Olympic National Park: Improvisation

After visiting the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center, we drove Olympic Highway 101 to Lake Crescent on the north side of the park. My dad was on a motorcycle and I can only imagine how liberating it was to ride along the scenic winding road on a bike. (Writing that has me thinking that it would be a cool ride on a bicycle as well- though, probably quite dangerous given the numerous blind turns and limited shoulder). Highway 101, like Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a must-drive road. I'm grateful I wasn't behind the wheel, so I was able to freely enjoy the ceaseless views.

Lake Crescent is pristine- a slice of heaven, reflecting the blue of the sky. As we drove around the shoreline, I was really surprised with the choppiness of the water given that it is nestled between mountains. Waves from the lake lapped at the shore, making the water look icy despite the sun gleaming on its surface. Because this was one night of the trip Jordan and I hadn't made reservations for sleeping accommodations, we were winging it. If there was availability, my dad offered to pay for a night in the Lake Crescent Lodge- a hotel in Olympic along the highway. The Lodge reminded me of the resort in Dirty Dancing- complete with guest activities such as a fire ring and nightly sing-along. The laugh of the worker behind the registration desk when we inquired about vacancy indicated we probably should have made reservations a year in advance.

Before climbing back into the car, Jordan and I ran into the clear water of Lake Crescent to cool off. The transparency of the water, in my experience, was rivaled only by that of the waters in St. Croix. My dad lounged on the shore in the sunshine while we splashed around.

Back on the road we retraced our route to the junction of 101 and Camp David Jr. Road where there is a first-come, first-serve campgrounds. Needless to say, with the perfect weather and the holiday weekend ahead, arriving at the campgrounds at dinner time was too late to claim a spot. We continued on the road to a private camping lodge where I tried my best to cajole the groundskeeper to allow us to camp for the night in the grassy meadow overlooking the lake. He was impervious to my charm and we returned to Highway 101 to continue driving east. Anticipating potential hiccups in the plan to wing it, we knew we could find camping outside of Olympic National Park in Port Crescent, so we drove north.

Winding through farms and increasingly more remote roads to the northern coast of Washington, I feared arriving at the campgrounds to find them occupied. Instead, we drove along the Strait of Juan de Fuca to see a relatively unoccupied campground- a private business that we didn't previously know about. We opted to continue ahead to the Salty Creek Campsites we had researched. The sites were expensive, exposed, and removed from the beach, so we backtracked to the private campgrounds- which, though exposed, had spectacular views from the sites.

Sitting on the private beach of the campgrounds, Jordan, my dad, and I watched the sunset over the mountainous terrain of Vancouver Island. We shared a few cans of beer and slices of pie we had purchased at a local diner earlier in the evening.

Despite clouds, the sunset was spectacular. Easily, Rainier excluded, this was one of the best parts of the entire trip. The best thing about this camp spot? It was totally serendipitous. If this wasn't a good reminder to live and let live, I'm not sure what could be.

The private beach of the campground was along Crescent Bay. The cluster of trees to the right is part of Tongue Point Marine Life Sanctuary. As Jordan and I were walking around we spotted a bald eagle soaring in and out of the treetops.

Perhaps the funniest part of the night, was that the sun during this time of the year, this far north doesn't set until well after 10:00 PM. As we laid in our tent, watches ticking towards 11:00 PM, I felt like I needed an eye mask to block out the light from dusk.

The next morning, while my dad picked up seashells and drove back to the diner for raspberry pancake breakfast, Jordan and I went for a run. The light cloud cover and breeze made for cool morning miles. We ran through Salt Creek County Park and the Marine Life Sanctuary.

Not wanting to miss a view, Jordan and I paused our watches to trek along the exposed, rocky bluffs of Tongue Point. The rocks were slick with barnacles and early-rising families were exploring the tidal pools for sea critters. The coastline was occupied with innumerable fishing boats and in the distance, cruise liners glided by the mountains on Vancouver Island.

To our surprise, there were a few dirt trails running from Tongue Point. Exploring Google Maps afterwards, it seems as though the trails lead to a mountain top- Striped Peak. Welcoming the dirt, we strode along the undulating hills with the sound of crashing waves drowning the thud of our strides. Along these trails, we found remnant World War II bunker structures which were equal parts eerie and cool. I had a good laugh seeing the graffiti on the wing walls of the bunkers. Writing this months later, I don't remember the exact words, but the graffiti mirrored phrases like "Peace, Love, Happiness" which is in stark contrast to the smut and slang usually tagged in Baltimore and New York. Those Washingtonians...

Looping back on the roadway from the trails, a protective mother deer and her fawn crossed the road. The downhill back to our primo campsite was a welcomed finish before we hosed off and packed the car for another day of exploration and adventure.

#Washington #OlympicNationalPark #NationalPark #PNW #Camping #CarCamping

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