Olympic National Park

After our San Juan Island adventure, we kept it coastal heading south to the Olympic Peninsula. This area is located at the in the northwest corner of Washington and is home to the Olympic Mountains. We spent 9 days exploring the immense area that is Olympic National Park and the surrounding Olympic National Forest.

Hoh Rainforest

This sure is a fungi!

The Hoh Rainforest is, in our opinion, the most unique area in Olympic National Park. This area receives more rainfall annually than any other area in the country and is full of mossy trees and lush foliage. We planned a four night backpacking trip through the forest via the Hoh River Trail up to Blue Glacier at the foot of Mount Olympus then back to the Hoh Visitor Center summing up to 37 miles in distance.

Hoh River Trail

Day one of the hike was easy going as the trail does not climb much until you get close to Blue Glacier. We hiked 13 miles to our campsite at an area called Lewis Meadow. We were able to find a nice spot next to the river bed with mountain views. Unfortunately, Ashby had developed some blisters on her toes and heels that required some first aid attention. After a couple of dehydrated meals accompanied with wine, we got to work on Ashby’s aching feet. The blisters turned out to be worse than we thought and after doing what we could we decided we would see how they felt in the morning then decide whether we could continue.

Ashby’s feet post op

The next morning after breakfast and packing up camp, Ashby assessed her feet with hiking boots on and a pack on her back. She determined that if we continued forward, her blisters would only worsen making the return trip miserable (the 13 mile return to the trailhead was already daunting enough). Having made the decision cut the trip short and head back, we started for the trailhead. Six hours later, we were in the van resting our feet. The trip back was painful for Ashby and we were glad we chose to turn around.  Despite not hiking the entire trail, this was still an awesome trek through a unique ecosystem and we would love to return to see Blue Glacier.

Rialto Beach

Since Ashby’s feet required some recovery, we decided to head to the coastal region of the park and hang out for a few days. We were lucky enough to reserve 3 nights in the Mora Campground near Rialto Beach. At Rialto Beach, we hiked to a formation called “Hole in the Wall” and checked out the surrounding tide pools with their many unique marine species. Of course, since we were on the beach, we did not miss the opportunity to catch the amazing sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. These pair well with a glass of wine!

Sunset at Rialto Beach

After leaving the Rialto Beach area, we headed south along the coast stopping at some of the beaches within the southwest part of the park. After some research we found that Olympic National Park is home to some of the largest Douglas Fur and Sitka Spruce Trees in the world and decided to try and find them. Our first attempt was of mixed success in that we did not find the Douglas Fur we were looking for but, saw a group of Ruffed Grouse on the forest floor. This was exciting for us beginner birders as we had never seen birds like this before.

Ruffed Grouse

Our next “tree stop” was to a Sitka Spruce near Lake Quinault and we were able to find it with ease. This Spruce is the largest in the world towering 191 feet above the ground and is over a thousand years old. This got us pumped up to go to Redwood National Park and see the world’s tallest trees.

Big Sitka Spruce!

Staircase

The Staircase area is located on the southeast side of the park near Lake Cushman. This area is dense with large Douglas Firs and features long cascading rapids from which its namesake is derived. We were able to secure a night in the first come first served campground which made it easy to explore the area. That evening, we hiked the rapids loop trail that takes you along the Staircase Rapids then back along the opposite shore of the creek.

Staircase Cascade

The next morning, we packed up camp then headed for another trail in Olympic National Forest along an area called Big Creek. The trail is a 4.5 mile loop that begins with a thousand foot climb at the top of which we enjoyed vast views of the forest valley below. The trail continued its beauty on the way down crossing multiple flowing cascades of the creek. This was an awesome way to start our day and kickstart the endorphins!

Upper Big Creek

Takeaways

The Olympic Peninsula is an enormous preserve of diverse ecosystems from dense rainforest to coastal tide pools. We enjoyed our stay and have added many activities to the “when we return” list.

Thanks for reading!

-Alan  

Click here for more photos from our Olympic National Park adventure!

San Juan Islands, Washington

While in Washington, we decided it would be fun to experience the island life that Washington has to offer. The San Juan Islands are comprised of 400 islands and rocks, we spent four days island hopping to three of the largest islands: San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez Island.

San Juan Island

We woke up at 3 AM to catch our 4:30 AM ferry ride to our first stop, Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. It happened to be the only time slot available that would allow us to make the most of our island trip and, dang, were we sleepy! Since we arrived so early and nothing was open, we drove to South Beach to enjoy the morning. It was a chilly morning and it felt strange to be wearing jackets in August on the beach.

Morning coffee on South Beach

After our peaceful morning, we visited Pelindaba Lavender Farm for some smells and souvenirs. We indulged in some lavender lemon sorbet and moved on to Lime Kiln Point State Park to see if we could spot some whales. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much luck there and did not see any whales.

Pelindaba Lavender Farm

Our last and favorite stop of the day was Wescott Bay Shellfish Co.. The Wescott Bay Shellfish Co. grows oysters, clams and mussels just a few hundred feet from where you can eat them. Neither of us have had positive oyster experiences in the past but, we knew if there was a place that could change our mind, this would be it. We started off with a couple of raw and grilled oysters paired with a bottle of San Juan Vineyards Chardonnay. Our taste buds were jumping for joy after our first oysters and we quickly ordered more. We even learned to shuck them! So yeah, we are oyster people now. I would definitely return to this island just to eat more oysters!

Yummm!

The next day we returned to Friday Harbor to catch up on some work and confirm our ferry ride for 11:30 am. While awaiting our ferry we decided to indulge in some delicious fish and chips from a local place called The Bait Shop. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a photo because we ate it too quickly. Whoops…..

Orcas Island

When we arrived on Orcas Island, we drove the islands scenic byway to some of the points of interest on the west side. We had the most fun visiting Orcas Island Winery and Island Hoppin’ Brewery, mostly because we were pretty much the only ones there. Instead of going out for dinner that night, we decided to head to our campsite to enjoy some good ol’ spaghetti. Alan even got to play disc golf since there was a course at the camping resort.

Island Hoppin’ Brewery

The next morning, Alan played disc golf again before we set out to explore Eastsound (the super tiny “downtown” of Orcas Island) and Moran State Park.

Summit View from Mt. Constitution

Lopez Island

Before we knew it, it was time to get on the ferry to Lopez Island. We stayed at the Lopez Farm Campground, which ended up being our favorite of the three. There was contact-less check in, nice restrooms and a covered outdoor kitchen area.

The next morning, we learned about a local Farmer’s Market and decided to see what they had to offer. We ended up getting some wine, bread, goat cheese and pickles for our picnic that afternoon.

Van picnic at Agate Beach County Park

Takeaways

Taking a trip to the San Juan Islands was definitely a unique experience. The islands are small enough that we were able to visit all the must see spots in a day. Since we are not big shoppers however, we almost ran out of things to do. We will remember the San Juan Islands for the good food, drinks and country/island ambiance.

Click here for more photos from our San Juan Islands adventure!