Summertime in WA – Part 2 Olympic National Park

After visiting Mt. Saint Helens in the mountains, Ocean Shores on the coast and Port Orchard on the Sound (see Part One of ‘Summertime in Washington’) we continued on to see Olympic National Park over two weeks in August. One week along the Northern Strait and one on the Western Shore.

Two Weeks near Olympic National Park provides a lot of time for exploring

North along the Strait

A week at Dungeness Recreation Area, a Clallam County Park between Port Angeles and Port Townsend was just the right amount of time to see Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent areas in Olympic National Park. We even had time to explore the towns in the area.

Set in the woods on a sandy cliff, the park sits next to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. It has gorgeous sunset views over the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Cruise ships can be seen along the Strait on their route from Seattle to Alaska. At low tide, a lighthouse becomes accessible from the Wildlife Refuge via a rocky beach and a long spit of sand.

Park Eroding Away

A bluff trail in the campground, situated along the top of badly eroding cliffs, was closed off in sections where the cliff and the trail have dissolved over the edge. There are a few campsites right along the bluff, providing beautiful sunset views. However, they may not be there for long if the erosion continues!

The eroding hillside was even more evident from the beach below the park. The beach can be accessed from a trail that connects the National Wildlife Refuge to the campground and extends down the hill onto the beach. From there, sand could be seen actively sliding with pebbles breaking loose and dancing down onto the beach, making a pinging sound like a pinball machine. It seemed that the hillside could collapse at any moment.

Port Townsend

Port Townsend, is one of our favorite towns with vibrant shops that are known for their displays of artwork and unusual gifts for sale. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant on the water and picked up some kayak repair supplies at Pygmy Kayaks.

The Northwest Maritime Center was building a Viking-style wooden boat using traditional boat-building techniques. The workshop is open for you to walk right into the areas where boats are being made. Besides the Viking ship project, there were some other building projects going on, including a young boat builders project.

Had we been there a few weeks later, it would have been during the annual Wooden Boat Festival, a great time to visit (see photo below of the 2010 festival). Held annually in September, the marina fills with gorgeous wooden boats and vendor tents are everywhere. In 2010, we stayed at the fairgrounds RV park and shuttled to the festival. This time, our visit was more quiet and relaxing with easier access via our tow car.

Salt Creek Recreation Area

A drive nearby to the Salt Creek Recreation Area, one of Clallam County’s most popular parks included some unexpected sights. Besides picnic, camping and boat launch facilities, there are some ruins to explore.

Less than 50 years ago, Camp Hayden park site echoed the rumble of heavy construction and the rattle of trucks loaded with soldiers. The United States was beefing up its coastal defenses during World War II. Today, the bunkers are still in place and being absorbed into the landscape with trees growing over the top. A trail through thick forest leads to a nice beach with sea stacks.

Olympic National Park – Mountains, Lakes & Beaches

Mountains

Hurricane Ridge is one of three Visitor Centers in Olympic National Park. The views are incredible and the paved trails were very busy. Large, furry Marmots greeted us on the trail near the visitor center, popping their heads out of dens in the ground and making a show out of their food gathering. A beautiful waterfall was worth the climb up another trail. Another less-crowded Visitor Center in Port Angeles had nice exhibits but with much less grandeur.

Lakes

The Lake Crescent area of the National Park was so popular that there was no place to park. As a result, hiking to Marymere Falls will remain a future destination.

Beaches

The movie Twilight was set in Forks

A week at Riverview RV Park in Forks provided excellent access to the beaches and the Hoh Rainforest. This park is neat and clean with friendly owners on-site and it had full services, enabling us to catch up on the laundry and enjoy longer showers. This location on the coastal side of the park helped us beat the crowds for better parking, not to mention, landscape photographs with less unknown people in them!  

West along the Shore – Cape Flattery

I can see why the Macah whaling people have made beautiful Cape Flattery their home for thousands of years. The lush, deep forest, sea caves and beautiful sea stacks are adjacent to the migration paths of the whales. We hiked along a boardwalk trail in the forest to see the beautiful Northwestern-most point of the contiguous United States. It was breathtaking!

The Macah museum is one of the best I’ve seen with a huge collection of well-preserved artifacts. Even some textiles and baskets that survived multiple historic mudslides at the Ozette village site are on display.

Inland to Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park

Week two of our Olympic National Park visit wouldn’t be complete without seeing the rainforest. Wise to the parking situation, we were up early to get an unobstructed view of the gorgeous old growth trees hanging with long mossy tendrils in the Hoh Rainforest. August cumulative rainfall is well below normal, barely over the level seen through February of an average year!

Tree Root Faerie Homes

As seedlings sprout and grow in the natural forest, some seedlings sprout right over fallen trees. Their roots grow in odd shapes that become hollow as the host tree rots away. They look like forest faerie homes and condos and I was fascinated by the sheer number on the Hall of Mosses trail.

Leaving Olympic National Park after two-weeks was a little sad. As always, I pine away at leaving places I love and look forward to finding new places. Continuing on to Mount Rainier was a delightful surprise. See Part 3 of ‘Summertime in Washington’ up next.

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