After a couple fabulous days in Seattle, we had jumped the Puget Sound and were on Hwy 101. We would essentially follow it for over 1,000 miles to San Francisco with lots of planned and unplanned stops along the way. Always make unplanned stops. Spontaneity really ramps up the travel experience.
First up…Olympic National Park. It’s an enormous and amazing national park and we took two days to tackle it. Just three hours west of Seattle was Hurricane Ridge. It’s a mountain road down into the middle of the park with brilliant views of the mountains and glaciers all around. You can even see Canada across the water to the north. We parked and hiked few a few hours. A worthwhile stop.
After Hurricane Ridge, and lunch, we continued on Hwy 101 west to the Sol Duc Valley. It is an old growth area of Olympic NP, and we took the Sol Duc Road deep into the forest to the Sol Duc Falls trailhead. The forest here is incredible. Tall and thick. Lord of The Ringish. We hiked to the falls, which cascades in three prongs into a scenic gorge.
But the best part was just wandering through the ancient forest, the kids climbing huge downed trees, ferns up to our waists.
It was our first view of huge trees and old growth…which I think just means so old that everything is massive.
After the Sol Duc Valley we stayed in a the Pacific Inn Motel in Forks, WA. Simple cheap motel, clean and old school. Staying in small town motels is part of the adventure. They usually involve a nice woman behind a desk happy to tell you where to get the best burger in town or where the market is. We had driven about 200 miles over the day, but since it was broken up with a ferry ride and lots of hiking it didn’t feel like it. Hwy 101 in Washington is really a nice drive. Only two lanes through mostly forest. We went hours without a town or gas station. Very scenic…we even stopped at Lake Crescent and splashed around in its nearly freezing water. It’s a super deep, super cold, super blue lake that was worth the brief stop.
We had enjoyed a full day driving Hwy 101 to Forks with plenty of hiking along the way. The next morning we woke, ate, and drove about an hour to the Hoh Rainforest. This part of the Olympic NP gets up to 14 FEET of precipitation a year. Everything is green and damp, moss hanging from tree branches. We spent hours hiking a couple trails but again…mostly just wandering through the woods.
After hiking the Hall of Mosses and the Spruce Nature Trail, we hiked along the Hoh River Trail and spent some time by the river. The Hoh River comes from glacial melt and is full of glacial sediment. It is pristine and the fine gray sediment along the river unique…almost like ash. We had such a peaceful time by the river, so far from people and civilization. It’s one of those moments that defines why I love hiking so much. To see this amazing river, so pure, so magnificent. The quiet broken only by the babbling water and birds singing. And to see my kids enjoying it and learning to love it too…
I recall not wanting to leave, but alas there was more to see. We returned to Hwy 101 and continued south. We made a stop at the Quinault Big Cedar Tree. Supposedly the largest red cedar in the world. It is close to 101 so an easy stop and short hike to the tree. Which is indeed enormous. And a huge chunk of it had recently broken off. We probably spent an hour just climbing and playing on this one tree. Of course at one point Hailey had climbed too high and couldn’t get down…
After the cedar stop we were back on Hwy 101. Our time in the Olympic National Forest was over. We had hit a lot of it and we all thought it was amazing. I would love love love to come back and backpack in the park some day. And even if I don’t make it, the kids love the park now and might return themselves.