Heather and I just took some time out to go camping. It’s an activity we both enjoy. It gets us out into nature. It allows us to spend some time with each other without being distracted by technology or chores. Plus we have some really great camping equipment. All this is a recipe for a good time. Our destination: a three day trip into Olympic National Park.
On reflection, we completely over packed the car. I recently learned an important rule of packing; when you finish, go back and take out half of what you put in. I’m going to abide by this from now on. Thankfully we didn’t have to hike into (and out of) our camp site. We decided to camp on the beach right outside of La Push, WA. We had never been to the Olympic Peninsula and wanted to see the Pacific Ocean.
Quick note: Apparently La Push (and nearby Forks) were the settings used by Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. Consider yourself warned.
Sparkly vampires aside, the five hour trip from Seattle was beautiful. We took the northern route, which included a ferry but cut a good hour (and 100 miles) off of the travel time. I highly suggest this option; there is something about traveling along a coast that makes time go by quickly. It reminded me of the PCH, with twists and turns along tall cliffs and sporadic beaches. Once again, the beauty of Washington State keeps on upping the bar.
After a slight 15 mile detour (I misread the map) we arrived at our campsite on First Beach, hosted by the Quileute tribe. It took about 20 minutes to get set up. Thankfully the weather was mostly cooperative and we were able to get the rainfly up just in time for a brief shower. The weather for the trip called for scattered showers and temps between 55 and 65 degrees. This may seem to be a bit miserable for a camping trip but it wasn’t that bad. Olympic National Forest is primarily a temperate rainforest, which means that it’s just part of the experience.
The first night we enjoyed a walk along the beach, homemade brew from the cooler, and an unexpected fireworks show due to a wedding being held nearby. The next morning, we made coffee, bacon and eggs. After fortifying ourselves with camp food, we headed off for Third Beach. It’s a three mile round trip hike to a beautiful beach of driftwood and sand enclosed by cliffs. I took time to go agate hunting and Heather gathered up debris from the Japanese tsunami.
We then went to Rialto Beach. This site offered a much longer coastline (and much better agates) but was more crowded by tourists. After another three miles of walking, we took a break for some lunch (sandwiches) and returned to camp. The weather was much warmer with sunbreaks so I laid back for some reading. Heather took off to explore more of the beach to the south. When she returned I unloaded our firewood, dug out a fire pit and got some coals going.
We took another walk along the beach, giving me the chance to scale a rocky pier out into the bay. When we returned to the tent, I put more wood on the fire and we prepared foil packets of ribs, onions and potatoes. Sealing them up we put them in the coals and 45 minutes later enjoyed a delicious meal accompanied by some Chilean Carménère wine. Dessert, of course, were smores! Well-fed and well boozed, I passed out in front of the fire, only to be roused by Heather to come to bed.
The next morning the wind began to pick up which caused us to break camp earlier than planned. This gave us a chance to get a head start to visit the tide pools at Second Beach. This was overall the best part of an already beautiful trip! We timed everything perfectly to arrive right at low tide, giving us access to some great beachcombing and (gentle) marine life petting. Two hours later we began the trip back home.
We decided to take the southern (and longer) route back to Seattle. Heather wanted a brief stop in Olympia, WA so she could see the Capitol building. Taking advantage of the stop, we had lunch at the Fish Tale brewpub, connected to Fish Brewing, and consumed salmon and chips with gusto! Unfortunately we didn’t time our return trip very well; we ran into 5pm Seattle rush hour traffic.
Overall, this was an amazing (and overdue) trip. Heather and I made the commitment that from now on, we will use her birthday to do some camping in different parts of Olympic National Park. My only regret is that we couldn’t make it into a week long trek. There is so much more to see along the Olympic Peninsula, I suspect we will never exhaust its sights and wonders.