Seattle to San Diego Road Trip: Washington (part 1 of 3)

We’ve all seen this photo of Seattle. But what if you got on this boat with your car, crossed the water, and drove the entire west coast of the US??? We did just that and it was a blast. Follow me to see what we saw…

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car ferry departing Seattle for Bainbridge Island and the open road! (photo courtesy of rebels-by-bus.net)

The car ferry to Bainbridge Island is a lovely, 30-minute ride.

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Public dock where the car ferry arrives from Seattle onto Bainbridge Island…exhale! (photo courtesy of Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce)

Drive from the Bainbridge Island ferry dock, along the north coast of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, through travel-poster scenes of dense forests shooting up tall mountains, surrounding big lakes. Watch the sights change from big city Seattle, to kids on sailboats, to people-less mountain scenes, then beaches and dense rain forests.

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The Olympic Peninsula looks this good in real life! (photo courtesy of Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau)

After four hours driving through stunning scenes, you will arrive at Kalaloch Lodge, near Forks, Washington in Olympic National Park. While the lodge is not glamorous, it is clean AND its location is spectacular!

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Kalaloch Lodge (photo courtesy of Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau)

Our room at Kalaloch Lodge had big picture windows looking onto this beach…60 miles of undeveloped shoreline!

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Kalaloch Lodge sits on the bluff to the left (photo courtesy of Kalaloch Lodge)

What is all that mess on the beach, you wonder? And why don’t they clean it up? These “logs” are 100′ long tree trunks that have been undercut by swollen rivers up in the mountains just behind this beach. The trees fall into the river, which delivers them onto the beach, where they protect the land from eroding. More “driftwood” here than anyplace in the world!

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The long-pine tree trunks littering the beach are called “bleached bones.”

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This river flows from the mountains behind this photo to the beach. You can see one of Kalaloch Lodge’s cabins on the left. (photo courtesy of Kalaloch Lodge)

Visit nearby Beach Number 4 (surely, the Park Service could have come up with a better name?!) to see the huge rocks on the beach into which Mother Nature has carved little tide pools (below), which support incredible diversity of life, especially starfish and anemones . Bonus: no other people on this beach, despite its dramatic beauty!

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When the tide goes out, these tide pools become exposed. Can you see the anemones in this one?

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These lime-green “sunflowers” are anemones: “Waiting patiently to capture food, sea anemones wave flower-like tentacles filled with stinging cells. Any organic matter delivered by the ocean will do, dead or alive. Their tentacles stuff captured food into a central mouth…Because anemones can reproduce by cloning, over time one anemone can produce an entire colony of itself.” (from Olympic National Park brochure) Thanks goodness people can’t clone themselves!

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“By pumping seawater through its vascular system to the tips of its tube feet, a sea star creates suction to grip mussel and barnacle shells. The sea star tries to pull the creature open; the shellfish struggles to remain closed. With enough time, the sea star usually wins. Ochre sea stars–in both orange and purple color phases–are the most abundant sea stars on this coast,  but there are many other species, ranging from delicate brittle stars to two-foot wide sunflower stars.” (from Olympic National Park brochure) Magnifique!

Visit spectacular Ruby Beach (near Kalaloch Lodge) to learn about the sea stacks, “drowned reminders of a time when the coastline was likely 30 miles further west…Tall sea stacks, often inhabited by nesting seabirds and topped by wind-sheared trees, dot the Pacific coast of the north Olympic Peninsula.” (per Olympic Peninsula Park brochure)

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Ruby Beach’s sea stacks and “bleached bones” (photo courtesy of Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau)

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This is you, walking along Ruby Beach.

After your beach walking jaunt, go inland to hike the short Hoh Rain Forest Moss Trail: it is otherworldly. Phrases from “Evangeline” kept wafting through my mind: “This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, bearded with moss, and in garments green …”

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Upper Hoh Road near the Hoh Rain Forest (photo courtesy of Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau)

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Hoh Rain Forest Moss Trail (photo courtesy of Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau)

The moss trail provides soft, squishy, quiet, peaceful walking. Twelve feet of rain falls here each year, hence the green greens and moss-covered trees.

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(photo courtesy of Kalaloch Lodge)

“Although only 0.8 miles long, the Hall of Moss Trail landscape epitomizes the rainforest ecosystem…Here, old-growth Sitka spruce reach heights of up 250 feet, and western hemlocks dominate the forest canopy. The forest floor is blanketed in soft mosses and countless ferns, and bigleaf maples droop with the weight of soggy epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants). ” (per the Olympic National Park brochure)

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sunset from Kalaloch Lodge

We left the lovely Kalaloch beach and drove inland to the forest-surrounded Lake Quinault, also in Olympic National Park. The Quinault Valley’s six champion conifer trees are the largest living specimens of their species; only the Redwoods and Sequoias are taller.

The place to stay here is the Quinault Lodge, where the Nature Conservancy was meeting for a retreat when we were there, so you KNOW the location is beautiful.

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Classic! (photo courtesy of Quinault Lodge)

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Note the American Indian motif going up the chimney (photo courtesy of Quinault Lodge)

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Quinault Lodge has a big fireplace in its old-timey lobby with good views of the lake. (photo courtesy of Quinault Lodge)

Take a hike through the Quinault Rain Forest to see the  world’s largest Sitka spruce tree: 55’7″ in circumference and 191′ tall!

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TIP: On our drive from Quinault towards Oregon, we took a detour to explore Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula. Don’t do this. LBP is 28 miles of depressed, unattractively developed land.

Next stop: Oregon! 

Stay tuned for post #2 of 3 covering the road trip from Seattle to San Diego.

2 thoughts on “Seattle to San Diego Road Trip: Washington (part 1 of 3)

  1. You are making me want to do this trip. In fact planning to do San Fran to San Diego next may after the gca annual meeting in San Fran so looking forward to next installment Hope you are having a great summer though did hear the heat is a bit much. But then again you are on the road or on the eastern shore. Wonderful ways to find relief. Xxo

    Lucy Rhame 571-225-1228

    >

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