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Re-discovering the jewels of Highway 101 | Beyond Kitsap

Junction 101. - Bill Mickelson/Staff Photo
Junction 101.
— image credit: Bill Mickelson/Staff Photo

Part 1 in a 4-part series: Beyond Kitsap along a forgotten stretch of Highway 101, brought to light by the Hood Canal Bridge closure.

If you’ve somehow missed the media blitz, the past few years of planning sessions or the flashing signs along the highway, then you heard it here first: the Hood Canal Bridge is closing.

It will be out of service starting May 1 for an estimated six weeks (though rumors have it, there are big bonuses in the wings if crews finish up by Memorial Day). And along with the closure, some 16,000 average weekday vehicles and some 20,000 average weekenders crossing the bridge are left to figure out how they’ll be getting across the canal for the next month or so.

Carin Rutledge, Indianola resident, co-owner and manager of the Olympic Timber House restaurant in Quilcene, says she’s got a Plan A, B, C, D, and E, like most people, she says — one of which involves a car on either side, connected by the Department of Transportation-provided foot ferry; another involves captaining her own boat from Hansville to Port Ludlow; yet another involves driving all the way around the south end of the canal and back up Highway 101 to Quilcene.

The latter she says, isn’t likely. On a normal day, with the bridge, the commute from Indianola to Quilcene takes her a little more than a half-hour. Driving all the way around would add about two hours to that.

Now, think of how all the commercial truck drivers who make trips regularly to or from the Olympic Peninsula. There are no boats for them.

And while wheeling along the winding, hilly forgotten stretch of Highway 101 which travels the western coast Hood Canal, is less than enticing for commuters, it holds a host of pleasant surprises for the cruiser.

That little-known stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, one of American’s most celebrated roadways, is a designated scenic route by the American Automobile Association. The sheer beauty of the scenery has been reason enough for numerous poker runs and motorcycle riders and car clubs to take to the highway, as there are a considerable amount of jewels (and diamonds in the rough) to be found along the roadside and off the beaten path.

Which is part of the reason why we’ll be going Beyond Kitsap for a four-part road trip series along Highway 101 this month.

While, of course, that stretch of road is bound to be rife with traffic over the next few weeks (the often forgotten 101 businesses are licking their chops), most of the treasures found alongside it are available year-round for the road-tripping Kitsaper.

WE START HEADING SOUTH out of Kitsap on Highway 3, through Belfair and right onto Highway 106 toward Hoodsport.

It’s amazing how quaint a place like Belfair can be with the right set of eyes. Once you pass the strip malls and saloons in the city center, the coastal stretch of Highway 106 travels on like an aging, extended beach town with a plethora of quirky and coveted residences. You’ll pass through a collective of nostalgic small towns — Belfair, Union, Eldon — plus a couple of state parks — Twanoh and Potlatch — before you make your way to the junction of the famed 101.

Heading north, you soon reach Hoodsport — another quiet little 101 town and gateway to the Olympics.

The Hoodsport Winery serves as the town greeter with an open invitation to visit the award-winning wine shop and tasting room.

And while we can’t condone a stop for a tasting before traveling on without the services of a designated driver, we absolutely suggest picking up a bottle of the celebrated Raspberry Wine and taking a short detour to Lake Cushman for beachside wine and relaxation.

Check back next week, as we continue our trip Beyond Kitsap.

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