Because the Olympic Peninsula is a rainforest, a day doesn’t go by without the forest being visited by rain. During our visit, we were lucky to have sunshine every day. Sure gray skies would threaten us every now and then, but the rain never came when we were out playing. At night, however, when we were safely snuggled up warm and cozy in our sleeping bags, it fell. Interestingly enough, it never left the ground wet in the morning. So, maybe the best time to visit the Olympic National Park would be during the peak of summer. The rains only come at night and the lake has been warming up all summer and is bearable. It’s not OMG the water feels so good warm, but you can definitely wade and swim in it.
We reluctantly got out of bed on Wednesday morning last week knowing that it was going to be a long day. After breakfast, we packed clothes for rainforest weather, summer weather, beach weather, and presentable city outfits. There was a sheepish moment where we had to ask our neighbors to take care of our little fish, Elfie, for an entire week. After that problem was solved, we continued packing… camping essentials like the tent, sleeping bags, pillows, flashlights, camping chairs, toiletries, cooking materials, eating utensils, and a big cooler filled with ice and food supplies to last four days. Not that I am a camping expert or anything, but a word of advice, it is really helpful to cook dinners at home so all you have to do is heat it up in a pan or pot when you get to your campsite. We were lucky enough to be able to leave home a little after noon and then we braced ourselves for a long drive.
View point stop at Mt. Rainier…
A gas stop, a couple of bathroom stops, and a thousand hours later… we finally arrived at the South side of Olympic National Park. Hello Lake Quinault! It was almost dark, but DFJ and I were adamant on finding the perfect campsite. After checking out Willaby, Falls Creek, and Gatton Creek Campgrounds, we decided on Falls Creek. We found a perfect spot only a quarter of a mile from the lake, Lake Quinault Lodge, and the general store.
Our first day of camping was started off with a delicious breakfast of vegetable and chicken with chimichurri on flour tortillas with fried eggs, some fruit on the side, and coffee.
It was exploration time… there were huge cedars, Douglas firs, hemlocks, and spruce trees everywhere in the Quinault rain forest area. We even got to see the world’s largest Sitka spruce! I marveled at how old this thousand year old tree was.
After our morning hike, we lunched by the lake and then kayaked for two hours. I thought my arms were strong and could withstand 2 hours of kayaking, but they were ready to fall out of their sockets within 15 minutes. It was a feat that we got from one end of the lake and back with my arms intact. On the way back, the wind and the lake waves kept veering us off course, which got frustrating as the minutes went by. We barely made it through without too much cussing. Back at our campsite, we gathered our blanket, books, a Gatorade, and hung out at the beach. It has been a long time since I have relaxed like I did that day… reading and napping under the sun, cooling off in the lake and deciding that it was just as good as a shower, and drying off in the sun before heading back to eat dinner.
The next day, we did a quick 3 mile hike around another trail and saw a huckleberry trove! It was a necessary task to fill up our empty Ziplock bag with the sour, red huckleberries. We ate breakfast back at the campsite, tore down our tent, packed up, and drove along the coast to Forks.
During the drive, we stopped at Kalaloch and Ruby Beach. Both beaches are gorgeous beyond words. At Kalaloch (pronounced as klay-lock), everything was a different shade of gray from the sand, to the seas, to the sky. This is a different kind of beauty than what I was used to back home in the Philippines, where everything was colorful. Kalaloch looks peaceful, elegant, and sleek. Comparing this beach to the ones back home is like having a wild, exotic beauty stand side by side with an elegant Parisian woman decked in black and white… both beautiful in their own ways. The sand is probably the softest and finest I have every touched. It was perfect for hourglasses. DFJ was even able to skip stones on the sand! We were having a hard time walking along the shore with our shoes, so DFJ told me to walk barefoot. Geez, who walks in the sand with shoes anyway? As soon as my feet touched the sand, I squealed with delight at the warmth and softness of it. We had lunch on the logs then we walked on the shore, getting our feet wet. The waves crashed around our ankles and the sand beneath our feet shifted under our weight. It felt like the world spun around for a second, but it was only the sand protesting under my weight. The campsites at Kalaloch are awesome, they are located on a bluff by the beach. Some of the sites are right at the edge of the bluff overlooking the beach. We wanted to camp there but since this one is a popular spot, it was reservation only and it was full. So, if you’re interested in camping at Kalaloch, book it in advance!
Next stop was Ruby Beach. This beach is beautiful with a wild edge. There are sea stacks, huge rocks, and logs everywhere. The beach is rocky, but closer to shore is fine sand. Not as fine as Kalaloch, because we found it easier to walk on the sand here with our shoes on. The granules are also gray and soft, but not powder-fine. We walked towards the big rocks and climbed over some, until we found a great hidden spot, away from the wind and the people. We ate our second lunch, climbed down the rocks, and played for a bit. I tried to do headstands on the tightly packed, slightly wet sand while DFJ skipped stones. Headstands are impossible on the sand! DFJ had a ball skipping stones and running away from the waves. After about an hour at Ruby Beach, we then drove on to our campsite at Forks.
Our campsite, Three Rivers, is located just at the edge of the rainforest close to the highway. It has huge grounds and plenty of sites that were spread far apart from one another. There are several toilets, both flush and pit, two unisex showers about the size of a telephone booth, a general store, a restaurant, and a place to clean and gut fresh-caught salmon. It is privately owned and did not have the good maintenance that state campgrounds have, but it was decent. Camping is camping and as much fun as it is, it has its share of discomforts. After pitching our tent, we drove to La Push and checked out First Beach. We strolled on the beach for a bit, climbed over the logs and sat on the rock barriers. DFJ and I mused about the state of this dismal and battered town. Even with children screaming and playing in the water, I could not help but feel sad at the way the town looks. We were running out of food, so we decided to eat at the one and only restaurant in town, River’s Edge. They have decent food with average prices and a cozy atmosphere with a nice view of First Beach. The staff was super friendly and the service was good.
We drove back to our campsite, took much needed showers after having gone about 50 hours without, warmed up by the campfire, and then cozied up in our bags with the smell of smoke in our hair and clothes.
Wow, that was a long post for the first three days of our trip. If you didn’t read everything, I’m not at all offended. I am pretty wordy… So here’s a summary of our itinerary and some things you can do:
Night 1, Day 2, and Night 2:
We stayed at Falls Creek Campground in Lake Quinault.
There are lots of things to do at Lake Quinault: hike the trails; see the largest Sitka spruce; kayak, canoe, sail, or swim in the lake; and read or relax on the beach.
If you don’t feel like cooking while camping, there are eating options at Quinault, such as: dining at Lake Quinault Lodge or grabbing some pizza and milkshakes at the pizza place in the general store across the Lodge.
Day 3 and Night 3:
We started driving north to Forks and stopped at Kalaloch Beach and Ruby Beach.
There are awesome campgrounds at Kalaloch and if you want to snag a spot, plan in advance because their grounds are reservation only and always tend to be full. We camped at Three Rivers in Forks... not the best, but they had nice campsites and showers.
Dining options at the Forks and La Push area are limited. Forks has more choices and La Push has one that we went to, River’s Edge. Cozy atmosphere, friendly staff, decent food, and average prices.
More on our trip in the next few posts… thanks for bearing with me!