We moved to another campground. That’s right, we left the lavender farm and moved just 28-miles to Elwha Dam RV Park. It has great reviews with a long list of amenities like large full hook-up sites, modern bathhouse, laundry, camp store, wifi, community center, yard games, gated security, and much more. Best of all, it’s an ideal location near Port Angeles for us to continue our exploration of Olympic National Park.
You might be thinking that with all the amenities we are camping in luxury — not exactly. When we called on short notice to check availability, we were told they had no sites. However, they offered a spot in a lot at the back of the property. I think it’s where they store RVs. “It’s just a place to park. There are no hook-ups”, they told us. We don’t mind not having hook-ups, especially with the cool nights we’ve been experiencing. As it turns out, we loved the secluded spot. The cost was a bit high at $45.00 per night, but we were glad to have a spot. We stayed four nights.
We didn’t spend much time at the campsite during the day anyway. We were out exploring the many wonderful nearby places. I don’t feel I can describe every detail of every place we went — it would take way too long — but I will share the good stuff. It will be like a highlight reel. You won’t have to watch the entire game to see what happens.
We went to the Olympic National Park Visitor Center near Port Angeles. Visitor centers are a great place to start when visiting one of the national parks. We have a routine when we visit. We talk with a ranger to get tips for the best things to do and places to see. We also find out if there are any road or trail closures and get the most up-to-date information about the park. We get maps for the places we intend to go. We get our National Park Passport Book stamped — this is a great way to record a visit to a park. Each park has a unique stamp and records the date when we were there. Then we go to the gift shop to buy some souvenirs. I was happy to see the interpretive area open at this center with displays of wildlife and history.
We went to Salt Creek Recreation Area — a 196-acre county park. We wanted to see the campground. It’s one of the places we wanted to camp but couldn’t because it was full. Sitting atop the coastal bluff, it is easy to see why it’s so popular. Many of the sites have beautiful panoramic views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This is definitely a place I would like to be.
Salt Creek Recreation Area was once the location of Camp Hayden — a military camp during World War II. We went to see the old gun emplacements that protected the entrance to Puget Sound during the war. Concrete bomb-proof gun casements housed two 16” guns capable of firing a one-ton projectile 28 miles downrange. With the advancement of technology, the gun battery became obsolete after the war. We drove a road that goes through the casement and over the large turntables were the guns once sat.
We left the clear skies of our campsite and drove back to Salt Creek Recreation Area and into a soupy sea fog. Shocking how the weather can change so abruptly. A perfect mid-morning low tide was our opportunity to explore some tidal pools. We’ve been trying to do this, but the timing of the tides has not cooperated until now. Behind campsite 63 is a path that goes to a stairway leading down to Tongue Point. We saw this yesterday and looked out across Tongue Point from atop the bluff. It was high tide. This morning it looks much different during low tide. Grammi and I held hands as we precarious traversed some slippery rocks ensuring that if one fell we would both go down. Once on firm footing we were amazed by what we saw. The kelp laying flat on the rocks, the tidal pools with sea urchins and amenities, access to the hay stack rock, gave us plenty to explore. It was a pretty neat experience.
We went to Lake Crescent. Located entirely inside the Olympic National Park, this dazzling blue deep water lake is a wondrous sight. Surrounded by forest and foothill mountains, the natural beauty gives a sense of timeless charm. Highway 101 goes along the south side of the lake where some turnouts are available for stopping and admiring the views
We hiked to Marymere Falls. The trail can be accessed from Lake Crescent Lodge or from the Storm King Ranger Station. We started from the ranger station. It was a 1.8 mile out and back hike through a forest of large conifer trees which shaded the sun for most of the hike. After crossing a bridge, we climbed 200 feet to a viewing platform to see the 90 foot high waterfall. This is a heavily traveled trail and after seeing the falls it is easy to see why. It was stunning.
After our hike, we set up our chairs on the bank of Lake Crescent. We ate lunch as we watched the gentle waves roll to shore. Then we went to Lake Crescent Lodge. Built in 1915, it features a stone fireplace for guest to gather and offers room accommodations, cabins, dining, lounge/bar, gift shop, lake access with beach, boat rentals, boat launch, and gorgeous views. Don’t miss the views. We loved sitting on the sun porch at the lodge with a beverage while looking across the lake at the mountains on the far side.
We hiked to the top of Hurricane Ridge. This is a busy area inside the Olympic National Park. We were happy to find parking in the overflow lot. From that point, it was a four mile hike with over 850 feet of elevation gain. Rated as a moderate hike by AllTrails, it gets quite steep near the top and admittedly I got winded. The trail is wide and paved and there are benches to sit and rest along the way. It’s not too difficult if you take your time as I did. At the top we could see Mount Olympus, the tallest peak in the Olympic Mountains. To the north we could look across to Canada. We spent more time at the top than most people do. We lingered. We took lunch, found a place to sit and enjoy the view. We basked in the fresh mountain air and panoramic views. The place just beckoned for us to stay. This a must-do hike when visiting Olympic National Park. We are glad we didn’t miss it.
We splurged for a lovely dinner on the waterfront in Port Angeles. This picturesque seaside city is the largest on the Olympic Peninsula and is a hub for visiting tourists. In addition to tourism, the port is also an major economic driver serving cargo ships, cruise ships, fishing boats, sightseeing excursions, and whale watching tours. During normal times, it serves as a gateway to Canada where a ferry goes to Victoria on Vancouver Island. Of course these are not normal times. The border remains closed at the time of this post. (Canada has opened their border but the U.S. has not yet.) We dined at Smuggler’s Landing Restaurant. We had to wait more than an hour to get a table, but that only made the timing of the sunset better as our food arrived as the orange orb touched the sea. It was a good ending to a great day.
We hiked to Sol Duc Falls. Many people consider this to be Olympic National Park’s most beautiful waterfalls. The 1.6 mile easy out and back hike through the forest was very busy. The parking lot was nearly full when we arrived midmorning. We passed many hikers on the trail. That being said, it was a lovely hike through old growth forest and carefully walking across narrow wood bridges at creek crossing. The view from the bridge was spectacular. It was interesting to see how the falls split into three at the top.
We had lunch at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and spent the afternoon lounging and soaking in the natural hot mineral water pools. It is a unique experience to soak in a hot spring at a national park. Other than Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, I can’t think of another. There are three small mineral pools with temperatures of 99, 101 and 104 degrees. We jumped back and forth between them sometimes plunging into the larger fresh water swimming pool with a temperature in the low 80‘s for a system shocking experience. The resort offers camping and cabin accommodations. Also, there are spa services available for those that want to completely spoil themselves. We were content with a timed day pass giving us 2½ hours to enjoy the pools. The cost of admission was only $12.00 per person. Not too bad for a great relaxing time after a busy week exploring the upper Olympic peninsula.
We are not yet done with the Olympic National Park. We will pull up stakes tomorrow and continue along Highway 101 for more adventures.
So until then — happy days and safe travels.