On the weekend of July 14th, fellow Xscaper and solo full-timer Amber comes out to join Joni and I at Hoh Oxbow Campground, in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. We record a video together (which will be going up on YouTube soon), and have a good couple evenings chatting.
On Monday July 16th, Joni and I continue north on 101 to another DNR managed primitive campground, which is free-to-stay for 7 days with the $30 Discover Pass. This one is Bear Creek Campground which is technically in Port Angeles, WA, along the Sol Duc River. I can’t remember my site number here, it might have been six, but again it was the most open of the longer sites that would fit a trailer. Here I double my sun time from two hours to a whopping four hours, which feels like a huge abundance! With four hours of full sun on my solar panel I can charge my computer once a day in my own rig and don’t need to steal Joni’s excessive battery power.
July 19, Thursday
Exploration day! Joni and I drive into a different part of Olympic National Park, farther up Sol Duc river to Sol Duc trailhead. From here it’s an easy one mile walk to… yep, another waterfall. Sol Duc Falls.
I like this hike better than the ones near Hoh Rainforest visitor center than we did last week. The area is full of massive old growth fir trees, and blueberry and red huckleberry bushes line the trail, ripe and ready to eat. Joni and I stop several times for other photo opportunities along the way.
About midway to the falls, a bridge crosses a trickle of a steam lined with mossy rocks. I’m surprised to find that there aren’t too many mosquitoes here. It’s been an unusually dry summer for the area though, which I’m sure plays a part.
The falls is neat, with three distinct channels of water that drop into a little mini gorge.
We happen to arrive at the right time to get the rainbow effect from a certain angle.
All in all, my favorite hike in this park so far… but that soon changes.
Our second stop of the day is a bit chancy. It was partly cloudy at camp just north of Forks, but the closer we get to Port Angeles, the more overcast it gets. We stop at Olympic National Park Visitor Center on the edge of town and ask a ranger, “Is Hurricane Ridge fogged in?” She points behind her to a cam showing live footage from the visitor center on the ridge – it’s perfectly clear, above the clouds.
The road starts at around 400 feet elevation, and climbs to 5,400 feet over the course of about 18 miles. Most of the way is thickly forested, but there are points where a view is visible. Or at least, it is when we’re not driving through the clouds. For a while the world is blanketed in fog, and then we pop out of the top of them. There are less trees up here and more open meadows. The view by the Hurricane Ridge visitor center is spectacular.
It feels like we should be over 10,000 feet with the way the mountains look up here, but it’s all a matter of where the mountains start. Since these start so close to sea level, the elevation at the top is not as impressive as the ranges farther inland. But there can be no doubt that these are real, legit mountains.
There are several smallish trails near the visitor center. We take Cirque Rim Train out to High Ridge Trail, a loop that starts and ends at different parts of the parking lot. Facing towards the north, the low clouds near the coast are visible below us. Fingers of them reach up into the mountains, shifting quickly in the breeze.
The evergreens up here are a sturdy stock with shorter limbs meant to withstand the harsher winter weather. There’s a reason this place is called Hurricane Ridge. Today fortunately the wind is quite mild.
We are not alone. This is one of the most popular stops in Olympic National Park, and it’s no wonder why. But aside from other visitors, a herd of deer are also hanging around. It’s clear they’re acclimated to the presence of people, they pay little mind to us.
Joni had set pea soup to cook in her Insta Pot while we’ve been hiking, and by the time we get back it’s ready to go and we’re more than ready to eat. We sit in her van and watch the mountain view out her front window. What a good day.
* * *
On July 23rd, I leave the Olympic Penninsula and travel around 101 to Olympia, where I take I5 south and then 12 east towards Mt Rainier. I find a place to boondock just south of Randle, WA along 131.
I spend two weeks here, doing the boring, adult stuff that needs to be done so that I can travel and adventure. It’s a pretty area, next to a bog frequented by many species of water birds, and surrounded by mountains.
I also have it to myself most of those two weeks, because it’s ridiculously hot during my visit, with many days having highs in the 90’s, it even gets up to 100 on one day (that day I broke down and got hookups at a nearby RV park).
But fortunately there are cottonwood trees to sit under during the hottest part of the day. I fall asleep to the sound of coyotes and wake up to the sound of ducks and enjoy watching great blue herons during the day. And despite the temps it is at least breezy, which keeps it from being unbearable.
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