Fourth month in Sequim, Washington…
Why we came…
Moderate winter weather and plenty to do!
We are staying at the John Wayne Waterfront Resort and like it! The resort and marina sit on Sequim Bay just a couple of miles from town. We are in the front row and have a nice view of the bay from our windows. The gravel sites are decent sized but a bit unlevel. Parking is tight in some of the sites, especially for folks with an RV and two vehicles. We have full hook-ups, cable tv, decent wi-fi, and a reliable 2 bar LTE Verizon phone signal. Most of the sites sit in the open so satellite TV is no problem. The laundry room has two washers and two dryers. The bathroom facilities are nice and include coin operated showers. Everything is well maintained and kept clean. Tracy, Josh and the rest of the crew do a good job. We’re also thankful that they accept our mail.
There are quite a few long-term residents in the campground. The other rows feel crowded with all of the extra vehicles. However, we were very comfortable in the front row.
We really enjoy walking around the marina a few times a day. The Olympic Discovery Trail is also just up the road. We like the location and are happy to spend our winter at John Wayne Waterfront Resort!
Sadly, as of late March 2018, Port of Port Angeles commissioners are considering whether or not to sell the marina and surrounding prime real-estate:
We are very comfortable in the front row of the John Wayne Waterfront Resort
We walk around the marina a few times each day. There is always something interesting to see.
Sequim has a population near 7,000, but the surrounding area has about 28,000 people. Sequim, pronounced “skwim”, is on the northern side of the Olympic Peninsula and sits in the “rain shadow” of the nearly 8,000 foot high Olympic Mountains. While most of the Olympic Peninsula gets 100-200 inches of rain a year, Sequim get lets than 20 inches! Plus, the relatively warm Straight of Juan de Fuca and Pacific Ocean keep the temperatures fairly mild. The average winter low temperature is in the mid 30s and the average winter high temperature is in the mid 40s. However, it can get cold. Record low temperatures for November, December, and January are in the single digits! Thankfully that’s quite unusual but we should expect to see temps in the teens a few times.
The town of Sequim offers quite a few restaurants, stores, and services. It has a large and active retirement community and there are plenty of things of to do. People are friendly and laid back. We like Sequim!
Port Angeles has a population approaching 20,000 people. It’s an easy 20 mile drive west of the RV park. It has even more restaurants, stores, and services. It has an active deep water harbor, a Coast Guard Station, and the Port Angeles/Victoria Ferry. It can be congested and busy, but it’s a cool town. And we appreciate the kind and knowledgeable folks at Waters West fly shop for hooking us up with gear and info!
We were surprised to learn that the Sequim/Port Angeles area has nearly 70,000 people!
Weather summary for March…
The weather was pretty typical for this area in March.
Average high temp: 51.7F Average low temp: 34.9F
Average rain: 1.3 inches Average snow: .3 inches
Record high temp: 68F Record low temp: 15F
Record rain: 2.49 inches Record snowfall: 6.5 inches
Observed high temperature: 62F
Observed low temperature: 28F
Measured rainfall: 1.57 inches
Measured snowfall: Trace
Olympic Peninsula annual rainfall / Snowfall water equivalent on 30 Mar 2018. Olympic Mtns are at 117%
The first part of the month went to the dogs! Our friends Deb and Tom planned a trip and asked us to stay at their house to look after their critters.
We enjoyed being in a real house after living in a travel trailer on the road for seven years. It solidified our decision to put down roots and build our own home in two years.
We walked around the neighborhood once or twice a day, played fetch in the field behind house, and let Bronte chase the cat.
We enjoyed monitoring the activities of two resident Bald Eagles. They were often perched in a tree just a hundred yards from the house. One day they were courting each other, flying high, swooping and circling each other. We were sure we would see them mate, but she played too hard to get. “The two soar up to high altitude, lock talons, and tumble and cartwheel toward Earth.”
Plus, there are always deer wandering around the area. We heard an owl one evening. In addition, we heard coyotes a few times and saw their fresh poop along the road.
Dungeness County Park was only a half mile walk from the house. Arleen walked to it a few times but she was nervous with the dogs on the road. It was better to park at a nearby trailhead. From there we were able to do a nice two and a half mile loop. The walk took us through a marsh, an upland forest, along the bluffs, and finally back through an upland meadow. Benches are strategically spaced along the trail that provide great views of the Olympics Mountains and the expansive Strait of Juan de Fuca. The dogs loved meeting other canine friends that were out for daily exercise too.
We took the girls out for a day trip and returned to the Elwha River Valley in Olympic National Park. The dogs were SO excited about all the new smells. They are normally very well behaved on leashes but here they were both pulled hard to get at fresh scents all along our nearly three mile walk. We noted that a lot of the pavement that the river had torn up back in November has been hauled off.
Deb is very good about finding activities that challenge her dogs. In addition to being therapy dogs, she also takes them to K9 Nose Work trials. Of course, like any athlete, they need to train before a trial. Since Deb was going to be gone for a few weeks, she asked us to get Dora to her training to keep her sharp for her upcoming trial. “Dogs learn how to search for a specific odor or odors (like birch, anise, and clove) and find the source. K9 Nose Work introduces dogs to four different search elements: container, interior, exterior, and vehicles. Dogs build their hunt drive and learn foundational search skills in all four elements.” It was fun to meet other owners and see the variety of dogs that participate from Standard Poodles to a Wire-Haired Pointing Griffon to a small Havanese. Dora was very laid back about it all and easily found each source.
The reason Bronte was career changed from being a Guide Dog was due to elbow dysplasia that was found during her final medical examination. Deb encourages her to swim during the summer which keeps her strong. But during the winter Bronte goes for a session of warm water exercise every other week at Swim Doggie Swim with owner, Jennifer Paul. “With the therapeutic effects of warm water and hands-on bodywork, this holistic approach supports the body’s natural healing process and can have truly remarkable results.” Bronte thoroughly enjoyed the swim, massage, and play!
Tom and Deb’s neighborhood is backdropped beautifully by the Olympic Mountains
A beautiful sunrise over the Olympic Mountains seen from the living room
We enjoyed lounging with the critters
Dora practicing her “Nose Works” skills
Bronte getting a water workout
Walk route along the Elwha River in Olympic NP / Madison Falls is very pretty
The Elwha Valley road is closed due to washout. It’s a nice walk! / Snowdrops were peaking
Walk route to the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge
Some of the benches have great views of the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca
Bike ride on the Olympic Discovery Trail…
The weather was finally ideal for our first spring bike ride! The showery and cloudy weather in the area make it a challenge for a dry ride AND dry roads. It had not rained for a few days and the forecast high was a temperature of 62oF. Perfect!
The most direct way to the Discovery Trail is the steep hill up Whitefeather Way. The road climbs 200 feet in just over a ¼ mile. Though we walk up the hill two to three times a day for exercise, we couldn’t handle biking up it.
We rode west on W. Sequim Bay Road which climbed gradually for a few miles before cutting back and heading east on the Discovery Trail. Another bonus of this route was that we were able to ride over the impressive Johnson Creek trestle.
The Discovery Trail is a lovely paved trail. We waved to other riders and avoided the many walkers with their dogs. The trail has just enough hills to make it interesting but nothing in this section was too difficult.
The trail twists its way through the Sequim Bay State Park which was a lot of fun. We turned around at the Jamestown S’Klallam Campus in Blyn. There are convenient and clean toilets, water, some benches, and a convenience shop.
The ride was just over twelve miles which was perfect for our first ride. We plan to get out and do this route several times this spring, weather willing.
Bike route along the Olympic Discovery Trail / A stop at the beach at Sequim Bay State Park
We enjoy riding across the old railroad trestles. This is the Johnson Creek Trestle, the largest one on the Olympic Peninsula
Kayak adventure to the Dungeness Lighthouse…
We had been waiting for a perfect day with calm winds, partly cloudy skies, good visibility, and smooth seas to kayak to the New Dungeness Lighthouse that sits out on the Dungeness Spit. We finally had our day!
“The lighthouse at the New Dungeness Light Station was the first U.S. lighthouse completed on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It has operated continuously providing navigational aids to ships plying the waters of the Strait since its lard oil lamp was lit for the first time on 14 December 1857.”
You can hike five miles (one way) on the sandy spit to get to the light house but we wanted to kayak, two and a half miles (one way). We made the mandatory call the day before to make sure the lighthouse keeper knew we were coming for a tour.
We parked at the Dungeness Landing County Park that has a boat ramp and free parking. There are also convenient restrooms there.
We paddled for just over an hour against the tide with a slight headwind. It was work but very enjoyable. We saw lots of birds, including eagles, and the snow covered Olympic and North Cascade Mountains. 10,781 foot high Mount Baker was the most impressive landmark roughly 75 miles to the northwest.
We beached the kayaks at the specified beach between the yellow pillars. The rest of the beach is a protected area of the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. “Dungeness, one of the world’s longest sand spits, shelters a bay rich in marine life. Eelgrass beds attract brants, shorebirds that feed on the tideflats, and ducks find sanctuary in the calm harbor.”
We were greeted by one of the Dungeness Lighthouse keepers, JoAnne. She told us how the association has a group of four to eight keepers out there at a time. Staying for a week at a time, they give tours, and raise and lower the flag each day. They also preserve and maintain the lighthouse and the keeper’s house.
We looked through the museum rooms in the lower lighthouse. Then we climbed the two flights of stairs to the lighthouse itself where Marsha briefed us on the surrounding area and some of the perils of staying out on the spit. They see whales from time to time but they also witness the narrow spit getting breached during significant storms. When the spit gets breached it strands the lighthouse caretakers and they love it!
The keeper’s house is for the keepers to stay in during their week but they’re not living a rustic life of old times. There is a power cable that runs out on the spit and they have a good artesian well water source.
The paddle back was with the tide and very pleasant as we enjoyed looking at the various birds. In addition, we took a break and watched crab fishermen as they pulled their pots. All of this against the backdrop of the snow covered Olympic mountain range.
Kayak route to the New Dungeness Light Station. The Dungeness Spit is 6.8 miles long. The longest natural spit in the US
Arleen approaching the light station. 10,781 foot high Mount Baker is in the distance.
“Welcome to Serenity” is one way and “Reality” is the other / Learning about the light station
A selfie in front of the light station / View of the Dungeness Spit from the top of the light station
Heading back to the launch. The jagged North Cascades are in the distance. / Paddling back towards the Olympic Mountains
We forgot about how narrow and winding the road out to Cape Flattery is. How did we haul our little travel trailer out there seven years ago?
However, the area is just as beautiful with sea stacks, moss, aqua water, and thousands of sea birds fluttering around. As we drove west the Cedar trees and Sitka spruce increased in size in proportion to the increase in annual rain amounts.
We stopped at the General Store in the town of Neah Bay to purchase the mandatory $10 annual Makah Tribal Recreational Use Permit. With the permit we could park at Cape Flattery and also “engage in recreational activities on the Reservation – hiking, camping, kayaking, sports-fishing, etc.”
“The hike to Cape Flattery, the very northwest tip of the continental United States, is reached by a 20-30 minute walk across a combination of split cedar boardwalks and groomed earthen trail. At the end of the ¾ mile hike with moderate climbs are five observation platforms with cedar decks, benches and railing. The fabulous views to the Straits and Pacific Ocean and along the rocky coastline will be forever etched into your memory. The crashing of the waves against the rocky shore, the call of a wide variety of sea birds, sea-lions lazing on the rocks and during their migration Gray whales can all be experienced from this vantage point.”
We enjoyed a picnic lunch at one of the observation platforms. It was very tranquil watching the waves hit the sculpted rocks far below us. The weather was nice, though towards the end of our time, menacing clouds cast deep shadows and we could see threatening rain showers. We quickly walked back along the rugged trail to avoid a typical northwest soaker.
Hike route to Cape Flattery / The water and rugged coves are incredible
Portions of the trail are boardwalk through the lush rainforest
Our picnic spot
Looking south from our picnic spot
Looking north from the point. That’s Vancouver Island on the opposite side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Kalaloch Lodge and Olympic National Park beaches…
We stayed at one of the little rustic cabins at Olympic National Park’s Kalaloch Lodge for three nights. Its remote central location provides good access to the beaches, the Hoh Rain Forest, and Lake Quinault.
“Perched on a bluff where Kalaloch Creek flows gradually into the driftwood-lined beaches of the Pacific Ocean, Kalaloch Lodge is the only coastal lodging in Olympic National Park. The history of the property dates back to the 1920's when Charles W. Becker Sr. purchased a 40-acre plot of land where he built the original lodge and cabins. Kalaloch's Main Lodge was built in 1953.”
Our weathered-wood cabin was very nice on the inside with two queen beds, bathroom, kitchenette, and wood-burning stove. We ate at the Lodge’s Creekside restaurant once for breakfast and once for dinner. Both meals were super delicious. It helped that we were seated in front of a large window gazing out at the beaches and the Pacific Ocean.
Ruby beach is one of the crown jewels of Olympic National Park. “Famous for the reddish sand that occasionally gathers and large, rock islands known as sea stacks, Ruby Beach is one of the most well-known and highly anticipated beaches to visit along the Olympic coastline.”
But the winter storms had thrown so many huge driftwood logs up on the beach it looked like an enormous Lincoln log house had collapsed. We carefully worked our way over top to get to the sand on the other side. We walked a short distance on the rocky beach and admired the imposing sea stacks.
We headed to Beach 4 early the next morning to explore it at low tide. The trail to the beach from the parking area was only a couple hundred yards but it was a steep scramble down. Then we had a short walk on the sandy beach to some rocky outcroppings.
Low tide revealed tide pools full of life in the rocks. We nicknamed an inner area ‘Starfish Cove”. We found dozens of colorful Pisaster Starfishes and thousands of Giant Green Anemones, barnacles, clams, sea snails, hermit crabs and ancient-looking Chitons. It was so fun to poke around. I can see where a person could get distracted and not be aware of the tide rushing back in at their feet!
Just offshore we could see Destruction Island and remnants of its Lighthouse. “Built in 1889, the 94-foot tall lighthouse assisted mariners until its automated Vega Rotating Beacon was shut off in 1995. At one point, the 33-acre island was staffed with four keepers and equipped with the light, two six-room keeper's dwellings, a barn, and numerous utility buildings. Today the island is protected as a marine preserve and completely abandoned.”
As we looked back inland we could see folded rocks all along the bluff area. “The well-exposed, tightly-folded rocks are very unusual for western Washington. Also, with a little effort and knowledge, you can easily determine that some of the rock layers are completely upside down.” Northwest Geology has a detailed analysis of the area.
Tons of wood debris at Ruby Beach
Kalaloch Lodge / Daffodils near the lodge
Approaching Beach 4 at low tide
We saw lots of different colored starfish
Barnacles and Mussels / Anemones and starfish
The tide pool critters are interesting!
Beach 4 and Destruction Island
Hoh Rain Forest…
The Hoh Rain Forest section of Olympic National Park is one of our favorite places. This was our third visit and the third time we had sunny skies and no rain. Based on our dry experiences, it’s hard to imagine that this area receives 140 to 170 inches (or 12 to 14 feet!) of precipitation each year.
“The result is a lush, green canopy of both coniferous and deciduous species. Mosses and ferns that blanket the surfaces add another dimension to the enchantment of the rainforest. The Hoh is one of the finest remaining examples of temperate rainforest in the United States and is one of the park's most popular destinations.”
We had wandered through the Hall of Mosses a few times in the past, but this mile-long path is so special we could do it every day.
The trail is right behind the Visitor’s Center. There is just one short moderately steep section, otherwise the path is a nice broad dirt trail that meanders through some of the rainforest’s largest Western Red Cedars, Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Big Leaf Maples, layers of ferns, and long strands of moss draping from everywhere.
There are several informative signs along the trail. It was here, 10 years ago that we learned about nurse logs. The nurse logs are fallen trees that support new trees growing on their decaying frame. The roots of mature trees hundreds of years old look like they’re suspended in air when their nurse log has eroded away.
It was here, 10 years ago, that Wanda found a four-leaf clover. She sealed it in wax paper, and sent it to Arleen. The special gift has been in her wallet ever since.
We also hiked the Spruce Nature Trail that is just over a mile long. It offers views of the river from time to time and a few creeks that harbor salmon fry.
Finally, we hiked a few miles up the Hoh River Trail. The River Trail extends 17.4 miles to Glacier Meadows. This is the jumping off point for folks wanting to climb Mount Olympus, the highest point in the Olympic Mountains at 7,969 feet.
The trail gently climbed a few hundred feet over the first few miles. It was an easy going saunter which was good because we were still craning our necks to look up at big trees that are so prevalent. We stopped for a break at two and half miles where the trail hugs the river.
We climbed out on a massive downed log that was in the debris field of the wide river channel. As we munched on our lunch, we contemplated the river flush from heavy rains and pushing big trees like the one we were on, downstream.
We have yet to see the rainforest in the fall. We hope to return later this year to the see the Maple trees in their brilliant fall colors.
Hike route in the Hoh Rainforest / It’s a “Hoh Stick” on the Hoh River
There are 9 elk hanging out around this cool moss-covered tree / Ducks on a tiny creek
We like nurse logs! Here’s a young one and a more mature one.
The moss-covered tree are incredible
We had a picnic on this huge downed tree along the Hoh River
From Kalaloch Lodge, we drove 45 minutes south to Lake Quinault.
We wanted to visit the largest tree in the world outside of California, a giant western red cedar near the north shore of Lake Quinault. We saw the ancient tree seven years ago when we first started our RV adventures.
At first, we drove right by the short trail. We back-tracked thinking that we had missed the sign. Then we resorted to GPS to find the barely perceptible trail. There were rocks placed across the start and we wondered what the condition might be.
Sure enough, on an initial steep section, a tree lay on the stairs plus it had knocked out the railing when it fell. We surmised that’s why the trail was closed.
Then a few hundred yards further we were blocked by what appeared to be several downed dark red cedar trees. Upon further inspection, it appeared to be one tree. To our horror, we knew we were looking at the fallen giant.
We had a weak cell phone signal and Arleen was able to Google the recent history of the tree. There at the base of the corpse of the 1,000 year old record-breaking tree, we learned of the sad collapse 18 months prior. In the last few years two record breaking trees in the northwest had fallen.
In a somber mood, we went for lunch at the Lake Quinault Lodge. The delicious Monte Cristo and Portabella sandwiches made us feel much better. Both were fresh and unique.
“The hotel is a grand and rustic lodge built in 1926. Here you can unwind in front of a majestic fireplace, dine in the historic Roosevelt Dining Room, curl up with a good book by the lake, paddleboard or fish in the afternoon sun, or venture deep into the temperate rainforest and enjoy the cool shade of the giant trees.”
After a nourishing lunch, we were ready for a hike and headed out to tackle to the four mile Quinault Loop Trail. We left the truck parked at the lodge and walked down the road past the museum and mercantile. Then, we headed up the trail next to Falls Creek.
The trail crossed the pretty Cascade Falls and two other bridges over falls that tumble down to the lake at the top of the trail. From there the trail parallels the road far below. It meanders next to a ridge with the cliff wall next to the trail sprouting mosses and lichens.
Next, we walked through the Cedar Bog. True to its name, there were a bunch cedar trees standing tall but also those that have fallen over into the bog where bright Swamp Lanterns were sprouting from the black earth.
Finally, the trail started to descend back to the road. The only obstacle in our way was a massive cedar that had fallen across the trail. Though it was small compared to the giant we had seen that morning. A wonderful cedar aroma hit us as we approached. It took a few minutes but we were able to climb over it and continue down the trail.
We walked past the Rain Forest Nature Trail and under Highway 101. Just on the other side, we were able to look back at the pretty Willaby Creek Falls. Next we walked through the Willaby Campground and down a set of stairs to the trail that runs along the lake.
Surprisingly, this was the most difficult part of the hike! The trail was littered with numerous logs that had swamped the trail during winter storms. This is also a rain forest and receives about 12 FEET of annual precipitation with most of it falling during winter storms. When these “Pineapple Express” deluge events combine with snow melt from the Olympics Mountains, the natural lake can come up over 8 FEET in a few hours.
We arrived back at the lodge and took a moment to take in the view of the hotel and the expansive lawn overlooking the lake.
Finally, to wrap up the day, we visited the largest Sitka Spruce in the world. We had camped right next to it seven years ago. Thankfully it still stands tall and strong!
Walk route near Lake Quinault / A well and California Redwoods in front of the lodge
Lake Quinault Lodge is beautiful and has an interesting history
Scenes along the Lake Loop Trail
Lake Quinault and snow-covered Olympic Mountains / Lots of drift wood covered the trail along the lake
Recently downed red cedar blocked the trail and smelled great! / Sitka Spruce on the left. Douglas Fir in the middle. Western Red Cedar on the right. / The world’s largest Sitka Spruce tree
This used to be the world’s largest western red cedar but it fell in July 2016 / Here it is in August 2011
Olympic National Park is one of the main reasons we chose Sequim as a winter location. The Park encompasses nearly a million acres of wilderness and glacier-capped mountains, old-growth temperate rain forests, and over 70 miles of wild coastline. Hurricane Ridge, on the north side of the Park and 35 miles from Sequim, is a winter play-land.
“At an elevation of 5,242 feet, Hurricane Ridge is Olympics’ alpine destination in winter. Typically snow-covered, Hurricane Ridge provides opportunities for snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing and more.
During the winter season, Hurricane Ridge Road is open to uphill traffic from 9:00am to 4:00pm, Friday through Sunday and holiday Mondays, weather and road conditions permitting.” We’re looking forward to April when it will open 7 days a week “as weather, road conditions, and staffing allow.”
We headed up the twisty ridge road on a foggy and drizzly Friday afternoon. The visibility in the dense fog was near zero in places.
Along most of the road there wasn’t any snow other than a few old patches. Where was the blue sky and the 109” of snow we were promised?
A couple of miles from the top, the edge of the road went from no snow to many feet. Better yet, we popped above the stratus clouds into bright sun and blue skies! As we rounded the final switchback, we were blown away by a 270 degree view of the rugged snow-covered Olympic Mountains.
We donned our snowshoes and headed past the Visitor’s Center to the closed Hurricane Ridge Road. The sign that welcomed us told us we could go 10 miles. Our goal was just a few miles up the road and short section of the Nature Trail.
The 109” of snow varied considerably depending on the terrain’s aspect and whether it was exposed to the area’s namesake brutal winds. The snow was packed but with the 40o temperature it was soft and we were glad we had the snow shoes as we saw post-holes from those that ventured out in just boots. We also spotted tops of road signs just peeking out of the deep snow.
All along the rolling road, we had glimpses to the south and to the north between the trees. To the north, we could see the stratus hanging over the Strait. To the south we could see the line of rugged peaks, crowned by Mount Olympus. It is one of our most favorite views.
We climbed a steep knob on the trail and took a few pictures. It was a good place to turn around. On the way back we detoured to the picnic area and found a few picnic tables peeping out.
We noticed we were alone on the popular trail and unknowingly joked that they closed the mountain. When we arrived at the parking lot at 4:30, we realized why. The gate, about 12 miles and thousands of feet below us, was going to close in a half hour! We quickly hopped in the truck and drove down the winding road as fast as we dared.
It is so amazing to be at sea level on the beach in the morning and within an hour be up at 5200 feet in a spectacular winter wonderland!
Snowshoe route on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic NP / “Let’s go, Shawn!”
Port Angeles and the Strait of Juan de Fuca are under those clouds
The Olympic Mountains are incredible!
We have just two weeks in left in Sequim. Next we will make two quick stops on Bainbridge and Whidbey Islands. Then we’ll hop on the ferry and head to Alaska for the summer!
Nesting bald eagles hanging out near Deb and Tom’s house / A bike race
Impressive sea stacks near Neah Bay. Vancouver Island is on the opposite side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.