The Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park in western Washington has a little bit of everything. Glacier capped mountains, rugged ocean coastline along the Pacific, calmer oyster-filled coastline along the Hood Canal, and stunning old-growth rainforests. We spent nearly two weeks on the peninsula and got to experience first-hand everything except the mountains, which we only ever saw off in the distance. Little known fact: Olympic National Park is the only place where the Greek Gods are still allowed to visit the U.S.
Map of Olympic Peninsula (Olympic National Park in Green)
Hood Canal on the East
We actually made two separate trips to the peninsula. Our first visit started in the northeast where we landed in Port Townsend on the ferry from Whidbey Island during our attempt to make it down to Mt. Rainier (see the previous Vicaribupdate to see why it was only an attempt). We spent two nights on the banks of the Hood Canal while we were working our way down.
Oysters and clams are the name of the game in this area, with one of our camp spots (Seal Rock Campground) providing the opportunity to harvest you own oysters right out in front of your campground. We did not participate since we didn’t have the tools or know-how to do so. We did, however, stop at the famous Hama Hama Oyster Saloon and honestly came away a bit disappointed.
Other highlights of our time on this side included a big ol’ Bald Eagle hanging out above our camp spot and some friendly Czech tourists who recognized our bus from a Czech news website article about us. We are world famous! They invited us over for wine that night, but we were too slow in getting over to their spot and they had already bedded down for the night. We felt a bit guilty about that.
Bald Eagle at Seal Rock Campground
Hanging with the Bus Buccaneers on the Northern Peninsula
Our second, and much longer visit to the peninsula started when we returned after our breakdown and brief stay in Seattle. On our drive in we met another skoolie couple from the area (the Bus Buccaneers) that we made friends with in Idaho at Fat Smitty’s near Discovery Bay and then spent the next few days hanging out, caravaning, and exploring the area together. We had a great time hanging out with Josh, Katie and their tiny 120-lb mastiff named Blanch, and covered a lot of ground.
Bus buddies at Fat Smitty’s
After eating some giant burgers, we made our way as a two-skoolie caravan to the Elwha Dam RV Park which acted as our base of operations for the next few days. The RV park, which sported some pretty unique features, was just outside of Port Angeles, the biggest town on the peninsula, and is run by an pretty rad family who were very understanding about me breaking all of their things with the bus. (A fancy solar light and a tree that I didn’t actually tell them about out of shame and embarrassment.)
We made field trips to three separate areas, with our first being Lake Crescent about an hour east of us. We all piled into Vicaribus and headed to the northeast shore of the lake to hike a bit of the Spruce Railroad Trail, which is an old railroad track converted into a lovely hiking path along the shore of the lake. We spent a couple hours hear and after some false-starts finally found the Devil’s Punchbowl, which was a cliff jumping spot with supposedly 160 feet of water below it. It was a beautiful warm sunny day and not a one of us had our bathing suits on to join the masses of daredevils at the punch bowl. We all experienced so much anxiety about this that we returned (with both buses) on our last day together just to do some swimming and jumping. We got there a bit late and the spot was in thee shade, but also everybody had left for the day so we had it to ourselves this time. It was a ton of fun and only slightly chilly.
Hiking Lake Crescent
Drone view of the Devil’s Punchbowl at Lake Crescent
We also spent a bit of time exploring the Elwha Dam area. The dam itself had been removed only a few years earlier and it was an easy hike from the campground to where it used to be. We headed over there for a photoshoot and then made our way down to where the river met the coast and hung out on the gorgeous beaches there for some sunset action.
Elwha Dam photoshoot
Our most unique field trip together was to the Olympic Game Farm, which is a drive-through wildlife exhibit where you throw whole wheat bread at elk, bison, bears and a variety of other animals. It was an interesting place to see two big ol’ buses cruising around.
Scarlett the Bus in Olympic Game Farm
Feeding the Elk form the bus
Feeding the bison from the bus
Vicaribus in the Olympic Game Farm
The are a lot more great Olympic Game Farm photos here!
The Hoh Rainforest on the western side of the interior section of the park was one of the parts I was most interested in visiting. We initially thought we would only stop in briefly on our way to the west coast, but ended up finding excellent, if not hot, weather, cell service, a fantastic river-front camping spot and more Instagram friends (Ane and Tommy) who volunteered to watch Miles while we hiked! With all of that, it was a no brainer to spend a couple nights there, and it ended up being one of my favorite spots so far.
We did a few of the hikes in the forest, which was filled with gorgeous mosses and absolutely ginormous trees. Even though it ended up being hot and dry and sunny while we were there, preventing us from getting the true rainy, misty forest experience, it was still quite a site to behold.
For the most part while we were there, we just hung out by the river at our site, over the river in hammocks, and in the river on foot or in a float. Several times a day a herd of Roosevelt Elk would even come out and play in the river just a couple hundred yards up from us.
Our hammock at our Hoh Campground spot
The Roosevelt Elk as viewed from our camp spot
Pacific Coast – La Push/Rialto, Kalaloch and Long Beach
We made three different stops as we worked out way down the Pacific side of the peninsula. First up was La Push where we had a fantastic water-front reservation for two nights at the Quileute Oceanside Resort. The black sand and rock beach is littered with HUMONGOUS old trees that have washed up over the years and is quite a site behold. The beach is also a very popular and excellent surfing spot, which made me jealous the whole time. I will likely be getting a board and wetsuit once we get back to the coast in Oregon so I don’t miss out anymore.
La Push Beach
Miles and a large log on the beach
Sea creatures in the Rialto tide pools.
Our next stop on the coast was the Kalaloch (pronounced Clay-Lock) area beaches. We made an afternoon out of a few different stops at Ruby Beach, Beach 4 and Kalaloch Campground and had lunch at the Kalaloch Lodge. Each of these beaches had a unique character of their own and would have been a great place to spend more than an afternoon if we had had the time.
The Tree of Life at Kalaloch
The final stop we made on the coast, and in Washington for that matter, was Long Beach at the very southern tip of the state. We spent two nights at the eclectic and historic Sou’wester Lodge and RV Park. At 28 miles long, Long Beach claims to be the longest beach in the world. The sands are dark and the beach is wide. We were in the fog pretty much the whole time we were there, but still made use of the excellent bike path running up and down the coast. We spent one afternoon exploring the views and lighthouses at Cape Disappointment.
Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment
You can see a ton more photos from the Olympic Peninsula here!
On to Oregon
This post wraps up our time in Washington, which we throughly enjoyed, even with the breakdown and constant hide-and-seek from the heat. We would gladly return. For now, we have moved on to Oregon for a month-or-so more of the Pacific Northwest, and much to our consternation… heat! Apparently we should have spent this summer in Canada or Alaska.
And here our latest stats, including two new ones! We will now include the number of days since Heather’s last in-bus injury and the number of days since I’ve driven off with the bus door still open, as these are frequent occurrences. Stats as of 8/16/18.