Olympic Peninsula and The Washington Coast
The Olympic Peninsula and the Washington Coast, are an unbelievable place.
I love the ocean. It fills me up. A wash of calm rushes over me when staring into an endless horizon of nothingness.
The millions of bizarre creatures and fascinating life studding the rocks, sands, hiding in the eel grass, bobbing under the surface and scuttering across the ocean floor- I feel at home with them.
Clams spitting up angry bursts of water and sand.
Crabs clambering to get under barnacle-encrusted rocks.
Even the itchy, stinky bugs that buzz around the bull kelp washed up on shore.
I love it.
It makes sense. I grew up on an island, and a small one at that, where the smell and sight of the water reached almost every nook of our little rock of land. Going back to it now has proved essential to my well being.
My husband knows this, so when my birthday snuck up this year he propositioned "Let's take a little road trip to the Olympic Peninsula and the coast." Oh yes..
Above, abandoned Ranger Cabin on Indian Reservation, left with all it's contents and flooded by the saltwater.
The Olympic Peninsula is a quiet, less populated area of the state. North of the busy epicenter, it has a gentle way about it. Life is slower, more thoughtful, less hurried.
The Forest itself is a vast array of life and nature. So large and mossy, most wouldn't believe it real and not a scene from Lord of the Rings or Pan's Labyrinth. Wildlife and ecosystems so rich and full Disney even kept it's wild animals for films tucked away here in a Game Farm (known as the Olympic Game Farm and still in operation today as a drive-through type of zoo full of lions and tigers and bears (oh my!)).
We tossed our tent and our dog in our old forester and shuffled onto the boat that carries you to that little island I mentioned earlier. There we dropped our dog for a few days with the folks and took off for the dungeness spit.
Above, a morning run on the trails along the dungeness spit.
If you've never been to the spit before, and not too many have, you are in for a surprise. A narrow five and a half mile long bar of sand stretching straight into the Straight of Juan De Fuca, it's a National Wildlife Refuge. The sound of the waves crashing the climbing sand banks carries with it the shorebirds calls.
After a night around the fire and a morning run through the fog, we took off to say hi to an old friend and head up to Hurricane Ridge. The ridge is a place I've been going since I was a kid and a popular spot in these parts for hiking and backpacking in the summer and skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. One of the most epic views, Mt Olympus and a panoramic range of powdery points scrapes across the sky, framed by the ocean. A long drive leads you out to Obstruction Point for even more jaw-dropping eye candy.
We snuggled up in the thick forest beneath, blanketed in moss and small creatures where we shared hot dogs dotted with ketchup before waking up to climb Steeple Rock in the morning. Sitting on the summit I took a short video clip I posted to my instagram here.
Above, a beach on indian reservation in one of the most remote parts of the state.
There are some spots and hideaways we each like to keep our own so that we may return to them and know they will be the same. The world is ever-growing and people are expanding into these precious getaways, so we do what we can to keep a few small for just a little longer.
Our highest point of the trip landed us on Cape Flattery, the most Northwest spot of the contiguous United States. As you can imagine, wild things happen here. Water and waves reminiscent of cargo ships wham into bleached rock walls with volcanic force. Sea birds howl and flock from the cavernous caves sinking back into these rock cliffs. It seems impossible to imagine being in that water until you turn and read the informational sign of how the native people still take pride in whale hunting here in their traditional boats. Sitka trees line the dirt trails, their branches turned up to the sky, carrying with them your gaze.
Both on the way up and on the way back we were forced to take an alternate route (due to road work), that carried us over the mighty Elwha and spun winding around a long, lean road wrapping Lake Crescent. Struck by the brilliant effervescence of the gem blue/green water we quickly pulled over to dip in the luxuriously fresh alpine lake. Swimming in late September, we inspired a few others to join us in the bitter waters. Due to a unique blend of minerals and absence thereof, a startling vibrancy of color illuminates this lake unlike any other and is home to a rare few fish. We sunned on the dock while our pole bobbed in the water before drying out and moving along again.
We did, however, stop again on our way back. And coming back this time, we took a different in, leading us to a summer hotel straight out of the picturesque turn of the century. Gorgeous white cottages showered in cascading flower baskets and kept in pristine condition lead up to the dock, kayaks and brilliant lodge adorned in rustic charm and sporting a building-long sunroom brushing the shore of the lake. The sun beat in these ancient windows while waiters casually served local elk burgers glazed in huckleberry sauce.
It was a lovely trip and way to reconnect to our native home made more special by the fact that it is our native home. It was a good trip.