The Olympic Peninsula is home of the Olympic National Park, a natural gem featuring pristine glacial lakes, lush woods, and rocky ridges with spectacular views. Situated across Puget Sound from Seattle, the Peninsula is cocooned by the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north, and Hood Canal to the south.
Sequim and Port Townsend are two of the towns that most everyone mentions when talking about the area – and with good reason! Another important town in the area is Port Angeles, a the gate to the Olympic National Park and a major connecting port for ferries to and from Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, across the Juan de Fuca Strait.
We settled not far from Port Townsend, at the Elwha Dam RV Park. We felt instantly welcomed by and enjoyed chatting with the campground owners, Chris and David. We picked fresh greens and vegetables from the campground’s common garden and learned about David’s hydroponic endeavors. We also learned about the Elwha Dam which no longer constricts the river, allowing the salmon to swim freely upstream and the sediment to flow downstream, as it did for centuries before the hunt for lumber disrupted the natural ecosystem. From the campground, we followed a short path through the forest, taking in the pine scent and enjoying the Jurassic Park-esque (sans dinosaurs) surroundings.
We headed down Hwy 101 into the national park and took a respite at Lake Crescent. The pristine glacial lake is the perfect spot for canoeing, kayaking, picnicking, or just relaxing by the shore, or at the Lake Crescent Lodge. The lake’s crystal clear waters can be as deep as 600 feet and one might see as far down as 60 feet! The low nitrogen levels prevent algae from growing, giving the water its clean green-blue hue. Interestingly, a massive land slide separated Lake Crescent from Lake Sutherland some 7,000 years ago, and with it two unique species of fish not found anywhere else in the world, the Crescenti and Beardslee trout.
In the opposite direction from the lake, we drove up Hurricane Ridge. Although there are no volcanoes in the Olympic Peninsula, there is plenty of volcanic rock, carried by glaciers thousands of years ago. From the peaks of Hurricane Ridge, on a clear day, one can see Canada across Juan de Fuca Strait. We got a little glimpse of the neighboring Vancouver and admired the jagged peaks of the Olympic Mountains, some still nestling snow and ice. The wild deer grazed nearby and walked about undisturbed by human visitors.
Just east of Port Angeles and north of Sequim, lies the Dungeness Spit, a 5.5 mile long sand formation (the longest natural sand spit in the US). We walked high above the thundering ocean waves along a sandy cliff hugged by wild rosebushes.
After a short walk through the lush forest, we reached the rocky beach, stretching out into the ocean. The spit is part of the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, home of more than 250 species of birds and 40 types of mammals. The Black Brant is a rare type of goose that is able to drink salt water and thrives on saltwater plants. Although we didn’t see one, we saw what we questioned to be puffins – which were more likely Surf Scoter or Bufflehead birds, common to the area.
Back at our parking spot, we stopped to admire a mama deer and her baby, quietly foraging nearby.