Crabs, Coasts and Mountains – Port Angeles, WA
By October we would typically be halfway through our southerly migration, but this year we made a westerly detour to the Pacific Northwest, with the Olympic Peninsula as our destination. As we all know, that area is famous for its fairly mild but often rainy weather, and we had plenty of rain during our stay! We were constantly looking up at the sky and checking daily forecasts so we could plan our activities accordingly.
Geographically speaking, the Olympic Peninsula is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by the Hood Canal and on the north by the Strait of Juan de Fuca. And of course it’s anchored by the majestic Olympic Mountains. Our home base was at Port Angeles, a coastal logging town at the doorway to Olympic National Park.
During our first few days here, our activities were limited by fog, rain and the constant lowering of the clouds that made the days grey and dreary. Although a bit bummed by the weather, we had to figure out things to do with our time at this place surrounded by beautiful coastlines, mountains and glaciers.
One activity that brought our spirits right back up was the Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival held in Port Angeles. When we learned about this huge party during our planning a few weeks ago, we made sure we wouldn’t miss it. The city celebrates its maritime heritage and bountiful seafood offerings by featuring Dungeness crab, one of our all-time favorites. It’s obviously loved by many others around here too, as ferries packed with folks from Victoria, BC steamed into the harbor to join in the festivities.
While crab was king here, we also enjoyed fresh oysters, scallops and crab cakes. The festive mood inside the tent with a Canadian couple we met while in line was more than enough to keep us happy as we enjoyed the bounty of seafood.
We had missed those crabs so much that we went to a local fresh seafood market the next day and got more to enjoy at home. Yum!
Around Port Angeles
We made a few purchases of yummy locally-grown produce at the farmers market:
A long narrow spit of sand called Ediz Hook extends into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, helping to protect the Port Angeles harbor from ocean swells. On most days we could barely see the spit across from the marina, but on the clearest day we drove onto it and enjoyed great views all around.:
Around our campground, Elwha Dam RV Park
Our campsite (Steve’s review here) was was less than a mile from where Elwha Dam stood for 100 years. We learned that the removal of the old structure was the largest dam removal and restoration project in U.S. history. Following the restoration, the river now flows freely from its headwaters in the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. And for the first time in a century the salmon and other migratory fish have been able to return to their spawning habitat.
The trail leading to the old dam was laden with moss-draped trees and giant ferns:
One day we drove scenic Hwy 112 all the way to its end at the most Northwestern point in the continental United States, Cape Flattery. We followed the short trail that took us to a dramatic overlook where we could see the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean at the same time. The trail passed through misty forests and some interesting huge trees. We were surprised that this relatively remote cape was so popular, as we passed a lot of folks during our exploration.
Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park
The main feature on the peninsula is the multiple rugged, saw-toothed peaks of the Olympic Range. No roads traverse the park’s interior, which is protected by Olympic NP. Because of its diversity comprised of snow-capped mountains, wild ocean beaches and lush rain forest, the park is uniquely labelled “three-parks in-one”. Bad weather during our visit forced us to wait four days before we could drive up to Hurricane Ridge to hike just one trail.
We missed a visit to the rain forest and didn’t do any tide pooling, but considering the weather we got a pretty good feel for this beautiful place during our short stay.
Next up: Hunkering down for a big Pacific Northwest storm