Giant Trees, Giant Woodpeckers & A Giant Thai Duck

Trip Start Jun 20, 2009
Trip End Jun 27, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sleeping with the balcony door open was fantastic, until about 7:45 in the morning when the freighter in the harbor let out a totally uncalled for bone-rattling horn blast that sent me into a kung-fu pose atop the bed.  Kip recovered more rapidly than I and fell quickly back to sleep.  I spent the next half hour on our balcony watching a man search for clams on the shore and trying to catch a clear view of what appeared to be a marine animal swimming in the harbor.  I get so excited about those sorts of things that it wasn't long before Kip was out of bed and scanning the waters to see if he could spot it with me.  No luck.

We stopped at Safeway and picked up hummus, crackers, chicken salad and bagels for a picnic lunch and we scored a styrofoam cooler at a nearby gas station.  Since we'd cleverly packed ice into a plastic bag from the hotel, we were set to go!  I made the mistake of getting a Starbuck's coffee inside the Safeway.  Blech.  Compared to the sweet nectar I'd had the day before, it tasted like watered down mud.  Washington's fresh coffee makers may have ruined my love affair with Starbucks forever.

Our agenda for the day promised a lengthy drive through Olympic National Park, including a visit to the Hoh Rainforest.  Shortly after entering the Park (still no-charge for the weekend!) we were treated to spectacular views of Lake Crescent as well as several pretty little roadside waterfalls.  The forest trees were amazingly large and dense.  At one point near the Lake, I commented about a particularly large tree that appeared to be leaning and more unstable than the others.  We hurried past!

We saw signs for Salmon Cascades and stopped at a couple of pull-offs to explore and take pictures.  The Cascades were very pretty and I'm sure when the river is more full, their power must be immense.  Even though the salmon had not made it this far downstream, the smell in the air had a perfect hint of fishiness to it and it was not at all difficult for me to imagine bears standing across the water looking for lunch to swim by.  We managed to climb down to the water for a closer look and feel.  To no one's general surprise, the water was frigid! Still, Salmon Cascades was the kind of place at which we could have lingered for hours, just watching and soaking in the natural beauty.  The lure of the rainforest, however, was strong, so on we went!

Our next stop was Sul Duc Hot Springs where we thought we might spend a couple of hours in the soothing waters.  However, upon arrival, we decided that paying an all-day fee to squeeze for two hours into what essentially amounted to smelly sulfer swimming pools with a bunch of strangers didn't sound that relaxing after all.  The weather was beautiful, though, so we walked around a bit and Kip bought me a REAL cup of coffee at their tiny espresso shop.  I smuggled plastic forks out of the poolside deli (as we'd forgotten to get them at Safeway) and we were off again.  As we left the Sul Duc area, the forest ranger stopped us and asked which direction we were heading.  We indicated south and she told us that was good as the north route (from whence we'd come) was going to be closed for several hours owing to a huge tree that had fallen over the road and had to be removed.  We were then left to speculate all day about whether it was the very same tree we'd conversed about just an hour before.

On the way to the Hoh Rainforest, we passed through Forks, Washington - THE hotspot for Twilight fans.  Yep. 

Finally inside the rainforest, we cleverly scouted out a picnic table tucked about 200 yards away from the visitor center parking lot and carried our cooler and supplies up there.  We were greatly amused, 5 minutes later, to see a car drive by 50 feet on the other side of us.  Apparently we had selected a location remote only to where we had parked.  Still, it was a lovely lunch and we were mostly secluded by the surrounding trees.  We enjoyed a glass of wine with our picnic and I watched with interest as slugs appeared and disappeared from the tree roots and grasses.  At one point, a large woodpecker (and I do mean LARGE) landed in a nearby tree and started announcing his presence to the world with a mating call. I caught his attention when I immitated his call and we enjoyed a short conversation.  It must have been pretty convincing, however, because in an unexpected move, the woodpecker swooped out of the tree and flew straight towards us.  It came so close that Kip had to duck his head down and put his arms up.   Woody landed on a high tree stump about 8 feet away and gave us both a good looking over.  Kip told me I couldn't flirt with the woodpecker anymore, so after a few minutes, it flew away.  (But not before I took his picture!)

In the rainforest, we decided to take the Hall of Mosses trail and hiked for an hour through a natural fairyland of huge trees wearing flowing moss robes and beards.  The smell was fantastically foresty and the walk was invigorating.  We also hiked through a portion of the Spruce Trail before returning to our more natural, sitting down positions in the Jeep.

We exited the park and drove straight west for a visit to Ruby Beach, directly on the Pacific coast.  By the time we arrived, the afternoon sun was fading and the clouds were settling in, giving the beach a very mysterious, murky look.  We walked down the trail to the water where Kip relaxed on a log, overlooking the ocean, while I explored the sand for shells and other interesting treasures.  I was fascinated by the tide.  Rolling in, it would bring dozens of clam shells with it.  When the water rolled back, the little shells would appear with their bright blue points sticking up and shining.  Within moments, however, they would sink back into the sand.  It seemed like each time I picked something out of the sand, the waves would roll angrily in at me, chasing me up the beach until I tossed my artifact back into the water, soothing the jealous spirit of the sea.  It was a fun way to end our day's journey.

We were pleased to find that the route back through the Lake Crescent area had reopened and we kept our eyes peeled for the spot where the tree had reportedly fallen.  We finally found it - a giant cedar freshly sawed with a mangnificent number of bits and pieces strewn along the roadside.  We spent a few minutes inspecting the scene, along with other passers by.  As usual, the photos just don't do the awesomeness of the event justice.  

Back in Port Angeles by 8:30, nearly everything was closed for the day.  Through sheer luck, we stumbled upon Soho Bistro by the harbor where we enjoyed a simply wonderful Thai meal.  Being a bit chilled from the beach, I ordered Chrysanthemum Tea and was not disappointed by the smell or taste of the yummy nectar that came out of the little ceramic teapot filled with hot water and huge, dried chrysanthemums.  Speaking of huge, Kip ordered an entree that, upon deliverly to our table, we discovered included almost all of a duck!  It was gigantic!  The friendly staff happily packaged our massive left overs and we returned to the Red Lion for another night of well-earned sleep.
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