The Summer Olympics

Our school year doesn’t begin until after Labor Day, so we decided to cross our fingers for good weather and arranged to rent a cottage in the Hoh River Valley for the weekend.

We’d stayed in the same little house before, two years ago. But that trip was in October, and it rained almost the entire time. This trip was a lovely, sunny time without a drop of rain.

Our main task was to view different parts of Olympic National Park. This is always a tricky task. The park is centered around the Olympic Mountains, which is beautiful but impassable by car. So, you have to drive quite a bit around the outside of the range to reach all the different features of the park.

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The first stop after our ferry crossing was Lake Crescent, at the northern end of the park. This is one of the most beautiful places in the entire state. The highway passes right along its edge, and in our previous trips I’d always pressed my nose against the car window as we sped past, wishing we could stop. But this time, we could!

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Who are you to resist this?

We headed straight for the Lake Crescent Lodge and rented some canoes so we could paddle around for an hour. The weather was warm, sunny, and perfect.

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This sign was on the porch of the lodge
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Eleanor pouted a little bit because she wanted to do a solo kayak run around the lake, like she’d learned at Girl Scout camp. Sorry, m’dear.
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Getting ready to push our canoes onto the water

Brian had the girls, and I had the boys. The idea was that Jeff had more canoeing experience and could help me out, but it actually led to bouts of uncoordinated paddling. There were a few times when I ordered the boys to put their paddles up while I did all the navigation myself.

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Jeff accidentally flipped his canoe over at Boy Scout Camp this summer. I told him he’d be grounded if he did that to me.
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I was nervous about my phone getting dropped into the water, so I didn’t take many pictures. We all had a blast!

We warmed up afterwards in the Lake Crescent hotel. I love national park lodges, they are so charming. (The kids didn’t understand the concept of mounted elk heads on the wall.)

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Relaxing on the lodge’s front porch
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Jeff was disappointed that we weren’t eating lunch at the fancy restaurant
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Katie and William just Did. Not. Get. The concept of hunting trophies. They didn’t find it upsetting so much as baffling. Why would you want a dead animal head on the wall? Why just its head?

After our canoe time, we drove to a picnic area on the lakeshore. There weren’t any other tourists around, and it was incredibly peaceful.

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This picnic area used to be a campground in the park. There were quite a few abandoned, moss-covered tables scattered through the forest.

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Having filled up, we headed back to the Storm King ranger station to do the little hike to Marymoor Falls. The kids grumbled at first, but they loved the payoff at the end.

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This is the Storm King ranger station. I love how cozy it looks, tucked into the mountains.

 

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William and I played Poohsticks on this bridge while waiting for the rest of the fam to catch up with us
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Jeff couldn’t help exploring the riverbed, despite my many cautions to keep his feet dry.
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The one and only photo of me during this trip

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I love how the park service added rails to this log bridge. It’s just a log with rails nailed into it.
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Marymoor Falls! It was hypnotic to watch.
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I admit it doesn’t look as impressive from this angle.

It was late afternoon by the time we got back to our car, so we zipped off down the highway for the drive to Forks. (Yes, that Forks. There’s still plenty of vampire junk around town — although not nearly as much as there was in 2013 when we took our first visit to Forks — but enough to catch the kids’ attention. This lead to a lengthy car conversation about vampire lore, cheesy YA literature, and whether or not a vampire and a werewolf can have a baby).

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The “Hoh Valley Hideaway,” as the owners call it
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I am of the opinion that there is way too much furniture inside. There was a coffee table where Katie is sitting, but it kept tipping over so we moved it into a bedroom

After settling in and grabbing dinner at a diner in Forks, we decided to drive down to Kalaloch Beach for the evening ranger program. It was all about seeing stars in the park — both in the sky, and in tidepools (seastars). Katie was chosen to pretend to be the Pacific Ocean in an audience participation activity. She scurried up and down the aisles of the amphitheater, crying out “Make way for the water!”

The sunset at Kalaloch (which we viewed before the program) was incredible. The kids were itching to get their feet wet in the waves — and William went ahead and doused his pants.

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Eleanor jumps for joy
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My sweet love

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Long shadows stretching behind us. Katie enjoyed making them skip and dance.
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Eleanor took this picture of William
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Another photo by Eleanor
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Yes, Eleanor yet again.
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We found several faces like this on the beach, made by previous visitors
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I’m . . . in this one. Huh, I didn’t realize until now. Yep, it’s another Eleanor photo.
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I love the colors the sunset makes

The next morning it was very warm and sunny outside, so we all donned our swimsuits and headed to Rialto Beach. Our last beach day of the summer — and it was hot enough to require air conditioning in the car!

Well . . . remember that trip to Graylands Beach, and the crazy only-on-the-shore haze?

Rialto Beach was the setting of the little-known Gidget movie,  Return of the Haze: Don’t You Feel Underdressed?

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Brrrrrr!

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It was a little disheartening to arrive in swimsuits and be greeted by a beach full of people wearing long pants and hoodies. We splashed in the waves anyway. It wasn’t that bad, to tell the truth — the water was warmer than Puget Sound — but the waves kept tossing up little pebbles that hit our shins and made them sting a bit. Eleanor was happy I joined her in the water, so it was worth it.

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We all huddled on a log for a while before getting up the nerve to get in the water
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Brian was teaching the kids how to do the shot put. In the background, you can see the line of surfers waiting for the perfect wave.

There were surfers catching the waves, so it wasn’t that ludicrous. Yeah. . . the surfers were wearing wetsuits, but still.

We returned to our cabin for warm clothes, warm lunch, and a few rounds of Magic: the Gathering before we drove into the mountains to see the Hoh Rainforest. The last time we visited this area of the park, the trail we wanted to take was blocked by a massive Roosevelt Elk, which was incredible. No such luck this time. But the Hall of Mosses was just as majestic without the elk, to tell the truth.

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This bridge was almost impassable because so many tourists were taking pictures of the green weeds below the water

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These tree roots were formed around a nurse log that has since biodegraded

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Katie found a clump of moss on a stick and carried it around for a while. It was a magic wand, then some sort of cooking implement
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Ah, thats’ me. Eleanor strikes again.

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I’ve given up on getting good group photos

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See? GIVEN UP

Our plan was to try to see another beach sunset, so we drove to Forks and bought a picnic supper of fried chicken, then drove down to Ruby Beach to eat.

Again, the chilly wind foiled our plans a bit. Brian and I were dismayed at the prospect of eating chicken with chattering teeth, until the children discovered a neat fort that someone had built out of driftwood. We all fit snugly inside, and there was a circle of logs to sit on, and a smooth stump in the middle that worked as a table. It was the best pirate hideout/picnic spot ever.

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Chicken, please!

After our supper, the kids were eager to use the information they had learned at the ranger program the evening before and ran out to explore tidepools.

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Hole in the Rock

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Jeff loved having the freedom to wander and climb anywhere. It’s nice to give him the freedom to do so.
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She was so excited to find sea anemones!

They learned that touching sea anemones is okay to do, but they will make your fingers sticky. We also got to hear barnacles click while bubbling under the waves.

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I love the shape of the water, rocks, and sand here

Ruby Beach is one of the most iconic locations on the Washington coast. I love being there.

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The front of this bleached driftwood log looks like a skull, don’t you think?
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Good grief, Ruby Beach is gorgeous

Our rental cottage sits on a few acres of rainforest, and the property owners have created their own network of private trails. Katie and I took a stroll during our final morning at the cottage. (We also got to try out the outdoor shower — the cottage relies on well water, which was a bit dry at the time of our visit. The owners installed an outdoor shower that uses purified rainwater. It was really fun to use — nice and hot!)

Anyway, the private trails — several of the larger stumps, trees, and logs have been given names like “Grandfather and Grandmother Stump” or “Gentle Giant.” This rainforest is deservedly famous — it’s so lush and lovely.

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The signpost says “Trail for Quiz” because the owners had written a quiz for kids to take while hiking this trail
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My cutie pie.
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Grandfather & Grandmother Stump
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I think this log was labeled “Nurturing Mother”
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You can’t tell, but that “ancient log” was HUUUGE

On the way home we stopped in one more part of the national park, a little trail called “Ancient Grove.” It’s a little loop that circles on a plateau above the Sol Duc river, and is so old it’s nearly haunted.

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The ground drops away on the right of the photo, leading down to the river
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To be honest, I was getting kind of sick of tree photos at this point

It was too short of a visit (although we were good and exhausted by the time we got home); the mountains/ocean/rainforest is such a stunning combination of landscapes! Hopefully the days will pass swiftly by until we get to travel there again.

 

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