The Olympic Peninsula in Washington is much more than the Olympic National Park. We explored just a few places of beauty and surprise. But this is an area worthy of much more time! We covered a lot of miles on the coastlines of Washington state!
Our first night was along the banks of a small river, where it flows to the sea. We walked through the grasslands and enjoyed the salty smells. The tides were extreme and our scenery included a curious bald eagle. Although we were near the highway, the site felt private and secure.
Along the route we stopped for a few geocaches. (do you geocache? check out http://www.geocaching.com) This one was particularly fun. It is called “Keys To Success”. The main cache container is cabled to a tree in the woods. But the logbook cache container is a small locked box inside. The box contains hundreds of keys. One of which will open the lock and allow us to sign the logbook. So we spent about 15 minutes testing keys and finally opening the box so we could claim this cache as a “find”. This location was heavily guarded by these banana slugs, which we saw again often on the peninsula.
When we stopped for guidebooks and maps we also visited the oldest known cedar tree. You may remember the one we saw last month, but this one is even bigger. Quite an impressive site.
In an effort to collect geographic milestones, we headed to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery. This is the most Northeastern point of the mainland USA (in contrast to Key West last year, the most Southeastern point) This area is directly across the Strait of Juan de Fuca where we camped for Geneva’s birthday last month. The first glimpse of this coastline was beautiful. and the rest of the drive had us enthralled. It was a beautiful combination of sea and stone.
In Neah Bay we camped at an informal, beachfront campground, which allowed the dogs to run freely on the beach. And so they ran, and they ran and they ran! They ran until they were completely exhausted. The ocean tide, land mass and pine trees framed a fantastic sunset The next morning Mike and the rested dogs enjoyed a foggy walk along the bay. And observed a large number of these beach dwellers working in the low tidal zone.
While in Neah Bay we visited the cultural center. This area is part of an Indian reservation and the museum and cultural center provided great information about the history of this tribe. We also hiked to Cape Flattery along the old cedar trail, which is boards in some places and roots in others. From the end of the trail you can look out over the ocean and feel as though you are at the end of the earth. Below the trail, the waves crash into the rocks and slowly erode away the earth beneath your feet. And then just beyond the edge is the Cape Flattery lighthouse.
Our next two stops were inside the Olympic National Park, in the vehicle accessible areas. But this park is truly designed for the hiker, the backpacker and the backcountry through-hikers. We enjoyed the Sol-Duc Hot Springs for a soak and then went on the view Mount Olympus from Hurricane Ridge. After a picnic at the top we posed for a few photos with the ridges as a backdrop and then returned to the van to test our brakes down the steep hill.
We did observe that camping in the Olympic Peninsula is well restricted. Logging roads and forest roads are often gated. Campgrounds and RV parks are full, and expensive. One place that had spaces wanted $31 per night for the van (no hook ups) plus $8 per dog. We were unwilling to pay that, and chose to park at a nearby trailhead for the night. Traveler be aware and plan accordingly.
As we northeastern side of the peninsula timing worked out that we were able to driveway camp with some family members. The next day we went to a nearby lavender farm (Purple Haze) on Bell Bottom Road. And avoided parking here Did you know my childhood nickname was Toad? Very few people are still alive who knew that trivial fact! It was great to visit with them again at this point in our trip.
At one gas stop we could not resist posing for a photo with this adorable salmon van! We also stopped and met another Vanagon owner with a Bostig conversion in progress. He already had his own “It’s not a slow car, it’s a fast house” sticker, but it was great to chat for a bit And his wife gave us some delicious muffins for the road!
After many hours of driving, we pulled in to a small town, municipal parking lot. Some towns rent overnight parking spaces at their city parks to raise city revenue. This one offered the standard park restrooms and even showers at the adjoining city pool as well as a skate park, picnic tables, etc. We happened to arrive just as a “light parade” was rolling through. It was a cute reminder about small-town America and the people that live there.
The next section of our trip will take us back though Oregon and then on to Idaho and Utah as we headed back to Arizona again. Sign up to receive these posts in your email box to follow our adventures.