So it’s into the rain forest for several days as we venture up to the Olympic Peninsula. Our first stop will be the National Park service campground at Kalaloch Beach. It is part of Olympic National Park and we will use it as a home base for our adventures while we are in the southern part of the peninsula. We got a late start out of Nehalem Bay. We had to dump our tanks and there was a Lazy Daze bottleneck at the dump station. We had a bunch of goodby’s to say and last minute advice to listen to.
So by the time we got up to Kalaloch, it was nearly 4 pm. We stopped at a ranger station at Lake Quinault on the way up to inquire about the campgrounds since according to the guidebooks, most of the sites there would not accommodate our 26 ft rig. The ranger calmed our fears by telling us there were many larger sites and indeed that was the case. He also told us another overflow campground, called Sunset, was wide open and could easily fit us in and was a few miles closer. We figured we’d just amble up there for the night and decide to move or stay later. Unfortunately, when we got there, the gates were closed and locked. It had closed 3 days earlier. How could the ranger not know that? So we ended up going to Kalaloch after all and hoped to find an open space. We needn’t have worried. There were 6 big loops with lots of open spaces – most of the spaces rigs bigger than ours could have fit in. Getting there so late did mean the choice was limited – most of the available sites were under the heavy tree canopy. We did manage to find one that was open enough to keep our solar panels charging the batteries.
After we got settled, we walked around the campground and discovered that a number of the sites were simply spectacular. A number of them are perched on the edge of a bluff overlooking the beach. We decided to work at improving our location for day 2. We noted every site we coveted and was scheduled to open the next day. But, oh they go fast in the morning. We did manage to upgrade to an even more open site, but a 12 ft. hedge all around meant no ocean view today even though we were right on the edge of the bluff. Oh well, we are here to explore anyway, so it was off to the Hoh River trail for a nice hike.
We did 4 miles out to the Cougar Cedar Grove before deciding to turn back. This was our first hike in about a week and we were pooped, but it was amazing. Everything you might expect in a rain forest – except the rain – greeted us. There were long tendrils of moss hanging from trees and growing on every other surface, fungus of every kind growing from dead trees, thick stands of maple, spruce and miscellaneous plant life all along the trail. But I discovered pretty quickly that interpreting a rain forest was not easy. How do I approach such a seeming mishmash of shapes and colors? I finally decided to try to isolate details – to look close. We reach the cedar grove, and while not too impressive, I did find some nice split logs with simply beautiful cedar texture.
The next day, we were a little more proactive in upgrading our campsite. Up early and driving around the campground, I found an open one right on the edge of the bluff with a grand view of the entire beach that stretched for miles in both directions. It ranks as one of the best campgrounds we’ve ever had. We tore ourselves away to do another hike though, this time at Lake Qinault and the surrounding rain forest. We’ve not seen any rain during the days so far. It did sprinkle lightly during both evenings, but this served to freshen up the forest. The hike was only 3.5 miles and the trail was very easy to walk. It wasn’t the best of hikes, but towards the end, we approach a large ravine though which Willaby Creek flowed. We were able to photograph from a bridge high above the creek and the unusual perspective resulted in some really interesting shots. Some of the best of the trip so far, I think.
Coming back to our super incredible campsite, we splurged with a late afternoon fire, Cuba Libra’s and potato chips. Yes, we are bad, but it felt so good. Fog over the ocean prevented a memorable sunset, but it did allow me to do some long exposures of the crashing surf. I love the softness and abstractness of this type of image. It is not often when all the elements come together and I loved that they did this night.
In the morning, a light fog greeted us. It was such a perfect morning we decided to take a stroll up the beach. So cameras and coffee in hand, we walked along as the tide slowly came in. As we walked, the fog bank was in constant motion, coming in, moving out, lifting and dropping. As the sun rose, it backlit the trees lining the bluff and combined with the fog, created some memorable views. We had planned to leave this day, but this spot just compelled us to stay longer. That is the biggest advantage to this kind of travel. Stay if we want, leave if we want.
We spent the rest of the morning hanging out in the campground and catching up on blogging. In the afternoon, we checked out a couple of spots we were interested in. We visited Lalaloch Lodge first. It was a nice little place with a bunch of cabins overlooking the beach. Later, we checked out Ruby Beach. It got it’s name from sand composed of crushed garnets. It took awhile, but after close inspection, we did indeed find areas with a pinkish cast. Not real impressive, but interesting. On the way back up to the parking lot, we came across a beach log covered in stacked rocks. We see these places from time to time and I always find them interesting and curious. And beware, beach logs can kill.