For some reason I woke up cold, maybe it was because we were camping on the beach. Mabel seemed unaffected, sleeping normally and not in the tight ball she uses to keep her core warm. When I bought the heater, I considered the required amps and not the watts which is a problem when the camper isn’t hooked to electricity. Our power converter was great for charging my phone and using the computer but chirped angrily when the heater was plugged in. Because of this we don’t have heat if not staying at a plug-in spot.
The fog and rolled in overnight but it didn’t prevent us from taking a morning walk. Mable was eager to get on the beach and roam the sand, but I wanted her close as visibility was limited. It was one of those fogs that I imagined when thinking of England and Jack the Ripper. Hopefully I don’t run into Jack this morning.
We head North, the ocean far to our left and invisible other than its throaty roar. Mabel searches for shellfish and investigates the snakelike seaweed deposited on the beach. It is eggplant in color and serpent-like, with a head reminiscent of a turkey baster bulb. I have seen it at other beaches and always think it looks like it belongs in a sci-fi movie.
We walk for a while, the fog slowly dissipating, and follow tracks that aren’t our own back towards our spot. Funny how two separate people decided to walk the same section of beach. Also funny, how two dogs, both with the same unique breed can come together on the same beach. Last night we ran into a dog that looked like Mabel’s twin. The Jindo/Shephard was more rotund than Mabel and didn’t have her bushy tail, but they shared the same low ground clearance and facial distinctions. Both play for a bit and then quickly lose interest and go their own way.
We climb the rocks that separate our site from the beach and get some breakfast. Mabel has gotten good at navigating rocks and fallen trees, no hesitation when she comes to a barrier. My chair is perched on the rocks providing a view of the beach as I eat my frosted flakes. I again contemplate if I am a “forest” or “ocean” guy and tend to the latter but think my position has provided an unfair influence. The morning is beautiful, and I am mesmerized and appreciative by what I see and hear.
Our young neighbors leave early but I feel the need to stay until noon. A man walks by in an Army fatigue shirt and asks me about Arabella and I tell our story as he looks inside. He is from Seattle and I ask him about his service, but the shirt was bought at a thrift shop. He’s been as far East as South Dakota and that was to bury his Dad’s ashes. Life was tough for him as the family was dirt poor, but they have 20 burial plots on the Columbia River, near where Lewis and Clark sailed. The plots were all they had, and he realized their importance to the family when he saw them. I ask him about Seattle and he provides some travel advice.
I am having a hard time leaving as my trip will now take me from the ocean and into Washington’s interior. This is my last chance to experience the beach and I linger, enjoying the warm breeze in a t-shirt and shorts. Finally I pull away, and pack up our camp to briefly head North on HWY 109.
We cut East at Pacific Beach and emerge onto HWY 101 at Humptulips, one of the more unique town names I come across on the trip. We are away from the ocean and our route takes us past cut forest which looks to have been harvested long ago. For some reason the cluttered field reminds me of a Civil War battlefield, filled with the carnage of war. We quickly come to the Southwest end of Olympic National Park and see a sign for a ranger station, on Lake Quinault’s Southern shore. The station’s line is long as overnight camping permits are explained and instructions are given for bear proofing your site. I pick up a map from a heavily pierced young woman and am not sure if her lisp is from the stud in her tongue. She explains the park and lets me know some campgrounds are closed due to the time of the season.
Mabel and I find the road to Lake Quinault and park in an empty lot near a sign stating no dogs on the trail. It is deserted so she tags along as I explore the shoreline. The large lake runs towards the Northeast and is bordered on the far side by mountains. Their blue-gray silhouettes blend into the afternoon sky. The picnic area is lush, with moss hanging in the trees and I read on the map that Olympic National Park is rainforest. We walk towards the lake front and I jump over the small stream while Mabel opts for crossing via a small log. The lush foliage makes its way down to the beach, stopped only by the rocky shore.
HWY 101 takes us back to the coast and we pass numbered park beaches until coming to the Big Cedar Tree. The road in is narrow and I join a few rental RV’s already in the ample parking lot. Not seeing a “No Dog” sign, Mabel walks down the trail with me. The tree is large, not in the scope of the redwoods, but impressive in its own right. The trunk is heavily gnarled and appears to be combined with another tree, both reaching high from the forest floor. Other tourists are walking around its base and I take a photo for a German couple who return the favor. It’s a unique tree stuck in the middle of the forest and even without the redwood’s fanfare is worth the stop.
Back on HWY 101 we stop at Ruby Beach which will prove to be our last view of the Pacific Ocean. The parking lot is full, but we make space and I see a few of the visitors take notice of the camper. Mabel is on her leash as we make our way down the steep trail. It is paved, so an easy walk even with its slanted attitude. The trail empties us at the beach our path covered with driftwood logs. The day has turned grey which provides a mysterious atmosphere to the misty beach. The ocean is at our back and I can hear its roar as we navigate the tangled mass of bleached logs towards the rocky islands along the shore. Others are making their way out of the horizontal forest and I follow their route only to be blocked by a large pool created by Cedar Creek. Thankfully, it too was full of driftwood, and I danced across a few pieces keeping my feet semi dry. Mabel follows choosing a similar route.
We reached the other side, not as heavy with fallen logs, and can see the course sand of the beach. In the distance is a large, island like rock topped with trees and I am drawn towards it. The Pacific crashes into its base but it is unmoved. I wonder how many waves have met its resistance and their effect on its craggy shape. Was it noticeably larger at one time and was there anyone here to see it? A rock like this can make you feel small when contemplating time and nature.
Onward we head around the outskirts of the park and I need to find our spot for the night. Because of diminishing time, I pass on visiting the Hoh Rain Forest. The map shows a spot on the coast near Mora, roughly 15 miles West from Forks on HWY 101. It is Friday and I don’t want to waste travel time only to find no vacancies. Forks is a bigger town but then bigger is relative to a comparison. I didn’t see a Starbucks or Safeway and my cell service isn’t good enough for uploading a blog post. Frustrating! I did catch a small glimpse of small town Americana as I pumped my gas. It must have been a Friday night home football game, the school’s cheerleaders parading through town in open vehicles trying to whip up enthusiasm for the high school team.
I push upwards towards the Klahowya Campground, part of Olympic National Park. No luck, a bar blocks the entrance, Klahowya is closed for the season with no option of sneaking in. I remember passing a State Recreation Area a few miles back, a camping triangle shown on the map. This campground was different from the others as it required a state issued pass and didn’t provide the usual envelope for self-registration. What to do, what to do?? I liked the spot so decide to wrap a $20 in my registration form and place it in the pay box knowing it will probably be pocketed by whomever cleans it out in the morning. But in this instance, I was paying more for karma than the spot and hoped the $20 would provide me with good luck on my travels.
The site was nestled in large pines and their sweet fragrance hit me as I exited the car. I felt like I was in the middle of a Christmas wreath! A few of the sites were occupied but we had plenty of privacy and Mabel enjoyed roaming the road and chasing after a ball. It is funny how strangers can make you feel more secure while camping. I have no idea if they are good people or even nice but having them close just makes me feel better.
Moss covers everything including the split rail fence that keeps us from falling down the hill to the river below. Sheri and I have a good connection so she fills me in on home life. I am wandering on the road and she is stuck at home dealing with the challenges of family life. It’s not fair that I am getting a pass on my parental/family responsibilities and I want to get home. She continues to support the trip, wanting me to stay on the road, but I want to get home.
Thankful today for the opportunity to see this part of Washington.