Before our trip to Seattle last month we spent a long weekend in the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. We had visited the area exactly thirteen years before, on the labor day weekend of our first year of marriage. We had loved it then, and figured it was time to return.
We flew in a Saturday afternoon, and after getting a car (more about that in the next post), we headed to Port Townsend where we’d decided to stay the night. We all enjoyed taking the ferry ride, specially Mika for whom it was a new experience. She’d been on boats before, but probably too long ago for her to remember.
The drive to Port Townsend was pretty nice, so much rain makes for a very green scenery. The town itself is very pretty. Nested in a hilly site next to a harbor, Port Townsend bloomed almost overnight into a beautiful town sometime last century on news that the railways were coming to connect the town and the port with the rest of civilization. On news of the railway, there was a building boom in the town and many large and beautiful Victorian mansions were built, it’s fun to just drive through the town and look at the houses from the outside. Many of these have been converted to B&Bs, and they offer a cozy place to stay (with two little kids alone, we stayed at the Harborside Hotel instead). Downtown Port Townsend, on the lowest street by the water, has been converted into a swank shopping & dining district with boutiques, restaurants and tourist-directed shops. It’s quite pleasant to stroll through the whole area. The harbor itself is also pleasant, so in all it’s a good place where to stop for the night. For dinner, we went to the Surf Restaurant, which if nothing else was quite child friendly.
Our first stop on our second day of the trip (after driving around Port Townsend looking at the houses again) was Olympic Game Farm, a large facility where they keep and train wild animal for use in Hollywood movies. You can take a car tour of the park ($9pp) and see the animals, There are two kinds, deer, elk, llamas, bisons, etc. which roam free and will approach your car, and bears, rhinoceros, etc. which are behind electric fences. You can buy sliced bread at the gate ($2 a loaf) to give to the animals, while I have to wonder how good a sliced-bread diet is for wild animals, no one can argue with the fun factor of having the animals come to your car. Mika needless to say, loved it. While the bears are behind electric fences – and a close look at those incredibly long claws make it clear why – most of them are trained performers and have an amazing ability of catching bread thrown at them on mid-flight. Again, a great show for the kiddies.
Of course, in retrospect I’m not sure about the ethics of visiting that sort of place. As much fan as we had, I felt guilty about supporting an environment where wild animals are trained – in the case of wild cats & dogs, are confined to small cages – and eat so much bread. I don’t think I’d go again.
After the park both girls fell asleep, and our moto is that as long as they are sleeping, we won’t stop, so we were able to make it all the way to the Enchanted Forest at Olympic National Park. This forest, on the west side of the park, is the only temperate rain forest in the world. When we visited thirteen years before, the place had reminded us of a fairy tale forest, a place where at any moment you could run into a fairy or a leprechaun. Trees fall on the ground, and new trees grow from the fallen trunks, while moss hangs from evey available surface. It was truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. This time around, it was much less exciting. Apparently the forest is going through a dry spell (who knew a rain forest could be dried?) and the little moss hanging on the trees was pale brown rather than bright green, many fewer trees seemed to be growing on top of others. It was nice, but not nearly as beautiful as we remembered it. Mika, however, had a blast. She loved climbing the trees, hiding behind them and playing hide and seek and looking for leaves and other things (don’t worry, we didn’t let her remove anything). The forest is mostly stroller friendly, too, which helped with Camila.
We didn’t have a place to stay that night, and we decided to see how far we could make it. However, as we started to drive south, the sun started to fall and Mike wanted to stop somewhere to see the sunset at the beach. I suggested that we drive on to the Kalaloch Lodge, a resort located at the beach. When I’d check out their website online it seemed that it was sold-out (that tells you, don’t trust their website) but once we got there we found out they had a room, so we unpacked and headed to the beach. The beach in front of the hotel is beautiful, there is a lot of driftwood (large, white, dried trunks) which gives it kind of an eery feeling, and large rocks that make for tide pools full of sea life. Alas, the beach is very popular but large enough that you can find some degree of solitude. It was great to be there.
The next morning we took a free guided tour of the tidepools a few kilometers north of there, and while the tour guide left much to be desired in terms of knowledge and ability to present material, the tide pools were great. We saw dozens of star fish, anenomes, tube worms, razor clams and sea snails, and again, Mika had a blast. If you can afford it, it may be worth staying in this area for a couple of days.
After a big breakfast back at the lodge, we made our way back to Seattle – a long 5 hour drive. We took the southern route, so we got a quick view of the lake and of a couple of lumber towns before taking the hour long ferry ride to Seattle. The girls both cooperated by sleeping and generally being quiet (it wouldn’t happen now), so in all it was a pleasant drive.