Road Trip: Olympic National Park

One of the main reasons why we love road trips is the opportunity to see and experience the people and landmarks between destinations. Our next destination was Olympic National Park and we crossed into Washington via Astoria, Oregon. We crossed the mouth of the Columbia River on the Astoria-Megler Bridge — the longest continuous truss bridge in North America. As we drove across the bridge, a seagull cruised alongside us, keeping pace with the speed of the van. What a sight!

The Washington coast was much different than the Oregon Coast. Sweeping views of a rocky coastline were blocked by dense forests of trees managed by Weyerhaeuser. Weyerhaeuser is one of the world’s largest companies that own or manage timberlands. They use the trees for the paper and wood products and you can see the evidence in the swaths of cleared land juxtaposed by areas of “older” growth. The land looked like someone took a buzzer to the center one’s head!

Artic RV Park

A quick search on Google Maps came up with Artic RV Park off of the 101  in Cosmopolis, WA as a convenient location to camp for the night. Artic (yes, “Artic” not “Arctic”) RV park was built and owned by Roy and Annie Pearmain. Roy looked like a man who’s been around the block a few times and Annie was a no-nonsense, knowledgeable type. Both are real “salt of the earth” kind of people. Our site was nestled between a few trees and a dense foliage-lined trail. When we purchased wood, Roy used his mini bucket loader to bring it to us — complete with paper and kindling!

We had to set up the screened tent for the first time during the trip!

The RV park was lovingly-kept and a very welcoming place. There were small trails to explore with one running alongside the Little North River. The kids explored the trail while I made a dinner of beef stew in the netted tent. It was definitely mosquito season and those buggers really love me!

The trail behind our campsite led to this little hideout

It was nice that the activities room and laundry facility shared the same room. It gave you something to do while waiting for your laundry. We did laundry for $3.50 (wash and dry). Showers were next door and was 25 cents for 5 minutes. The owners kept a garden where they grew berries, herbs and vegetables for the themselves and guests to enjoy. How thoughtful! 

Our overnight stay was a bit chilly, with temperatures dipping down into the 40’s. Since I was the first to get up, I started the coffee and cleaned the van and had the opportunity to chat with Annie. She gave recommendations on what to see plus brochures on Olympic National Park and Mount St. Helens. I told her that we wanted to see Mt. Rainier and she said that she was more impressed and fascinated by Mount St. Helens because of recent geologic history and how the power of nature is so visible. 

My goofy kids. Who needs electronics when you can entertain yourself with marshmallows?

Lake Quinault Lodge

Lake Quinault Lodge

The Lake Quinault Lodge is located on the southwestern portion of Olympic National Park next to Lake Quinault. It is an active hotel with 91 rooms in a historic wood-shingled building built in 1926. The rustic lodge interior was floor-to-ceiling wood accented by leather couches and wool rugs. A warm hearth glowed and was crowned with a deer head and antlers.

Showy blue hydrangeas outside the lodge!
Floor to ceiling wood!

The outside spaces offered sweeping views of Lake Quinault contrasted by the well-manicured lawns of the property. We found a totem pole-like rain gauge just outside the building, some photo ops, and a few historic artifacts displayed throughout.

Seating areas outside the lodge lets you take in the beautiful view.
A really cool (and giant) rain gauge!

Tidepooling in Ruby Beach

We drove towards the coast and stopped at the Kalaloch Ranger station where we gathered info on what we should see if we only had one day to explore Olympic National Park. The ranger circled Beach 3 and Ruby Beach for tidepooling and pointed out some short hikes in the Hoh Rain Forest. She encouraged us to go to the beaches first since we just missed low tide.

Salmonberries look like orange blackberries and are more tart than sweet.

We went to Beach 3 first to take in the view and before we could explore, we ran into a fellow traveller who recommended that we see Ruby Beach while the tide was still low. We took her advice and made our way to Ruby Beach. We followed a salmonberry bush-lined trail down to the beach and were amazed by the sheer amount of large driftwood logs at the entrance of the beach. It was like an obstacle course to just reach the sand—climbing, hopping, and trying not to twist an ankle on the rocks and driftwood.

A massive quantity of driftwood on the beach
Mist blew in on part of the beach
This monolith has holes in it from the waves and wind breaking it down.

Once on the sand, we noticed a shallow stream of water and a mist-covered beach with mussel and barnacle-covered rocks. Upon closer inspection we spotted an orange starfish clinging to the rock and a purple starfish camouflaged and tucked under the same rock. Ruby Beach did not disappoint! We finally got our tidepooling fix and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the rocks and seeing the anemones and crabs.

Mussels, barnacles, starfish, and sea anemones cling onto the rocks
Tiny purple starfish
Cute little crab…

Ruby Beach had such a variety of textures and colors from the sun-bleached driftwood, gray tumbled rocks, smooth sandy beach, green shrubs against the dark blue ocean. It was very beautiful. 

Hoh Rainforest

One would think a rainforest would be located in a tropical region. Two of the lesser-known temperate rainforest are located within Olympic National Park. The Hoh and Quinault Rainforests get over 12 feet (yes, FEET) of rain every year! We visited the Hoh Rainforest and took the Spruce Loop trail which was 1-1/4 miles and went alongside the river. We were warned of yellow jacket nesting grounds and mosquitoes. Luckily, I packed our insect repellant with me. 

Moss-draped trees and dense fern-lined pathways
Light filtering through the trees

Moss eerily draped over tree branches and pathways were lined with ferns. It was a warm day and hiking through the trail while worrying about getting attacked by yellow jackets or mosquitoes made it not-so-enjoyable. We learned that the foliage was so dense that the only way that trees could grow was to latch on to downed trees.  Once we reached the river we went to test out the milky blue waters (with our hands). It was quite chilly from the snowmelt!


The Hoh River
That water is cold!!

Sequim Bay State Park

At this point in our trip, we were on the northwest side of Olympic National Park and needed to loop around east towards Seattle. We made a quick stop in Port Angeles and ended up at Sequim Bay State Park for a campsite. We arrived the ranger station right before 7pm and took the last campsite. The park ranger told us that we really lucked out — whoever reserved our spot did not show up so we were able to take it! Our site was #64, and was right next to the highway, only to be protected by a few trees and dense hedges. So we had to deal with highway noise but were happy to find a site. 

Our campsite. The highway is just behind those trees.

The grounds were nice, albeit busy with a boy scout troop and many families. While I made a dinner out of leftovers (beef stew and pasta) the rest of the family checked out the playground. They reported that it was “the saddest playground ever with only two swings and both were taken.” The good thing about being in this parallel is that darkness comes a lot later in the summer and we were able to eat dinner and clean up while there was still a little light out.  We took advantage of the light and walked down to the marina to take in the view. 

Once back at the campsite, we finally cut into our rocky road bar from Cranberry Sweets (yum) then headed to the showers. The showers were quite a walk from our site and the line was long. They turned out to be one of the worst showers ever — it took a long time to warm the water and once the water warmed up, it was inconsistent—going from hot to cold but never “just right.”

The path to one of the three bathrooms in Sequim Bay State Park.

We fell asleep to the lull of the highway right above our heads and the orange glow of the street light shining right on our tent. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother us as much as we thought it would. I woke up refreshed and took it as an opportunity to walk around the campground. 

To the south of us were campsites designated for hikers and bikers. There was also a bike trail that wound around the campground. Next to the marina was an amphitheater and some picnic shelters. It was a very nice and well-kept campground, even with the busy-ness of the crowds.

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