Just one more thing, Washington State

When I was in Olympic National Park I was getting nervous about how much of the country I had to cover before hitting the east coast. I had spent a good week already going straight north through California, Oregon, and Washington. I did not want to short-change the trip east. The country I had to cover looked pretty large.

I also made a mistake in booking the hotel inside Olympic National Park. I meant to reserve a hotel room in the center of the park, but instead I reserved an RV hookup. Whoops! I didn’t realize this until I drove around the wiggly edges of the park all night through dense fog and arrived at 7am, exhausted. All rooms were booked. My disappointment was almost as bad as my exhaustion. I wanted to take a shower and sleep in the worst way. That is when I developed my second rule of the road trip (first rule involved no hiking with the hood up): don’t drive more than 8 hours in a row, ever.

The guy at the desk took pity on me and tried to book me in the nearest nice hotel, but that was also fully booked, so he booked me at the Hungry Bear Cafe, Motel & RV Park an hour away. It turned out to be very cozy and cute. Each room was its own self-contained cottage. Very reasonably priced. Aside from the hour drive, which I obviously wasn’t keen on, the motel was just grand. I’d stay there again.

Key part of this story is that they lady that ran the motel/diner insisted that I see the very far northwestern point of the peninsula, Cape Flattery, before I head east. I was a little concerned that I would not have time, but there was something terrifically charming about this grandmotherly lady who ran the diner like a champ and gave me inside information about the best local places to see.

“Oh you’ll love it! I know you will!”

So off I went, driving several hours even further west. And… sure enough. First there’s this:

Olympic National Park rainforest

A super-lush gentle forest with an adorable little path goes on for a maybe one or two miles. WHERE DO THEY KEEP THE HOBBITS? Adorable. Just adorable.

Then there’s this:

Whales! Seals! Water fowl! Some kind of… HAWK!

So thank you lady, that was a good find. In terms of ease of hiking, while other parts of the park might be a little more strenuous, this is gentle for all ages and quite picture-book-esque.

Cape Flattery was the farthest northwestern point of the U.S. excluding Alaska. On the way back I was so far north that my cellphone beeped “WELCOME ABROAD!” with instructions for how to dial back into the United States. I had to call AT&T and instruct them to lock off Canadian cell towers. I definitely recommend July as the time of year. I was comfortable in a light jacket. As I got closer to the coast, a thicker jacket.

In terms of booking rooms, my sense is that you need more than a week in advance to get something inside the park for prime-time July. I had no trouble finding something on the edge of the park (such as the Hungry Bear place). Since I was doing a road trip I had to wing it a bit, but under other conditions you might want to plan it out more.

Olympic National Park

Where are the gnomes

It is hard to describe how unbelievably hobbit-like Olympic National Park is in July.

Olympic National Park in July

The thick verdant nature of everything is really hard to capture on camera. I was lucky it wasn’t raining. Everything was covered in moss. Electric poles: moss. Electric lines: moss. Everything: moss. I could imagine houses get quite dingy if you don’t keep them dry. I would not want to live here, I think I’d feel damp too much of the year, but it was quite resplendent mid-July.

It was also not very busy. I hiked Quinault Rain Forest. I must have been happily marching along for two hours by myself without hearing a soul in the world, lah lah, my head meandering about how nice the green stuff is and whether I’ll see an elk, when all of a sudden some dude briskly walks past saying EXCUSE ME. I also had my hood up to keep the bugs off, so I really didn’t hear him coming. Sheesh I nearly had a heart attack. After that I stopped hiking with my hood up.