Olympic Peninsula Riding — From the Lavender to the Ridge
By Emilie Schnabel
Make it a weekend outing; the entire family will enjoy the Tour de Lavender.
Nestled on the tip of the Olympic Peninsula lies the rolling Sequim-Dungeness valley and the Olympic Discovery Trail. Scenic coastal roads skirt acres of farmland all devoted to one singular crop — lavender. Designated as the top cycling trail in Washington State by Cascade Bicycle Club, the Olympic Discovery Trail spans over 130 miles across the Olympic Peninsula. The path is ensconced in between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountain Range and its wide, paved surface make riding accessible for all levels of cyclists as well as other non-motorized users.
It is against this luscious backdrop that the fourth annual Tour de Lavender will take place August 1–2, 2015. The event is a farmer’s and cyclist’s dream, uniting both the love of the ride and the romantic backdrop of the region with the unique offerings and benefits of agritourism. Presented at the height of lavender growing season, this supported ride offers two route options featuring stops at several participating farms.
Dan Abbott founded the Tour de Lavender in 2012. A longtime cyclist and one-time Canadian Mounty, Abbott wanted to start an event that supported this local community of hard-working farmers while also taking advantage of the proximity of the Olympic Discovery Trail.
It is after realizing that the trail and the farms were a perfect match that Abbott came up with the idea. For an area that depends on agritourism for its survival, he recognized that this unique joining of passions would not only be personally rewarding, but would also benefit local farmers and artisans. With that in mind and with assistance of the Sequim Lavender Farmer’s Association and numerous volunteers from the local cycling clubs — Sequim Spoke Folk, Easy Riders, and Women on Wheels — the Tour de Lavender was born.
The full 71.3-mile ride, titled the Metric City Plus, is designed for experienced cyclists and features 1,000 feet of elevation. It is only presented on Saturday but includes support and stops at all farms. The Family Fun Ride, which covers 34.5 easy and mostly leveled miles offers similar support and scenery and can be ridden on both Saturday and Sunday. Routes can also be customized to meet everyone’s endurance levels.
Scheduled visits to farms on the route include Abbott’s own Washington Lavender Farm, Jardin du Soleil, Purple Haze Organic Lavender Farm, and Lost Mountain Lavender. Refreshments are available for participants at each location, as well as themed treats like lavender lemonade, chocolate and soap. Riders will receive a swag bag stuffed with goodies and T-shirts available on a first-come first-serve basis. Proceeds from the Tour de Lavender benefit the Sequim Lavender Farmer’s Association and the Peninsula Trails Coalition.
The Tour de Lavender is not the only cycling event in the area during the first weekend in August. When the event was created, it was intended to complement the already existing Port Angeles Ride the Hurricane, which occurs on Hurricane Ridge, a mountainous area in the Olympic National Park. On August 2, between 7 a.m. and noon, the Hurricane Ridge Road will be closed to all motorized traffic, allowing cyclists to fully enjoy the sweeping views of the Olympic Peninsula. Participants can choose to climb from sea level to the summit, gaining 5,200’ of elevation before descending it all back to complete the 41-mile distance, or take the shorter 24- or 36-mile routes. To commemorate the accomplishment, celebratory “I made it to the top” picture opportunity will be offered at the Summit House while a finish line celebration will welcome riders back from the ridge.
Combined, Ride the Hurricane and Tour de Lavender make up the Pedal Power Weekend. It represents a significant draw for the Sequim area, and its growing success is reflected on the local lavender farmers as well. Abbott explains that downtown Sequim and the surrounding area is dependent on the business of agritourists during the summer months. To him, agritourism is both a calling and a necessity. The amount of work and money needed to support the lavender farms is remarkable and proceeds from visitors during lavender season help sustain the community throughout the entire year.
Members of the Lavender Farmer’s Association are constantly innovating in order to keep business thriving. Abbott operates a bed and breakfast on his farm called the Washington Inn. A replica of George Washington’s colonial home in Mount Vernon, the inn hosts many events throughout the year such as the reenactment of the battle at Lexington and Concord (July 15–19, 2015). Each farm has a unique style and appeal. Jardin du Soleil built a lavender maze, Lost Mountain Lavender Farm offers U-pick bouquets as well as metal soldering and copper braising, while Olympic Lavender Heritage Farm offers classes on muslin printing and oil distillation. All host daily tours and many offer various craft workshops in addition to selling hundreds of locally made products. Events that encourage visitors to travel to the area, like the Tour de Lavender, help keep the tradition alive. As Abbott states, “We love seeing people enjoying our farms. We just want to encourage that.”
While Abbott may have been the driving force behind the Tour de Lavender, it took the work of many other devoted community members to get the ride off the ground. Volunteers have had a habit of coming back and taking ownership of the ride. The commitment of these people is a reflection of the dedication of the community supporting one of its own.
Attracting 180 riders the inaugural year, the Tour de Lavender continues to grow and is expecting more than the 234 riders who rode in 2014. While many who come are somewhat local and travel from Seattle and other Washington cities, many reside in Oregon, British Columbia, and as far away as Illinois. A large contingent of riders returns every year to enjoy the serenity and beauty of the area and for that reason tour organizers modify the route annually to keep it fresh.
The Pedal Power Weekend offers cyclists a compelling reason to explore the beauty and traditions of lavender farming in the Dungeness-Sequim Valley and take on the challenge of climbing Hurricane Ridge. Additionally, the Tour de Lavender gives everyone an opportunity to relish the Olympic Discovery Trail, what Abbott refers to as, “The artery that pulls us all together.”