Wet, Chilly, and Gray: Olympic National Park

Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

Wet, a little bit chilly, and gray.  What a way to celebrate the end of summer!  We spent the last week of August camping on the Olympic Peninsula in Olympic National Park.  We got some hiking in and had a glorious time on the banks of Lake Crescent, but were otherwise bundled up in warm socks, sweatshirts, and coats at night and in rain jackets during the day.

Hiking in Olympic National Park

Hiking in Olympic National Park

The Happy Family in Olympic National Park

The Happy Family in Olympic National Park

After our night in Staircase, we headed up to camp at Heart O’ the Hills campground, which is on the way to Hurricane Ridge, the most mountainous part of the park that is accessible by car.  We enjoyed some ridgeline hiking and the first real blasts of cool fall air.  The real highlight of camping in this area was visiting Lake Crescent.  The hikes nearby were a lot of fun, but just sitting and staring at the lake was the best part.  At least for me.  For Van it was probably the hours of rock throwing that he was able to do on its banks.

Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

And from here our trip proceeded to get wetter and wetter.  I guess that’s what happens when you head into a rain forest.  We camped near the coast at Mora campground, in close proximity to a beach with great sunset views.  The beach was beautiful, but the sunset was shrouded in the mist that marked all of our visits to the coast.

Washington Coast

Washington Coast

Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park

Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park

Sea Foam

Sea Foam

Rock Throwing is Not Limited to Lakes and Rivers

Rock Throwing is Not Limited to Lakes and Rivers

We headed inland to the Hoh Rain Forest, excited to explore the moss-covered trees and lush green forests.  We put up our hoods and had one great hike through the pouring rain, but decided to cut our second hike short when the skies opened up even more.  I like rain – I really do.  But it’s hard to like it when you’re living out of a tent and you have no prospect of being dry at any point in the next couple of days.  That being said, we had a great time playing games in our cozy tent with Van and listening the pitter patter on the nylon above.

Glistening Ferns

Glistening Ferns

Our Site in Mora Campground, Olympic National Park

Our Site in Mora Campground, Olympic National Park

Olympic is a neat place, noted for its vastly different terrain – glaciated mountains, lush old-growth rain forests, rocky coastline, and sunny days in the Olympics’ rain shadow.  Even so, between the wet and chilly weather (to be expected, I suppose) and a run-in with a less than savory character along the coast, I was for the first time on our trip, beginning to question how much longer I wanted to travel.  But in the spirit of explorers who have come before, we pressed on, looking forward to five luxurious days with my parents in a beautiful home in the San Juan Islands.

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Tour de Smithies: Olympia Style

Sarah and Me in Olympia

Sarah and Me in Olympia

The Boys!  Elliot, Emerson, and Van

The Boys! Elliot, Emerson, and Van

Rolling into Olympia, Washington, we continued our pattern of staying with friends from my days at Smith College.  Anyone who knows me even slightly knows how much I absolutely loved Smith and how much I love my friends from Smith.  Apparently, the love doesn’t go one way.  Our incredibly generous friends Sarah and Scott (and their lovely and energetic sons, Emerson and Elliot) invited us to stay for an extended period.  They hosted us for a record eight nights.  Yes, you read that right – EIGHT nights!  They should be sainted.

Love these peeps!

Love these peeps!

It was so incredibly wonderful to have a bed to sleep in, a shower to use, access to laundry facilities, and to not have to worry about the weather.  But more than that, Sarah and Scott are a walking party.  Literally.  We haven’t socialized that much since…I can’t even remember!  We attended a total of four parties that week – and Sarah and Scott attended two additional parties (for a wedding) – so we were seriously not keeping up.  It was such a fantastic change of pace.  But, even better, I got to spend some excellent quality time with a wonderful friend who I haven’t seen in ages and her equally awesome husband.  And Van had the chance to play with the big boys and all of their exciting toys.  I think he was most excited by having a table to sit at that was just his size.  Mental note for when we no longer live out of a tent.

Festivities in Olympia

Festivities in Olympia

Between the parties, we had the chance to check out a bunch of different places in the area.  We hit up the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge and the Farmers’ Market with our friends, and when they were busy at work, we headed to Gig Harbor, Bremerton, Bainbridge Island, the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Exclusion Memorial, the Foulweather Bluff Preserve at the northern end of the Kitsap Peninsula, and the Olympia Hands-On Children’s Museum.

We also spent a day in Seattle exploring and were lucky enough to meet up with Sarah in the afternoon so she could show us around.  On our very last day in Olympia, Sarah, Scott, and the boys accompanied us Staircase in Olympic National Park.  We took our second hike of the trip with friends (the first with another Smithie and her son, Rebekah and Rhyer), and had our very first campsite visitors.  So fun!  It reminded me just how great it is to camp with friends.  Something I hope to do lots of in the future.  Any takers?!?!

Note the bench we found on our hike – we joked that it was a casualty of the sequester.

Bench in Staircase, Olympic National Park

Bench in Staircase, Olympic National Park

Thank you Scott, Sarah, Emerson, and Elliot for an absolutely wonderful week.  We miss you all already.  Please come visit wherever we wind up settling down!!!

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Van and Elliot

Van and Elliot