Olympic National Park was not in our plans for this trip. We'd been there before, and we wanted to go to North Cascades National Park, which we'd missed on our last trip. But wildfires closed the road through North Cascades. We considered Mt. Rainier, to which we had made a relatively brief visit last time. While the roads were open and the air breathable, the webcams showed a lot of haze. Not a good time to visit a park where the primary attraction is broad mountain vistas. So, we headed even further west, adding considerable travel time and distance, to the wonders of Olympic. It was as if we traveled from Mordor to Rivendell. Or, as Eric preferred, from Io to Europa.
I had made a reservation for a campsite at Crater Lake, which we turned out not to be able to use due to the smoke. We had planned to camp Sunday through Tuesday nights in North Cascades, but ended up not being able to go there at all. We couldn't get all the way from Spokane to Olympic after the convention on Sunday, so we had to spend the night in the Quality Inn in Olympia rather than camping. At last, on Monday, we were using all the camping gear that filled Sydney's back seat for the entire journey.
Camped next to us were Sandy and her 22-year-old special needs son, Jim. It was a pleasure to camp near them. They were from Everett, Washington, and Sandy was full of local information. She gave us a Washington State Ferry schedule, and we shared our extra firewood with her. It took Jim a while to warm up to us, but it was heartwarming when he did. They were both so pleasant. Walk-in camping means an annoying 15-m/50-ft walk with all of your heavy camping gear from your car to the site (in this case, a steep walk), but it usually eliminates the loud, Coors-can crowd and puts you in with a much more desirable class of camper.
We had to take time to use the internet at the nearby Crescent Lake Lodge in order to make a ferry reservation for Wednesday. It would take far too long to drive all the way around the Puget Sound.
The ranger also told us that the hot springs in the Sol Duc area were caused by seismic, not volcanic, forces. A fault runs through the area.
After our short hike, we had a relaxing soak in the hot pools. The hot pools were actually hot enough for me, and the cold pool was too cold for Eric.
The nice, relaxing time we had at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort paled in comparison to our last visit to a hot springs resort, the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. No competition.
Although it was getting dark as we headed back to our campsite, Eric convinced me to make a stop at the Crater Lake Lodge to use the internet just to keep up my 267-day Duolingo streak. No e-mail, no Facebook, just Duolingo. We'd have to be disciplined. We were disciplined, and I kept my streak going. I had had a good excuse for losing it! I was going to be in a national park with no internet for a couple of days! Now, the pressure is on to keep it going indefinitely!
We had a bike tour planned for Thursday and Friday, and needed to pick up the bikes in Anacortes before 18:00 on Wednesday. We didn't realize until we were out on the Olympic Peninsula that our only alternatives for getting to Anacortes were a 55-minute ferry ride or a many-hours' drive all the way around the Puget Sound. Driving all the way around the San Francisco Bay would be burdensome; the Puget Sound is much larger. Even with the ferry, it would take several hours to get to Anacortes. Eric also needed to do some work with a wi-fi connection. So, Wednesday would be primarily a travel and logistics day, and we would have only an hour or so to see sights in Olympic.
In 2014, after a 22-year struggle, the National Park Service removed two dams on the Elwha River, allowing the river to flow freely for the first time in over 100 years. I had read this momentous news in the magazine of the National Parks Conservation Association. This represents exciting progress in the development of our national park system, and it is shameful that it was so difficult to accomplish and that it took so very long after Congressional authorization for removal of the dams in 1992 for them actually to be removed. It will be some time before the Elwha restores itself to its former glory (especially with the ongoing drought), but the site where the dams were removed is a short, easy hike from US 101.
We spent our last half-hour at Olympic visiting the main Visitor Center and watching one of the Park Services' movies. My parents both love the Park Service's films, so I always see the movies when I visit the parks with them, but I usually figure that Eric and I should spend our time in the parks outdoors. The film was a mosaic of nature shots of the park, some of which were pretty incredible--a bird feeding its open-mouthed babies, an underwater shot of an eagle diving in and grabbing a salmon. It made for a rush for the ferry, but we really wanted to see it.
Having not intended to visit Olympic National Park on this trip, and still quite disappointed that we failed yet again to see North Cascades, we still enjoyed our visit to the sites we had missed on our previous visit to Olympic. The movie showed us that the waterfalls are typically quite a bit more dramatic than they are now under our extreme drought conditions, but they still look great to Californians. Someday, we will get to the unexplored territory of the northern Cascades.
On to Orcas Island.