The ferries that cross Puget Sound can be a quick and affordable escape for bicyclists seeking to get away from the urban sprawl for a rural retreat.
Although these ferry rides are relatively short, I always feel that I've been deposited on a faraway shore with all my cares and worries left behind.
Last week, I rode down to the Seattle Ferry Terminal to begin an overnight bicycle tour to the Key Peninsula, a rather isolated part of lower Kitsap. How isolated? A barista I spoke with near the town of Home said she'd lived there 32 years and was still considered a newcomer.
I would only be gone 30 hours, but I felt like I'd been away from home for a week by the time I returned.
My destination was Joemma Beach State Park, a 112-acre getaway on the briney Puget Sound. It's named for Joe and Emma Smith, who lived there until 1932. [That's me at one of the primitive campsites overlooking the Sound.]
Mileage-wise, the ferry terminal is a 12-mile ride from my home and the park is a 34-mile bike ride south from Bremerton. Instead of returning on the same route, I veered eastward the next day to the Southworth ferry, which lands in West Seattle. The route to Southworth was 33 miles, and the ride back home was 25 miles.
Because I got a late start, I missed the 1:30 p.m. ferry by minutes. The next arrived at 3 p.m. for the one-hour crossing. I used the time to grab a sandwich and hang out in the sun, a rare commodity in Seattle this spring and summer.
I arrived in Bremerton at 4 p.m. — rush hour in the town that houses the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Although there are naval exhibits and historic homes to visit for tourists, I was in a hurry to get out of there as it was already getting late. Another cyclist on board helped guide me through town and on my way.
A 15-minute ride put me on a busy highway — South Charleston Boulevard — but it had a decent shoulder. That later merged with Route 3, another busy highway with a shoulder.
These were not the recommended routes that I found by Googling my route, but in my haste I had missed a couple of turns that would have put me on less stressful side roads.
At the base of Sinclair Inlet I did find one of the side roads I'd been looking for and had clear sailing all the way south. These are all rural roads, with and without shoulders. They probably carried most of their traffic in the morning and evening commute hours.
The route took me past some water views at Vaughn, Glen Cove and Home, but most of the time I rode through farmland or forest.
I arrived at the sparsely used Joemma Beach park at 7 and pitched my tent overlooking the water in the primitive sites. Pit toilets and water are the only other amenities at the park; and you'll want to ask the camp host for directions to the “primitive” sites as they're the most scenic.
There's a wonderful beach here, and the views across the water are stunning. My son who works at a nearby camp told me there's an island out there you can only see in the fog because it blends in with a larger island behind it in clear weather.
Fishermen use the long pier, although they didn't seem to be having much luck tonight.
I left in the morning, after surveying the beach at low tide, and retraced my route to Glen Cove where I veered to the northeast to reach Southworth. The rural roads were even more bike friendly here, and I stumbled across Kitsap Bicycle Route 25 for awhile.
Instead of following my Google recommendations all the way to the ferry, I stayed on Sedgewick Road. As soon as it crossed Route 16, it climbed a series of rollercoaster hills that continued non-stop to the ferry. I have no idea whether the recommended route would have been as difficult; I suspect it might have.
Once again I had just missed the ferry, so I rode over to the town of Southworth to look around, and then returned.
The ferry took me to West Seattle, where I followed the shoreline all the way around (most of it is the Alki Beach bike trail), picked my way across the Duwamish bridge area, then discovered the new Alaskan Way bike trail that delivered me to the vicinity of the International District and my route home.
I've included links to my maps below. Let me repeat — the route through Bremerton was difficult to follow and very busy at rush hour. It may be easier at other points in the day. Some of the two-lane roads do not have shoulders, which can be a problem near Bremerton and Port Orchard. Otherwise, I felt I had plenty of space.
The terrain is lumpy north of Vaughn, and there are a few stiff climbs approaching the Southworth ferry on Day 2.
What I carried
My road bike isn't built to carry a lot of gear, so I used a Yakima trailer. I loaded it with a tent, sleeping bag, inflatable pillow and Therma-rest pad.
I also had a change of clothes for the return trip, a butane camp stove, small pot and metal coffee cup that doubled as a bowl. I also carried another pair of shoes and full raingear and a book.
That's traveling light for me.
See also the Bike Overnights website by Adventure Cycling Association for discussions of where, why and how. It appears well-represented for overnights in the Pacific Northwest.
West Sound Cycling Club, which covers Kitsap County
Green River overnight bike tour in western Washington
Overnight bike trip to John Wayne Pioneer Trail (Iron Horse State Park)
Bicycling to Mount Rainier and the road to Isput