So how many National Parks CAN you stuff into one state? Well, if it’s Washington State you can stuff a good many! And crazy me–I tried to see them all in just a long weekend. As I mentioned in my last post, at the end of Ashley’s week with us, she and her dad headed to Indiana to visit with family before she went on home to Virginia. They left from Seattle on the 27th and Bob got back to Seattle on the 30th. To get them to their destination via Seattle Airport from Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula (where we were camped in our RV) they had to take plane, ship and automobile. First, we headed to Seattle Airport via the ferry the night before their very early morning flight and we stayed in a nearby hotel. Their shuttle took them to the airport at 3:30 am and I slept in until I woke up enough to realize I had a very long list of things to do that day.
So a long weekend all by myself–the possibilities were endless! I could rest, catch up on my reading, and just float around doing not much of anything–it sounded good at first but then I realized if I have all this down time I will miss all the wonderful parks and towns in the area that just can’t be missed. So I started making a list of things I would like to see and I realized I needed a month to do just some of it, so had to whittle down a bit.
If you have ever been in the Olympic Peninsula area you will already be aware that many Washington roads run on water. Yep, that’s right! The Washington Ferry System is an official part of the Washington Highway network–and without it you would be doing a LOT more driving, since the State of Washington is sliced and diced into slivers of land and water in the Peninsula area. The Ferry system is safe, efficient, and provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of driving your vehicle for hours to get to something that is really only 30 minutes away–on water. And it connects the many islands to the mainland so that they are not isolated from the rest of the State. So on my first day alone, I planned to head back to Sequim from Seattle but in a different direction than the previous night when we took a ferry directly over to Seattle and then drove to the Seattle airport. You can actually easily take a boat over to Canada from Seattle as well, but I’ve been there a couple times already (although it’s a very fun place to go to) —so I wanted to stick to the State of Washington on this trip. And I deliberately did not bring my passport–so there you go.
First Day: Island-Hopping…..So this is how I went exploring the islands–by taking two different ferries that would deposit me on one end of an island and I would drive to the other end and take another ferry to the next island. Repeat process. First of all, I had to say goodbye to Ash; we had so much fun while she was with us but off she went until next time. I had to stay busy so I wouldn’t miss her so much–so off to the islands! Leaving Seattle, I hopped on the ferry from Mukilteo to Clinton (called the gateway to island bliss!), located on Whidbey Island.
And on the way across the waterway, you can check anything out that strikes your fancy. It’s a fun and exciting way to get around, and you can nap, eat, watch for whales, read–whatever– during the ferry crossing. I chose to do a little of each.
Heading north on the island, I found Coupeville, a pretty little village on the water. I checked out the boutiques, hung out in a bookstore, ate their famous mussels and clams, visited the Island County Historical Preserve, and made it to the ferry with minutes to spare.
Arriving in Port Townsend, I found an adorable town with boutique-y shops, many with a distinct nautical theme. There were also those “special” corners I didn’t really know how to understand them without knowing their history, but it was appealing in a very unique way.
But what I fell in love with was the Rose Theatre, a little jewel of a cinema with quite the repertoire of offerings including first run independent movies, ballets, operas, and plays. I signed up for a movie and was astonished when I walked into an upstairs room filled with antique sofas and chairs comfortably arranged around a large window framing the harbor.
Once the black velvet curtains were pulled together blocking the evening sunset, the movie began. Popcorn (in faux crystal bowls) and an array of delicacies were discreetly served throughout the movie–and it was a super movie. Since I have not seen a movie in a very long time this movie-starved girl was grateful to find myself in such a cute movie theatre watching a GOOD movie.
Afterwards I drove back to Sequim to our Baby, our lonely little RV. She was very glad to see me–and I her since it had been a very long day!
Second Day: Olympic National Park–So now I was on a roll! I planned to see as much of the Olympic National Park as I possibly could on this day. I started out heading to Port Angeles to check out the Visitor Center, where I got some bad news. Hurricane Ridge, where I had planned on heading to, was fogged in and chances were I would only be able to see my hand in front of my face. But the Ranger suggested I check out Lake Crescent and/or the Hoh Rain Forest, on the other side of Olympic Park. So I did just that! Lake Crescent was peaceful and beautiful, a gem of a sweet lake; even though they were gearing up for a big wedding that afternoon, I could have sat in one of their Adirondack chairs next to the lake for hours.
And the Lodge was out of a movie, beautiful, gracious, with a fire burning in the lobby fireplace making it a very cozy place to spend some time. But I had places to go…
So back on the road to the Hoh National Rain Forest. It was a rather long drive rounding the peninsula and I saw lots of places I would have liked to check out, especially the beaches on the Coast–as far as you can go on the Lower 48 without treading water. But my goal was the rain forest–and it was a different world. I went on a couple hikes even though the woods were dripping with moisture. I was so glad I had the waterproof jacket I had bought for Bob in the car since it kept me, and more importantly, my camera, nice and dry. I have to say I felt like I was dropped into an alien landscape with trees, logs, vines dripping in moss and unusual plants dominating the landscape transforming what would be a tree in another climate into a masterpiece of alien vegetation. After a few minutes (alone) in this place, your imagination begins to run wild! I cannot even describe it–so just look at the pictures. You will see what I mean!
I left the Hoh National Rain forest only a little damper than when I arrived, and decided to stop in the town of Forks on the way back to Sequim. I had passed though it on the way to Hoh, and I was maybe a little fascinated by it. You see, Forks is where most of the Twilight movies were filmed, Bella’s home town. And I, even though I am definitely not an adolescent vampire admirer, got caught up in the series after Ryan told me about it. (He has since disavowed anything to do with Twilight movies.) To tell you the truth, I like to read ANYTHING, and Twilight caught my imagination so I read all the books and saw all the movies. So I decided to slow down on my way back through town and check it out. Well, I have to say it was a little sad. You could tell that Forks must have been very hot at one time when the Twilight movies were being filmed, but now it is in its twilight time (sorry about that).
The signs advertising “Bella” tours (where she had her first date with her vampire boyfriend), her high school, etc. were fading and the tour store seemed possibly closed for good. The souvenir/dry goods store still had a prominent Twilight display, but it was dusty and fading, the books stacked there in no certain order…. And even the hotel on the edge of town had a flashing sign “Edward Cullen (Bella’s vampire boyfriend) NEVER slept here.” Just a little sad after all the hullaballoo. And since I wasn’t sure if any of those terrible rogue vampires weren’t still in town, I headed back towards Port Angeles arriving there just before sunset (twilight?). As I entered town I searched Yelp for something quick to eat and found this fantastic little restaurant called the Fireside Grill. The restaurant was once a private home plus potter’s shed, and the plates they served the food on were made by the now departed potter. They were beautiful and unusual and almost made me want to take up pottery! But the food was astonishingly fantastic—everything! I had absolutely no complaints except that I could not come back again since my time in that area was coming to an end. Darn!
So back to Baby patiently waiting for me to show up again! She was again glad to see me–and I her, since I was tired after such a long day. I could not even read my maps and books for the next day’s travels before I was out.
Third Day: Olympic National Park…Hurricane Ridge So I decided to try Hurricane Ridge again on my third day of exploring–my last chance to see what everyone was talking about. I did not even stop at the Visitor’s Center at the bottom of the mountain again since the prospects still didn’t look so hot. Drizzly rain, foggy misty clouds obscuring the roadway–it didn’t look good! But, fortunately, as I drove up the 5,242 foot mountain the clouds began to clear in places as I neared the top. By the time I reached the Visitor Center at the top I could see glimpses of the mountains surrounding us.
I headed into the Visitor Center and talked to a Ranger about possible hikes and I quickly finished the first two crisscrossing the meadows close by. Then I decided to tackle the almost 4 mile hike that ended at a glacier after walking along a narrow ridge covered in spring wildflowers. This hike was one astonishing view after another–I was beginning to think I heard strains of “Sound of Music” floating through the air as I was gazing down on the peaks and valleys and acres of wildflowers–and the weather gradually improved until I almost reached the highest point near the glacier and a steady misty rain began to come down a little heavier.
As I approached the glacier area, a small herd of elk appeared with several fawns tiptoeing after mom. They faded in and out of the trees with no apparent fear or trepidation of the little crowd of hikers collecting on the trail.
A German family and a Swedish family of hikers were glued to the spot as was I—the elk just danced around eating and ignoring us–even a couple of bull elk showed up and the little herd eventually moved further into the forest with no fanfare. But for about 15 minutes we took pictures from a distance so as not to frighten them–and they gave us plenty to admire. Just a few more wild creatures putting smiles on hikers’ faces…
I didn’t care about the rain anymore and as I walked back to the trailhead the sun came out and the views were even more fabulous. I went into the Visitor Center and thanked the Ranger for her suggestions. It was a memorable day I will never forget!
Fourth Day: Mount Rainier National Park
I woke early on our last full day in Sequim and I spent the morning pampering Baby, cleaning and polishing and making her feel a little less neglected. I was supposed to pick Bob up late that night in Seattle so we needed everything ready to roll the next morning since we were going to make a detour to Mt. Vernon on our way to Glacier National Park. More on that later.
Then I got on the road headed to Mount Rainier. This mountain is actually called a stratovolcano, is 14, 411 feet in elevation, and is located in the Cascade range; it last erupted in November to December 184I. I told you in an earlier post how this volcanic mountain has mystified me the way it appears and disappears with no apparent rhyme or reason. One minute it appears in the most unlikely place and it’s gone minutes later. My first sighting of this mountain, located 54 miles SE of Seattle, was about 12 years ago when I was working in Seattle. But I only saw it for a few minutes and then it disappeared. People told me that was common since it is usually shrouded in clouds. But it called to me so I tried to find it the next day but I finally gave up–no GPS at that time and it was getting dark since I didn’t leave on my search until I finished working. Then recently when I was driving in Portland to pick up Ashley it floated into view again as I was driving over a high bridge in Portland but it quickly disappeared from view. (Portland is 164 miles to Seattle!) I had nicknamed it the Disappearing Volcano, and I was determined to find out if it was really and truly real.
From Sequim it was a long drive since taking a ferry across was not going to cut off any miles so I trekked all the way down the Peninsula, through Tacoma, and finally started working my way toward the National Park. By this time it was finally dawning on me that this Park was way out there! Occasionally I would spot it in the distance and then it would disappear. Same old tricks! You would think that something that big couldn’t hide so easily–and this was luckily a sunny day so we couldn’t use the old fog and clouds excuse!
I eventually reached the Park entrance and then drove for another hour to get to the Paradise Visitor Center. The last few miles were a little harrowing but I was determined. Peak after peak were gradually exposed to view as I climbed that mountain road. And finally Paradise! ((That’s what a woman visitor called this point on Mt. Rainier when she reached this area, thus the Visitor Center was named Paradise.) I pulled into the parking lot at the foot of this giant volcano and just sat there looking up at it. I got out of the car and when I looked up it made me so dizzy I had to lean on the car until I adjusted my perspective.
People were skiing along the ski runs, picnicking at the foot on a scattering of picnic tables, and the water draining from the glacial melt was running in waves across the parking lot. I walked into the Visitor Center just as they were preparing to close. When I asked the Ranger “Why is this a Disappearing Volcano?” she had no answer. She was more focused on closing down the exhibits than answering my inane questions. But I was able to look at the exhibits, the topographical maps and other bits of information–and my only conclusion at this point is it must be topography! With all the peaks circling and protecting the Grand One (the Disappearing Volcano) and with the altitude changes and miles and miles between the Park and the places the vision appeared to me, it has to be the way the earth is situated. Or I am hopelessly at a loss to explain why now I see it and now I don’t!!!!! Well, now I have seen it up close and personal and it is GRAND. Another place I want to go back to when the whole place is not closing down as soon as I walk in—another conspiracy??
I did walk into the Paradise Lodge and what a cool place! Beautiful hand-painted lanterns floating from the ceiling, views of Mt. Rainier from every corner, a pianist playing music most certainly composed for this magnificent place, the open, multi-raftered lobby–what a beautiful place to go and spend some time, soak in this impossible view close enough to touch it, and let the mystery of this place lull you into a feeling of—–whatever will be.
Well, Mt. Rainier is still a mystery to me. Of course, I only had a few minutes there since it was time to head to the Seattle Airport to pick up Bob. But it was just enough time to give me a better appreciation for this floating giant and understand there is so much more to be learned from exploring this area. As I was driving back to Seattle, I saw a sign pointing back down a dirt road (about 40 miles from Mt. Rainier) stating “Pick your own fresh vegetables while viewing Mt. Rainier.” Well, I guess to some folks Mt. Rainier is no longer a mystery–and have even incorporated the Disappearing Volcano into their business plan. Ah well….
To our very special family and friends, Happy Trails. We miss you loads and hope you are doing well. A very special HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Sera, our very special oldest granddaughter! Have a wonderful birthday! We will definitely celebrate again when we get home. CHEERS!