Published: January 31st 2009September 29th 2008
Seagulls on Dock Posts
We happened upon this sight just as the sun was beginning to set over the Strait of Juan de Fuca
This trip has been forever in the making. I'm honestly surprised to be writing of it as I thought it would never happen. We had originally planned to go last March. Yes, I realize it's almost October, but we had a week off and our brains swam with visions of rainforest camping and montane hikes. And then a huge storm blew through and flooded the campsites while mudslides completely demolished the roads. The trip was post-poned until summer.
Summer came and went. The weather was good but the scheldule was not. If I wasn't working Andras was. On my days off he was at the office. Between the two of us we considered it a stroke of good fortune to have one
day off together, and when it finally did come around (half-way through August) we spent it white-water rafting in the Cascades because we both knew that the Olympic National Park deserved more than just a few hours of our time.
As the seasons shifted and summer melded into fall our scheldules changed and I saw there on the calendar two full days off, together, in early September. The weather was still forecast to be warm and dry
From across the Dungeness Spit
and the campsites remained open with running water and free of snow. Perfect. I marked it down in my planner. I wrote it in ink
. We were going. When the warm 70F days suddenly gave way to the brisk mist of autumn and the air felt heavy with moisture I didn't care. "We'll pack warm clothes," I said. When the road into the main visitor station closed down for repairs I begrudgingly accepted it and found another area to explore. "It's going to happen," I repeatedly told myself. "Nothing is going to stop this trip."
And up until Friday, two days before our departure, nothing did. I was at work, having just told nearly everyone I knew my plans for the weekend, when I got the call.
"Do you want the good news or the bad news first?"
It was Andras. Good news was he had an interview for a spectacular promotion. Bad news, naturally, was that it fell right smack in the middle of our outing and we couldn't go. I don't want to be that selfish girl who puts her own wants above the opportunities of others, especially one that would benefit of us both
in the future, but I admit I was disappointed and beginning to think believe that we would never get a chance to explore one of the most pristine areas in the country.
And then, finally, a stroke of luck! The travel gods are smiling down upon us and although I'm hesitant to get used to this sort of good fortune, I'll lap it up while I can! Not only did Andras get the promotion, but that next week we again had two days off, together and
the grey rainy skies opened up and for those three days only the summer sunshine was once again shining brightly down upon western Washington.
We left the moment we got off work. Well, no, we planned to leave the moment we got off work. We actually left about an hour or so after Andras got home, and then we loaded up the car, and ran around trying to figure out what we forgot, and then we had to feed the cat, and then we checked the ferry scheldule online one list time to be safe, and then
realized we weren't going to make it to the docks in time so we scrambled
Water Fowl on Dock Posts
In Dungeness, WA with Mt. Baker in the background
out the door while I stressed and moaned about how if we missed the boat we'd be stuck for at least an hour and we wouldn't get a campsite until dark and it would all just be ruined
. So far, so good.
We ended up pulling into the ferry dock a good five minutes before the ticket window closed. What a relief! And just how I like it - right on time. Too early and you waste precious moments you could have spent rushing around the apartment. Too late and, well, you know. Once on-board we could literally feel the weight of the city start to melt away, floating into the sea air and drifting away on the foamy crests of wave and wake left by the "Wallla Walla" as it chugged across the Puget Sound to the Kitsap Peninsula.
It was an otherwise gorgeous day, but the winds were picking up meaning that for the most part we had the upper deck all to ourselves as the other passengers stowed away inside. At one point we were able to look off in the distance and see the Space Needle peaking out over a hillside, with Mt. Rainier
Off the Sequim-Dungeness Coast
I took so many photos, it was hard to figure out which to include.
in the background and the Olympic mountains in the corner of our eye and Mt Baker behind us. I kept grabbing Andras' hand and jumping up and down saying "That's where we're going!" as the mountain ridges grew closer.
Dungeness Spit and the Strait of Juan de Fuca
Being a self-appointed food nerd, I was desperately torn between trying to find a campsite before dark and trying to find a seaside crab-shack that would serve us fresh Dungeness crab somewhere in Dungeness, WA. It was all for naught. First off, there are only maybe two restaurants that serve crab in the whole area - one was closed and the other was a combination of tourist-trap rip-off and senior-center dining hall. The Three Crabs looked busy, and it was the only waterfront restaurant in the area, so with high hopes we drove miles out of our way, walked inside, and after one look at the run-down interior and menu prices, we left. After all that we ended up grabbing a sandwich at Subway as the sun set behind us. Not a high-point of the trip. But (there's always a but) the ridiculously overpriced seafood restaurant was right next to the most
Leaving the ferry dock in Edmonds.
beautiful stretch of private beach off the shore of which were these old, picturesque dock posts covered with water fowl. I could have taken photos there all evening.
Since it became apparent we were going to have to find a campsite in the dark anyhow, we continued to drive along the shore and out towards the Dungeness Spit, where we could look across the water and see the shores of Canada to the north. Had we known earlier we probably we have tried to take the 5-mile hike out to the lighthouse, but the park closed at dusk. Still, I'm glad we know its there for the future.
We ended up getting incredibly lost on the way to the nearest campsite. We knew that the road to Hurricane Ridge was still closed and so we'd planned to stop at the town info station for an alternative campsite suggestion, but by the we got there it was closed and we had to make due with the free maps available outside which were less than helpful. One map showed campsites and no roads, another showed city roads but no campsites, and a third showed some rural roads, but only marked
Solitude on the Ferry
Not us in the photo, admittedly, but it could have been, and was, at intervals along the ferry ride.
the location of wineries and lavender fields. Conveniently, none of them were to scale.
I'd pulled some navigation magic over the last summer with my "make it up as you go" map reading, but this time it was pitch black. After driving to the end of town and running into the shipping docks we turned around and headed out of Port Angeles on a road that, if the fact that its shape appeared similar on all three maps was any indicator, had a name, and contained both a campsite and a winery. All was going according to plan until we drove under
the road we were supposed to intersect with. A U-turn later and we ended up on some old trucking road. After a third turn around I finally see a little sign for a Black Diamond winery which by golly had better be on Black Diamond road. Thank goodness after another hour later of driving through farmland we pull into a campsite a little past midnight.
Had we only known, the main road we were on originally did intersect with the road to campsite, with nicely painted signs and everything. Oh well. Better story to tell, right?
Boat Dock in Dungeness
It's not all beautiful.
I was so frustrated by the time we set up camp I didn't even bother to note what the campsite was called, although at one point we noted that it sounded like a river was running nearby. Come to find out the next morning we were camping right along the Elwha River, so Elwha campground is more than likely where we stopped to rest. And it's not on Black Diamond road, in case you're wondering. I'm sure the area is lovely, but we didn't stop to find it. It was not what we'd come to see.
The moment we woke up we packed up and high-tailed it out of there. Campsite follies are nice, but there is just something about bumbling about in the pre-dawn hours next to a RV full of retired old men who stayed up most of the night drinking that fails to say "Sit yourself down and stay a while for big, hot breakfast!" All Andras could think about was coffee so when the car took a sharp veer to the right into the parking lot of a motel/diner called "Granny's" I didn't say a word. Better let him have his coffee if I know
The "Wallla Walla"
Our ferry from Edmonds to Kingston
what's good for us.
This place was so charming it it's kitschy homey sort of way, with novelty salt-shakers and antique clocks lining the rafters. The coffee actually was very good, and from our seats at the bar we could look into the kitchen and watch a young women standing pregnant in sandals cutting up cinnamon rolls for bread-pudding. It was undoubtedly the place where the locals came to gather, as everyone seemed to know everyone else, except us.
But before we sipped and lingered too long we knew we had to move on, for the real reason we're here awaits us on the other-side of the peninsula - the Olympic Rainforest and Pacific Ocean.
There are more photos below