after pets
- Allow faster users to pass
- Stay to the right, and slow down in crowded stretches
- Overtake other users on their left, using a calm voice to alert them
- Don’t ring bike bells when near horses
- Maintain control over horses at all times
- Help other users pass safely by providing spoken guidance
- Remove manure; kick manure off the trail
- Use the horse path when available or move to the side to allow others to pass safely
- Cantering or galloping endangers others and may damage the trail
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]