On the way I pulled over to get some pictures at the Columbia Gorge, and would also have driven out to a petrified forest park near the gorge if I hadn’t been on a timetable. The park in Snoqualmie was nice enough to take me in late at night, and I got a good night’s sleep after the loud teenagers next to me finally packed it in for the night. Ah, privately owned camping/RV facilities. Sometimes it’s a bit of a hit or miss situation. It’s still better than hearing traffic all night at a rest stop or trucks going down rumble strips at Truck Stops.
After a good rest, I rose and got back on the road early Friday morning. Once in downtown Seattle, I immediately headed for the Bainbridge ferry, an altogether confusing experience. I’d never taken a ferry before, so had no idea how the entire parking/lining up for the ferry worked. Once a dockworker set me straight, I got in line with everybody else, then drove onto an enormous floating parking lot. For this ride, I had no idea how long the crossing would take, so I stayed in the van. I watched other people getting out of their cars and heading to mysterious doors that seemed to lead to other magical places than the rows of cars. It was actually exciting to be in a vehicle, with LOTS of other vehicles, on a floating slab heading across the way to another island. Still, I was too hyped up to finally get to the rainforest. It’s all I could think about, really.
Oh, and I finally remembered to pick up a National Park passport at the Port Angeles ranger station. Since then, I’ve been avidly collecting as many stamps as I can. I’m kicking myself for not doing this sooner, so I could’ve had all the stamps from all the other places I’ve been so far, but hey – sometimes it shakes out like that.
I kept on to Forks and was not really surprised to find a town so small that I blinked and almost missed it. The Twilight furor seems to have abated a bit, but I still ran into people that were asking rangers and locals questions about locations in the books. It’s a nice enough little town, but not really my speed. Wanting to get to the Hoh Rainforest campground in time enough to get a camping spot, I kept following 101 until the turnoff towards the park. There’s a lovely progression through the forest along the drive as the tree trunks and ground become gradually thicker with fluffy carpets of moss that crawl up trunks and drape lazily from branches and vines. It makes for very shaggy, green trees. According to a ranger at the Hoh station, there really hadn’t been that much rain in the last month, and the moss was starting to look a touch yellow as it started going into hibernation. It still made for some gorgeous pictures, and wonderful landscape to walk through.
I made it to the campground in plenty of time and found a fantastic spot, pulled in, then walked over to the registration board. In state parks, they usually want you to leave something in the numbered rental area to let other campers know that the spot is already spoken for. I signed up for two nights, at $12 a pop (a BARGAIN, if you ask me) and left a citronella candle and a camping chair, then drove off to the parking lot to check out the various trails. The Hoh Rainforest is apparently one of the biggest temperate rainforests in the United States. Although there are large patches of the forest that have been harvested, within the Olympic National Park, the land is protected. The Hall of Mosses, the Spruce Nature Trail and the Hoh River trail wind through enormous Sitka Spruces and Hemlocks.
The ground is thick with mosses, lichens and ferns that seem to grow on every available surface. Enormous trees with spidery roots almost appear to be slowly crawling their way through the forest along trees fallen long ago. The tops of tall round root balls from these trees are covered in tiers of flowing green, looking almost like Faerie mounds. The entire place fairly buzzes with life, quite literally in the case of all the flies and mosquitoes. I was getting landed on and bitten whenever I stopped to take a picture. I’m grateful that, for whatever reason, I wasn’t covered with itchy bumps afterwards. The presence of the forest itself is so large, so strong, that it’s really very heady. I can only imagine how clean and earthy it smells after a nice, long rain. As it was, there was dust on most of the leaves. The patches of bright sunlight that were able to make it through the forest canopy illuminated the mosses, turning them a fibrant yellowish green. I was able to get some spectacular shots, which made me really happy.
I believe I wandered around for about three to four hours, just marveling at the beauty surrounding me, before coming to the realization that my feet and legs were pretty much done walking. It was past time to head back to the campsite and get some sleep for the night. Because I’m stubborn, and wanted to rest my feet in a river before heading back, I headed down the Hoh River trail – which really did seem to take a great deal longer than it should have. As I stepped into the cloudy, rushing glacial stream, I swear my feet sighed in relief. the ice cold water was a balm on my poor, overly tired feet. As I do with every river I encounter, I sang to it, sending my love out into the water and just being grateful for the experience. (Full run of Hoh Rainforest pics)
The walk back to the van was painful, but once I found myself sitting in the passenger seat, sucking down water in large gulps, I felt a great deal better. I’m very thankful that camp setup is almost minimal when one sleeps in a van. It’s just a matter of shifting things out of the way so that I can lay down on the mattress in the back. The guy in the campsite next to me seemed to look wistfully at my setup as he and his wife worked at setting up their own tent and cooking equipment. For some reason, my mind was too active to sleep, so I ended up staying up until about midnight, listening to music while sitting in my camping chair and looking up at the stars in the patches of sky that peeked out around the treetops. Magical, truly.
The next morning, it was off to the La Push Quileute reservation on the coast. I’d spoken briefly to one of the locals when getting ice that morning, and they’d recommended Second beach at the reservation, and Rialto Beach, as well as a spot way up north called Cape Flattery. It was a cloudy day, and as I reached the border of the Quileute reservation, I spotted a large sign that said, “NO VAMPIRES BEYOND THIS POINT”. Apparently Twilight is alive and well in La Push, even as the glamor of it is fading in Forks.
When I made it out to First Beach, patches of fog were coming in, obscuring the tops of the sea stacks just off shore. First beach is a crescent shaped beach littered with long, large pieces of driftwood bleached grey from exposure to the elements. Out of the three beaches, it’s the only one that you can drive right up to. Bright green moss covers the large rocks along the shoreline, as well as some of the old pieces of docking wood that remain jutting up out of the waves. You have to pick your way down stacks of driftwood and enormous rocks before you actually reach the sand that stretches out to the waves.
Second beach is a bit more strenuous to get to; its trailhead leading into thick forest that winds around and switchbacks down along manmade stairs to the beach itself. Throughout my various sojourns through the woods, I was entranced by the wonderfully creepy aboveground root structures throughout the surrounding forest. The combination of decay coupled with new life is very life affirming. The stairs get a little squishy the closer you get to the beachhead, so I had to watch my footing and walk on the wood planks around the earthen steps at certain points. The sea stacks here are larger, and you can see a natural arch in the rock wall out in the waves off to the right. I wondered briefly if it would be easy to get to during low tide. Being that AT&T signal is horrible throughout the entire area, I couldn’t check my tide table app to see where we were in the tide cycle. Alas.
I stayed down on the beach for awhile, resting my now shaking legs by sitting on one of the large driftwood piles laying around. They created these large, naturally formed bone colored art installations along the shore, and I saw many people camping around them and having lunch on the remains of flora sucked dry. I watched the waves roll in for awhile before the chill started creeping into my bones, telling me it was time to make the long walk back up to the van. The ascent went quicker than I thought it would, with the help of earphones and music. Music always makes strenuous tasks seem to go quicker for me, for which I’m very grateful.
I then pushed on to Rialto Beach, a shoreline thick with smooth, rounded rocks that clacked together loudly in the waves as they crashed against the beach, creating a wonderfully loud, riotous sounding surf. Dotting the edge of the shore were many still standing bleached trees with spidery branches that reach out in all directions, as if seeking desperately for something. Just beyond them begins the slope into the living forest itself. A mile from the parking lot is the hole-in-the-wall camping area. Sadly, my legs were already shot with all the hiking I’d already done, or I would’ve ventured out to see it. Also, I still wasn’t entirely sure if the tide was low enough to reach it. The seastacks from First Beach are easily visible from this vantage point, and the outlines of them looked wonderfully spooky in the fog.
It was then time to head back to the Hoh Rainforest campsite. I was still pretty exhausted from yesterday, and was ready to fall over and get some sleep. I crashed out very early and slept for about 12 hours, then headed up to Cape Flattery, the northwestern most point of the US, short of Alaska. There’s a small parking area for Cape Flattery, so you’ll likely want to arrive early if you want to find a spot during your visit. Actually, this can be said for most of the points that I’ve visted throughout my journey. ARRIVE EARLY. This ensures that you get to walk around in a place with almost no other people around. It’s one of the best ways to explore a place to get the feel of it instead of being assaulted by voices from loud tourists. The lighting in early morning and at sunset also provide for some of the more spectacular views of a given location.
The majority of the hike down is along wonderful worn planked boardwalks that snake through the woods. Along the trails lay viewpoints with gorgeous vistas where you can see the enormous caves carved into the sides of the cliff walls by the pounding waves. The water is a wonderful blue color; clearing as the depths get shorter. The coloring almost matches that of the Florida Keys.
As I walked through the woods down to the viewpoints, I could hear sea lions arguing in that loud burping fashion they have of communicating, but I never did see any of them. From the westernmost viewpoint, from where you can go no further, you can see the Cape Flattery Lighthouse on Tatoosh Island. At one of the previous viewpoints, it was mentioned that the sea was slowly eating away at the cliffs below, and that if you sat for a few moments and closed your eyes when the surf was high, you could actually feel the cape shake a little. It was put forth that in another 700 years, the Cape would eventually collapse into the sea, no longer having the support it needed to stay stable. (Full run of Cape Flattery pics)
On the journey back up to the van, I met this wonderful older couple from Louisiana. They’d been running around the area, enjoying their vacation, and I told them about my journey and the book I was writing. We spoke a little about Swamp People, and they told me about a couple of the adventures they’d had and the people they’d met as well. I then headed out and began the drive back towards Port Angeles. I wanted to spend monday in Seattle.
On the way back, I ran across Sol Duc Falls, a waterfall that cascades out into a chasm below, it’s walls covered with moss. I got up as close to the rushing water as I felt I could safely navigate, and took a whole pile of pictures. On my journey back to the car, I looked back to see a faint rainbow flickering in the mist from the falls. I did my best to capture the image. (full run of pics from Sol Duc Falls)
I ended up spending the night at Elwha State Park, then headed off to Seattle in the morning.
Seattle itself is like many other major cities, irritating and full of distractions. I’ve lost my enjoyment of driving in the city due to the amount of activity going on around me that I don’t usually have to keep track of in more rural settings.
I did, however, really enjoy my trip to Archie McPhee, a gag gift store that I’ve been quite fond of for years. I also stopped by the Science Fiction Museum to check out the Avatar exhibit. It was nicely laid out, and they also had a decent Horror exhibit as well as one called Icons of Science Fiction, but it was $20 to get in, and – being from D.C., I’m used to museums that are MUCH larger, with a LOT more exhibits, and they’re FREE, so I gotta say I was disappointed. (Archie Mc Phee pics and Seattle Science Fiction Museum pics)
Deception Pass State Park, Oak Harbor, WA
Ebey’s Landing, Coupeville, WA