Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Adventuring in the "Other" Washington

From Olympic NP and Guemes/Fidalgo/Whidbey, October 2008
Last week I decided I would make the most out of a meeting I had to attend in Redmond, WA, by bookending work time with vacation time.  First stop: Olympic National Park.  I flew into SeaTac airport on Saturday afternoon, picked up my thrilling Hyundai Sonata rental, and drove the roughly 2.5 hours out to Port Angeles.  I made it just in time to pick out my site at the Heart O' the Hills campground and set up my tent.  Heart O' the Hills is located just inside the park entrance and in an low-elevation rain forest.  The place was beautiful:

...but there was one enormous problem that hadn't occurred to me: wood.  I had been planning to gather wood from around the camp (which you can do in the off-season), but the thing about rain forests is that they, and everything in them, are wet.  That was a bit of a set-back.  The first evening, therefore, I spent about an hour wandering around trying to find the least wet sticks and branches there were laying around.  I skipped a warm dinner and a fire that first night because I wasn't confident I had enough wood yet, plus it was already dark and I was tired.  

The next morning I woke up (surprisingly late! My new sleeping pad was comfy) and drove up to the visitor's center at Hurricane Ridge.  Wow, what a difference from the campground!  All the way up the mountain it was warm, dry, and crystal clear (my dad says this is called an inversion).  Not exactly what I had expected from the famously wet Washington.  I found an interesting-looking trail that ran from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor's Center along the Klahhane Ridge for almost 4 miles and took off for a stroll.  The four miles out took me almost two and a half hours, although for the most part it was not at all strenuous until I hit the switchbacks at the end.  Beautiful views and terrain the entire way (see picture at the top, which was taken at the summit).  The only downside was that it was rather a warm day (in the 70's) and the trail was a bit more popular than I would have liked.  Nevertheless, super fun.  The hike back took less than two hours, and I was happy to find on my drive down that I had sewing-machine legs.  Must have been a half decent workout.  When I got back to my campsite, I went straight to work collecting more half-rotten, half-soaked sticks from the surrounding woods.  My paranoia levels were high.  This was the moment of truth.  If I went without dinner again, after 11 miles of hiking (including the three I took through the rain forest after the Klahhane Ridge hike), I would be unbelievably miserable.  And pride would of course make going into Port Angeles for dinner a complete non-option.  I pulled out the copy of the Express I had brought all the way from DC, arranged a few pieces of kindling, and strategically inserted a few choice firestarters that I suspected would make all the difference.  After about 5-7 minutes of smoking, dying, adding more paper, smoking more, and just generally looking like a complete and utter failure, the fire finally took off.  The firestarters must have managed to dry out a couple pieces of wood just enough to allow them to catch on fire.  Score!  I quickly poured some water into my pot and set it on the grill to boil.  My proudest moment of the trip:

Dinner was mine, and it was good.

The next day, Monday, I took off for my hotel in Bellevue.  In typical Alexandra let's-try-something-new fashion, I picked a route that would take me via ferry over to Seattle.  I've been on ferries many times as a kid, but experiencing one as an adult was downright thrilling.  Driving on, parking the car, walking all over the deck (it helped that the weather was amazing) - it was all a blast.  I took the ferry from Kingston to Edmonds, then drove done to Bellevue without incident.  Voila.

Work took up the rest of the week, but on Friday afternoon I was off for more adventuring; this time to the north.  My first stop was Anacortes, where I grabbed a delicious salad at the fabulous Adrift restaurant, then picked up some yummy skeins of yarn at Ana-Cross Stitch.  Eventually I made my way over to the Guemes Island ferry terminal and got in line.  This was my second ferry ride of the trip, but it couldn't have been more different from the Kingston-Edmonds leg. The Guemes Island ferry is just a little platform for about 20 cars and a tiny cabin for the walk-on passengers.  You couldn't even get out of your car.  But on the other hand it was a very short trip - less than 5 minutes if you don't count the loading and unloading of the cars, which takes more like 15.  The weather was drizzly, but I decided I needed to see a bit of Guemes before heading over to my lodging for the evening.  I took off north, looped around to the west and then south, then went east.  I think managed to pretty much hit every non-private road on the island.
Finally I made my way over to my home for the night: Deb and Dave's.  Deb and Dave are a fabulous Guemes Island couple who have converted a horse arena and stable into a house.  Needless to say it's enormous and a little bit strange.  The garage, which used to be the arena, is gargantuan.  The stables are now used for storage (and, in one case, a hot tub).  A former tack room is now a bedroom, the old horse wash is now the laundry room, etc etc and the list goes on.  It's a fascinating work in progress.  Deb and Dave also make their own biodiesel from the local store's french-fry oil and have an incredibly impressive water reclamation system that takes water from their large roof and stores it in drums for their daily use (apparently much better than the insufferable well water they would otherwise use).  Breathtaking, all of it.

The next morning Deb and Dave left early for a trip of their own, and I headed off for a day of slow meandering down the length of Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands.  Connecting the two islands is a fabulous bridge over a narrow pass called Deception Pass.
Beautiful.  And the weather was actually cooperating all that morning, go figure.

I had lunch in a wonderful cafe in Oak Harbor called Angelo's, then made my way as slowly as I could down to Clinton to catch the ferry to Mukilteo.  I made stops at Fort Ebey State Park and the Whidbey Island Winery to smell the roses, as it were.  And after one last ferry ride through cool grey drizzle and a quick jaunt down to my airport hotel, my great PNW journey came to an end.

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