We have one more area of the Olympic National Park to explore — Staircase. It is located in the southeastern corner of the park. We talked with a few people who said we should not skip this beautiful area. So we took a couple of days and checked it out.
We found an available campsite at Dow Creek Resort with water and electric hook-ups. However, because it is an older campground at full capacity, the electric grid within the campground could not keep up with the demand. We had low voltage issues during our three day stay and ended up running our generator a lot of the time. We have experienced these brown-out issues in the past at other parks. Older RV parks are not designed to handle the demands from today’s more power hungry campers.
On our first morning we went to see Staircase. Driving through the Olympic National Forest along a gravel road (NF-24), passing the beautiful and pristine Lake Cushman, we came to the national park entrance. Once inside the national park, the road was paved. Staircase Road took us to the Staircase Ranger Station and parking area. Across from the ranger station was the campground. It had a “campground full” sign posted.
A variety of hiking trails are available in the area. We chose the Staircase Rapids Nature Trail. Beginning from the ranger station, it’s a 2.1 mile loop hike through old growth forest. It follows the North Fork Skokomish River then crosses a bridge and turns back toward the ranger station along the opposite bank. It was an easy leisure walk. The air was filled with a refreshing scent of pine. We stopped often to admire the river’s rapids and listen to the sounds of the cascading water. After the hike, we had a picnic along the river bank and watched as some children from the campground played in the water. Brrr, much too cold for us.
On our way back, we passed Lake Cushman once again. We stopped briefly at a place to watch a group of young people jump in the water from a large rock. They climbed the steep rock with the assistance of a rope that was tied at the top. They danced to the music from their boombox radio before tiptoeing to the edge where they would stare at the water below. Many of them needed encouragement from their friends before taking the leap. The girls all screamed on the way down, the boys only screamed after splashing in the water with the words “it’s cold”. It looked to be a lot of fun.
We spent time in the town of Hoodsport, stopping in at some of the shops. I don’t know why we do this, but Grammi seems to enjoy it. We went to a small city park hoping to find a place to sit near the water and use our cellular service to find our next campground booking. The cell service was terrible. We discovered we had better success getting the free wifi at the chamber of commerce visitor center. Thanks to a shop employee for this tip. As we sat in the parking lot at the visitor center searching for our next campground, I notice a donut shop next door. It was closed for the day, but I knew I would be back.
The next morning after satisfying my addiction for all things glazed, we headed to Hamma Hamma Falls. We weren’t sure what we would find when we got there, but that didn’t stop us. Normally we do a little research and gather information before investing time and miles, but with cell service as it is, we only had a spot on the national park’s trail map as our guide. The trails in the area were rated strenuous and recommended for the most advance hikers, ascending more than 3,000 feet to mountain lakes. Though it sounds beautiful, we were not up for that. We are drawn to waterfalls, so with a name like Hamma Hamma Falls we had to check it out.
Driving another unpaved forest road (NF-25), we passed the Putvin Trailhead. It is one of the strenuous hikes I was referring to — climbing 3,353 feet over 3.6 miles to Lake of the Angels. I mention this because I was surprised to see so many cars parked at the trailhead. There must of been fifty or more. The lot was full and the rest of the cars were lined along the side of the road. A forest ranger was busy writing parking tickets for those that did not display a pay receipt in the window.
We turned onto North Hamma Hamma Road and went over a bridge to a parking lot at the end. It’s the location of the Hamma Hamma Falls and Mildred Lakes Trailhead. The waterfall is directly beneath the bridge. We heard the roar of the water and walked to the bridge and peered over the side. The view from the top side was pretty descent but I began looking for a better viewing location. A treacherous looking path near the bridge seemed to be the only way, but I quickly determined the view from the bridge was good enough for me.
We have heard much about the Hama Hama Oyster Saloon featuring local oysters harvested from the confluence of the Hamma Hamma River and Hood Canal. A family-run business since 1922, it was described as a must-do experience while visiting the area. So instead of our usual picnic lunch, we gave Hama Hama Oyster Saloon a try.
There was an hours wait for a table, but you can order drinks at the bar while you wait and of course that is what we did. The outside tables near the shore with a picturesque view of Hood Canal are shaded with an umbrella. After being seated, our order arrived quickly and the servers were attentive making sure we had everything we needed. As someone from the gulf coast of Florida, I’ve had my share of Florida oysters so I was a discerning customer. I have to say, however, the oysters did not disappoint. They where every bit as good as the Florida oysters I am accustom to. Our lunch experience was a good time with good food and excellent scenery. I have to admit it was a good way to spend money…ahh…I meant spend the afternoon.
We are 12 days on the Olympic Peninsula visiting the national park and surrounding areas. We discovered a part of the country not familiar to us. We’ve been awestruck the whole time. Even the past few days at Staircase and Hamma Hamma were wonderful. As I said in the first post about our time in the Olympic National Park, we have fallen in love. It is hard to leave here, but a voice from within reminds me that more adventures await.
So until then — happy days and safe travels.