Five Days in Olympic National Park

Patrick and I were excited when my parents volunteered to spend a week with the boys so we could head out of town, something we haven’t done since August 2019. We debated a little–I wanted to go to Portland, he wanted to go backpacking, and we settled on a trip to Olympic National Park for hiking and seeing the sights. There was a lot of logistics and planning, but it was worth it as we had a great trip. We had to adjust some things on the fly, but we ended up having a nice blend of planned experiences and spontaneous fun.

We picked my parents up from the airport at 1 on Friday, showed them the ropes, went over the schedule, and waited for the other kids to get home from school. We all had a nice dinner together, and then Patrick and I headed out for a hotel by the airport, since we needed to park the car and were getting on a flight at 5:45 am. Flying was crowded, but easy, and we felt good about it.

We changed planes in Denver, where we caffeinated ourselves and had an airport burrito. Arriving in Seattle by 11:00, we rented our little Corolla and headed to the ferry to Bainbridge–great views of Seattle and the mountains from the ferry, and we saw a little harbor seal from the deck. We had to wait for a while, but we got on the 1:15 ferry and found a fun place by the water to have lunch. We got ice cream at Mora, the best on the island, and then we headed up to Port Townsend for our first night.

In Port Townsend, we stayed at The Palace, a former brothel turned upscale hotel. It was great! Big airy rooms, beautiful views from the windows, easy to walk to the harbor and restaurants/shops. We took a walk to shake off some of the travel lethargy, and ended up having a drink and some nachos on the deck of Sirens, a cute restaurant above the water. We had quite a show from the sea gulls who were feeling threatened by a young bald eagle.

I woke up really early (curses to the time change, and I never really felt like I got comfortable with it) and went to get groceries for our trip around the park. We weren’t sure what eating options awaited us, so we wanted some sandwich stuff and things for breakfast. I picked up a bagel and coffee for us, and we enjoyed watching the sun rise in Port Townsend. We drove up to Fort Wordon state park and we were glad we did for the views along the way of the different houses built into the cliffs.

From there, we had plans to hike Hurricane Ridge, so we headed toward Port Angeles. We drove up, up, up, stopping to observe the scenery and learn about the precipitation and Rain Shadow of Olympic National Park. A highlight of the drive was a bear cub eating by the side of the road. We stopped and watched (didn’t get out, hah). It was adorable. As we ascended Hurricane Ridge, we had amazing views of the mountains and drove through the clouds, but when we got to the top, we were a little surprised to find that there was a wall of snow, and people were hiking with snowshoes and skis. Oops. So we hiked a little ways and then decided to move on.

We drove back into Port Angles and went out to a little spit of land, Ediz Hook, where we walked along the water, saw Canada, and observed some harbor seals playing in the water. There’s a Coast Guard station there, so we thought about our Coastie friends and what it would be like to be stationed out there on the Straits of Juan de Fuca. We really wanted to see some whales, so we decided to take a side trip to Salt Creek Recreation Area on the Whale Trail. We didn’t see any whales there, but we did have a picnic and sat on an old military bunker and watched the birds eat at low tide.

From there, we had plans to hike Marymere Falls at Lake Crescent in the park. We drove there, but the trailhead was completely full and so we opted for another nearby trail, Moments in Time, which was highly educational and exciting, as it was our first exposure to the gigantic Douglass-fir and huge red cedars. We also learned about homesteading in the peninsula and the native peoples of the region. It was a quick drive to our lodge for the night, Sol Duc Hot Springs in the park. We decided to do the waterfalls hike before checking in. It was a great hike to glorious falls.

We checked in, had some dinner from take away at the lodge restaurant, and went for our soak time at 6:00 in the mineral pools. They were so hot and sulfury! Great fun, but we only lasted half an hour. We went back to the room and fell asleep almost immediately. It had been a long day! And I was a little anxious because there was no internet or cell service at the lodge, and I needed to submit an incomplete form I had forgotten about.

The next morning, we decided to forego our morning soak in favor of exploring, and trying to find a little internet service. We drove to Callum Bay, where we got service and watched some golden eagles argue with a bald eagle on the beach. Fascinating! We tried to drive on to Neah Bay and Cape Flatterly, but the Makah Nation is closed to visitors, and we couldn’t go. The drive was still really interesting, so we decided to take a side trip to Ozette Lake, which is part of the National Park. On the way, we saw a bobcat on the side of the road. We did the Cape Alava hike, a 3.1 mile hike to the coast along boardwalks, mostly. It was fascinating. I was still hoping for whales! None to be seen there. One can hike 3 miles down the beach to Sand Point and come back to Ozette via a more southern trail. We were feeling a little hungry, so we headed back up on the Cape Alava trail.

We stopped in Forks for pizza. I ordered and we waited in the car for pick up, reveling in our good internet in town. Forks was something. Twilight is set near there, and I could see it. We had run out of time for La Push and Rialto Beach, which I regret a little; however, the pictures look a lot like the Oregon Coast. From Forks, and our scarfing down of a jalapeño and pineapple pizza, we stopped at Ruby Beach for a little walk along the beach. It was cool to see the rock outcroppings and the driftwood, and lots of folks had put cairns up along a piece of driftwood to mark the return to the road.

That night, we stayed at Kalaloch lodge along the coast. It was a beautiful little cabin with an amazing view of the ocean. We did see some whales spouting from the deck. The sunset capped our evening, and I felt proud of myself for being able to stay up until 8:45 to watch it.

The kids just came back from pancake day, so I’ll need to finish this up later.


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