Sunday, August 31, 2014

Getting to Know the Lovely Long Beach Peninsula

We chose to hunker down on Washington's Long Beach Peninsula during the end of summer craziness that is Labor Day Weekend. We also wanted to avoid the most popular place to camp in the area, Cape Disappointment State Park, for the same reason...instead we're staying at Cranberry RV Park, a small adults only full hookup RV park a couple miles North of the town of Long Beach.

In very short order we've become enchanted with this peninsula. The wide sandy beach is inviting to those on foot, horseback and automobile and is said to be the longest beach in the US. There are car free zones as well.

Horses and birds on the beach.

There is a wide, grassy dune and conifer buffer between the beach and the homes and businesses. Deer browse among the lovely swaying grasses. The paved Discovery Trail, running 8.5 miles from Long Beach to Ilwaco, cuts through the dunes...a perfect way to spend a day on the bikes, or walk a loop of beach and trail.

The trail curves gracefully among the low dunes, the ocean serenades you just out of sight.
There's art along the Discovery Trail and Lewis and Clark interpretive signs.

Ilwaco is the Southernmost town on the peninsula and has a nice Saturday Market in a lovely harborside setting during the summer. Not too much produce, but what there was, was good!

The view as you walk the Ilwaco Saturday market,

This market runs rain or shine, Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend was a little rainy.

Cranberries are farmed on the peninsula and Washington State University has a nice little museum where you can learn about the history of cranberry production.

Excellent displays and information about the entire cranberry farming process from the old days to the present.

Bog boots!

We hiked about 6 miles at Leadbetter Point State Park, situated at the North end of the Peninsula. Hiking the perimeter trails takes you through a variety of habitats: Bay side tidelands, salt marsh, dune forest, grassy dunes and ocean beach.

The forest opens onto the wide open tidelands of Willapa Bay on the East side of the peninsula.

Crossing to the West side of the peninsula you traverse the grassy dunes and drop onto to the beach.
This section had ropes to keep you out of the Snowy Plover nesting zone.

As we walked South on the beach the fog rolled in and we spied royal terns and seagulls resting along the water line.

Walking a foggy beach is an odd sensation, from the center of the beach
we could barely see the grassy dunes or the crashing waves!

Gotta watch your step walking through the forest!

Another stop was the Willapa Bay Oyster House Interpretive Center where we learned a bit about the oyster farming history of the area.

Fishing boats and discarded oyster shells in Oysterville.

There are staggering amounts of oyster shells, both whole and ground, all over this small community.

We've only been here two and a half days and I already had so many photos I couldn't wait any longer to post them! We're really enjoying the casual, friendly, beachy vibe to this place. Lots of people own vacation homes or even lots where they set up their RV for the summer here. And we can walk two blocks to the beach from our RV park...perfect for sunset strolls.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Dry Season in the Rain Forest, PLUS...Fabulous Fungus!

We've spent the last week in Forks, WA. About 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean and about 30 miles from the West entrance to Olympic National Park, Forks is ideally located for exploring a variety of terrain. Having arrived during the wrong time of the month to easily access the beach during low tides we spent most days hiking in the rain forest. With July and August being the driest months of the year, we enjoyed the beauty of the rain forest trails without the muddy feet...though I would love to see the rain forest in all its dripping glory some time.

Kloshe Nanitch Trail
In an effort to avoid end-of-summer weekend crowds on the trail, our first hike took us 20 miles East on highway 101; from foggy Forks to the sunny banks of the Sol Duc River and up to an old fire lookout site. The Kloshe Nanitch trail is a strenuous three mile climb through forest that opens up to views East into the Olympic Mountains and West to the ocean...if the skies are clear.

A couple of goofballs happy to be done climbing this mountain!
We could see lots of clear cut sites and replanted forest, along with the marine layer obscuring the ocean.

The crystal clear Sol Duc River near the trail head.

Bogachiel River Trail and Wetlands Loop
On Free National Park Day we chose to avoid the main Park entrance and hiked the lesser known Bogachiel River Trail. This turned out to be a wonderful way to experience rain forest and even enter the National Park (after two miles of hiking) without the crowds. We hiked about three miles of the River trail and took the Wetlands Loop on the return. This trail goes through beautiful second growth forest and is home to elk, which we saw signs of but no animals in the flesh. If you are short on time the 3 mile wetlands loop trail is an excellent alternative to the National Park.

This extremely tall tree made a great natural bridge.

It's pretty much impossible to photograph the giant trees in this forest,
but their enormous feet can give a good idea of the size of these beauties.

Fungus flowers grace the foot of another giant moss covered tree.

Hoh River Trail, Olympic National Park
We did drive into Olympic National Park one day and hiked 5 miles of the Hoh River Trail. I'd say we saw more enormous old growth trees along the Hoh River than on our Bogachiel River hike (above), but the longer drive and summer crowds at the Hoh Visitor Center made the Bogachiel hike a better deal.

Morning sunlight on leaves and hanging mosses.

You need to watch your step on this trail.

Along the river the vine maples provide a splash of color.

We took a break from hiking one day and went on a logging operations tour offered by the Forks Chamber of Commerce. Logging is one of those things that, as a nature lover, I have a hard time with...but I do understand it is an integral part of life in North America, so since we're in logging country we might as well learn a little about how we harvest our wood.

Like many nature lovers, I've always been put off by clear cut forests and the unnatural uniform look of a replanted forest. We learned that clear cutting is done by private companies because it is the most commercially viable way to remove and replace a forest (it takes about 40 - 50 years to regrow a forest for harvest). Selective logging, a much less destructive process, is generally done on US Forest Service lands for forest management.

Our tour guide, Joe, spent 40 years in the logging industry around Forks and now volunteers once a week for the Chamber. 11 of us loaded into a van and Joe took us to an active logging site where they were harvesting entire trees, including the roots; normally the trees are cut off above ground and the roots are left behind to decompose. These trees with roots will be used to help shore up highway 101 along the Hoh River and are also used to provide immature salmon habitat in local rivers.

It was fascinating to watch this large tree with big branches being moved by one man in this huge piece of equipment.
Stacked in front are trees with roots. Most of the dirt will be poked out of the roots before the trees are trucked out.

Joe then took us to a small, old local mill that processes any size of trees. That is significant because modern high tech mills only process smaller logs because everything is farmed these days and the trees are of a more uniform size. Somehow this mill gets larger trees occasionally.

Eight foot chunks of logs were cut into large planks here.

The tour was interesting and informative though it didn't change my opinion of clear cutting and replanting. Though the tour is free, donations are requested in support of the Forks Chamber of Commerce. We followed it up with a visit to the small Forks Timber Museum and a good burger and fresh chips and fries at Blakeslee's Bar and Grill.

We did make it out to some of the beaches during our stay, though not during a super low tide, and usually with only a brief period of clear(ish) skies before the fog would roll in.

Second Beach in the late afternoon with wispy clouds and marine layer building in the distance.

Within 30 minutes the clouds were taking over Second Beach.

On our last full day we stayed close to camp and took care of daily life stuff and took a short hike in the Elk Creek Conservation Area right in Forks. What a lovely little trail this turned out to be! We saw evidence of the elk the creek is named after, we saw baby salmon or steelhead in the creek, and we saw some amazing fungus. If you're staying in Forks and want to experience the rain forest without driving far this 3 mile trail is definitely worth your time.

Pretty Elk Creek is an important year round habitat for salmon fry.

This is an untouched photo of a 3 foot long patch of neon orange fungus...
quite a shock of color in the forest!

We stayed at the Forks 101 RV Park, a full hookup park with spacious grassy sites in the back section, furthest from highway 101. Note, there is a row of permanent dwellings on the South edge of the RV park, some are nice small manufactured homes, some are very old, very sad looking single wides. If you can overlook the permanents, this is a decent place to stay and it's right across the highway from the terrific Forks Outfitters complex with a good grocery store, hardware store and casual clothing store. We had good 4G Verizon signal here. Oh, and there is a shooting range about two blocks away, fortunately it wasn't being used very often when we were at home.

Site 50 at Forks 101 RV Park.

That's it for our time in Forks; as we head South and to the coast it looks like we've got a few days of rain ahead of us, to be expected in this part of the country. We've been extremely fortunate with the weather on the Olympic Peninsula this summer so we really can't complain. We'll just bundle up and get out in the weather or hibernate in our cozy little home on wheels.

One more thing...We are so fortunate to be living this amazing RV lifestyle in the age of the Internet, with instant access to information right at our fingertips. We can research places to stay, things to do at each stop, questions about issues with the RV, or healthcare, or insurance, stay in touch with family and friends, write the blog...the list goes on and on...clearly the Internet is a key component of this lifestyle. How we connect to the Internet, with a good strong signal, is one of the most common questions we field from people in RV parks.

When we were studying this lifestyle, trying to decide if this was what we wanted to do, one source stood out in the RV blogosphere as the place to go for connectivity information: Technomadia; and to this day, two years into this lifetsyle for us, they remain the premier source. Chris and Cherie have consolidated their excellent research and advice into the RV Mobile Internet Resource Center...THE place to go for all your connectivity questions! Check it out to learn the most current information available on this vital piece of the RV lifestyle puzzle.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Campground Review: John Wayne's Waterfront Resort, Sequim, WA

We chose to spend our month in Sequim, WA at John Wayne's Waterfront Resort because it was a reasonable distance off highway 101 and on the edge of town, so more likely to be a peaceful place to stay. Sequim Bay and the lovely John Wayne Marina and Park are right across the street and the Olympic Discovery Trail is less than a quarter mile away.

There are 43 full hookup RV sites, about half a dozen dry camping sites, plus about half a dozen nice but expensive tent sites and a few cabins. Roads and sites are gravel, with picnic tables at the hookup and tent sites. Amenities include restrooms with showers, small laundry room, wifi, three communal fire pits near the tent area, badminton, volley ball, horseshoes, bike rentals. A guy rents watercraft (SUP, kayaks, canoes) on the property. The park wifi was intermittent fast/slow, so we mostly stuck to our own decent Verizon signal (4G with the booster).

There is a small meadow on the hillside above the RV park (great for dogs, Rosie liked exploring there too) and a short trail (maybe a third of a mile) looping around the back of the park through pretty forest, a nice way to stretch your legs in an evening stroll. The marina park across the street has plenty of benches and tables with excellent views of Sequim Bay, a really lovely place to hang out.

Since we were staying a month we requested a site along the back row, up against the trees. We got site 42, which gave us a nice private area for sitting and for Rosie to explore in the trees, much better than the pull through rows in the center of the park. Sites are a little tight, we had maybe 15 feet between us and our neighbors, but having the grass behind us and the trees creating the cozy sitting area made this a very acceptable site.

The park gets a lot of families on summer weekends but our site was further from the tent area and the short stay sites so we weren't really impacted by the influx of families. We were happy with this park (and our particular site) for a month and would stay here again. The park is very quiet at night.

We also had the pleasure of meeting Mark and Glenda, through RVillage, who were camp hosting at nearby Gilgal Oasis RV Park. They showed us around their park, which looked like another pleasant place to stay in Sequim, with pretty landscaping and a location a bit closer to downtown.

The back row backs up to a hillside covered with trees. We are the second site in from the left end.
Our neighbor on the left is a permanent resident whom we hardly ever saw, very quiet.

Our very private feeling sitting area is backed by trees on a hillside.
Rosie LOVED hunting in the bushes behind our site and caught several shrews and a snake!

The middle rows are not as pleasant as the front and back rows.

A small portion of the tent area. Tent sites are way back in the trees.
Restroom/shower facility plus fire pits surrounded by chairs.

The path up to the meadow...

This is about half of the meadow that sits on the hill above our site.
A trail takes off into the forest beyond the picnic table.

A view of the front row of the RV park from the water.
The front row sites are the most spacious and have water views, but also have some traffic.

John Wayne Marina Park is a wonderful place to hang out and observe Sequim Bay.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wrapping Up Our Month in Sunny Sequim, WA

We've had a great month in Sequim; the weather has been amazing, warmer than we ever expected to experience on the Olympic Peninsula. Several days reaching into the 80's, making us glad there are trails in the forest or along the water to keep us cool.

If you read this blog regularly you know we like to hike almost every day. We've hiked an amazing variety of trails during our stay in Sequim, but quite a few of them have entailed a drive of 20 miles or more, one way. Some days we just didn't feel like driving much so here's a summary of the local trails we hiked (or biked) around Sequim (some have been described in detail in my previous three Sequim posts).

Sequim Area Local Trails

Dungeness Recreation Area. A few miles of bluff and forest trails plus miles of beach hiking. Lighthouse nuts (Suzanne and Paul & Nina qualify) can hike all the way to New Dungeness Lighthouse via the 5 mile long Dungeness Spit trail...or go part way if you just want a lovely beach walk. Check the tides first though or it could be rough going.

Robin Hill Farm County Park. 3.5 miles of trails in the forest at the West end of Sequim.

Olympic Discovery Trail. Many miles of paved multi-use trail that passes through Sequim. Much of the trail that passes through Sequim is along highway 101 or through the busy middle of town, so not really conducive to a peaceful walk or bike ride. The portion of trail West of town is the best for a pleasant walk/run/ride in rural countryside. The ODT is accessible via a short walk from our RV park, the John Wayne Waterfront Resort, where we could make a nice loop of 4 - 5 miles by including W. Sequim Bay Rd. as part of the loop.

Marlyn Nelson County Park, aka Port Williams Beach. Located at the end of Port Williams Rd, this lovely little park is a lesser known place to access the beach, especially at low tide. You can walk North to view the Strait or South to see where a spit from Miller Peninsula creates the small opening to Sequim Bay.

We watched a young boy feed this adorable little goat along the Olympic Discovery Trail West of town.

Moving on to how we spent our final days in this beautiful area...

We actually got out on the water during our stay. Our RV park is across the street from Sequim Bay and the John Wayne Marina. Right on the docks is a small vendor renting kayaks and stand up paddle boards, so on our final day with Angela and Debbie we rented kayaks for a couple of peaceful hours of paddling on the Bay.

Admiring the boats in the marina as we head for the Bay.

Happy Hans!

Another day I took our neighbors inflatable kayak out and came across two harbor seals who were as curious about me as I was about them.

I managed to catch one checking me out!

One day we drove West about 30 miles to Salt Creek Recreation Area. This lovely county park offers some very nice camping, with both dry sites in the woods, and water/electric sites on the bluff. There are a couple miles of trails, a world war II bunker, plus tidepools and beach walking along Crescent Bay on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

When we first arrived the tide was low and the fog was fairly thick.

Beach walkers were ghostly...

Heading up on the bluff we found the abandoned bunker which you can drive through.

And got another view of the sea stack as the fog faded away.

Our last really big hike in this area was a doozy: Grand Valley Loop in Olympic National Park. Recommended to us by our Washington friends, Bill and Christine, this was a gorgeous, strenuous lung buster of a hike that took us through lush green valleys sprinkled with summer flowers, across numerous tiny streams and big, rushing, tumbling creeks, past two sub alpine lakes, and up some extremely steep mountainsides that offered spectacular views.

The road to the trail head offers amazing views of the Olympic Mountains.

Not far from the trail head the trail drops steeply into Badger Valley.

Badger Valley is laced with flowers and streamlets and we weave in and out of lush forest as we continue our descent.

Crossing Badger Creek.

Grand Lake really was Grand!

Moose Lake was equally beautiful.

Then it was time to climb out of the valley...

This trail goes up, seriously UP!

The top is finally in sight!

A look back into the valley we climbed out of, now in shadow.
At this elevation the mountain ranges have multiplied with spiky peaks in the distance.

Big smiles atop Lillian Ridge, along with some August snow remnants!

Sequim turned out to be a lovely place to spend a month. We've had plenty to do with a variety of terrains (beach, prairie, forest, mountains), good shopping options (Sunny Farms is an awesome grocery store, there's a Costco too), and we enjoyed several fun meetups as well. It's easy to see why Sequim is a popular retirement destination, with its prime location in the Olympic Rainshadow.

Next up, we head to the West side of Olympic National Park and spend a week in Forks, WA...more forest and beach time coming up!

Last, but not least, I want to give a shout out on a new product made by a friend of ours: Chili Hellion, a smoked habanero powder. If you like spicy and smokey give it a try...we tried it on steak and loved it and the spicy Bloody Mary described on the website sounds delicious! I also made a charred fresh corn and feta salad dressed with a combo of blood orange olive oil and a dash of this spice that was very good. Check it out:

Driftwood masquerading as a sea star along the Dungeness Spit.