Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start your Generators + Olympic National Forest: Oct 4

The beach is priceless, but when camp rules require generators be turned off from 10 pm to 8 am, you can count on a not-so-low hum cancelling out the crashing Pacific waves with your morning coffee.

Art calls it Motorhome Suburbia. People retreat inside at night and don't come out again until well into the next day. Look, I understand there's a pecking order everywhere. It's doubtful most tent campers look kindly on our shrieking Ford 460 start-up shaking the very ground in the morning solitude, but there we have it. To each her own.

The generators drive us away early.

This morning we follow the tsunami evacuation route east on smaller roads via the Humptulips River to meet up with 101 again. It's utterly beautiful.

We pull into Kalaloch campsite, another gloriously situated on the Pacific. Every water site is taken, and we agree we need to position ourselves closer to Port Angeles, from where we'll take the ferry tomorrow. Still, it's tough to leave the beach.

A stop in Forks, WA, is in order to use the library's wi-fi to reserve our cottage in Sooke, BC, on Vancouver Island. The librarians there (like virtually all librarians I've ever met) are friendly, helpful, and welcoming. I see Twilight-related signs everywhere and (duh) figure out the story/film must be set here. It was, and it's washing a nice economic wave over this tiny town.

We're soon back on the road heading for a campsite on Lake Crescent, on the margins of the Olympic National Forest.

But they've shut down the lakefront campsites for the season, and as beautiful as these ferny environs are, we elect to backtrack a mile or so to a different campground.

The ranger greets us at the entryway to the Sol Duc campground and hot springs, 12.5 miles past this main gate. He was cute but quiet, with little to say about the camp ahead. We decide to go for it.

It's a long and winding road (no link to Paul) to Sol Duc...

...but so worth the ride. Here's our route today in pink (click to enlarge). You can see Port Angeles and the dotted ferry route across to Vancouver Island. We're not sleeping far from our 1 pm tomorrow on-dock date.

As usual, I have to take multiple photos to try to share with you the magnitude of these trees, the dwarfed sensation one feels when walking in this rain forest. This site sits on a rushing river.

Here's the campground host (hosts stay free for the season in exchange for cleaning and keeping order). Re the latter, this man says he'd rather see people "our age" coming than the youngsters, who hoot and holler and generally tear the place up.

How about that nifty little electric car they give him to travel the loops of the grounds? He tells us: it's made by Chrysler, what more can I say? It tips over easily, is hard to get into first gear, and sometimes doesn't charge. Alrighty then.

We get set up (you know the drill by now) on our up-down site, truck and camper about 20 feet higher than the grill, table, and river.

Here's a nearby sign (click to enlarge) about fetal salmon:

We decide to walk the half mile to the hot springs without our gear...just to check it out. The path is studded with gorgeous forms.

The river and mountain backdrop emerge as we near the springs.

And then we're there, a very different place than the hot springs at the Bonneville Campsite in Idaho. This one is far more organized, reminding me a little of La Gruta that Carolina took PK and me to near San Miguel de Allende in Mexico...only not nearly as nice

When I see how this place looked 100 years ago, I realize I've arrived a century too late. Turns out the place burned down after just four years of operation. Still, can't you envision yourself staying in this grand lodge and taking the waters?

We buy some wood at the concession and start back.

Back at camp, Art does some splitting and sends me foraging for other campers' leftover firewood (he can never have enough).

Walking the other sites, I feel as though I'm in the land that time forgot.

Enormous downed logs with mossy surfaces and ferns everywhere.

Back at the ranch, it's time for cocktails and dinner.

Art gets the fire going to cooking temp...

And I assemble the components of our meal: grassfed beef from the Oregon farmers market with green beans and broccoli + bleu cheese.

Where are you, Susan and Wolfgang? There's more than enough to share.
Tomorrow the ferry to Vancouver Island. For tonight, a $7 camp fee gives us access to an extraordinary natural world.

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