We recently took a much-needed vacation to visit the Pacific Northwest, beginning in Seattle and then traveling by ferry to the Olympic Peninsula.
Our trip started with an icy, first-snow-of-winter drive to Denver International Airport. It took so long to get to the airport that we actually had to sprint to our gate, just as the door was about to close. We were the last to board. I snapped a few photos of the plane as it was being de-iced. Once the plane lifted off and cleared the clouds, we flew into sunshine and could see the mountain tops!
We landed on a beautiful, fall day in Seattle. We made a few site seeing stops at the Seattle Center – home of the Space Needle and also the Pike Place Market neighborhoods. We caught the tail end of the annual Zombie Walk when we bumped into a zombie bride and groom, as we were parking the car in front of our B&B.
The next morning we took the ferry from Edmonds, about 15 miles north of Seattle, to Kingston on the Olympic Peninsula. It was another beautiful, warm sunny day as we hurried to Port Angeles for the annual Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival. We spent the afternoon eating crab: whole crab, crab tostadas, crab cakes, tasting the local brew and celebrating the years harvest.
The following day the weather turned cold, wet and windy for our drive up to Hurricane Ridge to get a good view of the Olympic Mountains, then checking into our cabin at Sol Duc Hot Springs. We warmed up in the hot springs, then went for a hike to Sol Duc Falls. The autumn colors, the river and the falls were picture perfect.
Early the next morning we headed out to Cape Flattery on Neah Bay, which is the northwestern-most point in the contiguous U.S. It was another windy and rainy day, but we hiked out to the bluff where some folks joked that they could see Russia.
After lunch in the car, we put on our rain suits and hiked through the rain forest to Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park. We crossed boardwalks, bridges and stepped lightly through bogs before the steep climb down the bluff. We had the beach to ourselves and hiked a couple of miles down the beach to arches in the rock formations where we saw a couple of sea otters playing in a tidal pool.
That night we checked into a B&B in the town of Forks, the rainiest city in the U.S., also known for logging, fishing and the “Twilight” series of books and movies. We stayed in Forks because of its close proximity to the Hoh Rain Forest. The next day we hiked a couple of miles up the Hoh River trail through the thick, dense forest where we came upon a bull elk and his cow harem.
Our next stop that day was Ruby Beach, known for all the giant trees that are washed up on the beach. You must climb over them to reach the beach, which can be dangerous when the tide comes in. We met Huff from Vancouver, Canada, who was walking on the beach with his fiancee, Richelle and Oscar, their Schnauzer. As it turned out, we were all staying at Kalaloch Lodge just down the Pacific Coast Highway. Geri and I checked into our private cabin on a bluff overlooking Kalaloch Creek, just as it runs into the ocean. Kalaloch has one of Washington’s most pristine stretches of sandy beach. We went for a stroll on the beach, where we again ran into Huff and Richelle also enjoying the sunset before dinner in the dining room.
That sunset was fleeting, as it rained through the evening and for most of the next day and night. We drove south to Lake Quinault Lodge on the south shore of Lake Quinault in the Olympic National Forest. The local Mushroom Festival was being staged in the vintage ballroom, guided mushroom-picking tours were planned and a special dinner menu was being prepped. Jerome, our travel gnome, got into the action posing with some of the beautiful displays of fungi.
Gig Harbor was our last stop on this Olympic adventure. Don and Sue, friends from a trip to Tibet nine years ago, hosted us for two nights in their home, which included an evening with “The Stradivari Quartet”: four of Europe’s finest artists performing on four of Antonio Stradivari’s finest instruments.
Getting home was a relatively uneventful day of travel in a rental car, a plane, a train and a bus. It was great to be home in sunny warm Denver for a couple of days before it snowed again.
Check here for hiking adventures in Olympic National Park.