Day Fifty: Forks in the Road: Washington (Olympic National Park)

Events of Monday, May 4th, blogged Sunday, May 10th

It rained all night. Which was good, in that it washed all the dead bugs off the windshield, and not totally unexpected as, well …. DUH… RAIN FOREST!

My initial plan for the morning was to launch another sneak attack on the dog unfriendly rainforest trails, but I did not anticipate the rangers arriving at 8am, which was just as I was heading over. Scratch that. The next idea was to drive out to Rialto Beach to see the wild and rugged coast that Olympic is also known for. And on the way, it just so happened I would pass through a little town called Forks.

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You may, or, like me, may not, know that Forks is the setting for a “moderately” popular book and movie series known as Twilight. Not only were the novels set here, but the movies were filmed here as well, as you will find within seconds of setting foot in the Visitors Center. We were more than happy to set foot in there though, as soon as we saw this sign on the door.

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Prior to the Twilight phenomenon, Forks’ major industry had been logging and timber. But once the conservation movement, and the protection it afforded to much of the nearby forest areas, brought about serious declines in that area, the town fell on hard times.

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So it’s no surprise that most of the residents have embraced the Twilight phenomena whole hog, as it has literally doubled tourism numbers and even brought international visitors to this tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Many of the local businesses are grabbing on with both hands.

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Once you’ve stocked up on all the Twilight themed tchotchkes your wallet will allow, you can tour locations from the movie including: Bella and Edward’s houses, the high school, the police station, and you can even pose by a replica of Bella’s truck . . .

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All of this excitement can really work up an appetite, so, as the Twilight Lounge had recently shut its doors, I stopped for a burger at Sully’s (which offers a special Bella burger, but it had pineapple on it of all the godawful things, so I took a pass). Sully’s does serve exceedingly cheerful beverages though.

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I will say that the foggy, misty, murky atmosphere of a town surrounded by dense towering pine forests and two Native American reservations really does seem to fit the feel of the Twilight series remarkably well. Supposedly the author, Stephanie Meyer, had never even visited the town prior to writing the novels. She chose Forks for its distinction in being the least sunny place in the entirety of the United States, enabling her to have vampires walking around freely in the daylight.

Speaking of vampires, they were NOT ALLOWED as we traveled further down the road to the tinier town of La Push where the werewolf dudes hold sway.

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The clouds, which had been pouring rain off and on most of the afternoon, lifted as we pulled into First Beach in La Push, but it was so freaking windy I couldn’t bear to do more than snap a few quick photos of the rocky “islands” (more properly known as seastacks), interrupting a seagull confab in the process, and hop back in Marigold.

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FINALLY we made it to Rialto Beach. And it was just as wild and wooly as promised! The waves CRASHED on the shore. The wind WHOOSHED around our heads, and storm clouds hung low and threatening. The whole place felt alive with energy. It was GREAT! (Note: all of these photos are in color, it just doesn’t look that way. My hat and Annie’s collar were about the only things not shown in shades of gray. Quite a change from yesterday’s explosion of green.)

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The beach was LITTERED with huge bleached drift logs – once towering spruce trees that had fallen from the cliffs and been tossed ashore by the pounding waves. I had to scramble quite a bit to make any headway, but Annie made short work of it.

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It was very cold and very damp and VERY windy, but I was in love with the raw elemental nature of the place and the sharp tangy smell of the ocean and would have stayed all day.

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Given the weather conditions, I decided beach camping was a less than ideal option, so we headed back to our rain forest haven, passing our friendly neighborhood elk out again for their “twilight” foraging . . .

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The good news is, I had managed to score a PRIMO campsite, directly on the Hoh River, which is hard to distinguish from the gravel bar that runs down the middle, as it too is a slate gray. This murky color of the water is caused by “glacial flour,” basically the tiny residual particles remaining from centuries of rocks being scraped and worn down by the glaciers that formed this waterway.

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The bad news is, the rain had become ever more persistent, and attempts to wait it out in the cozy confines of Marigold were to no avail. It was to be a damp dinner.

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Some of us got creative, and, wanting to be able to enjoy the rush of the river, rigged up a towel over the two open side doors of the van to serve as a de facto awning (since the Camper Van rental place had failed to provide a van with a preinstalled one as I had requested), and were able to enjoy the fire well into the evening.

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Others of us . . . preferred to stay as dry as possible.

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Oh, and a question . . . an open door, a flag that says Open, an Open sign on the open door, and . . . a Closed sign in the window?? What gives Forks?

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Day Forty Nine: If Green is All There is, Then it’s Green I’ll Have to Be: Washington, Olympic National Park

(Events of Sunday May 3rd, blogged Sunday May 10th)

So, when I optimistically told everyone I would be staying at this beachfront campground in Klaloch for three days, and was myself anticipating a lot of downtime, I underestimated how far apart stuff is in this park, and how slowly you have to drive to get from place to place. I also sussed out that the coveted campsites right on the ocean were going to be hard to come by. Maybe I would have to think about moving around a bit.  But for now I was enjoying where I was, so after a slow paced morning of lazing around camp, I decided to drive northwards a bit toward the Hoh Rainforest and check out an entirely different aspect of the park.

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Not too far down the road I saw a sign for GIANT CEDAR, so we decided to pull over and have a look. It was indeed quite large.

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As we ambled back to the campervannie, a wave of exhaustion over took me. All my energy and excitement from the day before was a distant memory. I sat in the parking area for a bit, taking advantage of a rare spot of cell service to catch up online and even blog a bit, and finally decided that the best course of action was to find a different campground, closer by, and settle in for a nice mid-day snooze. We drove a bit further and found a gorgeous, primeval looking spot just outside the rainforest area. After nearly strangling some innocent children who had the audacity to make cheerful noises while I was trying to check in, I found a site not too far from the Hoh River, and crashed big time.

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By late afternoon I was feeling moderately refreshed and Annie was suitable fed up with the lack of activity, so it seemed an opportune time to stroll over and wander the nearby trials. One problem. No dogs allowed. So, throughout this trip I haven’t always strictly adhered to such draconian admonishments. You may judge if you wish. But I wanted to hike with my dog in a rain forest dadgummit! So, we waited until the tiny trailer Visitor Center had cleared out (it was right across the parking lot from the trail head) and made a ninja stealth foray into the jungle. . . where we were immediately met by two twenty something dudes who persisted in commenting on how old Annie was. They were dog lovers, and meant well, but what would either of us want to hear that for?!  Annie gave them a death glare (OK, cheek nuzzle) and we moved on. The trail we chose is called “Hall of Mosses,” and you will soon see why.

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I don’t know if I’ll be able to convey how GREEN everything: moss, ferns, swamp, leaves… everywhere you looked it was fifty shades of green. The late afternoon light filtered through it like stained glass so that we seemed to be almost swimming in it. And the air just reeked of freshness.

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Speaking of swimming, all the water in here is from melting glaciers higher up in the park. And since the glaciers were formed before we started polluting the water system, all the water is crystal clear and extremely pure. Unfortunately, it’s our polluting the atmosphere and other questionable practices which are causing the glaciers to melt and provide us all this lovely clean water, but you win some you lose some glaciers. In the picture below, the green in the creek is algea/moss at the BOTTOM of the bed, there is at least four inches of water above it.

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And everything wasn’t just green, it was tall and twisted and gnarled.

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Seriously, don’t you just expect a dinosaur to come around the corner at any minute?

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But no dinosaurs appeared, and, as I feared we had already pushed our luck, I decided not to explore a second trail, but instead to head back to camp. Only now I was WIDE AWAKE and full of energy after my afternoon nap break, so on a whim, I thought it might be fun to take Marigold for a spin (the fact that I was at an exciting point in my audio book, The Night Circus, played no part in the decision, I assure you. And lo and behold, as has so often happened on this trip when I nudge myself out of routine or the easy path (although not when I try to force myself through exhaustion), we encountered a bit of serendipity in the form of multiple elk happily dining on the side of the road, with not a care in the world to our approach (and excessive photography session).

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These dudes (or dudettes) are known as Roosevelt Elk-their protection was one of the primary reasons this National Park was established, and they are named for Teddy Roosevelt who was in some regards the father of the National Park Service. They are also the biggest elk in the country. So that was cool. But I was still tired, and a little down, and a little lonely, so we headed back to camp and cuddled up and hoped for a cheerier tomorrow.