Saturday, August 22, 2015

Olympic Peninsula Road Trip, Part One

Olympic Peninsula, Part One

Have you ever taken a much anticipated trip only to find that reality didn’t match your dreams?  Of course, we all have.  In fact, Anne and I had one quite recently.  We took a three day trip around the highly touted Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington.  The mountains, the rain forests, the beaches we researched were all highly praised which raised our expectations for a fantastic trip of hikes, sights, and photos.  Don’t get me wrong; our planned trip was good, just not great.

Day One (Monday) from home in Canby, OR, to Sequim, WA

The trip was off to a good start with breakfast two hours down the road at one of our favorite stops, Country Cousin Restaurant in Centralia.

Always good food and service and this stop was no exception.  An hour further along Hwy 101 (which we picked up just before Olympia) we took a walk-about break at the Hama Hama Oyster Farm in Lilliwaup.
Mounds and fence posts made from oyster shells.

Drying seaweed at Hama Hama Oyster Farm.  Why?
Standing among the piled oyster shells we had nice views of Hood Canal (separating the Olympic Peninsula from the Kitsap Peninsula) which in Scotland would be called a firth or in Scandinavia a fjord.  Hama Hama has a saloon and store both reputed to be great for bivalve lovers.  
Next we drove off Hwy 101 about twenty minutes on a decent gravel road to the viewpoint atop Mt. Walker.  From here we got a first view of the lower Olympic mountains
Olympic mountain view from Mt. Walker.
and a view the other direction which included Hood Canal and Mt. Baker (barely, through the haze).  
Hood Canal and Mt. Baker peeking out of the haze.
From Mt. Walker it was about forty-five minutes to our day’s destination in Sequim (skwim) in the rain shadow of the Olympic mountains.  The first order of business was lunch at the Hwy 101 Diner

 (which is on Washington Street which is not Hwy 101).  This is a great diner with “period” waitresses and classic diner sandwiches and shakes.  After lunch we checked in at the Olympic View Inn which has no Olympic view, but it was the only hotel with a room when I booked it—basic but reasonably clean.  Now it was education time for both of us.  Sequim is noted for its lavender farms—it’s called the “Lavender Capital of America”—and we drove out to the largest farm where we learned that the lavender fields had been harvested about a month before (which was about two weeks early this year due to the unseasonably hot summer).
Washington Lavender Farm and Gift Shop, Sequim.

Dried lavender was about all we could find.
We did have a nice visit with the gift shop manager where Anne bought some lavender oil and a book about growing and using lavender.  Our next stop was more successful.  At the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge (known locally as The Spit)
The Spit with the lighthouse in the distance on the right.
we hiked down to the beach and walked about a half mile through the dunes and driftwood for beach and bird photos.
Natural driftwood art at Dungeness Nat'l Wildlife Refuge.

The lighthouse at the end of the world’s longest beach spit is a five and a half mile hike—too far for a couple of out of shape old farts. Dinner and a profitable evening’s entertainment was provided by The 7 Cedars Resort and Casino (Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe).

Day Two (Tuesday) from Sequin to Forks

We had another great start to our day with breakfast at Carlsborg Old Mill Cafe in Carlsborg a couple of miles out of Sequim.

The rustic restaurant  was packed within a half hour of opening.  Delicious meals and friendly wait staff make this the best bet in the area for breakfast.    
After breakfast we drove to the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles for a browse and information.
The mountains and Visitor Center from one of the park trails.
From there it was a seventeen mile drive up to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.

Olympic Mountain scenes.

On Hurricane Ridge we had some grand views of the the Olympic mountains and the permanent snow fields or glaciers—because of the hot summer there wasn’t any winter snow left.  At the Visitor’s Center we got up close and personal with a family of ptarmigan

Ptarmigan (I think), or is it a grouse? 

Whichever it is, it certainly wasn't bothered by the people at the Visitor Center.

who were not bothered by all the clicking cameras.  We hiked the Cirque Trail for photos and shopped for souvenirs in the Center.  I’ll end part one of this post by saying that Hurricane Ridge and the view of the Olympics was one of the highlights of the trip.
Hurricane Ridge view.
Next: The Olympic Peninsula, Part Two and a Preview of our Scotland Trip