Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Trips: Olympic Peninsula





Peeps, I never in a million years thought I’d say this...but: We took a RV trip this weekend and loved it. I always fancied myself a tent kinda gal; but it is hard to overlook the benefits of having an enclosed box on wheels that comes equipped with running water, a heater, and a bathroom, especially when traveling with a little 20 month holy terror (aka my son). 

We rented and planned this trip months ago and then frankly, we kind of forgot about it. With the hustle and bustle of summer, it got pushed onto the back burner until I looked at the calendar last Wednesday and said “Yikes, we have a RV for this weekend yet no campground reservations!”. 

Fortunately, it’s late enough in the season that everything was fairly quiet, people-wise, so a lack of planning didn’t come back to haunt us. 

Here is our 3.5 day route around the lovely Olympic Peninsula. We started in Seattle and went in a clockwise direction. 

View Olympic Park RV Road Trip in a larger map


And here is our spiffy little rental van:
(it’s the compact model from Cruise America, in case you were wondering. On of my major gripes? I didn’t like that the Cruise America name/number was emblazoned on every single square inch of exterior van real estate. I don’t fancy being a driving billboard. Other than that, it was awesome.)

We spent our first night in Shelton at the cabin of my godparents. We got in late but had time in the morning for a little jaunt on the beach. 


And by jaunt I mean that we spent the entire time keeping Ben out of the water. 




Shelton is right in the middle of timber country. We stopped for coffee and to check out their railroad display, complete with logs. Ben was impressed. 





Afterwards we headed west and took a little stroll along the Lake Quinault Nature Trail. Peeps, Washington can grow some massive trees. 



As modeled by my [long-armed] husband:

He hasn’t quite got the wingspan of Michael Jordan, but it’s probably longer than average. 


I like this tree shot. What do you call those? Nurse trees? You can see the cut marks from the loggers in the original stump. I believe the notches were used as foot holds (or posts on which the loggers could stand) when the guys were sawing away above.


Did I mention that this was a rainforest? Lots and lots of watery little pools. 



I’m always undecided on photos that have the water ‘slowed down’ into a white sheet. I think it looks pretty... but then it also screams mid-90s photography, no?



After a brief hike under our belt, it was back into the car for trip to our campsite. Ben loved the RV. We flipped his seat around so he faced forward and he had a sweet window from which to observed the passing scenery. 

Here he is chilling and doing a little light reading [Ball! Moo! Quack! Fish!]


Thanks to our late-in-the-season trip, we were able to find a drop-in spot at Kalaloch Campground, which is routinely rated one of very best sites in Washington. During the summer months it’s books solid (nine months in advance). 


Here is our sweet little micro-RV:


We strolled down to the Ocean for a little pre-dinner beach time. [Someone is digging to China over there]


Once again, we spent most of the time pulling Ben out of the water. 


Right. That dude looked freezing. 


Not bad for a National Park Beach. We like people-less areas. 


One medium step for Chris, One giant leap for Sonja-kind. 


After our second cozy night in the camper we got up at the crack of dawn (thanks to an early-rising baby) and headed 20 miles up the road to a quiet spot where we had breakfast and took a few family pictures. 

Pretty, no?


Self portrait:


With the fam-damily:


Take two:




We stopped for a snooze (love the vacation time - no time schedule to keep) at Lake Crescent:




And did a bit of wildlife viewing. And rock-into-water chucking. 


We finally ended up at Dungeness Spit, a 5 mile finger of sand and grass that is formed by the tidal patterns in the area. 


Time for another beach walk. 


My mom asked if we saw any seals on the beach. No. We had to settle for a lousy seagull:




And once again, pulling the baby from the waves. 


He never gets tired of it. His parents might have a slightly different opinion. 



After our walk, we drove into Sequim (five points to the first person that can correctly pronounce that!) and visited the Olympic Game Farm



What can I say about this place? We’ve talked to lots of people that say it’s not to be missed and, indeed,  it is a crazy experience. 


Basically you drive your car through a massive field that is filled with deer, horses, bison, and elk. You hold out pieces of bread and the animals mob the car in an attempt to grab the crusts. 


And, Lovelies, they are NOT shy. 


Hellloooo horsie. Your breath stinks. 


We got a few nice shots.


The part of the park that makes me hesitant to recommend this place was the carnivore/omnivore section. Fully grown lions, tigers, and wolves do not belong in chain-link fence cages measuring 15’x20’. 

Brown bears do not belong in pens with eight other individuals.

There has long been a debate over the purpose of zoos as educational centers vs. the ethics of keeping large-range animals in small spaces. You probably know where I stand on this issue: I used to work at a zoo and I love taking Ben to Woodland Park to visit the animals. But the cages here at the game farm were egregiously tiny. And driving past pacing wolves and bored lions was not a fun experience. 

They had several bears in a penned area and the animals were lined up along the road, begging for bread. They even did a little dance if you waved the crusts around. 

It was ducky to be so close to the animals and marvel at their dexterity (have you ever seen a bear stab a crust of bread with a single claw and zip it up to its mouth?) (Ben was in an absolute tizzy) but it also had a slightly dodgy air about it. 

I’m still not sure how I feel about it. 

But it was definitely an experience I’ll never forget. 





We left the park and headed to our final campground of the trip: Fort Flagler


The campsites are steps from the beach, and while they lack privacy, it’s a great place for kids as there is a playground, plenty of space for riding bikes, and an enormous beach. 


Just like Kalaloch, if you plan on staying here during the summer months, reservations (6-9 months in advance) are required. 



The next morning it was up early for a quick breakfast at a nearby park and a few family pictures:




We missed the ferry from Kingston to Edmonds by about 60 seconds. Bummer. So we spent an hour walking around the harbor. 


And then a quick boat ride and we were home. 

My Boys in Blue. 
And that, my Dears, was our trip. 

xxoo, 

Sonja

3 comments:

  1. FYI, while I agree the game farm is very old school with how it houses it's animals, they have been trying to raise money with all sorts of fundraisers to build new areas for all their carnivores. The fences they need to do this are incredibly expensive so any donation helps them out greatly. You guys also missed the walk through the historic barn where you would have learned about the farms history working on every single Disney nature film that was shot. Thankfully the game farm has changed their polices and is very strict about wheat bread only now. For many years they let people drive through and feed the animals whatever they wanted too. (I cannot even imagine how bad that was!) While those of us who love animals might not agree with everything the game farm does, at least we know they are trying their best and have plans for improving all the animal areas.

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  2. All good points. They certainly can’t improve animal enclosures if they have no funds (or visitors). Simply providing food for the animals must be terribly expensive.

    That said, I wasn’t terribly impressed by the new tiger enclosures that were being constructed, either. While a little larger (in terms of actual real estate), they still consisted of a chain link fence cage. Compare that to the new tiger exhibit going in at Woodland Park and I guess it had me questioning their best efforts.

    We were tickled pink by the bison/elk/llamas/etc. I wonder if there was really a need for the carnivores, given that they require so much more in terms of resources/space/food. For example, are ten bears really necessary when two (in the space that ten currently share) might have a better quality of life? Food for thought. We read that most were offspring of the former ‘actors’ or rescues so perhaps they felt that they couldn’t turn them away. Who knows.

    It was a really fun experience and we had a great time. Ben is still riding high. And I think we would probably return again. But given our background in animal care taking, I think careful consideration of what we’re supporting with our admission $ is warranted and appropriate.

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  3. Great photos Sonj! I love the ones where you and Chris are having to forcibly remove Ben from the ocean (and all of the animal ones). :)

    - linds

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