September 14th, 2009

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Peninsula Trip: Thursday

Sometime after the tidepool/Anacortes trip, we decided the next trip would be to the peninsula. We had a brief plan to head out on the 20th, go to a Professional Fishermen's Festival in Aberdeen, and then work our way back up and around on 101. Julie decided we'd be better off to hit the road now, rather than wait; this was the first of several good calls.

So on Thursday morning, we got up, hit the road, and took I5 down to Olympia, then turned off to Aberdeen, arriving there at noon. Yes, in reality, we're often not both up by noon, but in Bizarro World, we set the alarm to get up early every vacation day. Hah! The weather was gorgeous, and continued so through the trip: Warm, breezy, sunny, practically cloudless.

Aberdeen itself was pretty quiet, but had a pleasant unredeveloped downtown. We ate lunch at Anne Marie's Cafe, which was very tasty and inexpensive. "Good food and Good Company" was their slogan, I think, and it was true! After lunch, we walked around a bit. There was a great graffiti wall in an alley. I dont' know if it was a free wall or city sanctioned, or maybe both. But a lot of the art was very good. We also browsed a store called "Fun Funky Finds" that had some interesting/terrifying objects in it.

Next stop was Ocean Shores Beach. We saw a large flock of sandpipers which were very amusing to watch. They'd walk down the beach, following a wave out, poke-poke-poking the sand. Then the next wave would roll in, and they'd skitter up the beach again, a million tiny legs flailing. They'd form a perfect outline of the wave. Sometimes small groups of them would fly, very low and fast, to another section of the beach. We also drove down to Damon Pt. State Park, en route to which we stopped off at the North Jetty. The incoming tide was crashing against the jetty quite prettily. Several pelicans flew overhead, the first time I'd ever seen them in reality. So primitive! They reminded me of archaeopteryxes. We also saw a car that had parked on the beach, gotten trapped by the tide, and had to be towed out. Driving over to Damon Pt., we saw two Pacific black tail deer, very nonchalantly by the side of the road. Not at all disturbed by us stopping; in fact, one took the opportunity to cross in front of us, and was more polite about it than most Seattle pedestrians. Damon Pt. State Park itself featured a starfish, some interesting pilings, and a neat view of Mt. Rainier, distant and low on the horizon.

After that, it was back on the road and up to Moclips for the night. We stayed at Ocean Crest Resort, which was a little too posh but quite lovely. The clerk who checked us in claimed we were in the room next to the one Ted Nugent stays in when he's there hunting bear. It was lovely, that's true. There was a long staircase down to the beach. The clerk said it was 130 steps, but we didn't count.

The steps followed a small creek down to the beach. At the foot of the steps was a small pool, which had a number of tadpoles in it (it seems a little late to me for tadpoles, but maybe it's a second hatching or something), a solitary sandpiper, and, to Julie's complete joy, a small garter snake, Sammy, who slid sinuously side-to-side through the water. He lunged at a tadpole, but I don't think he caught one. We also saw a huge scrum of gulls fighting over a couple salmon carcasses.

We got back up to our room in time to watch the sunset, and then had dinner at the resort's restaurant. It was very tasty. We got the "half portions" sizes, which was 3/8's the serving for 3/5's the price. Hah! But, as I say, tasty. We were probably the youngest diners in there.

Then it was an early to bed, with the alarm set, so that Friday we could hit the road to Lake Quinault.

ETA: I forgot that after dinner, we drove down to the beach. We could see the ENTIRE SKY, practically, including a very well-defined Milky Way. I love looking up into the night sky, and thinking that I'm looking tens of thousands of light years into the past, and wondering what-all and who-all is out there, and wanting to go. Julie saw three shooting stars, and I saw ripples in the sky that might have been aurorae (or might have been wishful thinking).

THEN it was to bed. Yeah!
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Peninsula Trip: Friday

As usual for a trip, my notes get less detailed as the days roll on.

We left the hotel at 9:20, which was probably the latest we got going the entire trip. There wasn't a breakfast place (well, the hotel had breakfast, but I'm sure it was a Full Dining Experience, when we wanted grab'n'go), so we stopped at the Seagate Lounge for coffee.

Lake Quinault, although it had its moments, was actually a little disappointing at first. We were stymied by the weather: Much warmer and drier than we'd been expecting. Also, for whatever reason, out on the first trail I got vertigo to the point where I had to be careful when I looked up and was occasionally staggering. I hadn't had breakfast, other than the coffee, so I'm sure that had something to do with it. Also, taking pictures involves lots of crouching down, leaning back, getting into uncomfortable positions, and then uncoiling from it all, so I'm sure that had something to do with it.

So we had to find a place to sit and have a picnic. We've learned to bring a picnic, which is something. We had a link of German sausage from the Ballard farmer's market, this great morel/leek Monterey Jack, and some crackers. After eating, I was less dizzy, but still kind of bobble headed (confused and querulous). We tried another trail, and that went pretty well. But there must have been a rough winter, because the trails were very exposed, and there was lots of fallen trees. We went to the world's biggest sitka spruce tree, which was, indeed, pretty massive. There are a number of "world's biggest" trees of different species in the Olympics, but that was the only one we specifically visited.

We tried walking along the lakeshore, but it was too sunny. However, Lake Quinault is quite lovely. I think most of the lakes in the Olympics were carved by glaciers in the last ice age, which leads to deep lakes with cold water and great shorelines.

Julie decided we should sit for a while, and we found a wonderful campsite, shady and right next to a waterfall. We aren't campers, but if we were, this is where we'd stay. It was also right next to the road, but the waterfall drowned out all traffic sounds. The stream itself had been "prettified" by the early developers of the resort, which had nearly destroyed its ecology. Now it's being nudged back into shape.

It was so lovely, we sat there quite a while. Just watching the water flow, being in the breeze, and drinking it all in.

By then it was mid afternoon, so we decided to drive the South Shore and North Shore Loop around Lake Quinault. That involved several stops, for Merryman Falls, and (I think) Bunch Creek Falls (neither of which are in the Waterfall Lovers Guide we have). The road followed the lakeshore, then some distance along the Quinault River. So we had to stop and get out and explore some of the gravelbars. It was pretty impressive to look up from the relatively small river and realize that in flood it would fill the couple hundred yards wide bed, and move enough water not only to carry the rocks we were scrambling in but the giant trees.

As is so typical of the kind of exploring we like to do, if you glance at a gravel bar, you think "gravel bar. Neat. Next." But if you go into it, and explore it, it opens up new vistas. All the different shapes of the rocks, the smoothness, the juxtapositions and arrangements. And to think of the water that moved and shaped them. Lifting and dropping, shifting and shoving. In the same sense that horizon lines can reveal the source of Mark Rothko's abstractions, the gravel bars of a river like the Quinault can show you the source of Andy Goldsworthy's rock arrangements.

Once we got onto the north shore section of the drive, it was time enough to keep going to push to Forks. The road was unpaved for a good chunk, so we had to drive slowly in any case. And the views didn't stop being stunning. We stopped at the north shore ranger station for another picnic before hitting the road to Forks.

There was a lot of road work back on 101, which delayed us getting to Forks. But we could see the ocean to our left, the sun was slanting beautifully through the trees, and we could talk about the day's sights and listen to the tape. At one of the traffic holding points, we were behind a car with the sticker:
FREEDOM ISN'T FREE.
In loving memory of [name]
USMC KIA IRAQ
5/25/85 - 8/20/06
It was a Chevy Suburban.

By the time we got to Forks, it was almost completely dark. However, Forks itself was very lively. My first wife took a trip around the peninsula with her lover, and they reported feeling uncomfortable and unwelcome in Forks.

That's certainly changed. Every hotel and motel had the NO VACANCY sign lit, there were groups of people everywhere, traffic was fairly heavy. Shops had BELLA SHOPS HERE signs, the Chinese restaurant had a Jacob poster (I guess he's the token Asianesque vampire), there were flyers advertising Bella's Birthday party, there were TWO "Dazzled by Twilight" stores a couple doors apart. Forks was pretty much thrown away by capitalism, so I sure hope they're raking it in while they can. Even Sully's Burgers, the grimy diner across the street from our motel, had a "Bella's Burger". I don't know if there was something special about the weekend, or this was the regular level of tourism for Forks these days.

By the time we were rested, showered, and fed, we were ready to call it a night. Julie set the alarm for 7:30, over my objections. Saturday, we were to backtrack a little bit to the Hoh rain forest. I thought we might be rain forested out, but we weren't, and I'm very glad of it.
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Pensinsula Trip: Day One Photographs (Part One)

First, the good news: I thought I'd lost the card that contained the first section of day one's photography. However, the motel owner at Forks found it, called about it, and will mail it to us tomorrow. Woohoo! So this is really "Part Two of Day One.

But here you go.

Mt. Rainier from Damon Point


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All: September, 2009