There's something about heading to a rough and blustery coast that fills my head with visions of shipwrecks, ocean storms, and old sailing legends. When Sally suggested we spend this month exploring the Washington coast, I knew I'd have plenty of time for starting off at the ocean waves, thinking about briny old sea captains and cresting whales. And with the fascinating Native American heritage of the Pacific Coast, I was sure we'd have a great time.
We started our adventure by crossing Puget Sound by ferry and heading north to Port Townsend, a town that's full of Victorian houses and sail boats, Moving west from there, we stopped off at the Sol Duck hot springs for a dip in the 90-degree pools. They don't get a lot of snow here, so even in December we were able to don our hiking boots and hike up to see the Sol Duc Falls and to take the Ancient Groves Nature Trail. Sally called for one more dip in the hot spring before we set out again. I think she's on the verge of getting hooked!
Neah Bay is set out on a windswept point that leans into the Pacific ocean and it's also the northwestern- most part of the contiguous United States. It's home to the Makah tribe, one of the few groups that's allowed to hunt whales using their traditional methods. We had a great time exploring the museum, learning about the ways these people have lived for centuries in harmony with nature.
From there, we headed south to Rialto Beach, which other RVers had raved about as the most beautiful beach on the Washington Coast. It sure was stunning, not just because it's an untouched sandy beach that stretches for miles, but also because craggy rock islands sit right off the coast, catching the waves with massive sprays.
We took a three-mile hike up the beach to a spot called Hole in the Wall, a gaping cavern that can only be passed through when the tide is low. When we were there, it was full of water rolling thruogh the gap, surging in and out of tidepools.
We camped in our RV right there at the beach so we could wake up early in the morning to explore the shore at low tide. December is known around here for its dramatic tides, so we set the alarm for an early hour and took our flashlights out to see what we could find. The waves were cresting much further out than they had during the day (I guessed about sixty feet or more), and we found tons of sand dollars, beach glass, and neat pieces of driftwood. Sally even found one of those Japanese blown glass balls!
After I found my beautiful green glass ball, I couldn't get enough of beach combing. Steve literally had to pull me off the beach so we could have breakfast. It's so fun on the coast. As long as I'm wrapped up tight in my raincoat, boots, and all-weather pants, I don't mind the wind and the occasional rain. Folks here don't seem to notice the rain at all, to be honest. They just go about their days as if it were bright and sunny out.
After we left Rialto Beach, we trailed south, stopping off at one viewpoint after another for picnic lunches or a cup of coffee. When our road turned inland, away from the coast, we took a side jaunt to the Hoh Rain Forest in the southern part of the Olympic National Park. This is the only temperate rain forest in the U.S., and it was as green as green could be. In the heart of the rain forest is Quinault Lake, a gorgeous blue lake with an old-fashioned lodge and a nice nature trail, which we took. Everything was covered with moss and ferns, almost like a fairyland. Of course, I also spotted plenty of slugs and snails.
We took one more side trip to Lake Crescent, a stunning bright blue alpine lake that's in the middle of towering mountains and forests. Steve really wants to have a cabin there one day. Just gorgeous!
After Lake Crescent, we headed back to the coast to Ocean Shores, a resort village that's on a huge stretch of sand flats. Ocean Shores has a long history of shipwrecks, and Steve loved reading all about the people and cargo that washed up there over the years. Ocean Shores is at the mouth of Grays Harbor, and one day we took a short ferry ride across to Westport, the town on the other side of the harbor, enjoying incredible views of the ocean. In the spring, this area is famous for its bird watching. Apparently, hundreds of thousands of migrating shorebirds stop at the Grays Harbor flats to feed and rest. We learned all about it at the Ocean Shores Interpretive Center.