The Olympic Peninsula: Port Townsend, Sequim, and Forks, Washington

Port Townsend

It was a short, beautiful drive from Shelton to Port Townsend along the Hood Canal. Port Townsend is an historic town (population 9,113) located at the northeast tip of the Olympic Peninsula, known for its natural beauty and Victorian buildings remaining from its late 19-century heyday. Established in 1851, the founders called it the “City of Dreams” because of early speculation that the city would become the largest harbor on the west coast of the United States. That dream did not come true.  Port Townsend is surrounded by the Puget Sound and it reminded me of the small New England seaport towns in the eastern U.S.  I found myself saying, “I could live here….in the summer!”

The Port Townsend Elks Lodge is one of the few that takes reservations and I was lucky to get a reservation two days in advance.  When I arrived, the campground was fully booked.  The lodge is only three miles from the historic section of town and is very popular.

 Fort Worden Historical State Park was the first place I visited.  The park is a 434 acre multi-use park with more than two miles of saltwater shoreline and the Point Wilson lighthouse.  I returned to the park several times during my week stay.  It was peaceful, the weather was perfect and I could walk the shoreline along the Puget Sound.

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Fort Worden Beach
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Point Wilson Lighthouse

There are many things to do in Port Townsend.  The old town area has restaurants, galleries, shops and bars.  The historic Ruby Theatre shows movies and I saw Ingrid Goes West.  The story was about social media breaking bad.  It was funny, a little scary and very entertaining.  The best part was the seating configuration and the availability of great food and drinks while you watch the movie.

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Easy chairs and comfy sofas for the movie. The screen came down over the windows. Great food and drink delivered to your chair. Now that’s how to watch a movie!

I visited an Art Deco Lighting Museum located on the second floor of a lighting store.  I LOVE Art Deco anything.  Clothes, art, jewelry, furniture, ANYTHING!

Next, I took a cruise around the Puget Sound with the goal of seeing whales.  Orcas are very active in the Sound because there are two permanent resident pods.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see any Orcas, but we did see a couple Minke whales, elephant seals, and lots of birds.  The Puget Sound Express was a great tour for many reasons, one being they serve Blueberry Buckle hot out of the oven!  They also provide a guarantee that if you do not see Orca whales you get a free ticket for another cruise.  The four-hour cruise was $99 and was definitely worth it!  I hope to use my free ticket next summer.

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Puget Sound smooth as a duck pond!
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A little wildlife
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Beautiful day on the Sound

The area around Port Townsend is agricultural with several wineries and cideries.  I visited two cideries and was pleasantly surprised with their products.  Cider drinks have become very popular and I understand they are an alternative for those who cannot drink beer due to allergies.  Of course, I had to bring a few bottles home!

One day I took a drive to Marrowstone Island and Fort Flagler State Park.  I also checked out the Escapee Park Evergreen Coho RV Park and the small town of Chimacum.  I also tried to take a ferry to Whidbey Island, but it was completely booked as they are down to one ferry this time of year.  Next time I’m in the area I will explore more of the San Juan Islands.

After one week in Port Townsend, I drove the 40 miles to Sequim where I would explore the north part of Olympic National Park.

Sequim

It was another Elks Lodge campground for the next four days.  While based in Sequim (pronounced like squid, but with an m), I visited Dungeness Recreation Area and Spit, Neah Bay, Makah Museum and Cape Flattery, Hurricane Ridge, Crescent Lake and several waterfalls. The Olympic Peninsula is awesome and I only had a little rain while in the area.

Dungeness Recreation Area is a national wildlife refuge and one of the world’s longest natural sand spits that softens the rough waves to form a shallow bay and harbor rich with marine life. The spit is five miles long with a lighthouse at the end. The spit sticks out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  I did not take the hike to the end…10 miles is too long for me, especially on sand!  I did see the lighthouse when I took the whale-watching cruise from Port Townsend. 

The next day I drove into Olympic National Park for the first time.  Sequim and Port Angeles provide easy access to the famous Hurricane Ridge in the park. It’s 17 miles up to the 5,242 foot mountain top where you can view glacier–clad mountains that crown miles of wilderness rich with wildlife. As the name suggests, it is very windy!

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Hurricane Ridge
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The view from the top of Hurricane Ridge
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The mountains are above the clouds!
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Hurricane Ridge

The Olympic Peninsula has many lakes, rivers, creeks and waterfalls.  I visited Lake Crescent, a 624-foot deep glacier carved lake.  Legend has it that two well-matched dragons fought nearly to the death and whose hot tears of anguish created the hot springs.  This lends a magical touch to the Lake Crescent area.  There are many waterfalls in the area including Marymere, Madison Falls and Sol Duc Falls and Hot Springs Resort.  All lush and beautiful!

I chose a 70-degree day to venture out to the farthest Northwest point of the continental US, Cape Flattery. Access to Cape Flattery is from Neah Bay and the Makah Indian Reservation. Neah Bay is a very small town with the Makah Museum the highlight of the town.  If in the area, be sure to tour the museum and buy a pass to get onto the reservation and see Cape Flattery.  It’s a short drive from Neah Bay and a 20 minute hike to the Cape Flattery overlook.  Neah Bay is a two hour drive from Sequim, and it is definitely worth the effort to see the Cape. 

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Walking sticks provided by the Makah for use on the trail.
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The trail out to Cape Flattery
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The trail gets narrow
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The trail crosses creeks
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And then you arrive! Bits of Washington State broken off into the ocean
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That is British Columbia across the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Forks

After seeing everything I could from the north area of the park I drove southwest to Forks and stayed at the Fork Elks Lodge, but this time with a twist.  There was a resident Elk heard in the immediate area of the lodge! One morning I was awakened by an unusual sound.  I looked out the window and I was surrounded by a heard of Elk!  Of course, I had to grab my camera and head out the door to take photos.  Then I realized how large they are and how close they were to me! So I quickly snapped a few photos and ran back into the rig.  It was an awesome way to wake up!

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Parked at the Forks Elks Lodge…just the two of us!
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Elk at the Elks Lodge!
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Great view of Elk butt as they head into the forest.
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This sucker is huge!

Forks is a logging town as is the entire Peninsula.  Washington is not called the Evergreen State for nothing!  However, logging is a dying industry and many small logging towns are in a poor economic condition.  Forks was one of those towns until a series of books put Forks on the international map. If you don’t have teenagers, you may not be familiar with the Twilight books. The plot revolves around a group of young vampires living in the Olympic National Park and feeds on animals, not humans. The main female character lives in Forks.  The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer, has been a big economic boom for Forks.  I learned a lot from the visitor center.  Before the books, Forks had around 6,500 visitors a year.  After the books, 69,000 visitors a year!

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The Twilight crew and me!
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People from all over the US and the world!

While at the Lodge I met some nice people from Wrangle, Alaska.  We attended a fund raiser spaghetti dinner for Oscar, a local child with cancer.  The money was for his treatments in Seattle.  Before my new Alaska friends left they gave me a couple jars of smoked salmon they caught and canned. That was the best smoked salmon I’ve ever tasted.  It was bagels and lox for breakfast until I ran out of that yummy salmon.

There are many beaches along the coast and I visited several of them; La Push, Rialto, First Beach, and Ruby Beach.  I also had lunch at the popular Kalaloch (pronounced clay-loc) Lodge.  Such beauty along this rugged coastline!

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The beach
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Such beauty!
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Tide pool – Sea Anemone
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Tide pool-Blue Mussels

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Then it was time for the Hoh Rain Forest.  It is among the only protected temperate rain forests in the Northern Hemisphere. The rain forest receives 140 inches of annual rain, and condensed mist brings another 30 inches.  The record rainfall is 190 inches! Three loop trails from the visitor center provide a great sampling of the rain forest.  My favorite was the Hall of Mosses Trail.  Luckily, I didn’t have to visit the rain forest in the rain!  It was a beautiful, sunny day.

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Dripping with Spanish moss
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Hoh Rain Forest
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The trail through the rain forest
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All the green!
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Hoh Rain Forest

As the weather started turning for the worse, it was time for me to start heading south towards Oregon.  Honestly, I could spend the entire summer in the Puget Sound area and the Olympic Peninsula.   I loved it!

Next stop Portland area and a visit with a dear friend.

Did I say, “I love this lifestyle!” yet?  I do!

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