Pacific Northwest: Waterfalls Day (April 29)

Waterfalls! Monday we ventured west from Port Angeles and back into Olympic National Park.

Our first stop was Lake Crescent where we crossed under Highway 101 to picked up the short, but very scenic trail to Marymere Falls. We saw our first Varied Thrush here, but got a better look at our next stop.

Crescent Lake
Looking back through the tunnel under Hwy 101 towards Crescent Lake

The trail through the rainforest to Marymere Falls

Along Barnes Creek, below Marymere Falls

The bridge across Barnes Creek

Marymere Falls

Barnes Creek

Abstract of Barnes Creek

At Sol Duc Falls we waited out a brief and blustery bit of snow at the higher elevation trailhead. It was so worth the wait! The lush rainforest hike opened up in just .8 of a mile to unbelieveable cascades over mossy green rocks and then the thundering Sol Duc. Five stars. 

Fresh snow near the Sol Duc Falls trailhead

Susan at the trailhead

The trail to Sol Duc Falls

Along the trail

The cascade on the way to the falls

Susan on the bridge by Sol Duc Falls 

Sol Duc Falls

Varied Thrush

Afterward we visited the Sol Duc Hot Springs and you can thank us later for excluding any photos of our soak. :-)

The road into Sol Duc Hot Springs

Our day ended with a nice dinner at Bella Italia, Lonely Planet's top pick in Port Angeles. The restaurant was mentioned in Twilight but fortunately didn't appear to be trying to cash in on that fame.

Waiting for dinner at Bella Italia :-)

Pacific Northwest: Port Angeles and Port Townsend (April 27-28)

A rainy weekend was a good excuse for some R&R after the Dungeness Spit hike.

A rainy day at the year-round Port Angeles Farmers Market

We picked up a few things at the local farmers market Saturday, then walked around the dock area of Port Angeles and got some information about the ferry to Victoria. 

Susan browses the market while local musicians play a bluegrass variant (bongos?)

Locally made artisanal cheese

In the afternoon we went out to Sequim and chatted with folks at the Dungeness River Audubon Center and especially enjoyed their bird specimen collection. Too drizzly for birding, we hope to go back for one of their morning bird walks.

Sunday we went out to Port Townsend and looked around briefly at Fort Worden State Park

Jefferson County Courthouse in Port Townsend

Susan at the Haller Fountain with Galatea statue and the Terrace Steps

We especially enjoyed walking around the historic downtown with its shops, galleries and eateries. 

Steampunk influence in downtown Port Townsend

Local bumper sticker humor

Another shot of Galatea and the Terrace Steps

After a nice lunch at Sirens Pub, we landed at the historic Rose Theatre where we saw 42 (the Jackie Robinson story). This was the first time we ever had theater staff personally introduce the movie!

The cozy interior of Sirens Pub

The historic Rose Theatre in Port Townsend

Pacific Northwest: Dungeness Spit & Lighthouse (April 26)

After a much needed day of rest, Friday we returned to Dungeness Spit, the longest natural sand spit in the US -- and still growing at a rate of 13 feet per year. Hiking eleven miles on flat terrain proved to be more challenging than expected, especially on the way back as the rising tide reclaimed much of the hard-packed sandy beach.

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The trail begins with a steep decline through the forest, including a couple of viewpoints overlooking the spit. Along this section we were warned to watch for Rough-skinned newts underfoot, as they are well camouflaged. Don't pick them up either because their skin contains a skin irritating toxin.

The spit is part of Dungeness NWR and the southern edge is off limits to protect critical bird habitat and nesting areas. The spine of the spit is scattered with massive driftwood logs which can be unsteady and dangerous at high tide. Not a concern today because we just happened to pick a day with one of the lowest tides (-1.4) of the month. When we peeked over the driftwood towards the off limits southern side, we often saw Bald Eagles, as many as eight at a time.

Our first view of the spit before dropping down to hike it. Lighthouse is 4 miles away at far right.

A pair of immature Bald Eagles on the driftwood

The rocky and driftwood-strewn beach along Dungeness Spit

A variety of birds were visible offshore including Surf Scoters, Harlequin Ducks, Common Loons, Common Mergansers, and Brandt Geese. We saw also saw a pair of seals on the way back.

Harlequin Duck

Common Merganser pair offshore

A pair of seals checking us out

A bit over halfway the spit takes a bend to the south and the New Dungeness Lighthouse comes into sight. The scene was striking from all angles as we approached, with the Olympic Mountains to the south and east, Mt. Baker to the west and Vancouver Island across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north.

The lighthouse with Mt Baker in the background

Our beautiful lunch spot at the lighthouse

Golden-crowned Sparrow, a new bird for us

Lighthouse keepers house

Pano view mostly south and west from top of lighthouse

Friendly volunteer keepers welcomed us and guided up to the top of the light after our picnic table lunch on the grassy lawn. The keeper duties are primarily light maintenance of the grounds and giving tours to the relatively few visitors willing to make the long trek out. We are intrigued by the idea of spending a week as keepers at this special place.

Pacific Northwest: Exploring the Peninsula (April 22-24)

From our cottage we have views of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca in the back and the snow-capped Olympic Mountain Range out the front.

View of the Olympic Range from our cottage

Strait of Juan de Fuca, looking Northeast

The mountains called louder our first day and after a stop at the Visitor Information Center, we headed up to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. A spectacular drive with knockout views under bluebird skies. It just doesn't get much better than this! Along the way we saw the Pacific or Taiga version of Gray Jays, and heard the subtle booming of Sooty Grouse in the forest.

Gray Jay on another photographer's camera

A viewpoint on the way to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park

Mt Baker, the Strait, and Dungeness Spit at center left

Pano of the view near Hurricane Ridge

Up top it was calm and pleasant, and even though the snow was slushy some folks were still skiing and boarding. Ten feet or so above the plowed road people were hiking or snowshoeing. How fantastic that we can reach this spot in just 45 minutes from our cottage!

Susan posing with a snowshoer above

After lunch at "home" we checked out nearby Ediz Hook in the Port Angeles harbor. Although part of the Olympic Discovery Trail, the area feels somewhat industrial with the Nippon Industries paper plant at the start and a Coast Guard unit at the end. Still families, cyclists, kayakers and picnicers were out enjoying the day all along the hook. We saw our first Brant geese, more Surf Scoters, Common Loons, and got a closeup look at some Eared Grebes while enjoying the views back to PA.

Port Angeles and the Olympic range, taken from Ediz Hook
Eared Grebe on the water near Ediz Hook

Curious about the Dungeness area, later in the afternoon we drove east toward Sequim (pronounced "skwim") to check it out. We walked Dungeness NWR trails along high golden cliffs with great views and learned about an all-day hike to the New Dungeness Lighthouse at the end of the spit.

The bluffs overlooking the Strait and Dungeness Spit

Tuesday morning brought more sunshine, so we seized the good weather opportunity and drove two hours out to the Hoh Rain Forest, part of Olympic National Park.

Lake Crescent, on the way to the Hoh Rain Forest

Susan in the obligatory entrance sign photo :-)

Everything in the rain forest is green and so lush

We spent the rest of the day soaking in the peace and quiet along the Spruce Trail and Hall of Mosses Trail.

On the way back home, we found a nice spot near Port Angeles to take in the beauty of a colorful sunset on the Strait.

Sunset near Port Angeles

Wednesday again brought more sunshine so even though we were needing some downtime, we drove the winding and scenic road out to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, located on the Makah Nation Indian Reservation. The Makah Museum was excellent, and we found the story about the Ozette Indian Village excavation in the 1970's especially interesting.

Along the scenic drive to Neah Bay

Bald Eagles, coming and going in Neah Bay

After lunch at the Warm House Restaurant, we drove out to the Cape Flattery trailhead and walked the three quarters of a mile out to the most northwesterly point in the continental United States. Once again, spectacular beauty combined with calm and clear skies made for a wonderful outing. With the help of some professional whale watchers who happened to be there, we even spotted a Humpback Whale in the distance. We ran out of time to hike to Shi Shi Beach, but hope to go back before we leave next month.

Mike and Susan about to do the short hike to Cape Flattery

The boardwalk through the woods to Cape Flattery

Tatoosh Island with the Cape Flattery Light

More views from Cape Flattery, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, towards Canada

A cove near the Cape