First Day in Forks, WA

Forks, WA

Since Forks is only about 70 miles west of Port Angeles, we waited on Sunday until near the park’s 11:00 check-out time to leave.  We have driven about half of the route on US 101 before so we knew what US 101 was like to our west.

Crescent Lake

About 15 miles west of Port Angeles the road drops down a bit and runs along the south side of Crescent Lake.  Since there is not much room between the mountains and the lake the road is narrow and rough as it twists and turns along the lake.  While the passenger can enjoy some great views of the beautiful lake, the drive only sees the two lanes in front of him, hanging on to the wheel with both hands.

After passing Crescent Lake, US 101 makes a slow turn and begins to head south, crossing a number of narrow bridges.  One of the bridges over the Sol Duc River is getting a face lift, so the road narrows to one narrow lane.

A few miles before the town of Forks we turned west on WA-110 and drove seven miles to Riverview RV Park, our home for the next week.

We are just five miles from the coastal community of La Push (pop. 321), the largest community within the Quileute Indian Reservation.  La Push and the Quileute Tribe are featured in the Twilight series, set mainly in nearby Forks.  The popularity of the books and the related film adaptations, has had a significant impact on tourism to the area.

After setting up in the RV park we drove over to La Push for a visit to one of the nearby beaches.  There are three beach areas separated from each other by high rocky areas along the shore.  The beaches are creatively named First Beach, Second Beach, and Third Beach.  We think there must have been a contest or something to come up with those unique names.  First Beach is right in La Push, while beaches two and three are accessed by a trail through the forest.  We found a parking place in the Second Beach area and hiked the one mile trail to the ocean.  The trail goes through some beautiful old growth forest, with some trees growing up out of a large area of exposed roots.

Approaching the ocean the trail drops steeply down on a narrow path.  Once at the bottom a large area of driftwood makes accessing the beach a bit interesting.

Once on the beach we enjoyed the beautiful views of the cliffs and sea stacks all around us.

We missed the lowest tide but were there soon enough to enjoy some of the sea life uncovered as the tide slowly came in.

Ochre Sea Star

Purple Ochre Sea Star

Green Anemone

There is so much to see here between the Pacific Ocean and the Olympic Mountains and the nimble hiker has a number of adventures planned for our week stay.  More on that later . . .

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Island Hopping to Lopez

Port Angeles, WA

Our friends, Eric and Laurel, recently moved to their summer spot on Lopez Island, one of the San Juan Islands.  They spend two months there each summer as volunteers conducting nature programs at Spencer Spit State Park.  We had a visit to the San Juan’s on our list of places to see, so when they invited us to visit them for a tour of Lopez, we quickly accepted.   While the island is only about 30 miles away for a bird, the trip for us was a bit longer.

We needed to take two ferries, so schedule coordination was important.  The first ferry was from Port Townsend to Coupeville on Whidbey Island.  We made a reservation on the first ferry of the day (6:30 AM) which required us to be at the terminal by 6:00.  Since Port Townsend is 40 miles from us, we were up and out the door very early.

The moon over the Olympic Mts. before sunrise

As we drove east toward Port Townsend we enjoyed a great view of a golden sunset.  Then it dawned (pun intended) on us that sunsets only occur at the end of the day.  A quick Google search informed us that beautiful scenes like this also often occur first thing in the morning.  Who knew!

We arrived at the terminal right on time and, after a brief wait, drove on to the ferry and settled in for the 30 minute crossing.

Port Townsend Ferry Terminal

A full boat, even at 6:30

Crossing the Admiralty Inlet

Approaching Whidbey Island

Local residents enjoying a park in Coupeville

After the 30 minute ferry ride to Whidbey Island, we drove 26 miles north where we crossed a scenic bridge over Deception Pass on to Fidalgo Island.  From there it was another nine miles to the town of Anacortes, where we caught the ferry to Lopez Island.

Here comes our ferry

Laurel suggested we park the Jeep in Anacortes and walk on to the ferry since we didn’t need it on Lopez.  That was a great idea as you don’t need a reservation to walk on to any of the ferries.

San Juan Islands

Arriving at Lopez Island

Our Uber driver waves as we prepare to disembark

Eric was right there to meet us as we left the ferry, while Laurel was back at the park preparing a picnic lunch.  He gave us a nice tour of  Spencer Spit State Park before taking us to their summer home tucked away in a very nice spot away from any park visitors.  The four of us then walked down to a nearby beach and out onto the Spencer Spit.

View of the San Juan’s from the Spencer Spit

The group then piled into their truck for a quick tour of the island.  Lopez Island is the third largest of the San Juan’s.  It is flatter than the other major islands and the most rural with a rolling terrain of forest, farmland, and beaches.  It’s about 10 miles long and 4 miles wide.  There is a nice little community on the west side of the island with two grocery stores, a great library, a few places to eat, and lots of farm stands.  Nearby Fisherman Bay has a marina and a small motel.

After our tour we drove to the southeast side of the island, parked, and hiked a short distance to a small beach along Watmough Bay.  Laurel put down a blanket and laid out a delicious lunch spread for us to share.

Fresh locally made spreads, local smoked tuna, and organic produce

Lunch with a view

Watmough Bay

After enjoying a quiet lunch along the bay, we returned to the truck and drove across the island for a visit to Shark Reef Sanctuary.  A half mile trail through some old growth trees leads to a great view of the San Juan Channel.

The channel below us was a swirling river of fast flowing water created by tidal movement between islands.

A mother sea lion was enjoying a nap while her pup enjoyed lunch on one of the small islands across the channel.

Our time on the island was limited as we had to coordinate the two ferries back to Port Townsend, so we had to hustle back to the ferry terminal to catch the boat to Anacortes.

Our tour guides and their Uber vehicle

The return trip was uneventful and we were back at the motorhome before dark (not difficult as it stays light until almost 9:30).  Ten hours of travel for a four hour visit is a bit inefficient, but it was well worth the effort.  Our thanks to Laurel and Eric for a wonderful visit to your beautiful island.

The end of our month-long visit to the Port Angeles area is rapidly approaching.  Soon we will move to the west side of Olympic NP for a visit to the little town of Forks.  More on that later . . .

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Hiking to the top of Maiden Peak

Port Angeles, WA

Soon after arriving in this area we were told by a local resident not to miss a visit to the Deer Park section of Olympic National Park.  A little research revealed that Deer Park is the location of the trailhead for a hike to Maiden Peak, a 6,434 foot peak with a great 360 degree view of the mountains to the south and water to the north.   So one day last week we took  US 101 to just east of Port Angeles where we turned south on to Deer Park Road.  The 16 mile road is paved for the first 8 miles but once it enters the national park, the road narrows and becomes dirt.

We read that the road can be quite rough at times, but it must have been graded recently as we found it to be in good condition, although very dusty.  It’s a bit narrow in spots with steep drop offs to the west, so you need to be alert, especially when going around the numerous turns.

As you gain in elevation great views appear where there are gaps in the trees.

Don’t turn right!

As we approached the end of the road, a clearly marked turn to the right led to a small parking area near a ranger station at 5500 ft.  We didn’t see anyone on the drive up so we were surprised at the number of cars in the small parking area.  We were just able to squeeze the Jeep into a spot parallel to the road before heading to the nearby trail.

Maiden Peak is located along the Obstruction Point Trail

The trail begins by going sharply downhill (to 4900 ft) for almost a mile.  It’s a nice, easy walk on fresh legs, but we knew we would pay a price coming up on the return hike!

The trail first goes through the forests of Green Mountain, then opens into meadows with a view of a false summit of Maiden Peak.

False summit ahead

As we climbed up through the meadow, the top of Maiden Peak soon came into view.

Maiden Peak on the right

We waited, but Julie Andrews failed to appear

Continuing up through the meadow

After climbing up through the meadow, the trail winds around the first peak on a narrow path where it it best to keep your focus on the trail, despite the gorgeous views.

Once we made our way around the first peak, we could see Maiden Peak in front of us.

A young climber rests among the lupine before the final assault up to the peak!

The main trail continues around the peak and keeps going further into the mountains.  We knew there was no defined route to the top, but we read somewhere that there was a spot where you could see hints of a path others had used.  We hiked all the way to the other side of the peak and found a little used path, but it didn’t lead to the top so we just ended up scrambling up the loose rock to the peak.

 

Can you spot John in the top center of the rocks?

That’s him waving from atop the peak

A USGS survey marker identifies the highest point on the peak at 6,434 ft.

The photo below has a bit of haze, but you can just make out the Dungeness Spit jutting out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  With binoculars we could see the lighthouse we visited last week with Eric and Laurel (blog post).

Dungeness Spit to the north

View to the northeast with Mt Baker in the distance

View to the northwest

View to the southwest

Lunch with a view

After enjoying the views on the peak we began the hike back to the trailhead.  We first had to get back to the main trail below us through the loose rocks.

No trail here!

Back on the main trail

Avalanche lilies abound

The hike is eight miles round trip, so our legs were a bit tired as we hit that last uphill mile to the trailhead.  Once back at the parking area we could see the two peaks in the distance.

Then it was back down the dusty, winding, narrow road to civilization.

The hike to Maiden Peak is one of the best we have ever done.  The constant elevation change really works the legs, but the great views near and atop the peak make it well worth the effort.

Next up for us is a bit of “island hopping” to visit friends.  More on that later . . .

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Hiking, Biking, and Playing Tourist on the Olympic Peninsula

Port Angeles, WA

Last week we drove 17 miles south into the Olympic Mountains with Eric and Laurel to do some hiking along Hurricane Ridge (click here for that post).  While there we learned that sometimes low clouds cover the valleys while Hurricane Ridge sticks out above them in the clear.  So one day last week we checked a web cam view from the visitor’s center and saw just that condition.  But by the time we got up there the clouds had disappeared.  We still enjoyed the beautiful views from the ridge and went into the visitor center to view their video.  As we drove out of the parking area we decided to take a little side trip.  Just as you drive out of the parking area there is a dirt road on the right that leads steeply downhill.   Obstruction Point Road winds its way through the forest for about eight miles, ending at Obstruction Point Trailhead.

Obstruction Point Road

The road is only officially open July through October.  When we were there, they had just opened the first four miles of it as there was winter damage beyond that.  We drove to the point where the road was closed and turned around in a small trailhead parking area.  A sign there indicated a hike of less than a mile leading to P.J. Lake.

We had not heard of this trail but enjoy seeing beautiful mountain lakes, so we got out our packs and headed down the trail.  “Down the trail” turned out to be a good description, as the trail quickly began a very steep descent into a canyon.

Avalanche Lilies line the trial

We hiked down to the bottom, but a heavily flowing stream prevented us from reaching the lake.  So back we went up the steep track.  Photos never show the true steepness of trails.

After climbing back up to the Jeep we drove back to the main road and headed down the mountain.  Along the way we spotted a doe with two fawns feeding along the side of the road.

The next day we headed west on US 101 to the south side of Crescent Lake for a hike up to Marymere Falls.

View of Crescent Lake from US 101

The trailhead is at the Storm King Ranger Station parking area on the south shore of the lake.  The trail goes through a tunnel under the highway and heads south along Barnes Creek.

The flat trail goes through old growth forest for about a half mile before crossing Barnes Creek.

Soon after crossing that bridge the trail goes over Falls Creek on a more narrow bridge.

Just past that bridge the trail goes steeply up to the falls.  With the heavy snow melt the flow of water over the falls was impressive.

Some trees along the trail were huge

Returning to the trailhead we drove around to the north side of the lake to explore a trail there.  The trail turned out to be a paved bike path with limited lake views.  So we walked down a dirt path to the lake and enjoyed lunch.  The location made a “lunch with a view” photo difficult forcing some minor modifications in the pose.

Lunch with a view (modified)

For the first two weeks of our visit to the Olympic Peninsula we stayed at Elwha Dam RV Park, about 10 miles west of Port Angeles.  We really liked our site there but could only get a reservation for two weeks.  So we recently moved to the Olympic KOA, a few miles to the east of Port Angeles.  While not as pleasing to us as Elwha Dam, the site does have a great view of the Olympic Mountains to our south.

The Olympic Discovery Trail is a bike/hike path that, when completed, will run 130 miles along the north shore of the Olympic Peninsula from Port Townsend on the east to La Push on the west.  Over 70 miles of paved trail have been completed so far.  We are able to easily access the trail from the KOA by crossing US 101 on to the Old Olympic Highway for about two miles.  We rode 11 miles from the park to one of those chain coffee shops out of Seattle in Sequim.  The trail is fairly flat but the wind blows pretty strongly out of the west around here so the return ride was a bit of a challenge.

Bird houses for sale along the trail

Just outside Sequim the trail goes through Railroad Bridge Park, where it uses an old railroad bridge to cross the Dungeness River.

Another day we drove about 40 miles to the east for a visit to the small town of Port Townsend.   It sits almost at the end of a peninsula at the point where the Strait of Juan de Fuca becomes the Puget Sound.  Our first stop was Fort Worden Historical State Park, located just north of Port Townsend on the tip of the peninsula.  Fort Worden was an active US Army base from 1902 to 1953, part of the defensive system guarding shipping in the Puget Sound.

Remains of an old artillery battery

Great view of Mt. Baker, 60 miles away, from near the gun battery

At the very tip of the peninsula near the gun battery is the Point Wilson Light.  Originally constructed in 1879 and later improved in 1914, the light is controlled by the Coast Guard, while the grounds are managed by Washington State Parks.

Another view of Mt. Baker

A bit of ship traffic

Leaving Ft. Worden we drove back into Port Townsend to explore the waterfront section of town.  As we walked out to the end of the restored old Union Dock we spotted the outdoor balcony of a local restaurant.  Since we always enjoy a lunch with a view, we headed up for a meal while overlooking the water.

View from the deck of Sirens

We also enjoyed some light refreshments

As we walked down Water Street we could hear someone singing and the sound of a piano.  Turns out it was a gentleman sitting at a grand piano at the corner of Taylor Street.  He was very good so we stood and listened for a bit (after putting a little cash in his jar).  We both agreed that we would definitely “turn a chair” for him (you’ll understand if you watch  “The Voice”).

Port Townsend is a cool little town.  If you are into various forms of art, you would enjoy visiting some of the shops along Water Street.  But there were a bit too many (other) tourists for our tastes.

Enough of the city, it’s time to do some hiking!  More on that later . . .

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A Hike to the “Spit”

Port Angeles, WA

Late last week Eric and Laurel moved from Salt River, about 10 miles west of us, to Dungeness County Park, about 20 miles east of us near the town of Sequim.  Laurel contacted us and said that when you are in the Sequim area a hike out to the Dungeness Light House is something you have to do.   They were going to do it the next day and invited us to join them.  We couldn’t find the regulation to which she was referring but, since we didn’t want to break any local laws, we agreed to join them.

The lighthouse is located near the end of the Dungeness Spit.  A spit (or sand spit) is beach landform off coasts or lake shores. It develops from the process of longshore drift by longshore currents. The drift occurs due to waves meeting the beach at an oblique angle, moving sediment down the beach in a zigzag pattern.  Dungeness Spit is a 5.5 mile  long sand spit jutting out from the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is the longest natural sand spit in the United States,

There’s a lighthouse out there somewhere!

The best time to hike out to the lighthouse is at low tide when the beach is most exposed.   On the day of our hike low tide occurred at 11:30 AM, so we met Eric and Laurel at 9:30 to insure we would have good conditions for both the hike out and the return back.

Lauren killed this sea monster before it attacked us

Finally, the lighthouse comes into view over Eric’s left shoulder

We arrived at last

“Welcome to Serenity”

The New Dungeness Light was first lit in 1857 and was the second lighthouse established in the Washington territory following the Cape Disappointment Light of 1856.  Originally, the lighthouse was a 1½-story duplex with a 100-foot tower rising from the roof.  The tower was painted black on the top half and white on the lower section.  Over time, the tower developed structural cracks, most likely from a combination of earthquakes and weather erosion.  In 1927 the cracks in the tower were so severe that they feared that the tower would topple. It was decided that the tower would be lowered to its current height of 63 feet.  With the new tower dimensions, the original fresnel lens was too large for the tower.  To save costs, the lantern room from the decommissioned Admiralty Head lighthouse on nearby Whidbey Island was removed and placed atop the shorter tower.  

Dungeness Lighthouse had a full-time keeper until 1994.  Since then the Coast Guard has maintained the light itself, but the rest of the facility is operated by members of the New Dungeness Light Station Association.  Members “volunteer” to spend a week at the lighthouse giving tours and performing general maintenance tasks.  Eight people at a time pay $375 for the honor of living with 7 other members in the caretaker house for a week.   Our guide, Mitch, was taking a week’s vacation from a corporate position in Los Angeles.  Although he had only been there two days, he told us he was really enjoying the experience.

Mitch tells us about the lighthouse

The light, a Vega rotating beacon

Looking down the spit from the tower

The photo below shows land on the spit beyond the lighthouse.  When the lighthouse was first constructed it was at the very end of the split.  But the split grows a bit every year so the lighthouse is no longer at the end.

Time to head back

Lined up for take-off

We made it!

Eleven miles of hiking with ten on a long rocky beach is a bit much (A half mile hike through the Dungeness Wildlife Preserve begins this adventure which accounts for the extra mile).  But a visit to the cool lighthouse at the end of the spit made it all worthwhile.  Plus hiking with Eric and Laurel made the miles go by quickly.

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Hiking Hurricane Ridge – Olympic NP

Port Angeles, WA

One of the most beautiful places in Olympic National Park is a place called Hurricane Ridge.  The Ridge is accessed by way of a 17 mile long road that begins at the main park visitor center just south of Port Angeles.  The road winds its way up to a large parking area (the spot is very popular) and another visitor center.  The parking area is at 5,242 feet, a pretty high location when you consider that Port Angeles is at sea level.

View driving up to Hurricane Ridge

We met Eric and Laurel in the parking lot at 9:30 AM, an early hour for us.  The sight of a pile of snow next to a plow was not very encouraging.

Our plan was to hike a trail up to Sunrise Point, but a check with the ranger in the visitor center revealed that there was still quite a bit of snow on that trail.

 

So we went to Plan B and drove a short distance further up the road to hike the Hurricane Hill Trail.  This trail is about 3.2 miles round trip on a paved trail.  It provides outstanding panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains to the south and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north.

Colorful Lupines add to the mountain views

We did have to cross a few snow banks

The trail goes up along this ridge

Looking back down the trail

The view looking south

We were fortunate to spot some interesting wildlife along the trail.  Our first sighting is the Olympic Marmot.  Olympic NP is the only place where these little guys exist.  Marmot colonies in the park are in decline due to predation by non-native coyotes.

The name of this ridge is an indication that the weather is not always ideal for hiking.  So we were pleased that we picked an absolutely perfect day for our hike.  The sky was clear of clouds, the temperature was in the mid-60s, and the winds were calm.

The four of us found a nice lunch spot on a low ridge overlooking a beautiful mountain meadow.  As we finished our lunch and contemplated our “lunch with a view” photo, two characters walked right in front of us. This brief photo opportunity made it necessary for us to include an unprecedented two lunch pictures in this blog.  We hope you don’t mind.

Lunch with a view – part 1

Lunch with a view – part 2

Mt. Baker 95 miles to the northeast

The high point at the end of the trail is very popular

The snow covered Elwha River Trail

As we hiked back down the trail, we spent some time watching the guy below as he enjoyed a snack in the nearby meadow.

Think we were a little too close to the bear?  The above photos were taken on zoom.  Below is a non-zoom shot.

Returning to the visitor center we were told that there were some mountain goats hanging around the nearby trail up to Sunset Point.  So we crossed some heavy snowbanks and headed up the steep trail.  As we went up the trail we were treated to a great view of Hurricane Hill where we hiked earlier.

Mountain goats are not native to the Olympic Peninsula.  About a dozen goats were introduced to the Olympic Mountains in the 1920s, before the national park was established in 1938.  The goats were placed in the area as an experiment to see how adaptable they would be to the rugged mountains of the Olympics. By 1983, the numbers grew to more than 1,100.  A ranger told us that today they estimate the population to be around 800.

The goats can be a nuisance along heavily used trails and around wilderness campsites because they seek out salt and minerals from human urine, backpacks and sweat on clothing.  They can become aggressive to humans and in 2007 a man was killed by a 370 pound goat in the Hurricane Ridge area. He was trying to protect his wife and a friend when the goat gored him, severing an artery in his thigh.

We were very calm and quiet as the group of goats pass near us (and other foolish hikers) on the trail.

View down to the visitor center

The trail up Hurricane Hill ranks as one of the most beautiful hikes we have ever done and not to be missed.  Stunning vistas surrounded us,  and the chance to see some wildlife just added to the experience.

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Hiking to the Sol Duc Falls with Friends

Port Angeles, WA

One day last week we drove west of Port Angeles to the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and joined friends, Eric and Laurel (Raven and Chickadee), for a hike on the Lover’s Lane Trail to the Sol Duc Falls.  To get to the hot springs we drove 25 miles west on US 101 and turned south on Sol Duc Hot Springs Road for 12 miles.  The trailhead to Lover’s Lane Trail and the falls is in the north end of the parking lot of the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort.

Sol Duc Resort

Pam and Eric at the trailhead

It was cool and misty as we began hiking, giving the woods a weird primordial feeling.

The trail crossed a number of rapidly flowing streams on old, but very sturdy bridges.

What a strange tree!

A slow hiker we passed on the trail

The nimble hiker struts her stuff

After about three and half miles, we came to Sol Duc Falls.  While we didn’t see many hikers on the trail, the area around the falls was quite crowded.  This is because you can avoid the longer 7 mile hike and drive to a trailhead that is less than a mile from the falls.

Sol Duc Falls

Looking back from a spot by the falls to the bridge (see anyone on the bridge?)

Laurel had spoken with someone who had hiked this trail a few weeks earlier. She was told it was a difficult hike due to the number of large trees that had fallen across the path over the winter.  But a crew must have been working overtime recently as we found the trail almost totally clear of trees and passed many spots with evidence of recent chain saw activity.  We only found a few spots where we had to do some detouring.  Some of the downed trees were quite large and must have made incredible noise as they fell.

A “small” tree blocks our path

On US 101 we passed Crescent Lake on the  drive to the trailhead and again on the drive back to the motorhome.  What a difference the sun makes!  On the drive to the trailhead it was raining and the cloud cover was quite thick, giving the lake a gloomy look.

The skies cleared and the sun was shining brightly on the return drive, giving the lake a totally different appearance.

We really enjoy hiking in the open spaces of the southwest so sometimes a trek in the woods doesn’t do much for us.  But the Lover’s Lane Trail has such a wide diversity of terrain, water crossings, and plant life that we found it to be a very interesting experience.  Plus its helps to be hiking with Laurel and Eric, who have a tremendous knowledge about plant life and can identify every bird they see!  We really enjoy hiking with them and plan at least one more adventure before they leave the area.

More on that later . . .

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