Since all the good beach sites near Port Townsend were occupied by masses of retired RVing folks, we were forced to pack up on Friday and head to the mountains. No offense to the retired folks- good for them that they had the foresight to make reservations. Unlike us freewheeling young travelers who flit from campground to campground hoping for the best. Guess we could learn something from them! All joking aside, while we would have liked an additional day at Fort Worden State Park, we know there are many, many more beachside campgrounds in our future so moving ahead into the Olympic National Park a day early was no big loss.
Olympic National Park is unique in that it encompasses three unique ecosystems — mountains, rainforest, and coast. We plan to spend a little time exploring each region and the mountains were up first. From Port Townsend, we hooked up with route 101 and drove west toward the seaside town of Port Angels where we turned south on Heart O’ Hills Rd and headed into the park.
We chose Heart O’ Hills campground, which is located in an old growth forest just minutes from the entrance station, for it’s proximity to Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent. The campground is also one of the few in the park that has sites large enough to accommodate RVs up to 35′ in length. The recommended length is actually only 21′ but there are some sites that will fit 35′. As we’ve found in many national park campgrounds the bigger sites tend to be pull-thrus. This is fine except that all the pull-thrus in this campground were facing the wrong way, meaning that our door would have been facing the road and not our “yard”. We’ve solved this problem in the past by turning around and pulling in backward, but with the narrow roads and large trees that wasn’t going to work this time. Instead, we drove all the loops until we found a spot tucked back in the corner that we managed to squeeze ourselves into.
There was just enough length to fit the Airstream and we unhooked the truck and tucked it next to the Airstream with not an inch to spare. I swear we’ve become experts at fitting in small spots. Just try and tell us we can’t fit — I dare you!
On Saturday we drove up to Hurricane Ridge which is one of the most popular mountain areas in the park. From Heart O’ Hills campground it was a short 12 mile drive up a twisty, turny road that ends at a visitor center perched high on the ridge with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains. After touring the visitor center we hiked around the top of the ridge a bit enjoying the panoramic view.
After a relatively easy hike/walk around Hurricane Ridge we switched gears on Sunday and made our way over to Lake Crescent for a grueling uphill climb to the top of Storm King Mtn. A glacial lake known for its clear, brilliant blue waters and extraordinary depth (the 2nd deepest lake in Washington – it exceeds 1000′ feet deep. The exact depth is not known because the measuring instruments can only go 1000′ deep!), it’s also the origin of several hiking trails up the surrounding mountains.
Phineas wasn’t allowed on the trail but he got in a nice pre and post-hike swim in the lake. We were moving to another campground after the hike so we had the Airstream with us and he enjoyed some alone time lounging on his bed while we hoofed it up the mountain. Oh, the life of a dog. The hike up Storm King wasn’t terribly long. Only 2.2 miles one way, but with an elevation gain of 1700 feet, it was a steep climb. I think this is what they call a “thigh burner”.
After huffing and puffing up the steep ascent the trees opened to the north and we were rewarded with a stunning view of Lake Crescent directly below.
The trail continued a bit farther up through the woods to a narrow ridge. The view was pretty unremarkable. No view of the lake from here, just a wide mountain valley. I was so disappointed that I didn’t even take any pictures. There is an unmaintained trail that continues up to the very top of the ridge. I assume the view from the top is more spectacular, but from everything I read it’s more of a climb than a hike with ropes for assistance as you pull yourself along the very narrow ridge. Maybe if we hadn’t just climbed up such a steep mountain I would have been up for it. But after such a strenuous hike I didn’t trust my shaky legs to traverse the dangerous ledge, so we decided that we were satisfied with our lake view and headed back down.
On the way down we enjoyed the lush forest so different from what we see in the east. We’ve seen this tree with a couple of times now and are intrigued by its unique peeling bark.
The moss covered branches of these evergreens makes you wonder how the trees can survive.
That concludes our adventures in the mountains of Olympic Park. Today we are at Mora campground on the coast, just 2 miles from famous Rialto beach. We headed over last night to view the amazing beach and right now we’re waiting until low tide to take a long walk down the beach. Until then here’s a picture to give you an idea of just how magical this place is.