21 August 2014
Most of the Sequim lavender had been harvested before our bicycle tires touched the Olympic Discovery Trail on the Washington state peninsula, but bees continued to buzz the few remaining shoots of violet.
Marigold's humans, goatmother Maryann and goatfather Phil, told us about the Tour de Lavender a year ago as we were winding up our 2013 organized ride calender. The first Tour de Lavender had been a rousing success, and plans were in the works to make it an annual event. We missed the inaugural ride, but we were there for the second round this year.
Back in my newspapering days, editors wouldn't allow reporters to call any event "annual" until after the second year. If Tour de Lavender happens again next year, under old school rules, it officially will be an annual event!
I'd expected to pedal 70 miles through fields of fragrant lavender, much like the French photos I've admired in the past. Sequim (pronounced "skwim", and I'm still trying to get that down!!!) doesn't in fact boast miles upon miles of heavenly scent, as it turns out, but five- to ten-acre lavender farms do dot the northeast tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Riding from farm to farm through towering stands of fireweed, Douglas fir, red cedar and red alder and rolling prairie-like hills, sometimes along the coast of the Strait of Jaun de Fuca, wasn't as flat as I expected. We powered up a couple of 15% grades!
Sequim boasts a population of slightly more than 6,000 and sits along the Dungeness River and in the rain shadow of Olympic National Park. The Olympic Discovery Trail begins in the Victorian seaport of Port Townsend and eventually will span approximately 130 miles east to west, ending on the shores of the Pacific Ocean at La Push. Existing completed trail is a wide, paved pathway suitable for walking, running, riding bicycles or horses and ...photography!
In what feels like one hundred years ago, my kids and I enjoyed a gorgeous sunset near La Push at Rialto.
This year's coastal adventure did not include such picturesque sunsets along the Peninsula as planned, but we did manage to capture some liquid gold on a beach across the bay a few days later, but that's a different tale for another day.
I did capture an amazing sunset from the car window on the way to Sequim...
...and another from the roof of our hotel in Sequim one night...
...and a gorgeous cloudy, misty post-storm sunset from Mammoth Springs in Yellowstone National Park on the way home...
But this trip was not about sunrises and sunsets, although there was another dynamic sunset I'll share multiple shots of in an upcoming post. This trip was about lavender and the biggest road bike climb in the state of Washington (which also will be in a separate post). Well, until we got to Wyoming on the way home, but that's another blog post.
The 2014 Tour de Lavender started and finished at the Sequim Boys & Girls Club parking lot and took us through farmland and forests to visit five different lavender farms. More lavender farms do exist along the eastern edges of the Olympic Peninsula where rainfall is not as plentiful as in the rainforests covering the interior and on the opposite side of the peninsula, and we visited one other not on the Tour. We also learned of another much larger farm on San Juan Island we likely would have visited on our own had we known about it in advance. Oh, well, next time...
Suffice it to say, we literally just couldn't get enough of the lavender smell.
The first leg of the Tour took us down a gravel path to Lavender Haze, where we enjoyed our choice of chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate candy bars infused with lavender. The Lizard went chocolate. (See his trip report here.) I picked dark. Yum! Perhaps my favorite treat of all the rest stops.
Lavender Haze included a brief visit with some adorable fuzzy friends.
Next stop was Jardin du Soleil, where feathered friends wandered and bicycle-wrapped honey sticks were quickly sipped.
On the way to the next lavender farm, I was overcome with statue envy.
Olympic Lavender was unique in that it offered complimentary traditional ride nutrition (PBJ bagels and Nature Valley bars) instead of lavender treats, but the lavender-drying shack was open to interested (or in my case, addicted) nostrils. There, 4,000 bundles of freshly cut lavender hung to dry prior to being available for purchase. Getting back on the bike after this stop was so difficult for me. I could have just stayed in that shack until winter!
Washington Lavender boasts more than just the smelly stuff. The George Washington Inn, a replica of the Mount Vernon estate, sits upon the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and boasts a view of the New Dungeness Lighthouse on the longest natural sand spit in the world. This also is where we were treated to our choice of ice cream flavors, two even including lavender. By this time, the sun was heating up the roads, and ice cream was a popular and welcome treat.
Lavender was still being harvested at this stop, and we were treated to the scent of freshly cut bundles being prepared for distilling.
It was also here the official photographer asked to snap our photo!
Next we pedaled right along the beach into Port Angeles, where the next rest stop awaited at the gate of a wonderful farmer's market, then it was mostly uphill into the Olympic National Forest to the turnaround point at the Elhwa River crossing.
We backtracked through Port Angeles and along the beach once again, then back uphill on the other side of Highway 101 to visit the final lavender farm of the Tour, Lost Mountain Lavender.
Lavender-infused hibuscus tea was nearly gone by the time we arrived. The metric century ride had begun at 7 a.m., and the much shorter family fun ride began at 10. Most of the family fun riders were leaving the final stop on their tour as we pulled into the shaded gardens. Many family photos had been snapped here at the biggest still-standing stand of blooming lavender of the Tour.
We spent the entire day wishing Mr. and Mrs. Micawber had been with us; they might have opted for the shorter ride, but they undoubtedly would have enjoyed this event as much as anything they have done while vacationing in Colorado.
Perhaps next year???