Where I Went


olympic peninsula (1) rainforest (1) travel (1) weather (1)

Olympic Peninsula

This post was published on Sunday 18 August 2013.

The ferry across
The ferry from Whidbey Island to Port Townsend

So, in the last post, I left us on the ferry from Whidbey Island to Port Townsend, on the peninsula.  It was 9.15pm, and the sunset was long past.  There were very few people on the ferry: it was the last one of the day, after all.  Thankfully onboard were some maps of Port Townsend, which allowed us to plan our attack on the two state parks, in search of a campground with a spare site.

The first, Fort Warden, was full; this was no surprise, as I had looked the day before we left, and most of the sites are reservable.  So we headed South to the second, Fort Townsend.  This was out of town, and in case you weren’t sure, state and national parks—and the roads to them—are not known for having streetlights.

It was Very Dark by the time we arrived: nearly 10.30pm.

As we discovered when we left the next morning, the main gate should have been shut at 10pm, but mercifully it wasn’t, so we were able to get in.. and there were plenty of available sites!  Manoeuvering was exceptionally difficult in the dark, and without any visibility out of the rear window, but I eventually got the car into a site.. and promptly set off the panic alarm on the car.  This is something that many cars seem to have over here, and basically means the car repeatedly honks the horn until you shut it off.

I apologise profusely to all the campers, who were rudely woken up by a British man in a Ford SUV.  Because you see, not only did I set off the alarm, but I did so while dropping the key fob into the (pitch black) footwell of the car.  When eventually I found the keys, I pressed the unlock button, thinking I had set off the main car alarm.  When this didn’t work I double-pressed the panic alarm button, turning it off and then back on again.

Finally, all was quiet, and we set about putting up the tents by torchlight.  We managed surprisingly well, and set our alarms so we would be up early enough to make it all the way round the Olympic National Park in time to get a campsite by Quinault Lake.

The next morning, we up and packed, and the car boot re-jigsawed, within an hour.  We stopped off for some coffee in Port Townsend, and set off on the long journey around the peninsula.  We had one stop request, from Annie: Forks, WA.  That will mean nothing to almost everyone reading this, I suspect.  But, for those of you who know / love / hate the Twilight books / films, you will know that it is set in Forks.

And, boy, is it a dump.  It isn’t quite at the level of a Rawlins, WY, but it’s not far off.  You could buy Twilight Coffee, Twilight Fruit, and my personal favourite, Twilight Firewood.  It is specially made so that each stick is shaped like a stake, in case of any vampire emergencies when camping in the wilderness.

(OK, so I made that last bit up.)

Quinault Lake was beautiful, which meant the campground Annie had chosen had great views:

The view from site 6
Willaby Campground, Site 6

After setting up our tents, I headed off into the National Park in search of a) a map and b) a rainforest hike.  After 40 minutes of driving I had failed on both counts.  There is no entrance station down there, which is where they charge the entrance fee, and hand out the useful National Park maps.  And then, I realised that Abbie’s paintbrushes were in the glovebox..

So I decided to head back to camp, and find a walk around there.  On the way back I found a ranger station, where I procured a map, found out that the rainforest nature trail at the campground is actually pretty good, and did a short walk in the rainforest there.  That meant I have now visited ten National Parks.  Here are some pictures from No. 10:

Back at the camp, I walked around the Nature Trail, which was a pretty short walk (I think about four miles) through some quite different forest areas, as you can see from the pictures.  A lot of the trees in the forest are well over 100 years old, some of them 100s of years old; and so a lot of them are simply enormous:

By this stage evening was setting in, and back at the camp Abbie was drawing, Jen was knitting, and Dianne was running the knitting class, while getting things ready for dinner.  Annie had just been for a swim in the lake, and I just couldn’t resist a quick swim myself.  It was pretty cool, cooler than Flathead Lake, but once I was in I had a lovely swim back and forth.

At last, it was time for the campfire, and some dinner Dianne had prepared at home, and cooked in the camping stove.  The rain had held off, and it was quite beautiful sitting around the campfire in the fading light, after gathering deadwood and leftover briquettes from empty campsites.

Despite being in a rainforest, the rain held off all evening!  Unfortunately the same could not be said for the night, or the following morning.  The girls had decided to leave the rain fly off their tent, but despite disagreeing with the decision, I kept my mouth shut.. and so of course when the rain started at 4.30am Annie had to get up and drape the fly over their tent..!

Olympic Peninsula - 26
The mist recedes before coming back with a vengeance

The morning felt very Scottish: bleak, cold and wet, and we couldn’t see the other side of the lake because of the mist / cloud.  It cleared a bit, and then came back with a vengeance, and the rain got steadily harder and harder.

Despite the rain, we were in good spirits as Dianne had made a campfire, and we enjoyed a breakfast of pancakes, sausages, eggs and delicious organic maple syrup.  Annie and Abbie went for a swim in the lake, and everything got either damp or wet.  Still in good spirits, we went to see a 400-year-old tree, followed by the world’s largest sitka spruce tree, which is itself the largest variety of spruce.

After rescuing Annie from her perch on the sitka’s roots (it was easier to climb up than get down), we got back in the car and drove all the way back up to Issaquah.  Even the awful traffic around Tacoma didn’t spoil a really wonderful two days exploring and having adventures, on the beach and in the forest.

This evening we all went out for dinner, before visiting something I have been looking forward to all trip.. well, I haven’t looked yet, but I am hoping those pictures will be good enough to deserve a blog post all to themselves.  So I will write that in the morning, if I have time after packing up.

Because, tonight is my last night in the USA.  Sad face :-(.  I will be heading up to Vancouver, which will be beautiful and fun, I’m sure, but it is the last stop, before I fly home.  Everyone joked before I left, checking that I would actually be coming back.. normally by this stage of a holiday I would be looking forward to getting home, sleeping in my own bed, settling back into my normal routine.

But this time.. I have had such a wonderful adventure, travelling well over 5,000 miles now, that I don’t actually want it to end!  Of course, I have another even greater challenge ahead of me, as I move house and start my curacy in Studley.  But I’ve had such a good time, that I don’t think it will be long before I come back, as long as I can scrape together enough cash to pay the plane fare of course..!

In fact, I have already got the outline of the next trip mapped out in my head..