Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Back in the USA! Washington & Oregon

After catching a fairly early ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington (Back in the USA!), we began our exploration of the Olympic Peninsula, and particularly Olympic National Park. 
One comment on the ferry service--those folks are absolute masters at the art of fitting vehicles onto a ship! We were #14 on the stanby list and when they squeezed Byron into a space that I was amazed at, they still fit on something like six or eight more vehicles, including one that arrived ~5m before the ship departed.
OK, this was actually done on Vancouver Island, but I decided to add the pic to this post.  Nice work Meghan!
After clearing Customs and picking up some groceries, we proceeded into Olympic National Park. This was the first time in this park for all of us, but it was long on our list of places to check out. With so much rain, so much elevation change, and the volcanic history, scenery was sure to be great. In a continuation of our tradition of checking out hot springs, we decided to camp at Sol Duc Hot Springs within the park. It is a really neat setup in that the operation is effectively self-sufficient, with geothermal and solar for power/heat, huge green houses for restaurant supplies, etc... 
We were reminded of just how wet the area is though, because the mosquitoes were relentless!

Sol Duc Falls, Olympic NP
In a continuation of our 'lands end' visitations, we drove out of the park to Cape Flattery, WA which is the northwestern most point in the continental USA. 
Cape Flattery lighthouse

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery
On the drive back to Port Angeles, we realized that the weather was looking pretty good and perhaps we should see what things looked like up on Hurricane Ridge back in the park. We stopped at the visitor's center and checked the cam and it looked good, so we headed up. It was definitely worth the drive for some great views and a nice loop hike, including the 'ski area' atop the ridge.
A clear day, or hour, at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic NP

The patrol shack at Hurricane Ridge
For our last night on the Olympic Peninsula, we stayed at Sequim Bay State Park. Though right off of the highway, it had a nice beach area and was well forested with trees bigger than we typically see at home. 
The next morning, we caught a short ferry across Puget Sound and proceeded to the home of a college friend of Rebecca's, Bernie Thompson. Meghan immediately headed to the trampoline in the back yard to jump for a while...that got out some good energy! 
Later that afternoon, we caught a bus into downtown Seattle to explore a bit. We first headed to Pike Place market and saw the vendors throwing fish, visited the Gum Wall, Rebecca stood in line at the original Starbucks to get a collectible mug for her growing 'You Are Here' collection. We then walked over to Seattle Center to see the space needle and lots of other stuff around there, then had dinner back near Pike Place. Overall a great day in Seattle!
The 'Gum Wall' at Pike Place Market in Seattle. Curious, and sort of disgusting.

Cool outdoor art at Seattle Center. It was really a beautiful day there!

This fountain is timed to the music and shoots to some amazing heights. Think Belagio, but smaller, and you can play in it!
The Space Needle was one thing that Meghan wanted to visit. Unfortunately, when we arrived, they were selling reservations for ~6:30pm elevator rides, last ride at 7:00pm...and we'd be joining the end of the line for tickets. We settled for views from the ground and a visit to the gift shop.
From Bernie's we crawled along through Seattle / Tacoma traffic for a while heading toward Mount St. Helen's. This would be Rebecca and I's (grammar???) second trip to the mountain, but this time the weather actually looked like we might get to see it! 
Mount St. Helen's Crater from the new visitor center

This ridge is well behind the visitor center, maybe 5 miles from the crater. The 'blow down' trees are still there from the 1980 eruption, and a clean line where the energy of the blast was sent upwards at the ridge line. Wow!
From St Helen's, we proceeded south and west toward the Oregon coast. It was Saturday and it quickly became clear that every good Oregonian goes camping on nice weekends, for ALL the sites from Astoria south were already taken for quite a distance. Even hotels, motels etc... We started looking for another illegal / bootleg site when we finally happened upon an RV park that was officially closed, but the owner saw us start to turn around and came running out to say we could stay. Thanks!
Pics below are from our trip down the Oregon coast.

Meghan found this cool depression in the rock that led to this big 'cave' where the waves were crashing through from the other side. It was quite a scramble to get down in the hole, but really cool!

We all really enjoyed the drive along the Oregon coast. I'd highly recommend taking the time to do this and explore some of the scenery and many little towns, each of which seeming to have a unique character. After a long day of driving and exploring we found ourselves 'between' any state & national parks again. Luckily, we found the Secret Camp RV Park in Gold Beach. It is situated along the south shore of the Rogue River and offered some nice amenities and reasonable seclusion in our 'Honeymoon Site'.
After a restful night, we headed out to cross the border into California where some big redwood trees awaited in Redwood State and National Parks. While we didn't have a ton of time, we took the scenic byway through the park, stopping to do a hike where we saw and touched some amazing trees. Interestingly, this route ended up taking us out the east side, and significantly north...back into Oregon, where we caught I-5 to head south toward Sacramento where we would reunite with the Carey's (who were with us at the beginning of this adventure). 

This does not do justice to how tall these trees are!
That's a BIG root ball on a fallen tree!

How many of us would it take to join hands around this one?

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