Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Port Angeles, WA

Heading north from Hoquiam on highway 101 was a beautiful drive. It took us through the town of Humptulips (Ha!), and through countless miles of sparsely populated coniferous forest, much of which is actively logged, but most of which is still thick with trees. Down to the coast the road took us along Olympic National Park's coastal ecosystem, a 50-some mile long, dripping wet and misty stretch of Washington's coast. Although we were under tow I found an access point that we could use to walk down to the shore to enjoy a piece of this section of the park. It was incredibly, hauntingly beautiful:

We had left early in the morning so that we would arrive at our prospective new park by 11:00, hoping to score one of their 1st come 1st serve sites. We did get one, and a good one at that. Whereas most of the sites are oriented such that when backed in our rear window faced inland, we got one on the upper of the three tiers, and were oriented properly, giving us a great view from our rear window of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Victoria B.C.. The Salt Creek Recreation Area occupies a point of land, so we could catch both the sun setting into the Pacific...

...and rising from behind Mount Baker:

We took an afternoon and drove up into the mountains of Olympic NP. We followed the serpentine park road from sea level to Hurricane Ridge, about a mile high. Despite large areas still holding snow, the strong sun made it quite hot. Wildflowers were in abundance, splashing the lush green grass with patches of white, yellow, orange, pink and purple. The broadleaf lupine was particularly abundant and filled the air with its sweet fragrance. The horizon to the south was an endless progression of snow capped peaks, Mount Olympus at its heart:

Everybody sing: "The hills are alive....with the sound of music..."

The panorama (click to enlarge):

Another great thing about this place was the surprising good mountain bike trail that originated right at the park. Actually, it was great coming back. I got the impression as I rode out that it seemed mostly, tiringly, all uphill. At first I didn't mind, riding as I was through a towering coastal forest, the perfectly straight spruce, hemlock and cedar trees rising out of a sea of green ferns and mosses. But after a while I grew tired, literally and figuratively, of the unrelenting climbing. At last I came to an intersection and saw what appeared to be a very level track leading back, but no way...I'm not putting in the work and forgoing the reward, so I turned around and enjoyed one of the best riding experiences of the trip. That all uphill trail turned into a beautiful gravity fed ride through coastal forest. Along the way I stopped and hiked down to an isolated cove with a pebble beach:

Back at camp, a short walk from our site and down steps to the waterline revealed a fascinating collection of tide pools. We enjoyed watching the anemones, hermit crabs and sculpins until the tide chased us away:

Uphill from the campground there is a WWII Coastal Defense site. Two massive 16" guns once protruded from the earth-covered bunkers. These were each capable of firing one-ton projectiles up to 28 miles away. Projectiles like these (the three on the left :)

There was, however, a problem while we were at Salt Creek: our wireless devices were locking onto Canadian cell towers. Our phones were easily switched to a non-roaming mode, although the resulting connection to domestic towers was weak. The real problem was with our Verizon air card wireless modem. To make a long story short, we tried to work it out with Verizon, thought we had, but woke up on the third morning with over $200 in overage charges! Nancy had lots more work to get done, so we packed up and left. Too bad because this was one of the most beautiful campsite locations that we've had on this journey. Happy ending: looks like they're going to refund us the overage in its entirety.

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