Saturday, October 20, 2012

Olympic Peninsula - Day 12

Thursday, September 12, 2012:   Still felt puny upon waking. Aunt Bonnie walked me down to the Marriott where my rental car was waiting.  It was sad saying goodbye to Uncle Durward and Aunt Bonnie, plus I was really nervous about driving in Seattle and taking the ferry over to the Olympic Peninsula.  It was a big day of traveling solo.  Turns out the worry was for nothing (as it usually is!) 

Seattle from Bainbridge Island Ferry

Before starting the vacation, I had mapped out my route around the Peninsula. I had allotted three days and two nights to get it done. I knew there was much more to see than three days would allow, but I took this opportunity to hit the highlights. 

I was the 2nd vehicle onto the Bainbridge Island Ferry which gave me an amazing view!  It felt good to be back on the water again, and brought back all the warm fuzzy memories of the cruise.  The ferry took about 30 minutes to transport me and my vehicle to the Olympic Peninsula.

My goal for the first day was to get all the way around to the west coast for sunset photos during low tide (no pressure, right?)  My directions were spot on (yay me - and thanks Google Maps!)  I crossed the Hood Canal on a one-mile long floating bridge/drawbridge combination.

Next, I saw a sign for a lavender farm named "Purple Haze" and took the exit.  It was pretty cool to see lavender everything (even ice cream), plus it helped clear my sinuses.  I bought more gifts in that little shop than the whole time in Alaska!

I resisted the urge to stop at each attraction along the way, so I will need to go back one day to see all the things I missed (Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Hot Springs, northwest point of the United States, Dungeness Bay, etc., etc.)  One place that I couldn't pass up was Lake Crescent.  I would fail horribly if I tried to describe the beauty of this glacier-fed lake.  The colors were marbled rich blues and greens that I have never seen before.  My photos don't do it justice.

Another point of interest I couldn't pass up was hiking up to Merrimere Falls.  It took me through old growth trees in a rain forest. The waterfall itself wasn't too impressive considering I live near the Land of Waterfalls in Transylvania County and Brevard, NC, so my bar for waterfalls is pretty high.

Headed back to the car worked my way through miles and miles of open two-lane roads.  There wasn't much traffic at all and driving 80 mph felt like I was creeping along due to the huge, steep mountains to my left, and basically flat forest land to my right.  The road had very few twists and turns which I found unusual.

Finally, I reached the road to La Push, Washington.  I made a right, and traveled what seemed like 50 miles of nothingness.  No other cars, no houses, no animals, no people..I mean nothing.  I was a little worried about my selection of overnight location, but then I finally reached the little Indian Village of La Push.  And then I saw the sign to Third Beach, and then Second Beach.  Second Beach is where I planned to take sunset photos.  The descriptions of Second Beach that I read on the Internet portrayed it as breathtaking.  So, weary from all day traveling, a waterfall hike, plus still being sick with a head cold, I loaded up my camera equipment and headed 'up' the trail.  (Those of you that have hiked/photographed with me know that I usually forget 'something' in the car mainly because I'm so excited to get into the woods.)  This time I forgot my headlamp AND my extra camera battery. 

There was a group of older adults in front of me so I tagged along with them so I wouldn't be in the woods alone.  We hiked for about 40 minutes both up and down in the forest.  There were lots of muddy stairs that were slick (all going down.)  I knew that I would be hiking back out at twilight so I became a little leery.  All the effort used get to the beach was forgotten when I had my first glimpse of God's creation before me.  Again, words cannot adequately describe what I was seeing.  There were sea stacks jutting from the Pacific Ocean, and the tide had begun working it's way back in.  Driftwood was thrown about which required a lot of climbing to get to the beach. 

Once I reached the area of the open tide pools, I saw my first starfish.  First an orange one, then a purple.  Green sea anemones were also sticking to the rocks of the tide pools.  Once my eyes focused on the starfish colors, I began seeing them all over!  It was amazing.

There was a natural hole in the rock wall from the sea water washing against it, and I could see the ocean on the other side of the wall. The whole scene was breathtaking!  As stated earlier, I had planned to stay through sunset.  Also stated earlier, I forgot my extra camera battery.  Yes, Rookie photographer mistake.  I finished off the battery and decided to hike out of there while I could still see.

I believe that things happen for a reason, and I'd like to think that me coming back off the beach at the right time to snap these photos was one of those times.  I had just enough juice left on the ol' battery to snap these photos while hiking back to my car.  They ended up being some of my favorites from the trip.  Timing is everything sometimes!
Back at the rental car, I changed camera batteries and drove the very short distance to my hotel on First Beach, the Quileute Oceanside Resort ( just in time for sunset.  Wow - what an amazing day!
The night sky was clear over La Push which allowed for an amazing display of the stars and Milky Way Galaxy (sorry, no photos.)  I sat on the balcony under the blanket of stars until exhaustion crept in.  I honestly believed I could stay there forever and ever.  It was such a magical day and I hated that it had to end.  Ahh...bliss.
I'll close this post with some photos that were taken from my hotel room balcony in La Push, WA.  Hindsight is that I should have stayed two nights here.  If you ever find yourself in/around Seattle, I highly recommend taking some time to visit this area.

A friendly seagull visited me up close!

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