Washington (30th June to 9th July 2010)


Olympic National Park (30th June to 2nd July 2010)


This national park sits in the north west corner of the USA and covers rain forests, mountains and coastal regions. To get there we follow the Highway 101 Pacific Coast Highway through Oregon and into Washington state. We book for 3 nights at the Kalaloch campground; a beautiful wooded campsite right next to a stunning silver beach that is strewn with weather beaten driftwood. We have now reached the half way point in our trip and are at the farthest point from Florida we are going to get.

Kalaloch is famous in geological circles as they found a fully formed starfish fossil here last year, which was around 30 million years old. (???)

We camp next to Rick and Jessica from Oregon (and Raider the dog) for a few nights, and have a rather boozy night under their canopy which results in a very quiet next day. Strangely, Rich falls asleep with an ear plug in his mouth and a head torch lit up on his forehead, must be strong bourbon here!


Beach 4 Tidepools

On a damp rainy day we're up early to join a ranger guided walk through the tidepools at Beach 4, 5 miles north of the campground. The ranger is a bit mad and talks to us like we're all eight, but she's interesting. As we walk down the beach we see the different tidal areas and eventually get right to where all the action is. There are tons of Ochre Starfish (or sea stars as they are called here) in all sorts of purples, oranges and reds. The anenomes come in two types, light green ones that are huge, and smaller cloning pink ones. There are also gooseneck and acorn barnacles, periwinkles, limpets, sea snails, hermit crabs, shrimp, small mussels and Californian mussels. The star fish are the most amazing and we climb and slip around the rocks to get some good photographs of them. The rain continues to fall, though we're well wrapped up in waterproofs. We're at the pools for around 3 hours.


Ruby Beach

Further up the coast, this beach has amazing rock sea stacks and tons of driftwood. It's still raining, but we try and ignore it and have a beach wander. We're rewarded with a visit from two harbour seals who pop their heads out of the water in front of us. Also, it looks like there are gangs of auklets out at sea.


Hoh Rain Forest

We forgive Olympic for being so damp, as it is a rain forest environment. On a rare sunny morning (with rain clouds looming) we go to the Hoh Rain Forest which is about 25 miles inland from the campsite. We do 2 trails, the Spruce Trail which ends up at the Hoh River which is glacial, and the Hall of Mosses Trail which runs through some ancient rain forest of spruce, fir, alder, hemlock and maple. The trees have moss and ferns hanging off them and many of the fallen logs are now ‘nurse logs' that support other trees. Sometimes the nurse log rots away leaving the trees with an arch in the roots of them, it all looks very enchanted. This forest gets something like 12 feet of rain a year, no wonder it starts to rain as we wander around. We see signs of elk and get a few shots of an unusual red/brown squirrel.


Sea Otters

The area is home to a large group of sea otters and we attend a ranger talk about the furry creatures. The otters in the area were shipped down here from the Aleutian Islands before the Americans let off a big atomic bomb there and blew up a few thousand of them in the Natural Preserve. They are certainly cute things, floating around on their backs breaking open sea urchins with a stone that they keep in a flap of skin under their flipper. When they sleep they wrap kelp round themselves to stop floating away. They have a very warm coat that they constantly have to groom so it remains warm and waterproof.


Seattle area (3rd to 9th July 2010)


After almost a month of camping we book in to a little cottage in West Seattle for a week and have a city break. The cottage is 2 storeys with a spiral staircase up to the bedroom which has a view down the hill and across the vast expanse of water called Puget Sound. (pronounced Pyu-Jet) We have a full kitchen and internet access, and manage to get lots of chores and research done while we're here. (As well as a bit of site seeing)


Alki Beach

This is our local beach and where we spend Independence Day (4 th of July). As we arrive in West Seattle, the beach looks good fun with lots of beach bars and restaurants; people roller blading and dog walking. The sun is out and there's a great atmosphere for the build up to 4 th July.

Unfortunately the weather changes by the 4 th July. Around 3pm we wander the 3 miles or so down to Alki Beach. The weather is a bit grim, with dark clouds, mist and rain. The beach is quite busy with families having BBQs but the bars are quiet. We go to an Irish Bar (as usual) and have a nice chat with Jason who then drives us over to Zeeks pizza place for a really good pizza. The town fireworks are at 10:15pm and by 10:30pm it is teeming with rain. Sadly the day is a bit of a wash out but we have fun.


Downtown Seattle

Literally as the 4 th July passes, summer starts and the rest of our stay is in the 90'Fs. We take a trip to Downtown Seattle, which looks fantastic across the water with big skyscrapers and the Space Needle. There's a great view of Puget Sound and Mt Rainier as you cross the West Seattle bridge. We park up at the World Trade centre in the multi storey and wander up to Pike Place Market. The building has retained a lot of its original charm and still houses a lot of small businesses, arts and crafts, fishmongers, sushi bars etc. There're a lot of nice little eateries. We have lunch in Pike brewery which is kind of average food, though a fun building, decorated with old photographs and beer adverts. We have a wander along the waterfront around the different piers, and head up to see the Space Needle. The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) has created a large installation art garden with big sculptures of weird shapes and seating areas. They have also made a small beach which looks really natural and gives people somewhere to get in to the water and paddle. Some of the art is a bit creepy but it's all been kept very tidy and pedestrianised.


SummerFest (West Seattle)

It's SummerFest in West Seattle for the weekend and a big stretch of California Avenue is shut off to cars. There's live music playing and lots of stands set up selling food and trinkets. It's a nice atmosphere so we have a wander for a while in the warm evening sun.


Mt. Rainier National Park

Another lovely sunny day, it's supposed to reach 94'f today in town. It's a 2.5 hour drive to Mt Rainier National Park which is mostly either on the I5 or through the forests, so a nice drive. The park is still around 80'f despite the altitude. We nearly run over a couple of black tailed deer on the way. The park is stunning with views of Mt Rainier round every corner plus glacial rivers and waterfalls, and alpine mountains. There's still quite a bit of snow around. Our first stop is the Trail of Shadows which is near the Longmire Museum and loops round a meadow with a view of the mountain. We see a few squirrels and signs of a beaver, including a large tree that one has virtually chewed through. There are a couple of hot springs in the meadow and one has made a travertine mound over time. We stop at an overlook and see the way the glacial river has formed in the valley. At Narada Falls we take the short steep trail down to get next to the waterfall and try and avoid a soaking. It's a 168 foot fall and is spraying up a big rainbow, very pretty.

We climb up higher and head for Paradise where there is a visitor centre and nature trail. When we arrive though, it's clear the whole place is still under quite a lot of snow which is rapidly melting. Lots of people are out in their summer shorts and T-shirts playing in the snow but we decide not to tackle the walk. Further down the road there are a couple of lakes including Reflection Lake where you can see the mountain and glaciers reflected (if it wasn't frozen over and snowy!) It looks like the whole place is just days from being grassy, it's so warm here now. A very beautiful park nonetheless.