I left Seattle and had to head back south in order to see the Olympic peninsula in its entirety. The US 101 does a big loop around the park and so I met back up with the route along the coast I have grown to love so much. The Washington coast is different then that of Oregon or California as the waves seem to have calmed down, the beach filled with more driftwood and the wildflowers beheld a new kind of distinctiveness. They changed in shape and color along with height and variety. Some how I become very found of wildflowers along this trip and that makes me feel I may have a new appreciation for the small things in life like never before.
I was driving down 101 as planned but after a glance at the map I saw that the 109 ran right 101 but along the coastline so I spontaneously turned west and continued down that way thinking I found some great route. But as I thought how I would brag to you about the beauty of this great route I hit a dead end. Another glance at the map and the road I thought that met back up with the 101 was in fact a river. It was obvious to me in hindsight. Worth mentioning on the wrong route were the towns of Seaport and Pacific Beach which were picturesque and quaint.
There are endless choices for camping in Olympic from the rainforest to the coastline but I choose to continue my admiration and exploration of coastal camping off the 101 and settled on South Beach Campground for $10 (Photo #1). My travel guide did not say much about this facility and actually sited Kalaloch as better and right on the beach but I feel South Beach actually has the closest beach access after seeing both. If you can secure one of the 15 sites right on the edge of the beach line, then you are golden. You wake up to the ocean and nothing else. Unfortunately, as I arrived later with little to no planning so I got a site on the third row along a ridge, #14, which was still very pleasing (Photo #2). I set up behind my car and picnic table however to cut some of the wind from the mighty Pacific. There wasn’t much privacy but people seemed to keep to themselves and quietly at that. Lucy and I ventured over the piles of giant dead logs to the stone filled beach (Photos # 3-5). I continued to read for a while but Lucy seemed antsy and as I started to gather my things she took off running to the water. We went on to run and chase each other for about ten minutes and I saw an energy in her I had never witnessed before (Photo 6 & 7). We enjoyed the moment and each other’s company. I like running along wet sand and it makes the menial task more enjoyable. A funny story but almost not funny at all as that night a quick visit to the bathroom almost ended in disaster. I had my keys in my back pocket, which I never do and in the process of pulling my pants up, I almost dropped my keys into the vaulted toilet, which is like a permanent port-a-potty for those who don’t know and would have been impossible to retrieve. These are the moments where I know the universe is on my side and I was thankful for that.
As always, I planned in my tent at night a few loose plans to follow the next day. Looking at the map I needed to cross over to the North Cascades National Park by ferry but there were these islands just itching at my curiosity. They were the San Juan Islands, just off the coast of Canada. I started to look for camping options and there were tons so the plan to head to the next park was delayed. Unrelated, I went through the town of Forks, which I have gathered they filmed the Twilight movies at because while everything was closed that early in the morning, everything was Twilight mania. It must have been quite the transition for this town and while the local economy I am sure benefited, the novelty of the town has been lost in consumerism and teen romance. It was a long drive around the park, but once at Port Townsend I took the ferry to Whidbey Island for $13 (Photo #8 &9). Growing up in the Midwest, I have never driven with my car onto a ferry before (Photo #10). I felt like a kid again all excited about the horn being blown oh so loud and the motion of the engines as we backed away from the dock. I saw actual kids acting out their excitement but I remained my age and withheld my delight. It was very pleasing to hang over the rail and watch as we blew pass the waves of archipelago islands and various fishing boat busying at work. The wind was crisp and cold but refreshing with my coffee and I stayed out there for half an hour (Photo #11). I scurried back to my car in time to depart and just headed north immediately after. Driving up US 20 towards Anacortes, you pass Deception Pass, which has amazing camping facilities and is a cool little gorge with an old bridge.
Once in Anacortes, awaiting the next ferry to the San Juan Islands, I found out the campground, Spencer’s Spit, I had planned to go to on Lopez Island was full on a Tuesday. It is suppose to be the best and right along the beach but no reason to go to that island if the only non-boat-in campground was full. I say this because all of the islands have numerous boat-in campsites, which is on my bucket list to do. Basically you have your own private island if you go during the week. Anyways as the man waited for my abrupt decision to take my money (as fares are different depending each specific island), I quickly choose Orcas Islands and paid the man $46. Then a rapid panic came about me as they instructed me into my lane, I hoped I had made the right choice. As I scanned my books for campgrounds there were only two options on the island so with my fingers crossed, I disembarked from the port at Olcas Village on the southwest end of the island. I headed north on the only main road, Orcas Road to West Beach Campgrounds at the end of Enchanted Forest Drive. They only had two tent sites that were far from the beach and along the road for $48. I declined at the obscene fare and continued onward. We then explored Eastsound, a small town right in the middle of the island with a charming little main street filled with coffee shops and real estate office along with a beach access (Photos #12-14). Funny statistic I heard is that there is 1 realtor for every 333 citizens on Orcas Island. In addition, I for sure thought that Orcas Island was named after the numerous pods of Orca whales that inhabit the area but in fact, unrelated completely the island was named after a Spanish conquistador whose found the island and who’s last name was Orcas.
So, Moran State Park was the end of the island and my only option left. The universe really helped me out again as I got the last site (#118) at the north end campground for $21. It was a standard site but I have never been so close to a main road and it was annoying. We set up and quickly headed out to explore. First, we drove up to Mount Constitution, an old 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps tower (a program developed with FDR and the New Deal during the depression). It is the highest point in all of the islands and has a spectacular 360-degree view of the archipelagos, the Cascades and Olympic mountains along with Vancouver (Photos #16-17). I do not think I really understood where I was, an island at that, until I saw this view. You can see the archipelago of surrounding islands, Canada and Washington and their various high peaks (Photos #17-21). This is a very popular bike route and while it is a long hard road up, it must be amazing to ride downhill and dangerous I’m sure.
There was a turn off for the Cascade Falls trail on the way back to the campground with a short hike to a series of waterfall (Photos# 22 & 23). Lucy and I surveyed and climbed everything. Lucy really surprised me as she followed me everywhere, across log bridges and through creeks (Photos #24-26). She got down and dirt and it was nice to see she trust me so much. When I walked across the one fifteen foot fallen log, she looked at me and I gave her a reassuring smile and transversely she ran (Photos #27 & 28). I played with my camera as I shot the color bursts of ferns and sunlight beams that cut through the treetops (Photos #29-33). I walked barefoot through the cold pools of water and soaked my head under the waterfall. We did not see a sole the whole time and it was very harmonious. We were probably out there for at least two hours until we headed back. However, due to the fact I am a woman or just due to the fact I was not paying attention, we passed the trailhead to the parking lot and got lost. Not really lost but enough that it extended the half mile hike another mile and Lucy had to be carried out in the end. It still was a great afternoon even if I was lost in the woods. Right across from our campground, we laid out on the grass at the public beach area filled with families and read until sunset to soak up what was left of the day. I have to note that while I did not like my campsite so much, the south end and midway campgrounds are right along the Cascade Lake and I was envious.
The morning of my departure, the ferry was delayed and you would have thought the world was coming to an end. The workers were running around, yelling over the walkie-talkies and basically freaking out. I had no idea where to buy a ticket and probably looked like a lost puppy, who had not had her coffee yet. I gave up and went into the Orcas hotel bakery. The locals were half concerned with the delay and half laughing at the chaos unfold as I listened to the regional coffee chatter. Armed with caffeine, I wandered around and finally with the help of a local man found a kiosk and just in time. As we pulled away, the water shone from the morning sun and the scene was quiet unflustered as we pulled away from the bedlam (Photo #34). For $24, I island hopped to the main San Juan Island at Friday Harbor (Photos #35-37). The town was named after Joe Friday, a sheep herder that worked for the Hudson Bay Company and as other travelers would come they would know thy arrived once they saw the smoke from his fire and so it became known as Friday’s Harbor. Since I love history, I just soaked up the interesting past of these special islands. I wondered how and why people got to these places.
One of the big draws on the island are the American and British Camps as a result of the Pig War. In 1846, the British and the Americans signed the treaty of Oregon but the wording for the islands was loose and while the settlers were working out the kinks of their new relationship within the island, an American potato farmer shot a British pig. The subsequent events lead to over 400 stationed soldiers from both sides being placed on their own camps within the island. While all out war did not occur it was close and luckily the only causality was a pig. I stopped at both the American Camp and English Camp, at opposite ends of the island but enjoyed the latter more (Photos #38-41).
That day I drove the whole island, down almost every road probably and hit a lot more dead ends since I was on an island. I headed north up the east side of the island, until I hit Roche Harbor on the north tip of the island (Photos 42 & 43). I don’t usually make judgments like this but it seemed like a stuffy, cookie cutter developed town that was trying too hard to cater to the rich. It was lovely and laid out beautifully and most people probably would not have come to the same conclusion. But I found it odd that there were just front porches with lot numbers saying “This could be your future view” as obviously they were trying to sell a product with this town. The marina was pristine and I know that after living in the Keys. All just rich houseboats and yachts, that’s all there was, no fishing boats as they must make those people hide elsewhere. Lucy had to relive herself right on the dock when she usually only goes on grass and I think she was trying to give some commentary about Roche Harbor or just to embarrass me.
From one of the tourist magazines I grabbed I knew I wanted to visit the Westcott Bay Sea Farm but I thought I would be able to see more of the production process of reproducing oysters (Photo #44). It was still really fun to pick out fresh oysters from a tank and shuck them Oceanside myself (Photos #45-52). However, while I have grown to love oyster, I guess I don’t have the pallet for the pacific ones because I could not even stomach the golf ball sized oyster that tasted meaty and salty. After that I passed the Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm and had to stop as I saw little babies flocking from the road (Photos #53-60). The gift store was beyond overpriced or that is how much alpaca fleece costs. I just watch the baby alpaca chasing each other and just loved it. The color and texture of their fur was so soft and billowy and as the animals laid calmly enjoying the day so was I.
Then I head to Lime Kiln State Park which is famous for orca sightings but did not think it was worth the ten dollar fee to park so instead I found a pullout on the side of the road just a half mile down and whale watched for an hour or so (Photo #61). There I met a nice couple who also had a bulldog at home and we discussed the island as tourists. It is suppose to be easy to see an eagle like seeing a pigeon in the city but I did not see an eagle or a whale. Not even a seal but lots of deer of course. As I headed around the island, I stopped at a few beaches that varied greatly but were a wonderful drive to - South Beach, Fourth of July Beach and Jackle’s Pass (Photo #62).There were fresh farm egg stands that could have been mistaken for lemonade stands if the sign did not say else so throughout the day. Also a few people selling firewood and one even organic firewood, whatever that means.
So while the day was very enjoyable, I was also in search of a campsite all day but to no avail. First I tried the San Juan County Park, which has wonderful beach access and unbelievable views of the ocean, with your tent right along the water’s ridge (Photos #63-65). You can kayak into the park with your gear for the best spots but it was one of the best facilities I have seen yet. However, when I went to get a site, I was laughed at in a way Ill never forget as they are booked three months in advance. I spoke with the camp hosts for while and ended up leaving my phone in case something opened but they never called. Then I called the Lakedale resort and while their tent sites are $45, they also were booked. My travel guide said that there was only one more campground, Pedal Inn but once I made my way there it was for bikers only. It was only 1pm, so I planned to just get on the ferry back to the mainland, even though I did not want to (Hotels were over $300 a night so that was not an option).
Just before I hit the harbor again, I saw an antique store and for some reason unknown to me I turned around to check out an old trunk I saw. I had stumbled into The Corner Store Emporium (est. 1896) on Cattle Point Road and Madden Road and again the universe was on my side (Photos #66-71). I fell in love with everything but specifically a little end table rightly priced at $30 but as I spoke with the owner I explained how long of a journey I still had to go. Somewhere in the conversion I added that I had to depart the island as all the campgrounds were full. Quickly and without second thought, she insisted that I come sleep on her family’s property. We continued discussing details but unlike me, I accepted her offer and agreed to come back in a few hours.
I went into town to grab some food and explore the various storefronts. Lucy and I settled on a popular multiple level restaurant, Friday’s Crabhouse, where they are known for their grilled oysters (Photo #73). I figured since I did not like the raw ones regionally maybe they would be better cooked and especially grilled. I grabbed a beer at the bar and enjoyed some great company with a family visiting their son, a whale guide, on the island (Photo #74). It was a really nice time and while the food was just ok and no I did not like the oyster even grilled, the restaurant was well run and the staff was super friendly. After, we went in and out of some cute stores and then returned to the Emporium.
I could write for days about my experience with the Ross family and my life is forever changed after meeting with them. As cliché as it sounds, my faith in humanity has been restored after staying with these incredible people. I am a city kid and never take charity but everything about this situation and these people was just right. I informed my mom of the situation and she trusted my instincts. Once at the store, the sister in law was there waiting to take me to their home. While initially it was okay because it was a woman, I followed her as I was taken down a somewhat remote tree-lined road. It was imitating the first time as I went down this road but the second and third time, it was almost romanticized as the trees limbs stretched out above me and looked like fingertips that were barely touching (Photo #75). I struggle with what to include here and even giving out their family name but I thought it couldn’t hurt their business. I cant illustrate to you the scene I arrived to but immediately I was part of the family. They basically have a compound where multiple generations live in separate dwellings equipped with a kids play house, a chicken coop, a garden, a workshop and the list goes on and on (Photos #76 & 77). I can only hope one day to have something like this for my family. As we joined the party, Lucy got fed from the two-year boy who was eating strawberries that ran down his bare belly as the youngest girls put on a show for me with singing and dancing just like I use to do in my youth with my cousin. I sat in the sun on the grass and got to know each sister and cousin and especially grandma as the men worked on restoring some furniture for the family store. After a few hours, everyone started to disperse and grandma and the sister in law took Lucy and I into their house to clean us up and fed us. We talked all night the three of us except for when I left briefly to catch the free summer concert at the San Juan Historical Museum (Photo #78). It was out back by an old wooden building and the rockabilly band, Island Rec was great as children were running around and dancing and their parents almost in a potluck manner enjoyed food and visited with other locals (Photos #79 &80). I returned to the compound of love as I call it now and continued visiting and then finished the night by reading my book by the fire. This instance and the Ross family is what the world needs more of and if we had more people like this, the world would be a much better place. They expected nothing in return and made me feel beyond welcomed. I did not feel like a bother but more like I had been in the family for years. Everyone was smiles and while I am sure it is not always so blissful around here, they are the essence of what America once was or so I am told. The children were well spoken, mannerly and genuinely cared for each other. You can really tell a lot by a family by the way the children behave and they are going to be another generation of outstanding people. I am sure all of this sounds too good to be true and maybe even a little unbelievable but I am glad I step out of my norms and accepted their gracious offer because I learned a lot from this family and I strive to model myself and my future family after their caring and loving ways.
My family is also one full of love. I could call any one of my immediate family members and they would be there for me in a second no questions asked and tell me they love me no matter how many times I mess up. However, it is different when you are on the receiving end of kindness. I think after years of city-life conditioning I am not as willing to help our fellow man out besides working at charity events or giving a donation. The world outside the San Juan Islands is not always such a nice place anymore and everyone is out to get something, especially in the city where if someone needs to use your phone they will take off with it and that sad child outside the store begging for money for his basketball team uniforms is just doing a hustle. It is sad but if you are from the city then you know it is true.
One topic I will touch upon that the sister in law and I spoke about a lot is love and the lack of it. One mother’s day I gave my mom a card that said, “Before I knew anything, I knew what it was to be loved.” And this is beyond true. Again when my father passed even with all the drama and unresolved feelings I thought of this statement because I do know he loved me greatly and wholly with all his heart. I have witnessed a lot of people especially down in the Keys that don’t have this and I believe that is how sadness and the resulting bad or evil come from. If a child is not loved growing up then he or she is going to be lacking that in life and that will only lead to more pain and hurt for them and the world. As the Beatles said “ All you need is love” and it is. If everyone just loved a little more then we could fix hunger and make peace by working together- for real. There is no need to put labels on this like that’s being a good Christian or an American because why don’t we all start by being just a good human beings, then maybe everything else will fall in line. I don’t often get so philosophical or even opinionated in these blogs but through my journey there are some lessons I feel the need to share. From now on, I vow to try and be more loving to all people and not just my inner circle. Show a little more compassion and maybe even give people a chance for once. Not all people are bad, most but not all, so lets start here by just helping out one fellow person out like the Ross' did for me and maybe this is how we can bring change and betterment to this very sadistic and broken world. The concept of pay-to-forward comes to mind so if you are reading this, I am giving you the assignment to do one selfless act for a complete stranger without expecting anything in return. On a side note, there is a thought of philosophy that argues there is no such thing as a selfless act because out of the act of giving, you receive self-gratification but while that is true that we receive something out of giving, I think it still altruistic.
The next morning multiple members of the family invited me to stay another night and there was also a free Shakespeare under the stars performance that night but it was time to move on in my journey. I know I will see them again. I knew I had to grab coffee at The Bean as muiltple locals told me it was their favorite but it did not open until 7am so I had two coffees that morning. First at the Church Hill Coffee Beanery where I met a fellow Midwestern and I grabbed a sandwich (Photo #81). Then at the Bean, which was definitely worth the wait and also had wonderful am chatter with the mother and daughter working (Photos #82 & 83). The ferry is free on the way back to the mainland so if you are smart you can either stow away in someone’s trunk or come north from Canada to get back to the continental US. I used the free Wi-Fi on the ferry over some coffee and watched as we soared through the waves at a rapid pace (Photo #84).
Once on land, it was a short two-hour drive from Anacortes to the North Cascades National Park east across US 20 (Photos #85-86). I stopped at the visitor centers as I was a little overwhelmed with the number of choices for campgrounds but as always I asked where I could stay on the water and the ranger directed me to Colonial Camp, which wasn’t even on my radar. I stopped to photograph a few small waterfalls from the melting snow of the winter, one even with a little rainbow through it (Photos# 87-89). There are over 30 sites on the water with the walk in sites being directly on the water with tons of privacy. It was my favorite lake camping spots of the trip so far and I picked site 74 (Photo #90). I sat on a big tree stump and read until the sun went behind the tree line. Lucy sat with me for about 45 minutes but then retired to the tent (Photo #91). I drank a regional Pyramid Heffenweisen and made an avocado and soft spreadable Swiss cheese sandwich on some honey oat wheat bread (Photo #92). It was divine. I just love when the sun beats down on my skin and I feel so warm and alive as I soak up its energy. I met a great couple from Seattle who were enjoying a very fine dinner and wine a la campside. We talked for a while and they told me about Hart’s Pass just east of the park and the routes they took the previous day. That is the great thing about outdoorsy people; they always have something to talk about and are always willing to share their tales and secrets. I returned to my tent and was wrapped up in writing until I noticed the water level had rose about four feet and my tent was inches from being under water (Photos #93-94). I jumped out and asked my new friends to assist me and we all had a good laugh. I guess in the evening they release the dam on Diablo Lake and hence my waterfront property almost became underwater. Please look at the photos # 91-94 and you will see the log beforehand that I sat on all afternoon and then it underwater by multiple feet up to where my tent was setup.
I woke up to a real scene of majestic beauty – not much else can be said. I was alone with the morning fog rolling over the lake and melting as it hit the warmth of the shoreline. I really wanted to stay another night but needed to head towards Montana because I have to pick up a friend this weekend in Kalispell. So the next day I left my perfect camp spot and headed east on 20 out of the park. I stopped in and got coffee at Mazama Goats Café, along with some locally grown radishes and peaches (Photo #99). It was a great spot for everything from locally made socks to organic food and various camping supplies. Then I descended up the 13 miles but 40 minute drive up to Harts Pass. The road was very off road and dropped hundreds of feet on the side (Photo #100-102). I had to perfect my speed so the gravel did not skid me over the edge and as always there were tons of deer running about. It was unreal at the top and I have never been surrounded completely my beautiful mountain ranges like that, all different shaped and sizes but all covered in a little snow. I hiked from the parking lot about a mile straight uphill and with the attitude it was quite hard so it was good I left Lucy in the car (Photos #103-109). No one was around so I had to yell out and see if I echoed but it did not. However it made me smile to think about my silliness and solitude at the top of these huge grandiose mountains.
I was heading towards Idaho when I passed the famous town of Winthrop, which was right out of an old western movie. The strip of stores downtown catered to tourist but the aesthetics of the building made for a great photo opt (Photos #110-113). I had to grab a breakfast burrito once I saw a place and it was so fresh with spinach, mushrooms and potatoes (Photos#114-115). I was happy with my camping experiences this past week and my current burrito that I was indulging in. I have gone a long way and still have a ways to go.