Nick and I made the trek to Washington in August (2016) for an end-of-the-summer adventure. Joan and Rob were nice enough to open their home to us and they were very gracious and welcoming hosts. After spending a day relaxing around the Tacoma area down by the Puget Sound, we decided to spend the next day of our trip exploring Olympic National Park. After Thailand, I knew that there wasn’t a lot of value in extensive planning, but had found a few things that we wanted to see. Kaye recommended visiting the Hoh Rainforest and we read about Ruby Beach, but we didn’t know much else about the park. Joan had been to the park many times and shared a few of the itineraries with us. After looking at the map and listening to her recommendations, we decided we were going to do a loop around the park and peninsula, despite the many hours of driving it would add. It total, it was about a 20 hour day, but it was worth it!
We started our day early enough to beat the rush hour traffic and made our way north towards Hurricane Ridge. Joan had told us about the many fun memories she had there and couldn’t say enough about the views, so we knew we had to stop. After a few hours of driving, we stopped in Port Angeles to grab some snacks for the rest of the day and stretched our legs along the boardwalk. You could see Victoria, Canada across the water along the horizon! It was a little bit nippy in the morning, but it the sun was peaking out and we knew it was going to be a beautiful day.
Much like driving through Yellowstone or other national parks, we wound our way up the ridge on a narrow two-way road. It was pretty foggy at the bottom, but as we made our way up, the fog broke and revealed amazing scenery. We stopped at almost every overlook to take photos and appreciate what we were seeing; our parents and grandparents would have been so proud!! We have both been to the mountains before, but Hurricane Ridge was so unique because if you turned 360 degrees, you could see dense forests, snow-capped mountains, and the ocean. It was magnificent!!
After reaching the top of the ridge, you can park your car and do some hiking to explore the area. There was a nice visitor’s center and paved trails around the ridge, so you could see all of the different viewpoints. The sun was warm, but the breeze was cool and refreshing! Even though Thailand was amazing, it is really hard to beat cool, brisk air with the warm sun on your shoulders. It was nice to stretch our legs and breathe in some fresh air before spending another few hours in the car.
After we hiked around for awhile, we decided we had better get going to our next destination. Even though Joan warned us that the rainforest might be dry, we decided that we may as well check it out while we were in the area. After all, it is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the US! We drove another few hours through peaks and valleys and also got to see some pretty beautiful lakes, so it went by pretty quick! To our surprise, the rainforest was actually very lush! The lighting was very dim and diffuse due to the canopy and overcast skies, so I didn’t get a picture to fully capture the magical feeling that this place exuded. It really felt like we were in the movie Jurassic Park!
Literally everything was covered in moss, and if it wasn’t covered in moss, there was probably a fern growing there. Grandma Anne would have LOVED it! Additionally, because the area gets almost 14 feet of rain a year, the trees were SO tall. Everything about this place was magnificent; it was fun to be able to witness such a unique climate after just being on top of Hurricane Ridge! The rainforest has a bunch of trails that bring you to a variety of different plants and covered trees. You leave feeling like you just stepped back in time for a little bit, we both would recommend it!
After going through the trails in record time (we really need to learn how to stop and smell the roses instead of being so efficient all the time!) we stopped to eat at the “Hard Rain” cafe. Very clever. We filled our bellies and were off to our final destination, Ruby Beach! I found an article on Ruby Beach when looking for fun things to do in Washington, and it said that it was a perfect place to relax and watch the sunset. However, Nick thought that it might be fun to have a fire because it was getting pretty nippy, so we went in search of wood. Also, because it was a national park we thought we should probably ask before starting a fire on the beach. We found a little gas station and the cashier said that there isn’t really any official rule about fires so the worst that could happen would be that park officials would just ask you to put it out. That was good enough for us! We grabbed some supplies and then made our way down to the beach.
If you have been to the Oregon coast, this beach was very similar. It was really rocky but was so beautiful. Ruby beach is actually part of a long stretch of coastline that is protected as part of the Olympic National Park. We had some time before sunset and explored some of the tide pools and rock formations along the water. It was fun to think about how big our world is and how different each ocean climate is. The Pacific ocean offered a rocky, windy, chilly environment where the Indian Ocean offered a warm, moist, white-sand environment. The same salty water, but two totally different experiences. This is why traveling is so awesome!
Ruby beach was really crowded and there were not any dry places to start a fire, so we decided to go down a few beaches to Beach 4 where there was actually sand and some drift wood to collect. After many hours in the car and our active activities, it felt so good to be able to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery in front of us. We both noted the fact that not many people get have a fire on an empty beach next to the ocean, listening to waves crash and wood crackle. This will always be a special memory!
After enjoying the sunset and relaxing by the fire, we decided we better start our 3 hour journey back to Joan and Rob’s. We talked for awhile about our day and realized that we had been on a mountain, in the rainforest, and on the ocean, all in 12 hours! The itinerary was pretty strenuous, but we would both highly recommend doing this loop if you don’t mind being in the car for many hours. It is not very often that you get to see so many climates and environments in such a short period of time! We both went to bed exhausted but content at a day well spent. This being my first trip after Thailand, it was fun to make special memories with a new travel partner in the US! It helped me realize that you don’t always need to use your passport to have a great adventure-even though we went to Vancouver a few days later. The US isn’t so bad after all 🙂