Continued [See this post for Part I of the Olympic Peninsula!] Not at all having satisfied our desire to explore the western side of Olympic National Park, but needing to get moving because we are on a somewhat strict timeline, we headed up and around the Peninsula and parked Gelly in the Hearty of the Hills Campground, just outside of Port Angeles and near the main entrance to Olympic NP. This was a perfect place to camp for us to see our friends in Port Angeles, do some exploring in Hurricane Ridge, and also make our way out to Cape Flattery.
After a great lunch catching up with our friends at their place in Port Angeles, we decided since it was such a beautiful day that we’d drive out to Cape Flattery, the northwestern-most point in the U.S. It was a lovely drive through farmlands and breathtaking coastline, much of it with views of Vancouver Island to the north, and I kept an eye out for whales along the way. No luck on that front, but we were happy for a sunshiny day to accompany our drive.
We had some very rainy nights on the Olympic Peninsula, which is not unusual or unexpected (It is the Pacific Northwest, after all), but still a bit of a bummer all the same. I love a good rainstorm as much as the next girl, but it is much more difficult and less enjoyable when living out of a tiny camper! Luckily a rainy night often makes for a stunning morning and that’s just what we got when we headed up to Hurricane Ridge for some hiking.
We hiked up Hurricane Hill, a little more than 3 miles roundtrip up a well maintained and sometimes steep trail. From the top of the hill we were rewarded with gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and forests, with so many fluffy clouds floating by. Best of all we spent quite a bit of time among a pack of Olympic Marmot, which are only found in this area and nowhere else in the world. Curious little creatures, they were popping in and out of their holes, munching on grasses and checking out the few hikers on the trails.
We had some amazing photographing opportunities. This absolutely made my day – I am a wildlife viewing fanatic. We also saw a doe and her new baby at the top of Hurricane Hill and watched the baby frolicking around. I highly recommend this hike – the rewards greatly outweigh the effort, wildlife abounds, the views are breathtaking and the welcome center and gift shop atop Hurricane Ridge are great too!
We had lots of great recommendations for the peninsula from several friends who had lived in the area. Personal recommendations are our favorite – we go out of our way to take these recs and are 9 times out of 10 greatly rewarded. Based on these recommendations, we grabbed donuts at Cockadoodle Donuts in Port Angeles and then headed east to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge and decided to do the 10 mile roundtrip hike out along the Dungeness Spit to the New Dungeness Lighthouse.
The hike was flat, but it was all sand and stones, so it was a pretty challenging stroll and we loved it. The spit is a narrow bit of sandy beach that juts out into the ocean and curves around back toward the mainland, creating a beautiful haven for wildlife. We saw an otter hunting and munching on fish, tons of seagulls lined up on the huge driftwood logs that line the spit, and seals swimming along the shore. Again the Orcas eluded us (one day, it will happen people!), but this is a prime spot for whale watching and Bald Eagles too from time to time.
Get this – you can be a lighthouse keeper at the lighthouse! They allow anyone to do it, you simply have to sign up for the lighthouse organization and apply for the week(s) that you’d like to do it well in advance. If selected, you stay in the beautiful historic lighthouse keeper’s house just next to the lighthouse and the duties sound pretty easy – giving tours to those folks who bothered to walk all the way out to the lighthouse, and some shining of the brass in the lighthouse. The woman who was giving our tour had brought her husband and two kids out for a vacation at the lighthouse from Arizona. I foresee a lighthouse keeper adventure in my future!
A view of the lightkeeper’s house from the lighthouse!
A delicious dinner of mussels (for me) and meatloaf (for Ryan – I do not do meatloaf) at the Alder Wood Bistro, along with fried oysters and local brews capped off a great day. That night, we camped that night at Sequim Bay State Park. And sadly, our time on the Peninsula came to an end – we booked it over to Seattle to stock up on groceries and enjoy a delicious dinner at Tavolata with some friends of ours who live in the city!
Washington is the beginning of the land of the SALMON!
How could I forget (I nearly did!) – we stopped at a salmon hatchery, too. It’s not the first fish hatchery we’ve stopped at on this trip … Ryan’s a fish nut. We checked out the hatchery and watched a few guys sucking baby salmon (fun fact: a little baby fish is called a fry) into a hose and into a tank to be released into a nearby stream. We chatted with these guys and were interested in their work, so they showed us the tanks where they were holding huge salmon that they’d captured in the stream and would be researching until it was time for them to spawn – these tanks aren’t open to the public, so that was a real treat. It goes to show you that a little friendly conversation can take you far – and Ryan the master of chit chatting with strangers.
Olympic National Park may be my favorite national park thus far on the trip. It has so much to offer and we only were able to scratch the surface because we didn’t have enough time. I’d love to go back to do some backpacking and much longer hikes, do some paddling on Crescent Lake, some fishing on the rivers, and explore some of the less traveled spots in the interior of the Park.
Have you been? What was your favorite part? Mine had to be Hurricane Hill and the Marmot for sure!
LOCATION Olympic National Park, Washington, USA