Rugged extension of Olympic Discovery Trail complete

Bikers, hikers and equestrians catch spectacular views and thrilling exercise climbing up and racing down on a recently competed 25-mile trail section in the foothills between Lake Crescent and the Elwha River.

The Clallam County Sheriff's Chain Gang and a team of trail volunteers have been working on the Olympic Discovery Adventure Route for years and on Aug. 12 a crew of a dozen bikers took an inaugural ride to commemorate its completion.

"This is an incredible ride, with some great single-track routes that take you through some amazing wilderness just south of the (state Route) 112," said Clallam County Transportation Program manager Rich James, who has overseen the trail's construction. "It's a ride for the average mountain biker, nothing too difficult and just enough of a challenge to make its name have real meaning."

The Adventure Route zigzags through the forest for about 25 miles. On a clear day, riders can see mountain ranges in Canada, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Mount Baker, a variety of creeks and lakes and they can catch a quick glimpse of Mount Olympus.

"It was an epic ride," said Rebecca Letwin of Baltimore, Md., after she completed the trail ride Aug. 12. "What I liked about it most was the diversity in landscape; you are near lakes and streams while going through both new and old forests, clearings and valleys."

Rebecca and Noah Letwin were vacationing on the North Olympic Peninsula when they stopped at Mike's Bikes in

Sequim and heard about the inaugural ride.

The pair joined 10 other trail crew workers and county employees who contributed to the trail's completion.

The ride

The cyclists checked their tires and strapped on their helmets at the Spruce Railroad Grade trail head. But rather than heading west on that trail, they headed east over the Lyre River Bridge to the Lyre River railroad grade.

Then the ascent began.

The team made its way uphill on a combination of single-track trails and a gravel road before taking a short dip in elevation to the Joyce Piedmont Road after crossing a stream on an old ferry loading plank that the county transformed into a bridge.

"Incredible views aside, some of my favorite parts of this trail are the bridges," said chain gang supervisor Jon Beltrami.

One by one the riders continued from the road onto a single-track route through thick forest to one of Beltrami's favorite bridges. It crosses Whiskey Creek and is constructed around a large tree that fell over the river.

"We tried to use natural materials that were around the sites we needed to cross," he said. "For this one, we created yokes to fit around the tree to hold in the footpath as well as the corded railing. That way we left the tree undisturbed and built around it."

The trail crosses three more creeks on handmade bridges Beltrami and his team of inmates from the Clallam County Correctional Facility built.

"I kind of feel naked without a chain saw on my shoulder," Beltrami said while cruising over the second of three creeks. "It is incredible to see it all completed though, just incredible."

The trail hits the Joyce Access Road and continues into the forest, crossing more creeks or moving over muddy areas on wooden boardwalks.

"This is where the cougar was sighted during construction," James said after stopping for a water break. "I never ride this area alone without pepper spray."

After staring at scratch marks in a tree where the cougar had climbed, the cyclists mounted again for a few more miles of trail and back roads including a state Department of Natural Resources road and a Citizen Conservation Corps right of way.

"The newest section of trail was some of the hardest to build," Beltrami said as the team was about 20 miles into the ride. "We blew up boulders with rock crackers and built our own retaining wall to hold the trail against this steep slope."

The trail eventually makes its way back to Highway 112, where motorists could hear the whoops and hollers of 12 people after a long, successful ride.

"It was a beautiful ride and it was great to see the finished product after working on it for so long," said Lee Bowen, a trail crew volunteer. "The chain gang did such a great job, the quality really shows."

Grand scheme

The Adventure Route's east end will hook up with a soon-to-be built west-end section of the Olympic Discovery Trail. The two trails will parallel each other heading west, one for mountain bikes and the other for road bikes. Eastbound from Highway 112, they converge into one trail over a suspended pedestrian path to hang under the new Elwha River Bridge, when it is finished in next summer.

Ultimately, the Olympic Discovery Trail will connect Port Townsend to the Pacific Ocean. For now the trail is mostly complete from Blyn to western Port Angeles but plans are being made to push farther east and west.

"I'm part of the Jefferson Trails Coalition and, just so you all know, we are working on making that trail connect through our county as well," said Jeff Selby during the ride.

James suggested getting a map before riding the trail, adding that each transition between trail and service road is marked with a small blue Olympic

Discovery Trail sign.

Clallam County Sheriff's Office Chain Gang activities on the Adventure Route from Dec. 7, 2004-July 31, 2008

• Officer hours worked 3,368

• Inmate hours worked 13,748

• More than 150 inmates participated

• Constructed 10 miles of trail

• Built 200 feet of cedar boardwalks

• Spread 70 county dump trucks worth of gravel

• Constructed seven bridges between 15 feet and 50 feet long

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