I am alive and well!
After sight seeing, good food, and some laughs, family vacation in Seattle came to an end and I hopped back in my car on Thursday, the 13th. I had a vague idea of where I wanted to go, but not quite sure where to go once I got there.
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
Several hours driving west, then north, then west again, I found myself at the visitor’s center of Olympic National Park in Washington. Highway 101 goes all the way around the park, with different entrances jetting into mountain ridges, rainforests, and rivers. I’m getting used to using maps and not relying on GPS and I’ve done pretty well so far (with a few turn arounds thrown in there of course). One of my whoopsies came after too much excitement entering the park. I thought I was taking a route that would lead me to a nice campsite, but instead, 40 minutes later, I found myself at a dead end on Hurricane Ridge. Although I was a little put off because I was trying to beat everyone else to a first come first serve campsite, the view was amazing and it eased my frustration. Hurricane Ridge is a panoramic mountain range that is in the upper part of the park. It was b-e-a-utiful. After smelling crisp mountain air, taking a picture or two, and using the restroom (my mom taught me I should go whenever one is available), I was back in my car, heading back to exactly where I started.
There was a thick fog that covered the tip tops of trees. The wind carried the fog across the road in front of me as I drove towards my desired campsite, which by the way, was full once I got there. Having several hours until sunset, and realizing I wanted to end up in the Hoh Rainforest the next day, I started driving west on 101 once again. Not long down the road I found Klahowya Campsite and there was room for more! The site was right next to the Sol Duc River so the sound of rushing water over rocks soothed me as I put up my tent next to a fallen tree covered in moss. After camp was set up, a short little walk by the river complete, and dinner was eaten, I read my book and went to bed. The next morning I woke up early, made some tea, and packed my things. Before heading to the Hoh, I backtracked towards the Sol Duc Campground for hike around the Sol Duc Falls. I’m not going to lie, all the signs about bears and mountain lions and hiking alone freaked me out bit, so with the advice from another lone traveler, I grabbed a hiking stick and headed on my way. The falls were splashing under a walkway, falling off a small rock ledge, and then cascading into a river below. There was so much mist in the air; a huge rainbow circled the bridge going across the falls. It was an amazing way to start the day. Back at my car I had a quick snack and started driving once again.
Thankfully, the early rise was worth it because I was able to snag a killer camping spot in the Hoh Rainforest Campground. Spikemoss draperies hang from big leaf maple trees in the Hoh Valley. It doesn’t harm the trees, but it does weight up to 4 times as much as the tree’s on foliage! How crazy is that? Once my camp was set up for my second night in Olympic, I jumped on the Hoh River Trail and started walking. The trees got a little bigger and bigger as I walked farther into the forest. Everything was covered in mossy green and the Hoh River snaked along next to the trail. I followed a group of backpackers for some time, listening to their stories about past backpacking trips, helpful tips for traveling, and even the volunteer work they do in their home town, but then a waterfall appeared on the left of us and I had to break away. I scampered up as high as the ferns and rocks would let me. Slightly misted by the falls, I sat for a while and cooled down while writing in my journal. I was on the Hoh River Trail for a little over 4 hours and made it back to the trailhead before the visitor’s center closed so I could send some postcards. Having had a full day in this lush rainforest, I was committed to one more day in Olympic. Before going to bed, I mapped out a route because just that morning I drove in the wrong direction away from the falls for 20 minutes before realizing it. National Parks really need more signage, y’all. With a route planned, I curled up in my tent and fell asleep.
I woke up knowing I had a full day planned in another part of the park, but feeling like I needed something different. After packing up my things, I quite literally just started driving. Leaving Olympic National park, Highway 101 took me to the coast. A friend recommended Cape Meares State Park with a nice little hike right before the entrance so I was now on a mission to find it. And I did! The park overlooking the ocean with some rocky masses jetting out of the sea off the shore. I met a couple who came from Montreal and France. They spoke broken English, but enough for me to understand they flew into Seattle and are hitching their way to Humboldt County for a job. Lets just say they are…gardeners…I chatted with them for a little while, but then the realization the sun had started going down and I still didn’t have a campsite for the night set in and I went on my way after saying safe travels and goodbye. All of the campsites along the coast were at max capacity. Even thinking back on it, it sounds stressful but there was something in me that just did. not. care. I kept my foot on the gas pedal and kept driving. The West Coast pulled me in so hard my mind went tide pool. I pulled off the road and sat on the edge of this drastic crusty sand cliff that overlooked the beach. The sand had footprints going every which way across it. I could tell there was only a few hours until sunset but I could not pull myself away from that beach without sticking my feet in it first. My shoes and socks were on all day! I was driving all day! It felt wrong not to touch it. Not long down the road was a beach access pull off and it led to a short rocky path that twisted through trees, ending at little river that flowed into the ocean over shallow rocks and old drift wood. I hobbled my way across the water and landed next to a little wooden shelter that had been built by someone with a lot more motivation that me, but for that I’m thankful.
While sitting on that beach, something happened to me. I was completely overcome with this sensation of knowing that I long for tall trees and rocky mountains. I crave big landscape that makes me feel small but I was rooted in sandy Michigan beaches. That beach is exactly where I needed to be. It cleansed me and scared me and made me feel all the feels. The air was thickened by salty water crashing onto shore and the paper in my journal felt damp while writing. And here I was, sitting on a beach in Newport, Oregon all emotional but all smiles, watching the first sunset I had seen since Seattle thinking, “If my car wasn’t parked in a no over night parking zone, I would stay here all night in this little wooden half shelter on this beach in this sand.” But, reality was I couldn’t park where I was for more than another couple hours, and the sun had sunk beneath the horizon so it was starting to get dark. Hesitantly, I got back in my car and drove until I found a rest stop to sleep for a while before heading to Crater Lake, Oregon the following day. It was the best nights sleep I’ve gotten on this trip so far. So to that I say, “Thank you, Oregon Coast.”
Here’s some random things I’ve noticed and learned so far:
- People pump your gas for you. You don’t even have to get out of your car. Now, this doesn’t happen everywhere, but along most tiny gas stations on the 101, it does.
- There are signs that say, “End of 45 Speed Limit” but they don’t tell you what the actual speed limit is. Eventually, I realized if nothing was marked, just go 65 and all is well.
- Postcards are not only fun to pick out and send, but they also have really fun little facts on them.
- Olympic National park is 1,442 square miles. Yellowstone is a whopping 3,471 square miles!
- The beaches on the coast of Oregon are clean, crisp, and magical.
- More people hitch hike across the US regularly than I ever would have imagined. It seems wild to not really have a say in your route and the arrival at your final destination. I’ll stick to my car, thank you (and you’re welcome mom and dad).
- Good music makes the world of a difference when you’re in a car for 8 hours.