Julie Lary, Lake Crescent, Lake Crescent Lodge, Marymere Falls, Olympic Coast Discovery Center, Port Angeles, rajalary, Richard Lary, scribbles writing, Sequim, Sol Duc Falls, Sol Duc Hot Springs, Spruce Railroad Trail
With my working full-time during the week, and Rich working on-call Tuesday through Saturday, we’re having to make a greater effort to plan activities together. Several months ago, Rich decided to plan a motorcycle trip to Port Angeles and the Olympic National Forest the first Sunday and Monday of June. Since Gatsby, our burgundy and ivory Harley Davidson Softail Classic, has leather saddlebags, we could easily pack clothes, toiletries, and food for two days.
From our house, we can see the lights of Port Angeles, Sequim, and other towns along the west-side of the Puget Sound. Rich thought it would be fun to see how the “other side” lives.
We scoured the Airbnb site, debating the virtues of each residence, and finally settled on The Captain’s Bay by the Sea because of its proximity to downtown Port Angeles, historic roots, and ambiance with a view of the water.
With all arrangements made, including ferry reservations from Coupeville to Port Townsend, we simply needed to wait for the day to arrive.
Early Start Yields Rewards
As the week before our trip unfolded, the weather took a slight turn with rain and overcast skies forecast. Concerned about riding in the rain, Rich cancelled our motorcycle reservations and opted to take my Honda FIT. Having a car meant we could go more places, bring more stuff (including food and clothes), and charge our smartphones as we drove.
Anxious not to miss the ferry, Rich woke me up at the crack-of-dawn. We hastily threw our clothes and food (prepared and packed the night before) into the car, along with mugs of coffee. We arrived at the ferry nearly two hours before it departed. Happily, we were just-in-time for an earlier ferry.
Because we weren’t scheduled to check into the Airbnb until noon, and were ahead of schedule, we decided to visit Sequim, which I’d planned to see on the way home. Located on the Dungeness River near the base of the Olympic Mountains, Sequim has a population of less than 7,000 with around 28,000 in the surrounding area. Considered the “Lavender Capital of North America” with dozens of lavender farms in the area, Sequim has an annual lavender festival. Tourism to the area is also spurred by visitors anxious to sample Dungeness crab, visit the picturesque lighthouse on the Dungeness Spit, and enjoy the many outdoor activities from hiking to biking, kayaking, fishing, and wine-tasting.
When we arrived, after less than an hour of driving, it was overcast and drizzly in Sequim. We drove around the state park, got out, took a few pictures, then jumped back in the car to head to Port Angeles. Along the way, we passed herds of runners. As we approached Port Angeles, the streets were completely parked up.
The North Olympic Discovery Marathon, half marathon, marathon relay, marathon walk, 5K and 10K runs, and kids’ marathon was taking place. There were throngs of people: Thousands of runners and walkers plus over 600 volunteers. We strategically zigged south of the events’ finish line, and miraculously found a parking spot along the waterfront.
With it drizzly and cold outside, we donned our parkas and hats, and headed to the Black Ball Ferry terminal to check out the schedule, and also peruse the exhibits inside. The MV Coho, which is the ferry that goes from Port Angeles to Victoria British Columbia holds up to 1,000 passengers and 115 vehicles. While smaller than Seattle’s jumbo ferries, which hold up to 202 vehicles and 2,499 passengers, the MV Coho seems more seaworthy with only small portholes on the car deck, instead of large, glass-free window frames along the sides of Washington ferries. During rough crossings on Washington ferries, the saltwater splashes onto your car or washes over the fronts and backs of the ferry.
The Black Ball ferry sails in more open water, going across the Strait Juan de Fuca, the international boundary between Canada and the United States, and east of the “Graveyard of the Pacific,” the stretch of coast from Tillamook Bay, Oregon to Cape Scott Provincial Park on Vancouver Island, Canada, which has unpredictable weather conditions, resulting in numerous shipwrecks.
After checking out the Black Ball ferry terminal, we continued our meander, stopping at several art galleries before spending a good chunk of time at the Olympic Coast Discovery Center. Because there was no one else in the educational center, the two volunteers gave us personalized attention. I chatted with the woman about life in Port Angeles, comparing it to the other side of the Puget Sound. Because she only needs to drive an hour, and then take a ferry into downtown Seattle, she regularly attends cultural events… something Rich and I can’t easily do. Plus, Port Angeles is close to Bremerton, Silverdale, and several Naval bases, which have a combined population of over a 260,000, supporting a plethora of stores, restaurants, and cool places.
Later I learned how to tell the difference between a resident and visiting orca whale, along with the type of whales we might spot from Whidbey Island. Rich learned about tides and marine life. Time at the Discovery Center was well spent with the unrelenting drizzle outside.
Our tummies growling, we decided to scope-out places for lunch and dinner; however, the marathon was still in full force. The streets, coffee shops, restaurants, and other establishments were PACKED with runners, walkers, and their families and friends. With the top-of-the-hour fast approaching, we decided to skip lunch – at least temporarily – and find the Airbnb. We zipped up our parkas as the rain increased and started walking.
The Airbnb was on 2nd Avenue so naturally, we thought it would be a quick jaunt. However, between 1st and 2nd Avenues was a steep bluff that could only be climbed by foot, using rickety wooden staircases and ramps. After walking up around 100 steps (no exaggeration), we stood above the city. We then zigged-and-zagged through neighborhood streets, which suddenly stopped and started or dead-ended into backstreets. It was obvious, 100 or more years ago, when people staked out where they were going to build their houses they didn’t consider creating a common street along the bluff.
The Airbnb was down a narrow alleyway and perched 30 feet or so from the end of the bluff. It was an older house, not in particularly good shape, with a scaffold leaned against one side. After wandering around for a few minutes, we knocked on the door, and our host, Sarah, answered.
She was a lovely older woman who’d purchased the house many years ago with the intention of refurbishing it. She freely shared how she’d remodeled several houses in Alaska and was now anxious to finish updating her Port Angeles house, so it could be sold. We followed her upstairs where we toured the common room with rattan furniture, small kitchen stocked with tea and coffee, and a sitting area with books, magazines and games. I looked forward to spending time relaxing in the room that evening.
Because the bedroom where we were going to stay was still occupied by two men who were competing in the marathon, she didn’t show it to us. While talking, the men showed up, exhausted, with one clutching a space blanket wrapped around his shoulders. His companion shared that his significant other had won in his age class.
After chatting a few minutes, we were told how to enter through the back door. We then said our “good-byes,” and headed to the car, this time, taking a steep street to 1st Avenue.
With it past 1 o’clock, we decided our next stop should be lunch. However, with downtown still swarming with participants from the marathon, we headed north towards the strip mall fast food emporium: McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Jack-in-the-Box, Taco Bell, KFC, and Taco Time. My first choice is ALWAYS Taco Bell. Happily, it also housed a KFC. Rich had a jumbo box of fried chicken parts, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, and a biscuit. I was thrilled with three items off the Taco Bell $1 menu.
Busy Afternoon Filled with Water
Belching, we were ready to tackle the Olympic National Forest. Our first hike was on the Spruce Railroad Trail around Crescent Lake. A glacially-carved lake created around 7,000 years ago, Crescent Lake is 624 feet deep with very little nitrogen, so it limits the growth of phytoplankton, which can make the water cloudy and green. Instead, the lake is clear and bluish, enabling you to see as far down as 60 feet.
This unique environment is home to two types of fish that are found nowhere else in the world: Beardslee and Crescenti trout.
The lake is 12-miles long and several miles across. During World War I, a 36-mile railroad track was constructed along the lake to transport Sitka spruce, which was used for building lightweight, but strong airplanes. By the time the track was finished, the war had ended. A commercial logging company purchased the track and continued using it until 1954.
Today, there’s a 4-mile walking trail where some of the tracks and two tunnels wrapped around the lake. We hiked for 3 miles or so before reaching an orange blockade. The U.S. Forest Service is continuing to improve the trail and expand its length.
On the return 3-mile trip, my toes and feet started aching, which was upsetting because I was wearing an expensive pair of leather hiking boots I’d purchased decades ago. They’ve been lightly used so the idea of purchasing another pair was distressing. However, once I got back to the car, and loosened the laces, the pain dissipated. They were laced too tight. On the flipside, they used to “cut” into the back of my ankles. Because I was wearing heavy wool socks and they were loosely laced on the top, they didn’t bother my ankles. Hurray!
Prior to strolling on the Spruce Railroad Trail, we stopped at the Log Cabin Resort, located on Crescent Lake, and managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The resort caters to people wanting a full-resort experience along with those who don’t mine pitching a tent. They have a range of accommodations including charming lakeside chalets, furnished and rustic cabins, and full hook-up RV and tent camping sites. The newer cabins seem quite luxurious with kitchenettes, full bathrooms, and two bedrooms.
The original lodge was constructed in 1895 but burned down in 1932. A new lodge was built in the 1950s and today has a casual restaurant that overlooks Lake Crescent, along with a “lunch counter” in the mini store and gift shop. The resort would be an idyllic place to spend a few days unwinding. It’s very low-key.
Our next stop was the Lake Crescent Lodge, which is a giant leap in size and luxury with a spectacular lodge built in 1915, plush lodging, and upscale dining. The restaurant recently received the “Washington Wine First Award for Fine Dining” from the Washington State Wine Commission and the Seattle Post Intelligencer. A dinner at the restaurant consisting of the following is $86 without tax or beverage:
Cilantro lime dungeness crab with yellow pepper
sofrito, red pepper relish, guacamole, mango, and adobo
Heirloom tomatoes with almond romesco, watermelon,
Mt. Townsend Creamery off kilter toma, fennel, toasted almonds
7 ounces seared local wild salmon with fava beans, petite
vegetables, pickled fennel, artichoke puree, and paddlefish caviar
House made signature marionberry cobbler with
local berries, brown sugar streusel, and vanilla bean ice cream
The lobby of the lodge looks like something you’d find in the Catskills with a large stone fireplace, mounted trophies, wood paneling, shaker furniture, and an antique phone booth in the corner. The sun porch had plush rattan furniture with pots of overflowing flowers hung from the ceiling. The wide, white-washed porch is festooned red, white and blue banners with white rockers, and pots of geraniums, begonias, petunias, and other vibrant flowers.
The Roosevelt Fireplace Cottages, which line the walkway up to the lodge, have porches with rockers, and inside have antique furnishings, stone fireplaces, knotty pine paneling, and oak floors. You can also book rooms within the lodge, which have shared bathrooms, but provide the atmosphere of a historical hotel. In addition, there are three one- and two-story modern “guest” buildings, which resemble traditional motels, but without the distraction of TVs or telephones. I’m guessing, there are several hundred rooms at this resort, which are probably booked months in advance of summer.
Staying at Crescent Lake Lodge – even in the motel-like rooms – is not the cheapest option in the area, but the ambience can’t be beat. Just walking through the lodge made me feel like I was in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.
When we arrived at the lodge, there was an Airlift Northwest helicopter, along with several fire, police, and U.S. Forest Service vehicles in a grassy area. We watched them airlift an individual out of the area. We don’t know if the person was injured while hiking or had a medical condition.
We’re familiar with Airlift Northwest because we pay for their service. If we’re injured or have a serious medical emergency on Whidbey Island or another neighboring island, we can be airlifted to Bellingham, Everett or Seattle. The service costs $75 per year for both of us and ensures we can get the best possible medical care. Having an Airlift Northwest card is like being “pre-approved” to get better medical care!
A few miles from the Crescent Lake Lodge is Marymere Fall, a mile or so walk then a “grunt” up several switchback trails and wooden staircases. The 90-foot falls was worth seeing, but nothing like Multnomah Falls in the Oregon Gorge.
We continued our journey, driving 20 minutes or so to Sol Duc Falls. Earlier in the day, the man at the Olympic Coast Discovery Center told us not to miss seeing the falls near Sol Duc hot springs. By the time, we reached the trail head, it was 7:30 at night. With at least two more hours of sunlight, we grabbed our jackets and started walking.
Everywhere we’d been in the Olympic National Forest, signs were posted about menacing and assertive bears, cougars, and mountain goats. There were instructions for waving your arms and making lots of noise if you encounter a bear and absolutely not running if you come face-to-face with a cougar. With these caveats in the back of my mind, wandering into the “forest primeval” with the sun starting to slide down the sky was disconcerting. And I kept lamenting, “This better be worth the effort.”
The trail gradually went uphill then out-of-nowhere, we happened upon a rustic shelter that was erected in the 1930’s to protect hikers. We could hear rushing water but didn’t see anything until a few minutes later. Whooshing under a sturdy wooden bridge was a torrent of crystal-clear water screaming down a small rock canyon. Above the bridge was a wide expanse of rock with surges of water seeking the paths-of-least-resistance, over rock outcrops, between boulders, gushing over rock ledges, and surging out of mountain stream tributaries.
My first thought was it was manmade because of the artistry of how the water came together and cascaded over the rocks. It was breathtaking! We stayed for 15 minutes taking pictures from all angles and absorbing the positive energy of the water and surrounding area.
Our hike back was uneventful. No bears, cougars or mountain goats. Although, I would have been thrilled to see a goat. The extent of our wildlife encounter was chirping birds and frolicking chipmunks.
A short drive from the Sol Duc Falls is the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. Not as glamorous as the Crescent Lake Lodge, but definitely not as rustic as Log Cabin Resort, Sol Duc resort has upscale cabins (modern constructions verses made out of logs) along with traditional motel-like rooms. The draw of the resort is its mineral hot springs and pool. You don’t have to stay at the resort to enjoy the three mineral pools, ranging in temperature from 99° F to 104° F or take a dip in the freshwater pool, which ranges from 50° F in the winter to 85° F in the summer.
The hot springs sounded appealing after a day of traveling and hiking, but the pools closed in an hour, and we hadn’t taken our bathing suits. Plus, it would have been $22 for both of us, and it was nearly 9:00 o’clock at night.
Dash back to Port Angeles
When we got back to Port Angeles, every restaurant was closed. We dashed back to the fast food emporium, enjoying baked potatoes, Caesar salads, and Frosty’s at Wendy’s.
By the time, we toddled back to the Airbnb, it was 10:30 p.m. The extent of our enjoying the lodging was to sneak upstairs, quietly take off our clothes, brush our teeth, and climb into bed.
It was the first time we’d seen the bedroom and were thrilled when we opened the door. The walls were painted a pleasant seafoam green with lace curtains, a quilted green quilt on the bed, four fluffy pillows, several pretty throw rugs on the wooden floor, and a padded bench at the foot of the bed. From the window, we could see the lights of downtown Port Angeles and the ships on the water.
The door to the other bedroom was closed so we didn’t know if someone else was staying there. However, when we woke in the morning, the only stuff in the bathroom were ours.
To be continued…