Friday, November 25, 2011

Let the backlog begin: 4th of July camping

I have quite a few posts I want to write that date back to July (don't even mention Mexico, maybe for the one year anniversary of that trip I'll finally post it) and I'm going to just start WRITING THEM ALREADY. I'll start with my only camping trip of the summer in July and work my way to the present.

Olympic Peninsula Trip

Somehow in my nearly 30 years of life I have never been to the Washington state rain forest. To rectify this gross oversight, Adam, Nick and I went camping on the Olympic peninsula over 4th of July weekend. We stayed at Mora, a gorgeous campground near Rialto beach. We left Thursday after work (Nick drove so the Matrix did not come on a road trip with me for the first time since I got it) and made it onto the 5:30 ferry. It was dark when we arrived and we were worried about getting a spot since it was first come first serve, but the grounds were half empty and each site was large and quite private. They all filled up by Friday though. Even in the dark we were very selective about our site.

It was well-chosen! We had this fascinating nurse log in our site:

We got the tents set up, made a small fire, and hit the hay fairly early. The next morning (Friday) we all commented on how well we'd slept, something that never happens for me when camping. We started with a delicious breakfast, complimented by this ingenious toaster:

We then made an unexpected decision and drove to Cape Flattery, the most Northwest point in the continental U.S. It hadn't even been in our plans but somehow that morning we were all on the same page about it.

First, though, we had to drive though Forks, which has been consumed by Twilight fever. It doesn't seem be as booming an industry as they might have hoped, considering many stores had fully changed their names (with little imagination, admittedly - see below), every single place we went - even museums - had cutouts of the characters, etc., yet the town still seemed mostly empty. It was semi-disturbing.

We got a few last-minute supplies in Forks and got the hell out of there. The day started overcast but quickly burned off to sun and intermittent clouds, and we were excited that our weekend was off to a decent start - the forecast was a lot of rain.

Although Cape Flattery was about an hour and a half away it was worth it for the view and for the bragging rights of having been to an extreme corner of the country. Here's Nick on the short trail to the viewpoint checking out a huge, fungus-covered tree. I think they're called Chicken mushrooms, the ones that look like little shelves.

As we rounded the corner of the trail we were met with this stunning view:

The water crashing in and out of these natural caves was mesmerizing:

We enjoyed the view, made salami sandwiches at a picnic table near the trail, and then found our way back to camp. We passed this beach along the way and the boys obliged my desire to get out, tromp around on the rocks, and look for crabs. Adam was especially helpful in turning over the larger rocks and every time there would be a dozen or more tiny black crabs scurrying away. I hollered and jumped away like I was surprised each time.

We got back to camp in time for the ranger talk on grey whales, and grilled a whole salmon for dinner.

Saturday started with gorgeous sunshine, so we spent it entirely at Rialto beach just a mile down the road. After a breakfast of salmon scramble and potatoes, we made the short journey and spent several hours chilling out with the giant driftwood.

Wes, our weekend mascot, was especially glad to work on his tan:

The beach was filled with perfectly smooth, round rocks. Since I'm terrible at skipping stones, I made a tower of them instead:

After lazing about, reading, napping, and soaking up some unexpected sun, we returned to camp for lunch – Nick’s tasty African stew – and then went back to the beach for the remainder of a low-tide, clouded-over afternoon:

Adam and Wes went back to the same great driftwood-encased spot we'd scouted earlier that day to read, while Nick and I set off on a long beach hike to see Hole in the Wall, which Wes wasn’t allowed to do (no dogs past a certain point). We used this opportunity to test out the walkie-talkies I'd gotten, which have a fairly decent range it turns out.

Rialto beach is beautiful, with giant rocks jutting out of the water like an artist placed them there intentionally:

Nick and I had never been to Rialto before and were under the impression that Hole in the Wall was a lot farther than it actually was, so when we came to this formation after what seemed like only a few minutes of walking...

...somehow our two college-educated brains decided this huge hole in the wall couldn't possibly be THE Hole in the Wall, so we continued our hike for quite some time, which was OK with us because there was a lot more to see.

The sand at low tide was formed into these parallel ruts that I couldn't stop admiring:

There was also a lot of worthy marine life to explore, including tons of anemones, this strange pink algae, and starfish everywhere (though not in this photo):

Here we are well past Hole in the Wall; we probably went another three quarters of a mile, including scrambling over some giant rocks and through ocean water that hadn't quite left with the tide yet.

At one point after this I gave Nick my fleece since I was hot after the rock climb and my camera to put in his bag, and then we separated for awhile so he could advance to see if HitW was in front of us. Unfortunately this meant I didn't capture any of the next 30 minutes, which I spent in absolute, incredible isolation on vast swaths of rocks covered in mussels and barnacles. I walked out for what seemed like a half mile from the shore, trying to step carefully on bare patches of rock, finding small blowholes where the ocean was spouting up between breaks in the rock, inhaling some of my favorite smells: sea salt, decaying seaweed, shellfish, rain; in short, a beach in the Pacific Northwest. I was so grateful to be so alone with all this beauty... for about 20 minutes. I spent the next 10 shivering cold and cursing Nick for having wandered so far ahead of me, leaving me no choice but to wait until he decided to return of his own accord. As we walked back it started raining but we found Adam in a pleasant mood considering we had left him for probably an hour and a half longer than he'd expected and the weather had turned.

We got back to the campsite just in time for that night's ranger talk, which left me with the inescapable knowledge that the acidification of the oceans is (among other horrors) preventing shellfish from attracting calcium carbonate to make their shells, resulting in 'functional extinction' for many species and a strong likelihood that our oceans will be dead in our lifetimes. Depressing doesn't begin to describe it.

(There were actually a lot of people there, just sitting in the back rows.)

I had gone to the talk alone and left Adam and Nick to prepare dinner, and when I got back a baked potato, fresh ear of charred corn, and a perfectly cooked steak awaited me. After that I insisted on making s'mores, one of which Adam begrudgingly ate so I didn't have to eat alone. If I had known his dislike for them was so strong I would have eaten his but it was a nice gesture. We stayed up really late that night and at one point noticed the sky had cleared so we walked to a nearby open meadow and laid looking up at the stars until we were too cold to resist our sleeping bags.

Sunday morning - the 3rd of July - Nick made us a healthy breakfast of yogurt, granola, and fruit (plus coffee - what is it about camping coffee that is so great?) before packing up camp and heading home via the Quinalt rain forest. We had decided on Quinalt since dogs are restricted from national parks but not national forests. Our first stop was actually the best part of the whole day, a sweet, small rainforest walk we had entirely to ourselves called Maple Glade. Wes had to stay in the car for this one. Here are Adam and Nick admiring some trees:

It's so hard to capture how lovely this place was, but this moss-covered tree shows some of it:

It was an interpretive trail so every few feet there were signs pointing us to a section of the brochure that told us the history of that particular spot. This meadow was formed by something really interesting that now, months later, I sadly can't remember. I could probably dig up the brochure if I really wanted to...

Sunday was by far the most beautiful day, and we took out all the remaining food for a "what's left?" lunch at a picnic table in a wide grassy meadow near Maple Glade. By the end of eating I was as close to hot as I got all weekend. Then it was on to Quinalt proper. On the way we passed the ocean and had I known that the highway cut inland after that I would have insisted on stopping to enjoy the few sandy beaches WA state has. But we carried on and did two short hikes in Quinalt, one in an area that suffered extreme damage during a famous storm about 8 years ago. It was interesting to see how nature had been affected and how it was rebuilding itself.

The next stop was the World's Largest Spruce tree:

Apparently there's another one almost as big in California but this one has the official honor. We took the obligatory photos, and that concluded our trip! We hightailed it back to Seattle and were in town by about 6 pm, with plenty of time to prepare for our nation's birth the next day. (I spent it gardening at K, M, and Toddler J's and then watched the Lake Union fireworks from the roof of my building that night.)

Not bad for my first trip to our state's rain forest. I can't wait to go back again soon, hopefully next year, and check out the Hoh and everything else I didn't get to this time around.

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