Sunday 24th September - day 5. Hurricane Ridge to Sol Duc Falls, Hoh Valley and the Pacific Coast.
We woke late - about 9am - in the peaceful forest of Olympic National Park. The spot where we camped was deserted apart from a small chipmunk. Tall trees stretched up to a bright blue skies.
Chris (in training for the Moab trail marathon in November) went for a run whilst we made breakfast and then we sat in the forest to eat. There have been emails from China which require attention and an Internet cafe...
Today's itinerary involved a lot of driving through some beautiful places. We stared in Port Angeles (and the Starbucks in Safeway for wifi), before heading west along highway 101 towards Lake Crescent.
The lake was very beautiful - blue and sparkling and mirror calm, creating a perfect reflection of the surrounding trees, mountains and white clouds. After a scenic drive we pulled over and climbed down a slope to a rocky beach where we were able to sit on some moss-covered rocks and admire the crystal clear water. We could see every pebble and fish (surely the famous Beardslee trout?) as the floor sloped steeply away to its estimated depth of over 1000ft. It looked so inviting - we were unable to resist and dived in for a swim, shattering the smooth surface with ripples.
Felling much refreshed we drove on, and up to Sol Duc Falls ('Shimmering water') surrounded by enormous Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fir - all draped with skeins of soft olive green mosses and lichens.
We sat beside the river Rapids on a fallen tree to eat our lunch.
Next stop Hoh Rain Forest. This part of the National Park is actually only a few miles away from Sol Duc falls as the crow flies. There are no roads through the park, however, and the route between the two is about 30 miles, from two o'clock to four o'clock - the long way - anti-clockwise! It's worth every mile, though. The 'Hall of Mosses' path wound in and out of cathedral like rainforest, branches draped with moss. Some of the spruces and firs were over 100 metres tall, some grew in lines or colonnades - the latter formed when seeds germinate in the soft decaying matter of a fallen tree that forms a 'nurselog'.
Next stop the Pacific Coast and Ruby Beach.
We had deliberately planned to arrive here at 7pm to watch the sunset, but the sky was a uniform pale grey with a slightly misty atmosphere. It gave the beach a dramatic, mysterious monochrome appearance. We followed the path down to the beach hearing the surf, and watching the waves roll in around the stack rocks.
It's a fascinating beach. Dark grey sand, scattered with pebbles in orange, red and grey, the back of the beach littered by bleached white tree trunks.
We picked our way over the fallen timber to the waters edge chatting and planning the next few days. The beach was huge, and atmospheric.
In several places the timbers had been stacked to create impromptu beach shelters. As dusk fell we walked back up to our cosy van and set off along the coast road south. After half an hour we stopped and parked, over looking the sea and cooked supper with the open door letting in the sound of the sea.
We then had to drive on south. With a work meeting for Chris scheduled in Portland tomorrow we had to cover some distance heading south tonight, so with the help of a Cormoran Strike audiobook, we set off.
After a longish drive, just before midnight, we pulled into a free camping spot courtesy of the Fish and Wildlife service, at Southbend near Raymond. A perfect little spot overlooking a fish and bird nature reserve - four parking places, just off the main road with nothing and no one for miles - perfect. We slept like babies!