Olympic Peninsula, Washington

... we left off with our Innocent Heroine just finishing up a 200 mile bike ride and returning home around 12:30 AM via bus. She woke up the next morning, packed her car full of camping gear, picked up her bike downtown from the bus pick up (separate pick ups!) and then... proceeded to the ferry for an adventure.

Qbert questions why he's being pulled out of bed and put on a ferry

  To the left is Qbert, who was my traveling companion since I seem to be in this phase of my life where I don't have friends and travel alone and sometimes when I want someone to talk to, I talk to this little penguin with a frog hat on. I could devote an entire post to Qbert, who likes to sleep in and throws fits when he doesn't get his way, but that's a different trip down Lo's mental highway.

Wildflowers, Oceans... 
   Anyways, Qbert and I had a plan - we wanted to see the Olympic Peninsula. The farthest I had gone previously was Port Angeles (re: not far). I wanted to see the rocky beaches, walk in the rain forest, see the mountains, and go to Forks (the town in Twilight, sorry Forks).

The first stop was a quick one, just to see the beach outside of Sequim (pronouced Sqim, like Squirm without the m. I know, it makes no sense). I sat on the grass in a small park and just hung out for a bit with the seagulls, eating my loaf of bread with some butter (I forgot to mention that... all I brought with me was two loaves of bread and butter and ramen noodles. This is relevant.) The goal was to relax, to enjoy, and to find new places I hadn't been before.

Qbert and I at Cape Flattery

Back into the car, I drove along the coast taking the winding path along the coast. Up and down the mountains, I had the windows down and sang folk songs while driving through fields of wild flowers and heavy forests, occasionally getting glimpses of the ocean.  I had no cell service the whole way. It was a spectacular drive -- the goal was to make it to Neah Bay. However, when I did, I realized Neah Bay wasn't really a town... it was a bunch of B and B's outside of the Makah Reservation, where lies the most Northwest corner of the continental United States (Cape Flattery) and the Shi Shi Beach trail.

The little explorer
The Makah Reservation had an interesting setup. The Makah have a tiny reservation, really, but it is some of the most beautiful land you can find on the Olympic Peninsula. They decided to open it to visitors, but to enter the reservation, you have to pay an entrance fee. From there, you can enjoy the two parks they have on the reservation. First, I went to the Cape Flattery, which was a steep trail down the sandstone cliffs to a small outcropping where you can look out to the San Juan Islands and the open ocean.

What I loved most about this trail was the consideration put in... on the way down, there were all these random benches along the side and I was kind of struck by the, um, lack of accessibility (it was steep in some places and not an easy trail). But on the way up... the benches made sense. They were placed at points where I was just starting to feel fatigued, and I could see where if I was older a bench would be an awesome. This trail was meant to be used by all ages but matched a different sort of 'accessibility' standard than I was used to from National Parks (food for thought!).

Pretty perfect, right? 
The next stop was the Shi Shi Beach trail, a popular camping spot for young folks. This would typically include yours truly, but I figured I would 'scope out the beach first and then come back'. False, it ended up being a 2 mile trail with a pretty steep drop at the end... I would have been very much hiking in the dark to go there-back-and there again. The beach was beautiful though - remote, quite and stretching for miles upon miles along the shore. I saw seals playing in the waves and a couple playing baseball with a stick and a tumble weed on the shore.

After playing on the beach for a bit, I hiked back, checked out the sunset, found a place to camp for the night (a field!), ate some ramen, made a friend and talked about life for a bit (a software engineer from Portland on a similar pilgrimage as mine but in the opposite direction), pitched my tent, and slept for 6 hours. I woke up at 5 intent to have breakfast in Forks before checking out the Hoh rainforest.

Forks was... disappointing. There were no cute breakfast diners that weren't 'highly discouraged' by yelp. Instead, starving (remember, all I've had after my 200 mile bike ride on Saturday thus far is bread, butter, and ramen), I found a coffee shop and had... a bagel and coffee. Not quite what I was hoping for but... on to Hoh Rain forest!

Look at that aquamarine water <3 
The rain forest was incredible. It's a simple National Park and largely consists of one massive trail (like 26 miles one way) along the Hoh River. I caught it on probably one of fifty clear and sunny days of year, walking through this beautiful jungle of ferns, evergreens, maple trees, and just life everywhere. I walked for several hours before my stomach forbade me to continue further. On the return, I saw a crowd of people all stopped on the trail looking into the woods. In my head (telepathically to Qbert): "Oh, this must be a bear". Lo and behold, it was, a momma bear and her klutzy little baby bear walking on a log minding their own business. Unlike the bear experience with Buff Chris, this was the tamest and most non-aggressive bear encounter I've ever had. They just wanted to mind their own business and couldn't care what we did. Fine with me!

Ruby beach, look at that weather change! 
All good things must come to and end, so I left Hoh and continued in search of non-carb food (tempeh...). Alas, the southwest side of the Olympic peninsula seems to only contain beautiful beaches and reservations with beautiful  forests. Drifting to the south side of the peninsula, the weather changed dramatically, becoming overcast and dropping 20 F.  My stomach let me stop at one more beach - Ruby beach. It was totally worth it. There were little tidal pools sprinkled throughout the beach, and it was peaceful to walk in the typical 'Northwest' weather state (where's my rain jacket...).
Starfish buddies :) 

At this point the rest is less exciting. My bread supplies were gone, my butter was rancid, my ramen was depleted, and we're looking at about a 10k caloric deficit that had not been abated. After several more hours of driving and the return of sunshine, I made it to the capital of Washington (Olympia, not Seattle. That's not a trick question!!). I ate the biggest burrito I could find, and continued back to home, arriving at about 9 PM after an incredible 36ish hour adventure. I then slept 12 hours and ate my body weight in doughnuts the next day. A happy ending to an fantastically spurious trip.

Note on traveling alone: it's a good thing sometimes. I was able to work out a lot of things going on in my head, and it can be great just to be on your own self-defined travel schedule. Poor Nadine remembers what it can be like to travel with me (5 AM starts!). I'd obviously prefer company, but I can't imagine doing this trip at that point in my life with anyone... it was good just to have me (and Qbert, who is like the whiney, stuffed penguin version of me). Don't let being by yourself stop you from doing things you've wanted to do. Bring a book and a stuffed penguin -- you'll find your way :)

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