Washington State: day four
08.07.2017 - 08.07.2017
In the Olympic National Park
Our breakfast view, Port Townsend
Again we were awake early, our bodies still lost somewhere between UK and US West Coast time, a couple of hours out of sync. But breakfast was waiting for us just around the corner at a cool little waterfront coffee shop, Better Living Through Coffee. We enjoyed good muffins and an excellent cup of coffee at a table overlooking the water, where the morning sun provided great light for a few last photos of Port Townsend.
By eight we were on the road, heading west on Hwy 101 towards the Olympic National Park. We made a brief stop in Blyn (just east of Sequim) for photos, at a viewpoint beautifully maintained by the local tribe, the Jamestown S'Kallam, overlooking Sequim Bay.
Soon after this we turned off Hwy 101 in Port Angeles to enter the national park.
View from the parking area, Hurricane Ridge
We paid our $25 entrance fee (good for a week) and drove the winding road to Hurricane Ridge. This is one of the most popular stops in the park and we were glad we had arrived quite early, as the large parking lot was already filling up (although it was to get a lot fuller by the time we left!)
Hurricane Ridge sits 5,242 feet above sea level and offers sweeping panoramic views of the Olympic Mountain range. It is notorious for poor weather (hence the name) and snow can lie here well into the summer – we saw quite a bit, one week into July. We had come prepared with a Plan B, should the clouds be low, as we knew that if that were the case there would be no view and no point in coming here. As it turned out, however, we couldn’t have been luckier. The sky was blue, the sun warm, the air fresh and crisp – perfect weather in which to enjoy this stunning landscape.
There are several short trails here (and some longer ones). With my mobility issues making uphill walking a challenge, we opted for the level Big Meadow Loop trail, rather than the steeper High Ridge. We had planned to also include the Cirque Rim but could only do a short part of that as some was closed due to snow still lying on the path. But to be honest it would be hard to better the views we had, the foreground a riot of purple lupine, with fir trees beyond and then the distant mountains still splashed with snow.
On the Meadow Loop trail
And the bonus? Some Blacktail deer that wandered past and posed nicely for our cameras, including one very cute little Bambi.
After our walk, with its many photo stops, we headed for the Visitor Center to use the restrooms (I would say ‘loos’, but the Americans do love a euphemism!), have a cold drink and buy a sandwich for later. We took some more photos from the deck here, of the more distant mountains and more wildflowers.
The Elwha Valley
But with more cars arriving all the time we decided it was time for us to leave, so we drove back down to Port Angeles and then a little further west on Hwy 101 before turning off again to eat our lunch at a more tranquil spot in the Elwha valley, near Madison Falls, where we found a shady table with a wonderful view.
View from our picnic table
The falls are just a short easy walk from the parking area, and well worth seeing - a narrow cascade dropping around 100 feet into a green glade in the woods.
The river Elwha itself is also worthy of a few photos and we were pleased to find a swallowtail butterfly flitting about nearby.
On the river bank
From here we drove on to Lake Crescent, where we had reserved a room in the historic lodge. Unlike the newer cabins these (cheaper) rooms are not en suite (though we did have a washbasin in the room) but the compensation, in addition to the lower price, was a beautiful view of the lake.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon on the shore near the lodge - I had a paddle in the cool lake waters and we refreshed ourselves with cold drinks while enjoying the view. Lake Crescent was formed by glaciers and like most glacial lakes is deep (around 650 feet) and clear – in fact, the second deepest in the state (Lake Chelan, by some way the deepest, was on our itinerary for later in this trip, so watch this space!)
Lake Crescent views, near the Lodge
We had booked a table for dinner in the restaurant on arrival, as we knew this could get busy and was the only option available. Prices reflect the latter fact, with most dishes costing around $5 more than we had seen elsewhere. But based on our experience the quality of the food does help to mitigate the higher cost. We shared an artichoke appetiser as we wanted something light - the accompaniments of "Brown Butter Aioli, Radicchio, Candied Lemons, Crushed Red Pepper and Parmesan Tuille" were tasty but I have to say, after this second experience of eating artichoke, that I believe it isn't worth the bother! But my main course certainly was - a very nicely cooked piece of salmon served with an interesting assortment of vegetables, of which the pickled fennel was particularly good. Chris also liked his burger and we managed to squeeze in a shared dessert of marionberry cobbler which was nicely tart.
After dinner we sat for a while in the lobby/bar area, enjoying the log fire and a second drink each - Washington Pinot Grigio for me and a local porter for Chris.
Drinks by the fire
A cosy end to a super day, and more of the Olympic National Park to be explored tomorrow …