Clinton and I always enjoy when we can go back to our home states and meet up with family and friends. We enjoy our time immensely when our family and friends are willing to #TalleyYourAdventure with us. We were able to travel back to Washington State where Clinton is from, but this time visit Seattle as a launching point for Olympic National Park.
Our Washintonian friend Erika is pretty cool – she’s willing to drive from (basically) Spokane to Seattle just to pick us up and drive with us to Olympic National Park. Before we left, we secured an Airbnb in Port Angeles. Since Erika provided the ride, we provided the lodging; and since we were on vacation we made sure to spoil ourselves a bit! We rented a great little house with a steam shower and dry sauna for the one night we stayed and it was absolutely worth it! Take your time searching for a location to stay. Much like any expensive city that is not the easiest to get to, there may be areas of town that aren’t the best or are overly expensive but there is always a gem to be found! It took us a few days to find this place and once it opened we jumped on it. We’ve, for the most part, had good luck with Airbnb and definitely recommend it as a means for travel or visiting an area to see if you want to move to the area.
The first night of our trip we arrived in the afternoon, checked into the hotel in Seattle, and took to the streets. I’ve stayed in Seattle before, both for work and travel, and so has Clinton so we knew our basic way around the city. Eating salmon or clam chowder, easily finding an amazing sushi place, and excellent coffee – all staples of Seattle! We’ve been to the touristy places before such as the Space Needle, this time we were entirely focused on Olympic National Park. We had a long weekend (4 days) with two half travel days and didn’t want to miss any opportunities for adventures! Erika planned to meet us early the next day and we scheduled to be on the ferry across the Puget Sound to Bremerton so we weren’t spending most of our time in the car. It was a great trip – we love when we are on the water! Like I’ve stated before, the #TravelingTalleys are big supporters of public and alternative forms of transportation when possible. Our ferry trip was only an hour, but we were able to load the vehicle on the ferry and walk around and see downtown Seattle disappear as we headed away from the city.
Once we arrived on the other side and disembarked via vehicle, we drove towards Olympic National Park. The park is huge – almost 1 million acres of land – and is spread out from the coastline facing Seattle on the east to the west coast facing the Pacific Ocean. Traveling from one side to the other requires more than just the 1.5 day experience we had planned so we condensed our visit to one specific coastal location and a visitor center. Our beach goal was Ruby Beach, heading down 101 from Port Angeles and taking the northerly route on the way back through 113. We visited the visitor center in Port Angeles and in Hurricane Ridge. Erika was game for driving instead of trying to do hikes (April wasn’t the warmest time to visit Washington, even if Olympic is part rain forest!) which is a recommended way of visiting the park if you don’t have a lot of time or come off season and the weather doesn’t cooperate as much.
Olympic National Park actually has four different regions: the Pacific coastline, alpine area, temperate rain forest, and the drier forests on the east side. The park also hosts three distinct ecosystems: sub-alpine forest, temperate forest, and the Pacific coast. Don’t forget the wildflower meadow! While we were too early for a wildflower display the changes in the ecosystems was evident even with just a drive from Port Angeles to Ruby Beach. It is a long drive though, so if you don’t want to travel there and back in a day make sure to try and find lodging closer to Ruby Beach, such as Forks, so that you can stay the night closer to that area and make your way back the next day. Olympic National Park was originally designated Mount Olympus National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1938 and in 1988 Congress designated 95% of the park as the Olympic Wilderness. This is evident immediately when viewing a map because a visitor can’t really drive right up to the mountains like in many other parks, but there are many opportunities to hike.While we were visiting our destination was the sandy beach of Ruby Beach. Different than the beaches I was use to growing up in Florida, Ruby Beach had rougher, rockier sand and large outcroppings of rock structures to play on while the tide came in. Thick groves of trees were adjacent to the sand, which made walking to the beach even more fun since it was through part of the forest. There is massive amounts of driftwood on the beaches and in the surf, so be careful, but definitely take the time to get out of the car and view the beauty of the Pacific Ocean! It was cold but that didn’t stop us from climbing on the solid looking driftwood and the rocks near the surf while we watched the tide come in slowly.
While we didn’t have the time to visit the mountains, that didn’t mean we didn’t try to stop whenever we could for a photo op or just to view. The Olympic Mountains include the 7,965 ft Mount Olympus, the greatest glaciation mountain of any non-volcanic peak in the contiguous United States (outside the North Cascades). Several glaciers dot the Olympic Mountains including the Hoh Glacier, which is over 3 miles in length. We also didn’t have the time for a hike through the temperate rainforest, but we did drive through part of it and enjoy the view as much as possible. With an annual precipitation of 150 inches and including the Hoh Rainforest and Quinault Rainforest, this area is one of the wettest areas in the continental United States. Beautiful SItka Spruce, Western Hemlock, and Coast Douglas-fir surround most of your drive to Ruby Beach. Between the sights and smells, the trip was absolutely a perfect reunion with Erika!
On our way back to Seattle we were able to reconnect with part of Clinton’s family, including his Uncle and Aunt (hello if you are reading!). Friends, family, and a new national park? What a great trip for the #TravelingTalleys! Even if you only have four or five days a quick trip to another region of the world is doable for any type of traveler. Just do your research, make sensible decisions rooted in reality, and ALWAYS tell someone your game plan. We had so much fun visiting Washington and hope this post encourages you to #GetOutdoors and #FindYourPark, wherever you live!