Olympic peninsula: part II

March 22, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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When Dad and Sylvia visited, we took a day to check out the Olympic peninsula. Since we knew the rain forest was too far a drive for a single day trip — Mom and I learned that the hard way back in November — we decided to limit ourselves to the famed Hurricane Ridge and Dungeness Spit which are north of Olympic National Park. So we departed comfortably early — 10ish? — boarded the car ferry to Bainbridge Island (across Elliot Bay from Seattle), and drove about 90 minutes to the entrance to Hurricane Ridge.

This was just after the ferry departed Seattle and was facing the Olympics to the west. Fun fact: the Olympic mountains are named for Mount Olympus, which is the highest peak in the range.

When Mom and I attempted to visit Hurricane Ridge, the road up the mountain was closed due to icy conditions. With the toasty 45-degree weather in February, however, we thought we would surely be fine. And, in fact, that very morning I checked the National Parks Service website and made certain that it was open that day. So you can imagine our surprise when the friendly park ranger told us that nobody is allowed up to the ridge unless their car has snow chains on! Apparently the weather up there is so volatile that snow storms can appear in the 45 minutes it takes to get to the top, so chains are required until well until the spring — no matter how dry the road is. As we considered our options, the ranger helpfully gave us a pre-made list of all the stores in town that sell snow chains as well as their phone numbers. Hilariously, it also included the stores’ return policies! I guess every auto-parts store in town does quite a booming snow-chain-rental business.

Lake Crescent looking calm and serene

Unfortunately, we didn’t really have time to mess with the chains. We were going to have exactly enough time to do Hurricane Ridge and the spit without any extra delays, and adding the whole chain procedure would have put at least another hour on our schedule. So instead we headed over to Lake Crescent — which I always want to call “Crescent Lake” — which is a stunning glacier-carved lake in the middle of the Olympics. The drive out was beautiful, and I guess we’ll just have to see Hurricane Ridge some other time.

The highway along Lake Crescent

Next we drove over to Dungeness Spit. A spit is a landform whose creation is sort of hard to describe — I tried and failed to find an animation that I could use to demonstrate it here — but it looks like a very long and thin peninsula of sand that sticks off the end of a beach. This spit is the longest natural spit in the US at 5.5 miles, and I don’t think it could be more than 100 feet wide. The town of Sequim (pronounced “squim,” the locals told us) is home to Dungeness spit, and it’s a pretty spectacular-looking place. (Uncoincidentally, Sequim is also home to an annual Dungeness crab festival.)

The coast near Dungeness Spit

After that we headed home since it was getting dark and the parks were closing. That drive back east from the Olympics is always a little tiring: it’s 90 minutes of uninteresting darkness followed by a sleepy 25-minute boat ride. Doing it again with Dad and Sylvia (after doing it with Mom) made me realize that I will probably become very knowledgeable about this area in not that much time. I learn new stuff whenever somebody comes to visit, and that’s certainly an impressive place to show people. I suspect it won’t be long before I know which gas stations have the cheapest gas and the nicest restrooms — as I did on the frequent drives between Austin and Houston. But it’s really quite beautiful, so I definitely don’t mind going out there over and over again. =)

The spit itself

A seagull near Dungeness Spit who's ignoring the fantastic view and instead looking at me. Stupid bird.

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