November 16, 2016: Westward, ho! Continuing west from Montana, we spent some time in the state of Washington.
We’d never been to Spokane and since we were driving through it anyway, decided to get off the freeway and walk around a little. Spokane sits on the Spokane River and makes good use of its riverfront through its Riverfront Park. It seems like a nice place. Another on our list of places to return for a longer stay. [click to enlarge]
Heading further into Washington, the scenery was a lot wetter than Montana.
We drove just about all the way across Washington, skipping Seattle where we’d previously based our Washington travels, and stopped for the night in Port Angeles on the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula. It was raining so hard that we didn’t even get out of our van, so had no idea what was going on in town.
The next day, the weather had cleared up and so we went out to explore. We were pleased to find ourselves in the middle of the Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival. These people really embrace crab!
We arrived pretty early and found a place to sit. Later, this tent was standing room only.
We had some oysters and the best crab bisque we’ve ever had.
The festival included a chowder cook off, which we sampled heavily.
There was also an opportunity to try to catch a live crab, enjoyed by kids of all ages.
There were lots of boats in the Port Angeles harbor. [click to enlarge]
From the harbor, you get good views of town.
Sitting on the northern edge of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Port Angeles is very close to Canada. That’s Vancouver Island, British Columbia across the water.
We liked Port Angeles’s quirky vibe.
After taking in the crab, we camped for a couple of nights a few miles west of Port Angeles at the Salt Creek Recreation Area. We had a nice wooded campsite with a view. [click to enlarge]
Other campers opted for less privacy, but closer up waterfront experience.
People were diving and fishing right off shore. [click to enlarge]
These oystercatchers were doing some fishing too. [click to enlarge]
We hiked along the cliffy coast near our campsite. [click to enlarge]
And we were still so close to Canada that our phones were connecting to the Canadian cell towers across the water.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park encompasses nearly a million acres and is know for its diverse ecosystems which include mountains capped with glaciers, temperate rain forests and wild coastline.
We drove up to Hurricane Ridge, at elevation of 5,242 feet(1,598 m) to see its glacier-capped mountains.
The clouds were not entirely cooperative.
We took a hike from the visitor center. As usual, the views did not disappoint. (In the second picture, you can see the first frost we’ve encountered in quite some time.) [click to enlarge]
The park’s coastline is rugged with significant tidal shifts. Tide charts are posted all over the area to keep people from getting stuck (or worse). [click to enlarge]
We also visited the Hoh Rainforest within the park. This area gets 140-170 in (356-432 cm) of precipitation each year. It’s lush, with really big trees and something growing on just about every surface. [click to enlarge]
The wildlife here is interesting, if not as spectacular as in recent posts. This is a banana slug, which is much smaller than a banana. [click to enlarge]
We haven’t ever seen a woodpecker like this one before: [click to enlarge]
And this is just a cool picture of a spider we encountered.
In this rainforest you frequently encounter evidence of a phenomenon called the nurse log. Basically, a big tree dies and falls to the forest floor. The side of the trunk provides a nice clear place for new trees to begin life without having to compete with all the vegetation already established on the forest floor. You can see how the new trees’ roots leave gaps where the nurse log used to lie.
The rainforest is also a good environment for moss. It seems to particularly like these giant maple trees.
We visited a second beach in search of tidal pools. At some times during the year these pools contain really impressive collections of starfish and other colorful sea life. On this visit, there was lots of life, but maybe not the most beautiful collection. [click to enlarge]
Even without starfish, the coastal scenery was rugged and beautiful.
We headed south from Olympic National Park to the quiet (in the off season) tourist town of Westport, Washington.
Westport is a small tourist tourist town on the coast, and pretty quiet in mid-October. The sheltered harbor filled with charter fishing boats is also home to a large, and unappreciated population of sea lions. The federally protected mammals are a serious nuisance to the people who use the docks to make a living, and while they may not be harmed, it is considered acceptable (recommended?) that they be harassed whenever possible so they don’t feel comfortable lounging on the docks. We saw several episodes of sailors approaching and shouting at the giant sea lions, who shouted back for a while, then waddled off the dock into water and swam away. It was fairly comical. [click to enlarge]
We had never heard of Westport until the afternoon we left Olympic National Park and were looking for a place to stop. Once we got there, we liked the town, and decided to spend a couple of days there working and eating seafood. Unfortunately, a massive storm came and chased us off the coast. We headed south east and took refuge in Bend, Oregon.
We’ll tell you about our continued adventures next time.