Olympic Peninsula: Beach Hopping
The dream team is pairing up for this one:
Matt's point of view in black // Clo's point of view in pink
Photo : Clotilde Richalet Szuch
Arriving in Anacortes, we decided to take a little stop for some coffee (for me), chai (for Clo) and wifi (for both of us). Clo also wanted to take a few pictures of the downtown area, as it had looked rather interesting when we drove past it on the way to the ferry a few days ago. Unfortunately the cute downtown area had nothing really suitable for us to hang out in; there was only one cafe type place, but their wifi was broken. Clo still wandered around and got her pictures, but we ended up driving into the more commercial part of town along the highway and stopped at Starbucks instead. Oh well. At least the wifi was good!
I don't mind Starbucks. When in the US it is another franchise for middle range coffee that you find everywhere, in France it's considered a bit hipster and cool to go to Starbucks cause it's a US brand that is pretty new (first one in Paris in 2004) and we don't have many of them (outside of Paris). I love this double (sometimes opposite) signification / connotation of one brand or habit from one country to another.
But I don't drink coffee anyways, so I don't care that much. I love Chai (Indian Tea) and I am lucky enough that it has been delicious pretty much everywhere I tried one: in Asia, in Europe or in the US. I was talking about this with Matt lately, I am very curious to be in Central/South America and try out their 'Mate' (tea). I heard only good things about it and can't wait to found another Tea I am addicted to as much as the Chai.
Anyways!!! While Matt was looking for coffee I was wandering around the main street of Anacortes, pretty short street but full of street art, little guys drawn on the walls of each building. I loved the retro style of it, very fun; that sort of feeling when you could believe you are on a film set!!
Leaving the city of painted people behind and with a better plan of what we were going to do for the day, we headed south on highway 20 towards Deception Pass.
<Mainly the 'what we were going to do for the day' (and the Why we needed a Starbucks or any coffee place with a good Wifi connection) was:
to find a shower!!! Mission accomplished.>
For those of you who aren't familiar with the location (do other people besides me instantly Google a location they read about?), it's the very narrow northern passage out of the Skagit Bay. While there is a lot of history around it (some of it of a rather shady nature), the most obvious ones are the extremely powerful current and the pair of striking bridges.
You can walk on the side of the bridge and then cross under etc. Very neat. Windy but very nice walk.
When I was fourteen years old, I (along with 11 other kids my age) spent two weeks in the San Juan Islands on a pair of wooden longboats. We would sail (or more often, row) from island to island, learning about the flora, fauna and camping for a day or two in different places. I have a lot of very fond memories about the trip, and the last day we ended by going through Deception Pass. The current moves the water along very quickly (about 8 knots) and it was a powerful experience for me; it's basically like going through a class 3 rapids. Ever since those two weeks I've loved to be on the water in a boat.
Immediately after the pass, we turned into the Cranberry Lake campground to try out something new in our trip: camp showers! The entrance fee to the campground was $10 and the showers were $1 each, so while it wasn't as cheap as we would have hoped (we'll do better planning next time), it was a small price to pay for very nice, hot and clean showers. These showers on the road are a big part of our basic plan to live comfortably without a regular shower in our vehicle (we do have a solar shower, but only plan on using it in more remote areas). I really enjoyed the facilities at the campground, and I think our first experience with them turned out really well. Much nicer than when I remember using them as a kid.
The one thing Matt doesn't say about the camp shower: it's for 6 minutes only. So I didn't even think too much, put my token in the little machine and the water started pouring. I burned myself by it was good. I just didn't want to waste time (meaning 1 minute) to figure out how to mix the cold and hot water. I just enjoyed.
Back on the road! We took the very short ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend, then headed towards Sequim (pronounced "Skwim", which I never tired of reminding Clo) and one of our favorite stops: Costco! For those who are unfamiliar (there aren't so many of them internationally) with this magical store, it's a place where you can buy high quality items in bulk at a very competitive price (usually same price or cheaper than online). For Clo and I, we use it for somewhat different purposes - gas and food. The gasoline is usually at least 10-15% cheaper than anything nearby, and best of all they have food courts where you can purchase a foot-long hot dog (beef) or polish dog (pork) and a refillable drink for $1.50 (plus tax).
They usually also have little sample carts spread throughout the store, with hot (or cold, depending on the food) samples of different products they are offering in their store. Clo and I roll up, spend too long at the gas station (Wilbur is both thirsty and has a big stomach), then head to the food court to eat our juicy meat sticks. We continue by refilling our beverages and shamelessly stroll through the store without any shopping cart, sipping our drinks and trying all of the samples. I'd like to say this behavior only started when we began our trip, but that would be a big huge lie. What can I say? We appreciate a good deal. And hot dogs.
Costco Costco.. I think Costco deserves its own post. Let me come back to you with a series of pics pretty soon. Also Matt already described our addiction for it very well. (Plus the anticipated sugar high I get from the free flow Mountain Dew).
Sated and prepared to enjoy the odious after-effects of bubbly soda and fatty sausages, we started what would be a rather long drive towards Shi Shi beach. For most of the rest of the day it was typical Olympic peninsula weather; cloudy, intermittent rain and quite cool. Rather good weather for driving, assuming it doesn't start pouring. I like the lack of glare on the road and I find the rain very peaceful and relaxing. While Google maps says the drive towards Shi Shi should take 2 1/2 hours, as soon as we turned on highway 112 at Sappho we realized this was a funny joke. Our average speed went from about 50/80 (mph/kmh) to 25/40. Not only were the roads very winding with many sharp turns and hills, there were frequent washouts where the road had been repaired recently. It made for very slow going.
Very beautiful going too, as the coastal drive is a gorgeous one. We passed slowly through a number of small towns; Shadow, Twin, Pysht (love this name!), Clallum Bay, Sekiu... it was a very fun drive. It was getting later in the day though, and the sun was getting close to setting. We had decided earlier that we would try and avoid parking when it's dark, so we could see the place we were sleeping and have some time to walk around and explore the area. Finally we found a large pull-off on the side of the road in the Shipwreck Point park area, parked Wilbur with a nice view of the ocean, and went to sleep. Though not before we had a little accident, which I'll let Clo explain.
Yep yep... little incident more than accident. I had a fight with Wilbur and he won. The beginning of the story is not fascinating, it's dark and raining, but I really need to pipi. I put my sweater on, and socks. I open the top part of the trunk. I start laughing at my equilibrist skills as I put my shoes in the dark over the edge of the trunk. I very proud I make it without letting the shoes fall. And I jump. Aie. I forgot my friend Wilbur has a huge hitch mount right there. Aie.. Aie Aie Aie. At first I didn't think it was much, I thought I just bumped my tibia. But touching my legs I feel that it is a little juicy. Shit I am bleeding. Right away it start to be less funny. We turn our portable light on, look at it, doesn't look so good, but not so bad either. Just very annoying. A good not so wide but a little too deep cut. Of course we don't have our pharmacy with us. Just the little emergency kit... we'll do with it. I think if I had been in a city I would probably have been to the ER to get a good clean up and a few stitches. But we are in Wilbur in the middle of nowhere so a gauze with some tight tape around the leg will be just fine!! Haaaaa Wilbur...
PS It has been 10 days now and the scarring takes forever but is in good healing process!!
The next morning we headed off towards Shi Shi beach, driving through the very cute town of Neah Bay.
Neah Bay is also part of the first indian reservation I went to: the Makah Reservation (read more here), with its very photogenic port:
We were at the northwestern most point in the contiguous United States. Yay! ... we didn't spend any time in the town, but drove through following the very, very well signed route to Shi Shi beach trailhead. Parking Wilbur and gathering our things, we started walking through the uniquely beautiful rain forest that covered this part of the peninsula.
Silence. The incredible colors and tones. Solitude. Huge fir trees. Lush and verdant moss. It is difficult to describe my feelings about places like this, especially to those who haven't been to somewhere similar. It makes me feel comfortable, relaxed and contemplative. I could sit still and listen to the deep green silence for hours.
Of course, we didn't sit still, we kept on walking through the thick mud, pools of water and over the many, many roots in the path. The first thirty minutes was all rain forest, and then we started to get closer to the Pacific ocean; it wasn't visible through the thick forest, but we could hear the deep roar of the surf in the distance. We continued like this for about an hour, until finally we made our way down a rather steep cliff (it wasn't exactly the planned route, but it worked!) onto the shore.
I am very happy we went to Shi Shi Beach because it's a place I have seen pictures of in media and photo magazines a lot, but mostly because it's a place Matt has never been to! And it's kind of hard to find a place he totally discovers with me around here. So I really like this hike for this reason. And also for the fight we had going down the ravine hanging on a 100 years old rope. I wish I had a picture but I was too pissed of to take one. Matt got mad at me because I was getting mad at him. (Reason: there is always a dangerous short cut that Matt finds more appealing than the actual trail...) This disagreement offered a pretty hilarious domestic scene right there in the middle of a scenery that looks like a deserted moon.
One of our best argument tho, the most scenic for sure!!
The Pacific ocean in the northwest is another special place for me. The power of the rough seas, the sound of the waves crashing into themselves and the shore, the stark and abrupt rock formations. I've felt similar things before in Borneo, standing on the edge of a cliff in the jungle, watching crocodiles on the other side. More similar was on the top deck of a diving boat on the way to the Spratly Islands, 100 miles from shore, watching the dance of lightning in a thunderstorm off the starboard side. It makes me appreciate the enormity, power and beauty of nature. I love it.
That's what it was like at Shi Shi beach. We spent a couple of hours wandering along the coast, taking pictures, talking only a little, and enjoying the silence and beauty of this amazing place. The first couple of hours we saw 4 other people (two couples), though finally on our way back there was a group of about 6 folks who arrived just as we were climbing back up the cliff to the path. What a great place.
What a great place.
Time for the winding and hilly roads again. We only had about half of the distance on them this time though, since we headed south along highway 113 through Sappho and back to highway 101. We arrived at Mora campground early in the afternoon, and decided to have this be our first night in a campground for our trip.
Campgrounds in the US are one of the things I have been looking forward to a lot as part of our trip. I have many very fond memories of them from when I was a child, and I was excited to share the experience with Clo. So when we arrived at Mora, things started out well; Clo liked the area, the bathrooms were nice, and we easily found a nice spot that we both liked. A few minutes after we paid for our spot and had started relaxing in the warm sunlight, a van pulled up to a site across the path and an older lady got out and started loudly yelling at the occupants of the site. To say this was a surprise to me would be a great understatement; the only yelling I've heard at campgrounds before was drunkards exchanging copulation advice.
The current site occupants (a husband and wife, their baby son and a dog) didn't like being yelled at, and it seemed apparent from the tone and content there was some sort of history about this campsite. The lady in the van seemed to think the other couple had "stolen" it because she had reserved it with her bucket. I'm not joking. The lady in the site and the one in the van called each other crazy bitches a few times, and finally the van lady walked away explaining about how she was going to call the police. A few minutes later the campground host showed up and solved the problem (one of them moved to a different site), but what a start to our first campground experience! It was very peaceful and quiet for the rest of our time there, though.
It was my first campground experience in the US (or anywhere else!!) and it was really nice. It's super organized: the spot are very well defined and you have a fire pit and a picnic table for yourself (plus the tent space and the parking space). It really feels like our own little turf for the evening and it's comforting. Gives a sense of "home"? I will explore that feeling more as we keep on going I am sure. Interesting to think about. Can a space without wall give a homey feeling...? Looks like it!! I am confused. Hmm. Ok I need to think about it more and I will come back to you!! :-))
Later that evening we headed towards Rialto beach, which is only about a mile (1.6km) away from the campsite. We wanted to watch the sunset, which is supposed to be very nice at the beach. It definitely didn't disappoint! Watching the sunrise slowly set into the ocean was gorgeous, and something we haven't seen since we were living in Singapore. It was a great way to finish the evening and we soon fell asleep and only woke up at a Clo approved time the next morning. (Good Boy :-))
A time lapse speaks more that a 1000 words !!
We enjoyed a relaxed breakfast snack in the morning, then off to Rialto beach to see what the morning was like! It was a beautiful sunny morning, which was different than the past couple of days more to the north that were generally overcast and foggy.
We enjoyed walking for a while, and then headed towards Forks. I hadn't been to Forks since the Twilight craze hit, and I'd heard the city had done a lot to encourage people to visit. We did see a few funny signs about vampires and werewolves here and there, but nothing too much. However, we were mostly disappointed that apparently only one place in the whole city had wifi available. We showed up and the restaurant was closed for cleaning that morning, since they had just finished a "Twilight Breakfast". I'm not sure what that is, but I guess there is more Twilight tourists coming here than we thought.
Passing through Forks, we continued on to Ruby beach. This is certainly one of the more popular places for folks from Seattle area (and beyond) to visit, as was clearly evidenced by the full parking lot and beautiful views. We spent about an hour walking on the beach and enjoying the wonderful views.
Ruby Beach was so beautiful too, the tide was pretty low, the sky was blue, the sun was warm, my husband was the most awesome, funny and sexy companion as always... What a great moment.
We also had a bit of a sad encounter, coming across a recently dead sea lion on the shore. It hadn't been dead for more than a day or two, and it wasn't very clear what killed it. It was a bit of a melancholy way to finish an otherwise wonderful walk.
As we continued driving south from Ruby beach, we discussed what we wanted to do next. Our plan was to return to Walla Walla within a day or two, in order to do more work to Wilbur and prepare for the next destination, Yellowstone. We had thought about spending time around Olympia, but since it was only about noon we ended up deciding to drive all the way back to Walla Walla that day. It ended up being a very long day and we only arrived a bit before midnight, but it was quite nice to sleep in a larger bed again. We are spending a few days in Walla Walla and will be leaving shortly for Yellowstone!