Thursday, July 30, 2015

Perfect Balance of Natural and Necessary

 The Sequim/Port Angeles area has been a surprise. While I expected the waters and forests to be beautiful, I didn't realize just how awe-inspiring they are.

I also didn't realize that while not a city, Sequim is a nice size town with every necessity.  In addition to a Safeway, Sunny Farms Country Store (thank you Lisa!), and a large Walmart, there is even a Costco. Several major pharmacies, Home Depot, Petco, good size sporting goods stores, variety of restaurants, and a decent medical center make it a great place to "get things taken care of" in between all the more fun stuff we do. 

Port Angeles rounds it out with auto dealerships, a small waterfront with the ferries to British Columbia, a sweet downtown, a movie theatre, numerous service providers (get your sewing machine fixed), and a few nice city parks.

There are several small live-music and theatre venues, museums and galleries as well.

Love all the totems throughout both towns
A glimpse of Canada from the waterfront

Doing a short walk through Port Angeles while Bill "took care of things" at the fly-fishing store, I enjoyed all the art and flowers that were seemingly everywhere.

Art and flowers should be required in all towns
Several RV parks are interspersed throughout the area and all are very full. We're coming back this way next week and managed to find a couple sites to cover the days we needed. I think we'll get solar before we dry camp again (more on that later).

No mall, no factories, no large industrial complexes, no sky scrapers.

Tuesday we drove north to Lake Crescent in our continued mission to find a decent fishing spot. While the goal eluded us once again, as always the pursuit took us to stunning natural beauty.

Lake Crescent is also a glacier lake
Legs crossed wearing camo?
Peaceful shores
Dog's eye view
The glacier once filled the space from the top of these mountains
to 600 (some say 1000) feet below in the center of the lake

Another way to enjoy a day at the lake

Wednesday we moved away from water and back to the trees. I read that Hurricane Ridge was a great place to see part of the Olympic National Park, and less than 20 miles from Port Angeles.
With every space full at the Visitor's Center in town, it wasn't surprising to find others already ahead of us at our mid-morning arrival to the park. Thanks to our America the Beautiful Pass we were able to move past the entrance gate - thanks Michelle!!
Must be something pretty cool to see up there
In 17 miles we climbed from sea level to over 5300'. There were small pockets of snow and when we were done we were just below the tree line.
Port Angeles and the Strait with Mt Baker from about 3000'
See. Mt Baker, really :-)
The forests we couldn't see the other day. Yes, because of all the trees.
And there are glaciers.
Real ones.
My first.
The largest is Blue Glacier and in addition to being awesome all by itself, the tip of Mount Olympus lives in the same neighborhood. They like hang out up there. It is very, very impressive.
Real glaciers <giggle>
Our first crowds of the summer. We can share.
Blue Glacier and there on the right is
the tip of Mt Olympus 
Cue Julie Andrews

It's also high for a couple flat-landers (at least for me) so we enjoyed the views from the Visitors Center patio, and I checked out the exhibits upstairs.

On the way back we drove through Heart of the Hills campground. Tents and small campers only. Very pretty.

During our short stay here I have really enjoyed the Bluff Trail behind the campground. It is always different. And always beautiful.

Dungeness Spit with first cup

At low tide
After dinner walk
Next we head back to the Pacific Coast. Good timing as it's expected to be 80 degrees in Sequim for a whole day!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Dungeness Doesn't Disappoint

Strait of San Juan de Fuca from Dungeness Recreation Area
When we started planning our summer route I knew we would be on the Olympic Peninsula near the end of July. One of the first reservations I made was for Dungeness Recreation Area based on Nina's campground review. It sounded like heaven.

Changing our initial route to start north on Hwy 101 rather than south didn't change where we planned to be this week. In hindsight I would have planned a lot longer on the Oregon Coast and tried to change our reservations here to the end of August - but we'll just do that next time :-)

Although I expected to dry camp a lot more, we have had at least water/electric at every stop except our one-nighters at Harvest Host locations. So this is our first experience with managing the electrical system for more than half a day.

Like every other system in the motorhome, we will gain confidence with experience and get the hang of it eventually. Also like every other system, the owner's manual is nearly worthless for anything other than the obvious "name of buttons" that is more insulting than helpful.

Maybe it's coming from the drought of California, but water and tank usage is very easy for us. I think we could easily go three weeks with access to a laundrymat. We'll test that when we have our solar and can boondock (hopefully this winter).

Anyway, back to Dungeness.

This is a county park so the Discovery Pass is not required and some of the rules are different from state and national parks. One is that no alcohol is allowed. So naturally we really wanted a few beers on our first night.....but we followed the rules.

Loop 1 is all first-come, first-serve and Loop 2 is about 75% reservable. Less than half are occupied in each loop this week.  Most of the spaces are very long - easily accommodating our rig and Jeep with room to spare. They could be wider, especially toward the front of each site, but most will accommodate slides. We are very comfortable in #51.. The big bonus is the view of the Strait from our passenger side windows - can't see it from the picnic table due to the fully grown foliage that separates the site from the Bluff Trail. If you have solar and/or satellite this is the one for you.

Beautiful view of the water from our large side window
Each loop has it's own bath house which are close enough to each other to "borrow" from the other loop as needed. Showers are "bring-four-of-your-friends" size with good pressure and warm water. Insert quarter for each 2 minutes which isn't the pain I thought it might be. Bathrooms and shower are kept very clean.

Updated and clean (you get weird looks when photographing a bathroom)
I screwed up when we arrived and parked in #53 because that was our original reservation and on my calendar. I forgot we had been moved to #51 to add Wednesday night. The camp host knocked and said someone else had reserved the spot for Sunday night. I assured him it was ours, then checked my email again after he left and discovered the error.  #53 is a much tighter spot, and although we were set up, it only took a few minutes to move us to the better site. So glad those people came in as we would have had to move on Wednesday anyway and found out what a great site we should have been in :-) Nice to have some good travel karma saved up!

We love watching storms - especially over the water or coming across the desert - and the Bluff Trail gave us our first opportunity on Sunday afternoon. While the rain barely reached us for more than off-and-on sprinkles for a couple hours, the show was gorgeous to see. Having the trail this close is a big reason to stay here.

Watching the storm

On one side of the trail is the Strait

and on the other side Half Shell peaks out
Tessa contemplates the obstacle course ahead
Although not posted, I read "dog-friendly" ends at the Refuge so we turned back here
We're seeing some of the incredible natural beauty here while taking care of a few mundane-but-necessary things that we've saved for a good size town like Sequim.

And I'm so glad we are staying at Dungeness!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Would It Kill Them to Put Up A Couple Signs?

We had an extra day in Hoodsport thanks to Plan C, so we decided to just "wing it" and follow signs when we saw them. Seemed like a good non-plan.

When Bill bought his Washington fishing license he picked up a book on all the lakes, rivers, streams, etc., including the fish populations and rules for each. With the help of Google Maps on his phone he navigates us to different locations for potential fishing.

Friday morning we headed for the Skokomish River. The first little road took us through more beautiful forest on a washboard road high above the northern banks. Unfortunately about the time the road gets down to the river it also becomes private property. Nope, not this spot. Still a very pretty drive on a cool July morning :-)

Instead we head for Skokomish State Park. Big brown sign on Hwy 101 says there's a campground and a trailhead up the road. Great! Neither show on Google, but it does note the state park.

And that's the last sign we see. When we come to a fork we take the one that doesn't have the Dead End sign on it. We come to another dirt road, still no signs, and turn around.

Still need to get groceries so we do that in Shelton, just 8 miles south. Good size town, and a very nice Safeway.

In the afternoon we decide to check out Lake Cushman and an RV park I had on my list. Skokomish Park does have signs, and we find it after some pretty steep grades and narrow turns. Here some of the confusion is resolved.

There is no longer a Skokomish State Park. The local tribe won back the land recently, and although the sign on the highway and Google have not updated yet, we are now where the state park "was".

This is a beautiful campground. The young woman who greets us at the gatehouse is friendly and gives us great information on this place. A place she is clearly very proud to have back under the protection of her people. With the logging wars still on my mind, this victory for the tribe is especially sweet.

The campground is about half full. Some sites are good size with w/e, others are just as large but dry camping only. Most sites in the back are for tents or small campers. The interior roads are pretty tight with trees. There is only one restroom/bathhouse in the campground and I wonder how that "works" when the sites are all full. There is no restroom at the Day Use area.

Nice w/e sites at Skokomish Park

Primitive North Loop of Skokomish Park
If we stayed for a week or more I'd definitely come here, but for one or two nights I probably wouldn't make the trek up that road and back to the highway.

On the way back from the northern loop (huge potholes, primitive group site) we stop at a turnout where I had seen some blue peaking out.

And found one of the most beautiful lakes I've ever seen.

Lake Cushman

The glacier water is the most amazing color
And so clear you can see the bottom near shore
Even the kids spoke quietly, enchanted by this peaceful place
Ferns soften even the most rugged stumps

Unfortunately for Bill pretty didn't mean there were fish to be caught :-( , but had a great time catching with my camera.

Stopped at the corner burger spot in Hoodsport for a surprisingly good fish sandwich and prawns, and the first fries we've had in months. I'd rather have a salad.

We had planned to see part of the national forest on Saturday and this plan we stuck with.

Armed with a little more information from the Visitors Center we took the unmarked road we took the morning before. Apparently the Olympic National Forest is on that dirt road. And there's a cool steel bridge to see. And that campground. And maybe fishing.

I was completely on board with retracing our "steps" because of the little valley on the way. Yes, I definitely have a "type", and it is beautiful valleys with yellow houses and red barns and lots of green - both trees and meadow/pasture. Like a miniature Tillamook Valley, I could wake up here and be very, very happy.

So peaceful

Smiling back at us

So many lovely barns

After the road becomes dirt and we drive through ugly, clear cut land, there is actually a sign for the bridge. 3 miles. More ugly. Then pretty forest and the bridge ahead. One lane, tall railing on one side, shorter one on the other. All good.

Then you get to the middle and look down. There should be a sign that says "Don't look down!"

I get us to the other side without peeing my pants and know that I really have to walk out there and take photos. I just have to.

Even walking down the middle of the road I can feel gravity playing with my insides. Heart racing and shoulders tight, I make my way to the shorter railing first because Bill says there's a small water fall on that side. He admits he's feeling the height as well and somehow that makes me feel better.

With one foot wedged against the side of the bridge I take a couple quick shots of the falls. The other side with the higher railing is no better.

It's a sign!
"No, really, let's just walk down the middle."

Click and run
About a mile higher than this looks

At the bottom of the steep ravine

is the Skokomish River
Another couple joins us on the bridge, he walking along the high rail with their dog, and she taking tentative steps down the middle. I feel the fear dripping off her as we both make jokes about the extreme height. A kindred spirit :-)

A warning sign
The well worn path proving it goes unheeded

We get back on the road toward the national forest campground. Which we don't ever see after two hours of driving dirt roads.

No signs. For the campground or to identify the multiple roads that cross and divide from the one we're on. Fortunately Google Maps is keeping up with us so Bill can see where there might be water, or which roads loop back. We left the flyer from the VC back at the rig, but since the directions were by road number and there are no signs to identify the numbers we aren't missing anything helpful.

The drive is still enjoyable, aspen groves interspersed among the pines are beautiful, as are the glimpses of rock canyons through the thick growth. I was hoping to find a place to break in our new shoes, but both sides of the road are shear ups or downs and no discernable trails or paths.

Miles and miles of road and forest
Beautiful aspens

Being Saturday the number of other cars starts to increase and we head out of the park. The river peaks at us through some trees and I turn around to check out the "spot". A lovely place with deep clear pools and trashy signs that many people come here. I don't get it. I also don't have a trash bag in the car to make a difference and make a note to correct that.

Deep pools along the river

also clear enough to see below the surface
Larger than in the ravine, but still half its normal size

We can see some fish in the pool but they aren't interested in what Bill is offering so we move on.

From there (I swear I'm almost done) we cross Hwy 101 toward Union. Soon we come to numerous fisherman along the river bank. This is where the fish are apparently! Unfortunately the trees attacked Bill's pole at the last place and he is unable to try his luck here.

We continue into Union, past where the river meets the salt water, past beautiful homes on both the water and forest sides. Some massive and opulent, others smaller cottages, all lovely places to enjoy the spectacular view of this finger of the Sound. The water is calmer here and many people are out swimming off the docks.

I'm sure lots of them are staying at Twanoh State Park because when we drive through every spot is full - very full - of families covering every inch of allotted ground under the trees. All tents and small campers and - I'm not kidding - a catering truck set up to serve other campers from their spot :-)

Back home I check the weather and see a large cell moving into the area about noon on Sunday and we make plans to head out early for our continued journey north.

Like every place else, we saw just a small piece of this beautiful area. Our site at Glen Ayr Resort was very nice, and we'd stay there again. But not in one of the sites along the back. The sewer is uphill from the rig, making dumping impossible without a small crane (something we decided not to bring along).

Glen Ayr Resort, Hoodsport

Tessa enjoying the dog-tv here

He and mom were regular visitors to the park
Crabby Rock, a local species

We are loving Washington and anxious to see even more.