Washington State: day five
09.07.2017 - 09.07.2017
Into the Twilight Zone
Lake Crescent, morning light
With our body clocks just about reset we should have slept well at Lake Crescent, with the sound of its waters just lapping the shore beneath our window. And no doubt we would have done had our neighbour not considered it reasonable to put on his radio at 3.45 AM! The walls of this old lodge are very thin, so a bit of noise is forgiveable, but a radio? Really?!
Nevertheless we were up fairly early, as we usually are when we travel, and I had a wander down to the lakeside to take a few photos before breakfast.
Early morning by the lakeshore
We ate breakfast in the lodge restaurant with lovely views of the lake, and both enjoyed our omelettes and some OK filter coffee. Then it was time to check out and hit the road once more.
The weather was a bit cloudier than it had been, but still dry (which is by no means always the case here). We stopped for some final photos of the lake at its western end, by the Fairholme store, with interesting cloud reflections in the silvery water.
The lake at Fairholme
We drove west on Hwy 101, which soon after leaving Lake Crescent dips out of the National Park. The Olympic NP is rather disjointed in shape, occupying a large irregularly shaped area of land in the centre of the peninsula plus various thin stretches of coastline around its edges, and it was to one of these stretches that we were headed, Rialto Beach.
This lies just north of the mouth of the Quillayute River, and we stopped briefly by the river on our way to the beach for some initial photos of the seastacks that lie just offshore here. The clouds had thickened by now and there was a damp mist in the air, but the conditions rather suited the landscape and made for some interesting if challenging photography.
The Quillayute River
At Rialto Beach the shore is littered with the massive trunks of long-dead trees, worn smooth by the waves that brought them here. Mist hung in the air and drifted around the seastacks, creating ever-changing views. I took loads of photos here!
Drift logs on the beach
On the beach
This coastline is notorious for bad weather (it is one of the rainiest places in the US) so in fact we were quite lucky with these slightly damp but by no means unpleasant conditions. As a national park leaflet explains:
‘Severe currents, rocks and infamous weather doomed many ships along this wild coast. Shipwrecked mariners told of hardships endured on the rugged and desolate shoreline, and of dramatic rescues, some involving heroic assistance from local tribes. Memorials north of Rialto Beach commemorate 36 people who died in wrecks of Chilean and Norwegian vessels in 1920 and 1903—testament to a perilous, remorseless sea that has taken many lives.’
Walkers on the beach
First Beach and La Push
Leaving Rialto Beach eventually, we retraced our steps a little way back up the Quillayute valley to the junction with La Push Road. The RV resort here has a café where we stopped for coffee and had our first encounter with the Twilight Saga obsession that has in recent years brought extra visitors to this area – interested not in its scenic beauties but its links to the books and films of that series. The fact that those films were not actually shot here doesn’t deter the fans, nor stop local businesses working to attract the additional tourist dollars they generate.
After our coffees we turned again towards the sea and La Push. This is a small Quileute Indian community located next to the uninspiringly named First Beach (guess what the next two beaches along the coast are called? You got it - Second and Third Beaches!) Despite the name though, this one was as photogenic as Rialto, and less busy.
When we had taken all the photos we wanted here we went to La Push's only restaurant for a light lunch of clam chowder (it was a soup kind of day) and were thrilled to see a Bald Eagle posing on a post just outside the window.
After lunch we wandered around taking a few photos of the village houses which are rather run down but interesting photographically.
In La Push
Cemetery entrance (closed to non-tribe members)
Our next planned stop was the quirky John's Beachcombing Museum in Forks, but frustratingly we arrived to find it closed. Perhaps we shouldn't have been too surprised at this as it was a Sunday and this is a one-man operation - probably John likes his day of rest.
John's Beachcombing Museum
On the positive side, there was quite a lot to be seen outside the museum so we got some flavour of the collection at least, although it would have been good to have met John who must be quite a character. He has been combing the beaches around here for over forty years. His collection includes more than 25,000 buoys from as far away as coastal China, hulls of boats, too-many-to-count Nike shoes salvaged from a container spill somewhere in the Pacific, ragdoll heads (from another container spill), a Boeing 727 engine spinner cone, a grey whale skull and a mammoth tooth. Plus numerous items from the 2011 Japanese tsunami that washed ashore on Washington’s beaches. In a documentary about that disaster he said:
“It’s not just garbage, each piece tells a story. These are remnants of people’s lives.”
At John's Beachcombing Museum
There was also a car dealership nearby which had, among the regular cars on display for purchase, a few ancient, rusting ones:
Forks was to be our base for the night so we didn't drive much further. We checked out the few shops that were open, many making the most of the town's connection to the popular Twilight books and films - a connection that was somewhat lost on us as we have neither of us read or seen any of them! Incidentally, the books’ author, Stephenie Meyer, had never even visited the town but chose it simply because of its reputation for miserable weather as it seemed a likely place for a vampire to live. For us though, the sun shone in Forks, as we had left the damp weather behind us on the coast.
If it weren't for its recent rise to fame as the location for a teenage cult phenomenon Forks would be a fairly nondescript place (sorry Forks!), visited only because it provides cheap lodging on the doorstep of the national park. But I don't mean to knock it for that, as we were using it as a convenient stopover ourselves.
We stayed in one of several fairly similar motels in town, the Pacific Inn. This was chosen almost at random, although it did seem to get better reviews than some of the others. We had a large room on the upper floor which was quite nicely decorated and had all the basics needed for an overnight stay - comfortable queen-size bed, wide-screen TV (there isn't much to do in Forks of an evening), fridge, coffee machine - even a microwave had we wanted to eat in.
But although Forks doesn't offer a wide range of dining options, we always prefer to eat out when travelling. So off we went to a local Mexican restaurant at the northern end of town, the Taqueria Santa Ana. While fairly basic, this is a friendly place with a comprehensive menu of standard Mexican favourites at great value prices. We both had a burrito (described on the menu as 'small' - I would hate to see what the large one looked like!) and a good Modelo beer, which cost us around $28 in total - by far the cheapest meal we had on this trip, but tasty nevertheless.
Our car at the Taqueria Santa Ana