This post is about the advantages that the unexpected twists and turns can bring whether you’re on a road trip, navigating life’s journey, or sheltering in place during our current COVID19 crisis.
On a road trip or an adventure vacation, I’m always inclined to follow the sign that points to waterfalls or scenic byways, even if it’s in a different direction than I’m heading. I may have a general plan for the day / week that includes multiple stops and hikes, but I’m more than happy to add one on or adapt my agenda. For me, it’s about exploring and experiencing as much I can. So many times when I look back, it seems that it’s exactly those impromptu adventures and discoveries that I treasure most. On a road trip through Washington, Idaho and Montana, I expected Coeur d’Alene to be a major highlight—but it wasn’t for me. About 45 miles down the road, I accidentally discovered the charming town of Sandpoint, what a gem—wasn’t even on my radar. An off the highway stop in Montana yielded an amazingly mini-excursion at Kootenai Falls. On another road trip through the Pacific Northwest, taking a break at an innocuous looking roadside stop, I was delighted to find Cascade Falls where I spent half an hour mesmerized by the shadows and projectile splashes of wild salmon.
Sometimes there are signs and we can choose our journey. Other times, obstacles and detours, like the one we’re having now, are sprung upon us. I’m not saying there isn’t and won’t be hardship and loss, but what I know is that we will look back on these times and remember the silver linings. Maybe it was that one silly, brave friend who held live Facebook dance parties to lighten the mood (C), the group of 10 cars driving up and down the street honking happy birthday, the grade school teacher who decorated her car with balloons and called out to her students on her megaphone as she drove by their houses, the extra time that Mom’s and Dad’s are spending together and with their children will no doubt rank in their “best of family time memories”.
I have no doubt that creativity, artistry, and innovation will surge. People will move beyond inertia and procrastination to evolve and achieve as never before. And maybe social distancing is exactly what we need to learn how to truly connect and to savor those connections. These few weeks of shelter in place are but a blip in our lives. Like the salmon’s flash of florescence —there is much to treasure if you look for it.
What are your favorite memories so far from our enforced “time out”?
Difficulty: Moderate or Difficult, depending on your fitness level and daring level with the ropes on top. (Some call it strenuous. All call it steep.)
The trail climbs persistently through the pine, cedar, and hemlock trees.
After countless switchbacks, you’ll be treated to several expansive views of Lake Crescent and, if you’re lucky, out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The maintained trail ends at about 1.3 miles. If you are “up” for it, pun intended, you can continue on the “climbers trail”. Your scramble to further heights will be aided by several sections of ropes.
Proceed with caution, it’s quite exposed and super slippery.
On the way down, follow the short marked trail to Marymere Falls for the cool solace of Barnes Creek and the waterfall.
Getting there: Parking and the trail head for both this hike and the Marymere Falls hike is located right next to the Storm King ranger station, Lake Crescent right off Hwy 101, 20 miles west of Port Angeles, milepost 228.
Be sure to stop by The Lake Crescent Lodge and beach for some refreshments and photo ops before you leave.
Distance: ~8-10 Miles Out & Back ~16-20 Total Difficulty: Easy Terrain: Flat, friendly(pine-needle cushy single-track) Usage: Hikers, mountain bikers horses, leashed dogs Caution: Cougar and bear country
If you’re in the Port Angeles area, a visit to lovely Lake Crescent is a must do. It just a scenic 20-mile drive out of town. There you’ll find a delightful trail that meanders along the shore and through the forest on a pine-needle path lined with ferns. This is the splendid Spruce Railroad Trail, great for hiking, running, or mountain biking.
The trail is part of the 134-mile-long Olympic Discovery Trail, a mountain bike-able route that crosses the northern part of the Olympic Peninsula. The trail follows the former Port Angeles Western Railroad route.
The trail begins with a short paved section. Scenic views of Barnes Point and Mount Storm King (post coming soon) loom above the lake.
At ~ 2.5 miles in, you’ll traverse a short bridge and have a gander at the spectacular, “Punch bowl” of Lake Crescent—crystal clear as far 40 feet down.
I was on (and off) a mountain bike for this wondrous single-track traverse through low-land forest and low-land river ecosystems. I’m not a very technical rider so I had to get off for the roots and rocks. Would love to come back to hike it sometime. Can’t provide much guidance about the trail as there was a major washout that I had to navigate with some detours. While the Elwha River Trail (ERT) spans the entire Elwha Valley, I was only able to make it up to the Glines Canyon Overlook before sunset.
Back in the day, the Elwha River ran wild from its headwaters in the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and its valley supported many plants and animal species. As far back as ~ 2700 years ago (per radiocarbon dating), the Klallam people lived off the land, largely relying on fishing in the Elwha River. But that all changed 1913, when the Elwha Dam was built in 1913 to address demand for the lumber. To add insult to injury, the Glines Canyon Dam was built upstream in 1927.
Despite a state law that required accommodating for fish passage, neither dam did and fish runs were blocked. The consequences were devastating—impacting thousands of salmon per year and irrevocably changing the Klallam way of life.
Finally in 1992, Congress passed a law that required the removal of both dams and restoration of the Elwah River watershed. At 210 feet The Glines Canyon Dam is the tallest dam removed to date. It took 15 tons of explosives and 12,000 cubic feet of concrete were removed, Within months of the removal of the 2 dams, salmon were spawning and trout were returning for the first time in 100 years!
The Elwha River is one of the largest ecosystem restoration projects in National Park Service history.
Educational Display Glines Canyon Overlook
Note: As of 12/4/2018 Elwha Road was closed to vehicles beyond Madison Falls parking lot due to washout. Side trip: Madison Falls
This lovely 60-foot waterfall is wheelchair accessible via a .01 mile paved trail.
Side trip: Colville MTB Trails
Sneaked in a quickie mountain bike right before dark at the Coleville bike park on the way back to Port Angeles. Currently under construction, the completed trails include a flowy, fun perimeter trail, a pump track, drop zone and several jump lines (whatever the last 3 are – nontechnical me, just enjoyed the 1st).
Side Trip: West Elwah Beach
So ends a gloriously full day that included a hike on Hurricane Ridge, 2 mountain bike rides, and a sunset stroll on the beach. Yes, I like to pack as much adventure and exploration into my days.
Driving over the crest of a hill, I caught my first glimpse of downtown Port Angeles, the shimmering water and port in the distance. My first impressions? Wow! Clean, wide roads, nice sidewalks, historic buildings, art installations everywhere you look and great views. From what I’d heard from the Port Townsend and Sequim “ambassadors”, I expected to see a smaller version of skid row—homeless people and druggies panhandling on every corner, litter in the streets and on the sidewalks, dilapidated buildings and overt grime, crime and grit. Not so—quite the opposite. In many ways, Port Angeles has more character, art and scenic appeal than either Port Townsend or Sequim. And my taste tests attest to the fact that Port A has much better restaurants too.
Over the course of my PNW adventure, I spent a total of 3 nights in Port Angeles and thoroughly explored the town and its neighborhoods. Yes, eventually, I saw some homeless people. I have no doubt there are “issues”, but every community has issues and more and more have issues of this type. (For the record, Sequim is not immune – recall the panhandler at the Village Marketplace. No doubt they would say he was just on his way to Port Angeles.)
My first stop, and an easy one as its right on the main drag as you come into town, was Sound Bikes & Kayaks, 120 E. Front Street. My last chance for mountain bike rentals before I headed up the coast. I was so relieved when I opened the door and saw plenty of quality mountain bikes to rent. (And they even have an in-store rock climbing wall there too.) The friendly team at Sound Bikes & kayaks gave me the local scoop on the top mountain bike rides and hikes in the area. I shared my encounters with the Port Angeles and Sequim gloom and doomers and they just shrugged their shoulders. (Tourist dollars are hard to come by, especially in the off-season, perhaps that was what it was all about.)
Lodging was easy to find, I just walked across the street and rented a room in the historic Downtown Hotel. Now it was time to grab a bite with a view at Downriggers at the Landing and plan my active adventures.
Its close proximity to Lake Crescent and Hurricane Ridge / Olympic National Park and its gateway position to adventures farther afield made Port Angeles a great basecamp for my PNW explorations coming and going. Here’s my sampler for ya:
Built in 1916 and renovated in 2003 after a fire, the Downtown Hotel has lots of character. This place made me nostalgic for the old hotel from my childhood. (My family was in the hotel and restaurant business in New Hampshire.) The Downtown Hotel is historic, quaint and clean—and full of old-school charm. You can choose from kitchenette suites, apartment suites, private baths or “European style with a shared hallway bathroom. I picked a suite with a view of the harbor. The bed was a bit small for a queen and the wifi was a bit spotty in the room so I had to take my work conference call in the lobby. Other than that, I loved it. The reading material in the lobby was great. They subscribe to the New Yorker, one of my favorite magazines – another feather to put in the artsy / cultural hat of Port Angeles. It’s a cool, centrally located spot within the heart of Port Angeles. I would stay here again and consider it for a long-term stay. The general manager, Tim, is a bit of a vintage bike nut. If you are too, you might ask him to show you his extensive collection. Notes: no pets allowed and no wheelchair access. The entrance staircase leads from street level to the lobby and rooms are on the second and third floors.
Treat yourself to a great night’s sleep and a spectacular sunrise with a water view room. Extremely comfy bed with a room large enough for a happy dance. (I think it was an ADA room, not sure if they are all like that or If I just got lucky.)
Clean, comfy, convenient and budget friendly. This place has been renovated recently and is downright decent. Wifi and free breakfast are included. Be sure to pay your respects to the resident feline, Douglas. Drop into the locals’ bar, Joshua’s Restaurant and Lounge, next door for a quick bite or nightcap if you’re so inclined. This is where I got the insider tip from locals Kristin and Chef Matt Colony to visit them at First Street Haven for breakfast (see review below).
The Landing mall and the restaurant Downriggers is right on the coast of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It features spectacular water, city and Olympic Mountain views and and is home to galleries, restaurants, offices, a co-working space, a rowing club and more. I ate a salmon salad at Downriggers my first night. Perhaps not as good as the view, but as good or better than Sirens in Port Townsend. Not that it’s a contest or anything, but if you read my previous post, you’ll understand why I’m making all the comparisons.
The line out the door is a good indication that this is the “go to” spot in Port Angeles for great grub. In general, I avoid meat. Once I caught sight of the burgers here, I caved. Delicious! For those with stronger willpower than mine, there are delectable vegetarian options as well. Whether you’re a carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore, you can’t go wrong here. The outdoor seating is limited, but always my happy preference so I’m glad they have some.
Had some drinks and great conversation with the chef and a waitress from First Street Haven at Joshua’s Restaurant and Lounge the night before. The chef was from Oceanside, CA – small world. (My home base is next door to Oside, Carlsbad.) They said their establishment had the best breakfast in town. After sampling it, I’m inclined to believe them. Crazy delish cinnamon rolls, banging eggs Benedict, and so on…We even scored some local mushrooms. (No, not that kind, come on now!) Excellent cuisine (Chef Matt Colony) and service (Kristin). They are at the top of my list for a return trip.
BADA NW is gooda 118 W 1st St, Port Angeles, WA 98362
This is one of the coolest coffee shops with a great PNW vibe. It’s up there with Woody’s in Hakone, Japan for great atmosphere and quality coffee. They serve food and beer and wine too. (As did Woody’s, coincidentally.) Bold, Ambitious, Dedicated and Authentic (BADA) is gooda.
So Port Angeles, you won me over, 3 days – not only did you not disappoint, you exceeded all expectations. All the locals here I talked to were super friendly and helpful.
Stay tuned for my active adventures in the epic PNW, including Hurricane Ridge, and points beyond.