Exploring Washington’s Olympic Peninsula

September/October 2017

The seasons had rapidly changed. It was quickly becoming no fun to be at a higher elevation. It was time to get the heck out of Idaho and move on to the next destination.For much of the summer, Kelly and I had been discussing visiting the Olympic Peninsula of Washington so we could check out the coast and Olympic National Park. That’s where we were off to in an uncharacteristic move that had us hitting the road in the evening and heading out of Idaho.

We drove for many hours, late into the night – something we rarely ever do (in fact, this is only the second time we’ve done this in the nearly 2 years we’ve been traveling semi-regularly together). We overnighted at a Walmart in Island City, Oregon. Walmart is quickly becoming my second least favorite place to spend the night, right behind campgrounds. Hell, Walmart might actually be my least favorite place. It’s a close tossup!

Olympia, Washington

Our first destination in Washington was Margaret McKenny Campground which is free to camp at if you have a Washington State Discover Pass. We chose this location as there are not many free camping options close to Olympia (and thus the whole Seattle metropolitan area).

It had been many, many, many months (did I mention it had been a long time?) since I’d seen anything resembling a larger city, and I needed my fix. 6 nights here was enough for us to get ‘recharged’ (or is that ‘worn out’?) by the big city. Both Kelly and I separately visited relatives, we visited some of the ‘sights’, checked out some new RVs, and went to the larger stores that are only available in civilization. I even purchased a generator! (GASP!)

Margaret McKenny Campground is in the Capitol State Forest, which is filled with equestrian, OHV and hiking trails, so we did a bit of exploring right from the campsite. While it wasn’t the most glamorous spot to stay, the price was right and the proximity made our 6 night stay worth it.

Minnie Peterson Campground – Forks, Washington

Once our civilization fix was had, it was time to head out into the peninsula proper to check out the park. First stop was Minnie Peterson Campground which is another Washington State facility that is free to stay at if you have a Discover Pass ($30 a year, which lets you visit all the Washington State Parks and camp at Washington Department of Natural Resources campgrounds for free).

The drive to Minnie Peterson Campground ended up being wet and dreary the closer we got to the coast (shocking, I know!). I had planned on stopping at some of the beaches in the Kalaloch section of Olympic National Park on the way to the campground, but the weather had other ideas. So we just punched straight through.

Quick note about Olympic National Park: First off, the park is large and remote. Full of wilderness. It takes up a huge chunk of the Olympic Peninsula and is hard to access because there is no through-road (you have to circle it using Highway 101 and enter different sections of the park, but you cannot drive straight thru the actual park).

The park consists of different sections – coastal, forests and big trees, mountains and glaciers. It’s truly a diverse place and there aren’t many roads into it, so most of the areas are accessible only by hiking trails.

Because the areas of the park that you can access by vehicle are so spread out, we planned on working our way clockwise around the peninsula, staying at locations far less than our normal two weeks. Using each stop as a base to explore an area of the park/peninsula then moving on.

Now that you’re up to speed on Olympic National Park, it’s time to get back to our regularly scheduled program…

We set up camp at Minnie Peterson, ending up being the only two rigs in the very small campground for the first night. We were joined by one or two other rigs the remainder of our 3 night stay, but overall this was a very quiet spot to stay.

The campground is on the road leading into the Hoh Rain Forest entrance of Olympic National Park. It was also within an easy 30 minute drive of Ruby Beach at the very north end of the Kalaloch section of the park. Thus why we chose to stay here.

Being at the entrance of the Hoh Rain Forest, Minnie Peterson Campground had a definite rain forest feel to it. Large, towering moss covered trees. Dampness in the air. Very little light penetrating to the ground (which is why I needed to get a generator as solar wasn’t gonna work while we were exploring the peninsula).

We spent 3 nights at Minnie Peterson, giving us a day to explore the Hoh Rain Forest (not much to see, surprisingly), which we visited in the morning and then headed to Ruby Beach in the afternoon (where we could take Kelly’s dogs since this is one of the very few spots in the park dogs are allowed). The next day Rialto Beach in the Mora section of the park was our destination, where we hoofed it northward on the beach until a little past Hole-in-the-Wall.

Bear Creek Campground – Beaver, Washington

Our next 3 night stint found us at Bear Creek Campground, another free with Discovery Pass site (I’m beginning to sound like a broken record). From here we explored Cape Flattery, the northwest most point of Washington State and part of the Makah Indian Reservation so it required a $10 annual permit to visit.

The weather was doing the typical Washington thing, so it was wet during part of the day for most of our stay at Bear Creek. Not exactly weather that makes one want to get out and explore, so we skipped a couple of areas of Olympic National Park as they just didn’t appeal to us.

I did take this opportunity to run into Port Angeles (a bit of a hike!) to get a tool to open up my MacBook Air that had been giving me issues since I thought I could fix it (ha!). And I even managed to finally install the Camp Addict sticker on the back of my trailer (looks great!).

Lyre River Campground – Port Angeles, Washington

Next stop in the great Olympic Peninsula tour found us staying at Lyre River Campground. You guessed it, yet another free with Discover Pass location (and what would be the last during this trip). I had high hopes for Lyre River Campground as it was strategically located near Port Angeles and a couple of sections of the park we wanted to hit. Boy was I disappointed!

We ended up staying just a single night at Lyre River. It had a very weird vibe to the place. There were some questionable looking characters staying there and both Kelly and I got a weird feeling about the place.

Our one night stay allowed us to do a quick trip into Port Angeles where we ended up walking around the waterfront a little, but not doing much else. Port Angeles is one of those towns that, on paper, seems like it should be pretty cool. While in reality it is not at all warm and inviting. Something is off with that place, and it’s not going on my ‘must see again’ list.

We also visited the Elwha River section of Olympic National Park, which I had visited two years prior. The place looked the same with the exception of the two campgrounds (including the one I had stayed at) were now closed due to shifts in the river course that had washed out parts of the road and were endangering/flooding the campsites.

7 Cedars Casino – Sequim, Washington

The staying for free with our Discover Passes part of this trip was over. It was time to move on to something I had never done before – stay at a casino. Whoo hoo! Living the life! 😂

7 Cedars Casino is a fairly small operation with a largish parking lot where they allow RVs to stay for up to 3 nights. Because we are such good people, we managed to stay 4 nights. Told you we were living the life!

We thought it would be cool to go inside and play some slots – something we don’t normally do. By signing up for the players club we got $10 worth of play for a $5 investment. The ‘excitement’ of being in a casino got old very quickly. Seems that we don’t like the constant smell of smoke and the rather depressing looking clientele. Shocking, I know! But I ended up making a $1 and Kelly just about broke even.

We even ended up seeing a not so entertaining comedy show one night. See, we were trying to enjoy the setting! But in the end it was a casino – not a happy place for either of us.

While staying at 7 Cedars, we did make a run up to Hurricane Ridge to check it out. Of course it was a bitterly cold day up at over 5,000 feet, with the wind howling and the clouds not letting the sun peek through. No pictures were taken. Yeah, it was that ‘exciting’ up there on the day we picked to go.

Kelly was going to be departing in another direction after this stop, but before she left I wanted her to see one of my favorite Washington coastal towns – Port Townsend. We spent the afternoon walking around and soaking up the atmosphere. Port Townsend is one of those places that both looks good on paper and lives up to its hype. It was also my next destination.

Before we headed our separate ways, we did a quick trip out to Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, where we wandered out the spit quite a ways and enjoyed the solitude of the place. It’s amazing how good for the soul it is to spend a bit of time by the water, just being.

Evergreen Coho SKP Park – Chimacum, Washington

Kelly had travel plans that didn’t include me for the foreseeable future, so we departed ways and won’t see each other until 2018. It’s always hard going separate ways with someone that is so easy to travel with and enjoyable to be around, but this wasn’t the first time we headed our own separate ways, and probably won’t be the last. Such is this nomadic life we lead.

I wanted to spend more time in the Port Townsend area, and there aren’t any free camping options in the immediate vicinity. So I did something I hadn’t done in well over a year. I paid for a campground. AKA, I was reminded how much I love to boondock and how little I like campgrounds. Especially ones I have to pay for. Ones with rules. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I chose to stay at the Evergreen Coho SKP Park, which is an Escapees Co-Op Park This means it’s affiliate with the Escapees RV Club and you have to be an Escapees member to stay. This is the only reason why I decided to break my boondocking streak and pay for a place to stay. I figured it would be as quiet of an RV park as one could possibly stay at since it is both a 55+ park, and you have to meet certain requirements to stay there. And it was quiet. But still, ugh!

photo

NOT my happy place! But hey, at least I wasn’t ‘on top’ of my neighbor.

This stop broke my 590 night streak of not paying to camp. It also had been well over 2 years since I’d stayed in a commercial RV park, so I think I’ve been doing pretty well.I ended up staying in the dry camping section of the park, where it cost me a whopping $38.85 for 7 nights.

I ended up staying just 5 cuz that’s all I could take of a commercial RV park. For real.Rules. They have rules. I don’t like rules. Rules don’t make me happy. Camping in a van down by the river makes me happy. Camping in a gravel lot where there are rules doesn’t make me happy. But hey, I played the game and signed up for my allocated time to use the laundry room. Yeah, those kinds of rules. 🙄

Enough about depressing RV parks. Let’s toast to it being another 2+ years before I stay in one and then let’s move to bigger and better things.Port Townsend. I fell in love with this place two years back when I stayed a few nights because of the rave reviews good friends had given it. I needed more Port Townsend in my life, so I spent some time up there while staying at the RV park.

I really do like the place. There is definitely something about it. It’s fitting that Port Townsend ended up being my last stop in Washington. I enjoyed working from a quaint coffee shop on the water, strolling along the waterfront, and exploring nearby Fort Worden.

While at Fort Worden I stumbled upon the Port Townsend Bay Kinetic Sculpture Race. Yeah, I’d never heard of such a thing either, but I was intrigued. So much so that I witnessed both the start and the finish of the event ending parade. Such a Port Townsend event. I loved it!

My last night in town had me visiting with my cousin once more before I left the area to return who knows when.

Even though I was born and raised in Western Washington, I haven’t lived there for a couple of decades so I had forgotten what it was like this time of the year. After spending 22 nights there, I was reminded how miserable of a place it is to live. Everything was wet, damp, and generally unpleasant. The moisture made the cold very biting, and any wind cut through you making it very uncomfortable.

I was over the dampness. I was ready to leave. I had paid for an additional 2 nights at the RV park but I was over it. I also needed to stay put for a while. To catch my breath from a very social 2017. To get some stuff done. To drop off the radar until I’m ready to resurface.

A last minute decision had me driving through rain, sleet and snow to head to warmer weather as quickly as I could.

1553 miles in 2 days found me a world away from the dampness that is Washington. To the place I’ve been ever since. To my current undisclosed location where I’ll finish out the year.

4 thoughts on “Exploring Washington’s Olympic Peninsula

  1. Glad to see you are still posting here! I was wondering how you are doing and thinking about you when I thought I’d check here. Sending you lots of love. Enjoy your posts. ❤️

    Like

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