Summer is a great time in the state of Washington. While much of the rest of the year might be dreary and gray, the long days and clear air between mid-July and September are nothing short of perfection for getting out to enjoy the mountainous terrain in the western part of the state.
And this time, we were headed as far west as we could go - all the way to the Olympic Peninsula, for an epic hike along one of the highest ridges around.
Keen to get the trip off to a good start, we made a quick stop at Family Donut - a new shop we'd recently found - for some of the best donuts I've ever eaten. It's a good thing too, because about 15 minutes later we were parked - the engine off - waiting for a ferry to take us across the Puget Sound.
It turns out that someone the-opposite-of-smarter than me had made the decision to reduce the number of ferries running on the weekends in the middle of summer. We ended up waiting over three hours for our ferry to arrive.
One can't complain too much on a ferry however - the views are always so nice as you glide across the water.
Oh look, there are the other two ferries that run this route. Still operational on the less-crowded weekdays, it turns out. (What?!?)
Hungry again, we made a quick stop for lunch before heading up Deer Park Road towards the campground and trailhead that we'd call home for the next couple of days. Already, things were looking up - literally - as the mountains we'd be exploring rose in the distance!
Now, one of the reasons we'd made an early start was that the campground we were going to - Deer Park - is a no reservation location with only about 20 spots. With amazing views, it fills up quickly, even on a Sunday night. And, perhaps predictably as we pulled in just before 5:00pm, everything was full.
Bummed, we pulled into an overflow parking spot and weighed our options: we could head back down the eight mile dirt road and find a wide spot in the road to set up (a dusty) camp; we could head home and try again some other time; or we could see if someone with a spot would let us share.
A bit awkwardly, and with my face covered in a mask, I approached the folks staying in what is arguably the best spot in the campground. A quick look at their reservation ticket showed that they'd been there for a couple nights, and this was going to be their final night before heading home.
Well, it turns out that Carol and Rick (of Edmonds, WA) couldn't have been nicer. After a brief chat, they were happy to let us park in front of their car and open up the tent on our 4Runner. They even invited us to join them around their camp fire (we didn't, since we didn't want to intrude), and to put a tag on the site marker reserving it beyond the end of the their stay!
As @mini.turbodb scampered off to explore, @mrs.turbodb and I unfolded our chairs in the shade and pulled out our Kindles for a couple hours of relaxation, with a pretty nice view.
If you find yourself reading a good book here, savor it.
Having eaten a very late lunch just before heading up to camp, we all decided that dinner wasn't really necessary, and as the sun started to get lower on the horizon, we figured we should gain a little elevation to take it all in. The road behind camp wound up Blue Mountain - a perfect place to enjoy the display.
This looks amazing. What you can't see are the gnats! Luckily, they were concentrated at this rock outcropping.
With the sun below the horizon we made our way back to camp just as a heavy rain shower started! We'd checked the weather prior to the trip and there was no precipitation predicted, but hey, at least we hadn't deployed the tent yet!
The rain didn't last long at all - perhaps 5 minutes - and in the end, it significantly reduced the dust, which was perfect. We just hung out in the 4Runner, @mini.turbodb already in her cozy little bed.
With hugs goodnight, we climbed out of the truck to set up the CVT, and were immediately distracted by the main storm, a distant several miles to the north. Lightning - and plenty of it - illuminating the sky as the storm tracked eastward.
The dozen or so other folks around us also noticed, and it was a bit humorous to see all of them packing up and talking in hushed tones about the safety of being "out in the open" when the storm was so far away. We chuckled as we unfolded the tent on the roof of the 4Runner and confidently climbed in, as other campers considered the "safest" place to go in these dangerous times.
We knew, the safest place to go was "to sleep."
The next morning we were up bright and early - our alarm set for 5:50am, so we could pack up and roll out of camp by 6:15am. We did this as quietly as possible so as not to wake Carol and Rick, and we left a couple chairs and our kitchen box to hold camp while we completed our trek.
The trailhead was less than a mile away, and after a quick breakfast, lunch making, and setting up of todo(link)the solar panel to keep the fridge running through the day, it was time to set off for Obstruction Point.
This is no short hike. At a little over 15 miles round trip, it was going to be a trek for all of us, and I'd warned the small one about this several times in the preceding week.
"I'm going to need you to do your best complaining," I told her. "I'll be sure to point out the most difficult sections as we come to them, so that you can strive for overachievement in those sections. Don't disappoint me!"
Of course, we'd also promised amazing sights, and even as we started down through the forest, the morning moisture in the air made for great views.
"Hey kiddo," I called as she ran ahead, "I just want to point out to you that this part is downhill now, but when we're all tired and ready to be done, this last section is going to be uphill and steep! I need you to whine as much as possible at that point, OK?"
That got a good laugh.
The first mile and a half of the trail makes its way along a forested ridge, and in the cool morning air we found plenty to keep ourselves entertained. A toad, hopping along, found its way from my hands to those of the child, squeals of joy escaping her lips as it sat for a moment before hopping off into the brush.
A rock, embedded in a tree by an explorer before us, now claimed to be "thrown" into position by hers truly.
And a rabbit - just the right size for a dinner and a half - clearly used to hikers that posed little threat as it continued to much away even as we were within a few feet.
These are the things that keep a 10-year old entertained, any desire to complain or ask, "How much longer do we have?" forgotten for a moment in the excitement!
As we reached the two-mile mark, we began to break out of the trees. There was still much "up" to go, but now it'd be with views that extended as far as the eye could see.
At this point, the only way to tell the story of the hike is to continually repeat myself as to the splendiferousness of the views, and the grandeur of this special place. It was enough to keep us all going and entertained for another couple hours and several more miles, stopping now and again (and again, and again) for photos along the way.
A beckoning trail.
The Straight of Juan de Fuca, and Victoria, Canada.
This world is a beautiful place.
Winding along a ridge.
Perspective is everything.
As it neared 11:00am, and right around 4 hours and 5 miles of hiking, we decided it was time for lunch. We'd reached the apex of the trail at, and therefore the best views. With no one else in sight, we climbed to the top of the ridge, the wind strong enough to instill a bit of fear in the ladies as they looked over the edge.
Up, up, up...
...and a long way down.
Lunch was delicious. Turkey with avocado on sourdough, with a side of chips and plenty of water - we all counted ourselves lucky for the meal @mrs.turbodb had put together for us before we set out on the excursion!
Our bellies full, it was my turn for a ridge-line shot. The trail - winding off into the distance along the ridge - the path we'd travelled, and would travel again on our way back to camp.
Seriously man, just be normal for once.
And with that, we headed back. Sure, we'd only made it five-and-change of the 7.6 miles to the end of the trail (which is itself another trailhead for the same excursion in the opposite direction), but we'd done it with almost no complaints from the kiddo.
Pushing on the last couple miles, and the risk that would entail - well, as any parent knows - there was no righter decision than to turn around here.
With a few reminders to @mini.turbodb that I was, "Disappointed in the lack of whining so far," and expected her to, "Make up for it on the way back." we set off once again, most of the trail downhill for our return trip.
It was late afternoon when we found ourselves back in camp. Through the day the solar system had kept the fridge cool (though, there was some drama in this regard, which I'll share in a later story) and we now found ourselves the sole, lucky, residents of the best camp site in Deer Park. @mrs.turbodb promptly laid down for a nap while @mini.turbodb and I read our books.
Dinner of taco-rittos with loads of guacamole were ravenously eaten, and soon we were seated around the fire ring with marshmallows and chocolate. It was - to say the least - a great way to end what had been our most ambitious family hike to date!
We Were Not Ready to Head Home
Having woken up quite early on the previous morning, we had no reason to climb out of bed before 8:00am when we woke up the next day. Fog had rolled in to the valleys overnight, but there was no lack of sun up here in the heavens.
A leisurely breakfast, and packing up of camp ensued. Even at that, it was probably only an hour or so before we were ready to go... except that we weren't. None of us - @mini.turbodb included - really wanted to leave this fantastically serene place, especially now that the campground had cleared out and we nearly had the place to ourselves.
So, we decided that one more - short - hike was in order. We'd head up the same road behind camp that we'd witnessed the sunset from a couple days before, and hike to the top of Blue Mountain, taking in the 360° views one last time.
Parking of the gods.
The sun wasn't in the best position to capture much of what we saw, but it was as though we were surrounded by a fluffy comforter of puff. Tentacles of the stuff reached in amongst the fingers of the mountains, their high ridges and peaks towering majestically above the cover.
Even taking the hike slow and savoring the views, it was still before 10:00am when we pointed ourselves downhill and headed for home. As what might be the last family outing of the summer - school is starting soon - it was definitely one of our most fun. And that bodes well for the memory of small children, and their desire to get out when spring turns to summer once again, and the opportunity to get out and camp presents itself!