…. continuation of our trip to Port Angeles and the Olympic National Forest
After a restful night at The Captain’s Bay by the Sea, Rich researched places to have breakfast. He chose the First Street Haven, which the day before had a line out-the-door. A tiny restaurant snuggled between larger establishments in downtown Port Angeles, it had a long lunch counter with a row of small tables opposite, and a couple of 4-person tables at the front. It reminded me of the delicatessens I went to as a child in downtown Los Angles, where my father had a garment factory on Santee Street, which is now Santee Village Lofts (yeah, my father’s dusty factory is now an upscale condo).
We found a table towards the front and scanned the menu, choosing omelets and opting for pastries instead of toast. The waitress said the restaurant was known for their cinnamon rolls, which Rich chose. It was huge. I selected a scone, which I wrapped up for later. The omelets were amazing with ample goodies. My Paris omelet had zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, Provolone cheese, and herbs. Rich had a farmer’s omelet with ham, cheddar cheese, potatoes, onion, and fresh salsa on top.
After eating, we moved the car to the waterfront, and wandered along the public pier before heading to the U.S. Forest Center at the base of the Olympic Forest. The day before, people had questioned whether we could go up Hurricane Ridge, but we weren’t deterred. At the toll booth (where you need to show or buy a pass), we were told it was snowing at the top. However, we only encountered dry roads punctuated by snow flurries.
A ski and snowboard venue during the winter months, Hurricane Ridge is 5,242 feet high. The Olympic National Park is enormous, with 922,650 acres, established in 1938 by President Franklin Roosevelt. It has something for everyone from paved walking trails to day hikes, lengthy backpack routes, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, and wild life viewing.
We planned to do some “serious” hiking; although, Rich’s 30-year old hiking boots had recently disintegrated, so he was wearing work shoes with steel toes with little traction. Before starting our trek, we stopped at the Hurricane Ridge Ranger Station, and checked out the exhibits, got some maps, and used the “facilities.” We also watched a short film, which discussed the challenges of the area with harsh, long winters that strip most of the vegetation from the high mountains. Many of the critters in the area either move to more temperate zones, lower on the mountain or hibernate, which was why it was important not to stray from the trails and squish an overwintering family of mice or chipmunks that were underfoot.
When we visited, most of the snow had melted. Spring flowers, chipmunks and deer were everywhere. It was lovely.
Our first jaunt was on High Ridge Trail to Sunrise Point. In some areas, there were strips of receding snow, which was hard for Rich to navigate in his shoes. Nevertheless, we made it up to a viewpoint, and took in the sites. We were lucky the weather had cleared up, and we had a fairly good view of the mountains and Puget Sound in the distance.
During our schlep, we had stimulating conversations with several scampering chipmunks, and a couple of deer who were relishing the newly sprouted grasses, plants, and flowers. For the most part, the deer continued munching, ignoring us and other visitors with a range of smart phones and cameras. Deer can be so arrogant!
After a bit more wandering, we hopped into the car and drove to Hurricane Hill, a 1.6 mile partially pave trail to a viewpoint at 5,757 feet. Since the sun was in full-view, we dressed lightly. As we descended the trail, with a few patches of snow, we spied several marmots popping their heads out of their burrows. We’d read about the Olympic marmots at the Ranger Station but were surprised at their size. They’re related to squirrels, but are as large as small terriers, up to 18 pounds during the gluttony months of summer when they graze on freshly sprouted plants, grasses and seeds.
Starting in September, they hibernate for the winter, and lose up to 50% of their body weight. I was thinking a 3-month hibernation would get me down to model-weight. Rich concurs with this plan. While I sleep, he can relish Marie Callender’s chicken pot pies, deep fried shrimp, Red Robin hamburgers and french fries, mint Oreos, vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce, and other foods he can’t consume with abandon under my watchful eye.
Because the mountains and peaks in the Olympic Forest are so barren, everywhere you turn, you can see a marmot surveying the landscape from the safety of its burrow. It’s impossible to know if they were amused or afraid of the humans who were gawking, pointing, and taking pictures.
As we climbed higher, we donned the limited amount of clothing we’d taken. It was much colder at the top with snow flurries. Happily, one side of the mountain was more temperate than the other. We joined a crowd of “young folks” on the warmer side by a pile of boulders. After taking a seat on a barrel-sized boulder, I removed from my backpack the scone I’d saved from breakfast. We were immediately inundated with chipmunks, scurrying up our legs and backs, and racing around our feet.
Of course, their interest wasn’t fueled by scone crumbs carelessly falling to the ground. Nope. And our amusement at their scampering didn’t influence our sitting as still as possible as they investigated the humans. Nope.
If one had bounced into our pockets, we probably would have pretended it wasn’t there. As a kid, Rich had a chipmunk as a pet. It was surprising how the “young folks” chased away the chipmunks while we were thrilled by the striped critters’ bravado and curiosity.
Back to Civilization
After our encounter with nature, we headed down Hurricane Hill, creakily lowered ourselves back into the car, and drove back to Port Angeles and Toga’s Soup House. I’d researched this restaurant online, and originally wanted to go there on Sunday, but they’re only open Monday through Friday, and close at 4 p.m.
The owners of the restaurant had a fine dining restaurant for 14 years, receiving many accolades, from Sunset and Northwest Lifestyles magazine, and consecutive three diamond ratings by AAA, Mobile & Fodor’s Travel Guide. Wanting to spend more time with family on weekends, and evenings, they re-invented the restaurant into a local lunch hangout, serving fresh homemade soups, salads, gourmet sandwiches, and baked goods.
We arrived around 3:30, and while waiting to order, a man told us the line was “around the block” earlier in the day. I suspect the restaurant is perpetually busy. Housed in a Victorian house, its menu lists 36 soups, but they only offer four selections a day. I chose the soup sampler with a whole wheat roll and received three small teacup-sized bowls of soup, which seemed stingy, but the soups were super rich and flavorful, no doubt made with cream and butter. I had Thai curry chicken, five mushroom ginger carrot, and Caribbean seafood chowder.
Rich had a grilled reuben sandwich on marbled rye bread with corned beef, swiss, provolone, 1000 island dressing, and their homemade applewood bacon and onion sauerkraut. The bite I had of his sandwich was heavenly.
Next, we split a huge slice of chocolate cake with a flavorful, rich icing and filling. The cake, however, was dry. Then again, it was four layers high, requiring a dense cake that can be stacked and not collapse under the weight.
Tummies full, we headed back to Port Townsend, stopping at the Jamestown S’Klallam tribal campus near Blyn. The tribe operates 7 Cedars Casino and several other commercial enterprises, including a firework stand, gas station with a large market and deli, golf course, and art gallery. They bring in a substantial amount of money, which they wisely spent to create a gorgeous campus with beautiful administrative and public service buildings with tall windows that let you see the artwork inside.
The campus spans the highway, so the tribe built underpasses, and created landscaped terraces and pathway that meander up from the Sequim Bay to the buildings and totem poles on the hillside. My photos don’t do justice to the beauty of the campus. Check out their video.
The tribe signed the Point No Point Treated with the United States government in 1855, which forced the S’Klallam to give up their land, but guaranteed they could continue to harvest fish, shellfish, game, and botanicals in their usual and accustomed territory. Not wanting to move the reservation, in 1874, several local S’Klallam families pooled $500 to buy a 210-acre plot of land near Dungeness, WA, north of Sequim. This humble start has resulted in their continued independence and success.
Their totem poles, made from Western Red Cedar, harvested from the Hoh River rainforest, are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen with clearly defined characters – animals, marine life, and people – painted in brilliant colors. It was too late in the day to visit the carving barn, but worth a trip in the future.
Even an Hour in Port Townsend is Memorable
It was around 6:00 when we arrived in Port Townsend for the final leg of our mini trip. Even though our reservations were for the 8:45 p.m. ferry, we decided to take the 6:45 p.m. ferry. After parking in the ferry waiting lot, we walked around Port Townsend, which is one of my favorite places in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a beautiful town with historic buildings, spectacular waterfront, and interesting shops and galleries… and happily a ferry ride from Coupeville.
Prior to walking around, I “rushed” out of the car to strike up a conversation with a threesome wandering along the ferry lot walkway. One man was obviously a Native American with a handmade drum under his arm. Another was a burly, bearded, long-haired man, wearing wide-legged red pants – like a skirt with a seam up the middle. They were outlandishly big. He also wore an oversized black leather coat with various patches sewn on.
The third person was the most interesting, a young woman with bright purple hair, pale skin, round-lensed sunglasses, black lipstick, black jean jacket with safety pins on the seams, black jeans (also with safety pins and patches), and black shoes with 3-inch high rubber soles. Her style was goth with a whisper of steampunk.
I immediately struck up a conversation with the Native American, sharing how impressed we were with the S’Klallam reservation. He was Lummi, which is north of Bellingham, by the Canadian border. I mentioned we’d biked through his reservations several weeks prior, and commented we’d seen the totem pole that was carved for Lolita, an orca whale that was taken from her mother in the Puget Sound and brought to Miami Seaquarium in the 1970’s. The tribe is working to bring Lolita back to the Puget Sound, hoping to release her.
It seems unlikely an orca whale, which was raised in chlorinated water with a steady source of pre-killed salmon conveniently dropped into its tank every day, has any chance of surviving in microbe-infested water where it’s expected to catch its own meals. With that said, it’s very upsetting to learn about her plight. At the minimum, it would be good to place her in a transitional coastal sanctuary sea pen where she could be given antibiotics and care as she adjusts to her new life. She’d have significantly more space to swim.
After chatting a while, the Lummi native spotted a seal in the water, and started singing and playing his Lummi drum.
Meanwhile, Mr. Wide-Pants was flipping his meticulously groomed couf as he tried to interject what he believed were erudite statements. He failed miserably, demonstrating not only his ignorance, but inability to carefully listen. I should have mentally recorded parts of our conversation but was having way too much fun stumping him and being amused by his preposterous airs and ridiculous clothing. Ms. Purple Hair didn’t say anything. She just stared straight ahead through her blacken sunglasses.
After ten minutes or so the threesome excused themselves and wandered over to a small park near the ferry. When the ferry arrived, the threesome disappeared. I suspected they talked someone into “driving” them onto the ferry. Sure enough, after the ferry was loaded, they emerged from the back of a white van, driven by a couple who didn’t seem connected to the band of rag-a-muffins.
Realizing they were on the ferry, I snuck around trying to serendipitously take their pictures. I succeeded through the water-splattered window of the ferry.
The crossing was uneventful, and within 20 minutes of landing, we were back home, rested and looking forward to our next adventure in mid-August when we spend three days on San Juan Island. We also solved the mystery of how the “other side” lives in Sequim and Port Angeles. They’re fabulous little towns, and I’d welcome the opportunity to once again visit them.