Seattle to Alaska's Inside Passage on the Carnival Spirit - Seattle Edtion - Ft. Lewis and Olympic National Park
DAY 2Click thumbnail to view full-size
Fort Lewis and Olympic National Park
THE NEXT DAY, SUNDAY, WE DROVE IN A CIRCLE, a big circle, a very big circle, a 12-hour circle; my wife hated me. We drove around the Olympic National Park, a trip I thought might be 6 - 8 hours; it didn't look that far on the map. Oh well, the best laid plans, etc.
GPS took us South on 99, then South on 509, then GPS took us in a circle East, then North, then West, then South again for a little bit before having me head North on 99 once again!, which, I knew wasn't right so I overrode that little b... and reversed directions once more until I got on 99 South where it merged into I-5 South, North of Tacoma; dizzy yet?
This was my old stomping grounds, 35 years ago; it has changed; a lot! I did reconize the name and that is almost it. When I was there in 1973 - 1975, I was station at Fort Lewis, WA, South of Tacoma and near McCord, AFB. It is now the Joint Operations Base, Lewis-McCord; part of one the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) processes I was part of during my time with the Pentagon from 1988 on, although not this particular decision. While at Fort Lewis, I did three things primarily, fly helicopters, to keep my currency, train as an infantry platoon leader, and spent a year playing lawyer; acting as trial counsel for the government in special courts-martial and as defense counsel in summary courts-martialswherehaving a law degree wans't needed (defense counsels needed them in special courts-martial); it was an extra duty, infantry officers are good, don't you know.
We stopped by Fort Lewis to see what had changed, which, much had of course, but, much to my surprise, and as you can see from the pictures, the WW II-era barracks and offices my troops and I occupied were still there and being used by ROTC and Reserve troops. Regular soldiers now stay in much more modern barracks the Army finally got around to building not that long ago on the North Fort; the Main Fort had newer barracks a couple of decades ago.
Around OlympicClick thumbnail to view full-size
Olympic National Park
AFTER LEAVING Fort Lewis, we continued South on I-5 into the State Capital of Olympia, WA, my old haunt in my drinking days, then headed North on US Hwy 101 before turning West on Washington State Route 8. I need to pause here to note that where US 101 joins I-5 and begins to run North is actually the beginning of the fabled route! It continues North, circles West around the Olympic mountains and then heads South through Aberdeen, WA (not to be confused with the one in Texas or Maryland) where I rejoined it, and continues on South on its trek to its terminus in downtown Los Angeles, some 1,115 miles further down the coast; with some of the most scenic views in America along the way.
When you leave Olympia and head West, you leave a moderately sized city with its hustle and bustle and immediately plunge into the quiet solitude of the green Washington State countryside. The drive from Olympia to Hoquiam, WA, on Grays Harbour, at the western edge of Washington, is about 53 miles on good 4-lane highway that runs along the southern base the Olympic mountains through beautiful forest, which was true for most of our trip; it generally got better, rarely worse. We travelled along route 8, which turned into route 12 which, a few miles East of Aberdeen merged back into US 101, now heading on its way South; except, we were going North.
Northled us to our first run into with Olympic National Park at Lake Quinault, which was on the way to our first destination Kalakoch Beach; part of the Olympic National Park system and at the southern tip of a strip of the park that runs along most of the coast from the Makah Indian Reservation which includes the most Northwestern point in the contiguous United States, Cape Flattery, WA. At Lake Quinault is supposed to be the biggest Cedar tree in the State, if not the world. I made the turn at the right place and proceeded to get lost. I didn't want to take the time, and increase my wife's ire, in trying to find it so, I retreated back to our route and proceeded on.
I picked Kalakoch Beach as a destination, because my wife, except from the deck of the Carnival Spirit in 2004, had never seen the Pacific Ocean in the Northwest; she and I have different ideas of how neat this is and how it stacks up to hours sitting in a car. Some pictures are offered for your opinion including the first on of the cabins the park offers visitors who want to be right on the coast. There is also a nice lodge a few 100 yards inland nearby. We continued to head North.
As I was soon to find out, Washington State has a lot of big Cedar's, we saw several signs proclaiming such, and stopped to see one; pictures are included. It is really hard to get a clear picture of how immense these trees are with the cell phone and digital camera I had, but, if you look at the third to the last tree picture, the height of the date above the ground is around five feet. Just to the left of that date is a hollowed out portion of the tree and the next two pictures are looking up from inside the tree. We continue North.
Next we stopped for lunch and at a quaint little town called Forks, WA. I was a bit taken aback by several references in signs around the counter of the restaurant we entered as well as literature at the table and even the menu about werewolves, vampires, witches, warlocks and the like. They had a quiz about your know of Twilight, whatever that was. and other such strange references; I was really beginning to wonder what we had walked into. It brought to mind a twilight zone I saw 50 years ago where a couple got stuck in this New England town and was ushered into this room by a very nice couple; the room turned out to be an oven. Anyway, it turns out Forks, WA was the setting for a portion of the movie Twilight; that became evident when we left and began driving through th main part of town and saw signs and other references to Twilight this and Twilight that. The food was good, by the way, if a bit scary.
Our next stop is Hurricane Ridge, in the Northeast portion and at the seven hour mark of our journey. Along the way, we could have made the turn onto Washington State Route 113 and from there found Washington State Route 112 and headed back Northwest through Neah Bay on the Makah Indian Reservation until you reached Cape Flattery, the most Northwestern point of the contiguous United States. Instead we continued East on US Hwy 101, past beautiful Lake Crescent until we hit a dirt road named Little River Road. I only bring this up, because along the way, which because twisting its way up the foothills of the Olympic Mountains, is in coming around one of the bends we came face-to-face with gun-totin' target shooters; right out there in the middle of our drive, I was on an unregulated shooting range, fortunately, they were shooting in the other direction. This "entertainment" lasted for about a half mile; beware!
We finally reached Hurricane Ridge Road where we turned right and headed up into the Olympic mountains and toward Hurricane Ridge. On our way up, we ran into first clouds, then our first, and about our only, wildlife, a few deer. We never really seemed to enter the clouds, they appeared to lift with us, always just out of reach, as our altitude increased, it was weird. At one point we saw the dear and pulled over to take a few pictures. The dears weren't particularly cooperative and immune to whistling, honking, yelling, and other ideas I had trying to get them to turn around and look at me; I finally succeeded.
We were fairly nearly our destination, the ranger station and visitor center; we were late and it was closed. When we arrived, there were only a couple of other people around as well as wispy clouds and wind, cold wind. It was getting closed to dusk but still good enough for pictures. Please enjoy.
We are now about 9 hours into hour 6 hour excursion and ready to get home, about 90 minutes away ... NOT. The way back from Hurricane Hill, on Hurricane Ridge, is along Hurricane Ridge Road to Port Angeles and US 101 again. Then you go East to route 104 to Kingston, across the bridge over Puget Sound to Edmonds, to I-95 South then to the hotel; two MAJOR problems, 1) there was a casino on 101 and 2) there wasn't a bridge, folks, there was a ferry; it looks the same on my map.
If you knew my wife and I, you would know we cannot physically pass up a casino without stopping in and making our contribution, and this trip was no exception. After enjoying ourselves for a little bit, it was a nice, small casino, of which Washington State apparently has hundreds, we moved on to Kingston. We knew we had problems when the road started narrowing, not surprising, and going downhill, not up, plus the wrong signs started appearing that talked about a ferry ... oops. After a 25-minute wait and boarding for the ferry and 20-minute ride, we arrived on the Seattle side of Puget sound and 20 minutes after that, 12 hours after we began, we were sitting on our bed, exhausted, in our Paramount Hotel room.
© 2011 Scott Belford