Road Trip! The Olympic Peninsula

After our very full day in Seattle we repacked the coolers and camping gear and headed off to the Olympic Peninsula. Both of our friends got to come with us for this trip which was wonderful – they did most of the driving. The plan was to make our first night of camping at Ruby Beach… however due to more traffic than we anticipated around Olympia we got side tracked in Aberdeen. Actually we made a very rational decision to stop early, not only because of the traffic, but also because the likelihood of getting a campsite so late in the day was slim to none. 

We booked a motel room online, checked it out (it was so crummy), got into a heated argument with the owners of the motel over the cancellation policy (Expedia says one thing and they say another) and about the cost of the room, and eventually decided to stay. After all, we paid for it.

So what is there to do in the dinky town of Aberdeen? Not much. We have something like 7 hours to burn between arriving and sleeping so we walked around ‘downtown’. There was a Star Wars hoarder shop – literally a junk shop filled with exclusively Star Wars related products. Some of it was kind of expensive! A & A2 were in heaven.

We visited the small Kurt Cobain memorial park. It was in a shady part of town, practically under an overpass – that is where he supposedly wrote many of his songs – and there is no place to park unless you want to in front of someone’s house. We just pulled off on the side of the road. We didn’t stay long. Some woman came running into the park, clearly on something (at least that’s what everyone said. I didn’t really see her so I can’t be certain).

We tried to find a ship that sometimes docks there but ended up behind the docks and buildings of a logging company and started getting strange looks so we turned around. We cooked brats outside the motel room door on the camp stove, went to the only movie theater in town to pass the time and slept in our sleeping bags once in the room. Needless to say, we will always remember this overnight and will continue to joke about it!

As we officially entered the peninsula, we made a quick stop at one of the ranger stations within Olympic National Park, but it was closed. Most of the stations we wanted to get Passport Book stamps at were closed – probably because we were either too early or too late. Oh well. The one thing I thought was strange is that you can enter the Olympic National Park from pretty much anywhere and not run into the ranger booths where you need to pay. It is only when you venture further into the park, into more of the ‘attractions’ so to speak like the Hoh Rainforest, that the booths become visible and you pay. There are a bunch of little towns within the National Park and a lot of people live there. There are also a few Native American Reservations. So maybe that is why the pay booths are so far in?

The second day we did get a campsite out near the coast. After setting up camp, we explored the Hoh Rainforest – so cool. I never knew that Washington had so much to offer! Moss was draped over the trees in such a way that it reminded me of a sloth. I must admit, I was pretty grumpy on this day; I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe I was just sick of camping again? Sick of being in the car for long periods of time? The visitor center was small and but there were many different trails to do. We did the most basic one – and even got to hear a woman singing Chinese Opera! It was beautiful.

We also visited both Ruby & Rialto Beach. How can I describe the beaches in just one word? Beautiful. Gorgeous. Jaw-dropping. I-wished-I-lived-close-enough-to-come-here-every-day. I liked Ruby Beach the best of the three we saw (La Push, made famous by the previous Twilight books & movies, was seen on our way out the next day). It was the most beautiful, had the best camera shots and was gigantic enough that it was easy to not have random people walking through your pictures (although I am sure I did that to other people on several occasions). And I am proud to say that I have waded in the Pacific Ocean!

On the third and last day of our trip, we headed across the top of the peninsula. We stopped for lunch at New Day Cafe (exactly where it is located I can’t remember), bought some homemade donuts (that seems to be A and my thing to do when traveling) and took a side trip up Hurricane Ridge. The scenery up there was also very beautiful. Honestly, I probably could have done without the side trip, mostly because I was still very grumpy but also because I’ve seen similar things before. Don’t get me wrong – the area was gorgeous and it was neat to see the mountain range full of snow. It was an extra 2 hours of driving, out and back which added into an already long day of driving.

We finally made it to the port for the ferry. It was PACKED. So many people were trying to get back to the mainland. Our wait time was approximately 1 hour so we parked in line and got out to explore. Did I mention I was grumpy? And that A and I were not talking to each other? (And honestly, I can’t seem to remember why – but more than likely I said or did something in my impulsive-sometimes-I-forget-to-think-before-I-do-things-way and A  was frustrated with me. It happens more times than I care to admit).

We walked around until it was time to board the ferry. The boat ride was short – maybe 20 minutes. After which we drove straight home, ordered pizza for dinner, washed laundry, showered and went to bed. It had been a long weekend.

Tips if you are going:

Try to plan out where you are staying BEFORE you go. You don’t want to end up in a dinky motel room in some weird dinky town like we did. A and I have always been walk-on campers: we don’t reserve ahead of time. Which can lead to us turning around and driving home (I wrote a post about our trip to Aspen Colorado here).

Give yourself plenty of time to drive places. The peninsula is HUGE and many of the cool things to see are an extra couple of hours round trip. There were a few things we wanted to see but didn’t have the time nor the energy for (like the hot springs).

Only visit 1-2 beaches. I know Twilight fans will want to visit La Push, but honestly, I am pretty sure they filmed the beach scenes at Ruby or Rialto. I say this because La Push is very small, is at the end of the road of this little town and isn’t very pretty. Plus, it tends to be crowded.

Fully charge your camera or cell phone and put your phone in airplane mode. There is sometimes? service out on the coast but I wouldn’t count on it. Mine died halfway through Ruby Beach and I was so bummed.


About C.Skinner

I am a military spouse and I am excited to travel! I love to find adventure; am trying to be more creative; this year my intention is to live a better, fuller life.
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