After an amazing day in Mount Rainier National Park I headed north toward Seattle. Three of my brothers and several of my friends live in the vicinity and I hoped to spend time with as many of them as possible.
First stop… Issaquah, where I spent one night camped in my brother Tom’s driveway, and a few more camped in a park right on Lake Sammamish. While there I joined Tom and his family for an Issaquah High School football game.
The following day an old friend Dean Talley took me out paddle boarding! This is something I’ve wanted to try for a very long time, and I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity. I expected to spend a fair bit of time falling in the water and went prepared in a shorty wetsuit. I discovered that I still have a great sense of balance, and that a wetsuit… even a shorty… was overkill. I never did fall, but instead I had to jump in the water just to cool off! We also took his boat out for a spin. His son, Dustin, is quite an acrobat on a wakeboard!
While in the area I also spent some time with my old classmate Donna Valentine. (Not that we’re old, mind you.) Other than the typical all-too-brief conversations at class reunions Donna and I hadn’t spent time together since high school. I think I speak for both of us when I say it was really great finding time together and getting to know each other again. We hiked, dined, danced and shared a lot of great conversation and many good laughs together! The image below is from one of our hikes along Lake Washington.
I also got some catching up time with former choir and orchestra buddy John VanZanten, fellow classmate/photographer friend Tom Scharbarum, and fit in a stroll around Green Lake with another old friend, Rich Hinrichsen. And later, while traveling through Portland, I spent a delightful afternoon with yet another friend I hadn’t seen in years, Dana Montgomery. (I’ll expect to see you and Andrew down the road one day soon girl! 🙂 )
Before leaving the greater Seattle area I also reconnected with one of my “photo buddies” Muffet Petrehn at Pike Place Market, while touring my friend (and recent NW transplant) Joe Cilli around Seattle.
Before diving (or should I say driving?) deep into Olympic National Park I enjoyed a few peaceful, rainy days at my friend Bruce Wood’s place on Mason Lake near Hood Canal. Thankfully the rain stopped long enough to get my kayak out for a spin while there. Sadly, because work kept Bruce busy in Portland, he was there only in spirit. (We did get to enjoy some time together a few weeks later when I made my way down to Portland!)
My next stop was Lake Quinault where I camped in the shadow of the world’s largest spruce tree (so the sign said.) This Sitka Spruce is 58’11” in circumference, 191′ tall, and 1000 years old! And it is one of six champion trees living in the Quinault Rainforest! The others are the worlds largest Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, Mountain Hemlock, as well as the United States largest Yellow Cedar and Western Hemlock.
In addition to Mount St. Helens and Mt Rainier, Olympic National Park is a place that I remember fondly from my youth. I backpacked many-a-mile through the woods and along the shores of this park, which encompasses 1,442 square miles of the northwest corner of Washington. I did some of those multi-day trips with my family when I was a kid. They were often soggy hikes (there’s a reason this area is so lush and green… averaging 12′ of rain per year) but always memorable.
The most incredible memories of the Olympics though, were during my college years at the University of Washington, and shared with my very special and long-lost friend Mike. We hiked and backpacked many trails together throughout the Olympics and Cascades every chance we had, my favorite of which is the Lake Ozette Loop.
Although I made several attempts to get back there over the years, I could never get anyone to commit to doing it with me. Admittedly, it is a long drive even from Seattle. Too long a drive for a day hike, and it’s at least a three-day excursion to drive out, hike, camp, and drive back. More than thirty years later I was determined to revisit this place so dear to my heart. Thus the solo trek into the deepest reaches of Washington as the rain continued.
I left Lake Quinault for a long drive through the woods, with periodic stretches along the Pacific coast, to find a campsite near Clallam Bay. Jazzy and Sadie enjoyed a long, brisk walk with me at Ruby Beach along the way. (Little did they know they’d be stuck waiting in the motorhome the entire following day!)
The campsite I found was right on the water at the marina in Sekiu. This would have been a gem of a site, with an uninterrupted view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Canada across the way, had it not been SO muddy from the ongoing rain! Camping in Sekiu saved me dragging The Beast both directions down the windy fifty-mile stretch to my hike at Lake Ozette. If I’d had more time it would have been worth bringing the motorhome along to spend several days camped on the shores of this beautiful lake. As it was, I took the girls for a muddy walk in the rain before hopping in my car to drive the 50 miles to Lake Ozette.
In the past I only hiked the Lake Ozette loop as a backpacking excursion. This left ample time to camp, explore along the shoreline and enjoy the soothing sound of the crashing waves and some amazing sunsets along this rugged bit of coast. Many of those outings were spent hiking and camping in the rain, sometimes for days on end. I never minded it then, and although it was coming down in buckets when I arrived, I wasn’t going to let it stop me from doing my hike… for the first time as a day trip… alone.
[The loop is a 9.4 mile triangle; 3.3 miles through the woods to Cape Alava, 3.1 down the coast to Sand Point, and 3 miles through the woods back to the lake.]
I geared up in rain pants, slicker, boots, backpack, and for good measure a poncho too… mainly to protect my camera gear. I signed in at the entrance, headed over the familiar bridge and took the NW trail heading to Cape Alava.
Just as I remembered, I hiked for some distance through the woods which eventually opened up to a meadow where I always saw deer in the past. When I stepped out of the woods I looked around with great anticipation and was glad to spot a young buck grazing not far away. Seeing him standing there made me wonder how many generations of his kin had come and gone since I last stood in the meadow. It’s not a great shot, but with all the rain I saw no need to change lenses for a typical deer shot in a badly lit scene.
From the meadow I continued back into the woods, and again… just as I remembered… could hear the surf long before I could see the shore. When I arrived I stepped across the little footbridge and into MY campsite. Hard to believe it had been more than thirty years since I last pitched a tent in this spot!
When I looked out to the shoreline I was astounded! The recent storms had left it covered in a thick mess of kelp and seaweed. By “covered” I mean in some places it was knee deep. That made for a precarious three mile hike down the beach! This rugged coast is a challenging hike as it is. It’s a bit of an obstacle course actually… made up almost entirely of large slick rocks and fallen trees so big that you have to find your way around them or climb over the top of them (often tougher than it sounds). Plus… it has to be done at low tide in order to get past at least one point.
I may have been smart to turn around and hike straight back to my car, but I wasn’t being smart that day. I was being “determined”. Almost every step I took was with great caution because I didn’t know what was beneath the seaweed… little rocks, big rocks, logs and sometimes… a pool of water. More than once I stumbled but it wasn’t until I’d fought my way a mile or so down the beach that I realized the risk I was taking being out there alone, on this unforgiving shore, in the pouring rain and howling wind… with no cell coverage. From that point on I took every step even more carefully and kept my eye on the tide.
And I did my ever-lovin’ best to keep my camera dry while documenting the adventure!
I was greatly relieved when I reached Sand Point and had the coastal part of the hike behind me. I did pause at that campsite too though, to reminisce for awhile. From there it was another soggy (and thankfully uneventful) three miles back through the woods.
As I neared my car the rain lightened up, and almost magically this little buck stepped out of the forest in front of me. I imagined him saying, “Well done, and welcome home.”
I should note that four young men with backpacks hiked out of the woods at Cape Alava shortly after I did. We chatted for a bit and when I asked, they told me they planned on camping at Sand Point. I found comfort in knowing they wouldn’t be far behind me as I started down that shoreline. I glanced back from time to time hoping to catch sight of them as I struggled my way down the beach, but I never saw them again… nor anyone else the entire day.
As always, the girls were “body-waggin’ happy” to see me. Their undying love and patience earned them another wet and muddy walk through the marina. Gotta love dogs! They’re happy with what you give them and ask for nothing more.
The following morning we headed east toward Port Townsend in heavy winds and pouring rain. The plan was to catch a ferry across Puget Sound to Whidbey Island and follow it north over Deception Pass to Burlington for a visit with my brother Eric and his family. I had the opportunity to cross the bridge at Deception Pass in my motorhome once before and it literally took my breath away. The narrow 180′ tall bridge spans more than a quarter of a mile across the water. From the highest heights of the drivers seat of a monster motorhome you hardly notice the little guard rails. All you see is… air!
While fighting the wind gusts on my way to Port Townsend I tried to imagine what it would be like to cross that bridge in the same conditions. I was spared the experience when the Washington Department of Transportation shut down all ferry service across the Sound due to high winds. Knowing it was unlikely they’d reopen service that day I sought out the Marina Park I camped in nearly two years prior and battened down for the night. The image below does not do justice to the intensity of the wind. Even with the jacks down and all but one slide IN The Beast shook miserably all night long.
By morning the storm had eased up enough to get across the Sound, and Deception Pass. I couldn’t resist stopping once again to admire the structure and the tremendous view. One day I’d love to drop my kayak in these waters, but I understand good knowledge of the current (8 knots/9.2mph) and tide is crucial.
A short while later I arrived at my brother Eric’s home and enjoyed a few days of quality time with the whole family. While they were at work/school I took advantage of their blazing fast wifi to get caught up on some work. The rest of the time was just fun stuff… cooking with Sydney and Jackson, helping out by running them to their after school sports (who doesn’t enjoy car chatter with light-hearted kiddo!), playing games at the kitchen table, and walking them to school in the mornings. And of course there was the wine and grown-up chatter with Eric and his wonderful wife Amy! 🙂
I got some quality time with my other two brothers, Topher and Andrew (and his wife Jen) while home too, but didn’t think to pull out my camera while with them. Where trips home are normally focused on my hometown of Longview, I was grateful to afford myself the opportunity to visit each of my brothers and their families at their homes as I journeyed about the Northwest. (I know you guys know it, but I love you all very much!)
Soon after this side side-trip, after more than two months in Washington, I continue my journey south through Oregon and beyond. Stay tuned! The journey continues to be amazing!