Home is where we are parked

Home is where we are parked
Home is where we are parked

Sunday, December 31, 2017

WA -- Sequim, 1-31 Dec 2017



First month in Sequim, Washington…

Why we came…

Moderate winter weather and plenty to do!

The campground…

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!

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We are very comfortable in the front row of the John Wayne Waterfront Resort

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We walk around the marina a few times each day.  There is always something interesting to see.

Nearby towns…

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 Strait 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.

We were surprised to learn that the Sequim/Port Angeles area has nearly 70,000 people!

Weather summary for December…

It was dry, mostly sunny, and warmer than average the first two weeks of December.  The second half of December was pretty much average.

Average high temp: 46.5F      Average low temp:  34F

Record high temp:  66F         Record low temp:  5F

Average rain:  2.61 inches     Average snow:  .9 inches

Record rain:  8.79 inches       Record snowfall:  17.7 inches

Observed high temperature:  52F

Observed low temperature:  25F

Measured rainfall:  2.45 inches

Measured snowfall:  2.5 inches on Christmas Eve.  We had a very pretty white Christmas!

             Olympic Peninsula rain shadow         Wx - SWE 31 Dec 2017

Map of rainfall on the Olympic Peninsula  /  Snow water equivalent on 31 Dec 2017.  Olympic Mtns are at 111%


Walks from the campground…

John Wayne Marina was constructed in 1985 on 22 acres of land donated by the John Wayne family. John Wayne frequented Sequim Bay waters aboard the family yacht (the “Wild Goose”) and envisioned a marina in the scenic bay prior to his death. Eventually, this vision became reality under the ownership and auspices of the Port of Port Angeles.”

The marina is across the street from the RV Resort. Within seconds we can walk along the Sequim Bay shore, next to the harbor, the restaurant, and out to the Mariner Memorial overlook. The loop around the marina is about a mile and we walk it two to four times a day!

Every time we walk we see something different. There are lots of seagulls, ducks, geese, an occasional Bald Eagle, Kingfisher, Heron, and Harbor Seal. We watch an assortment of vessels from large sailboats to crab boats coming and going.

We never tire of watching the incredible sunrises and sunsets.

We’ve even made new friends on our walks there. We met Frank and Donna and their two dogs. Coincidently Frank is also a retired Air Force Weather Forecaster.

After the marina loop, we walk the hill above the campground or up the Whitefeather Way hill to the Discovery Trail and the Johnson Creek trestle. It is anywhere from a mile to two mile walk.

We celebrated our ½ year anniversary and the winter solstice at the restaurant, the Dockside Grill. It was delicious though a little expensive. For example, one dish, the Cedar Planked Salmon was featured in Sunset Magazine. “It is a Dry-rubbed Salmon filet, Dungeness crab and triple citrus Riesling butter - Chefs polenta of the day and seasonal fresh vegetable.” We liked the view of the marina. A few boats even had Christmas decorations. We’ll eat there again!

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Walk route around John Wayne Marina and Waterfront Resort  /  A big sailboat in the harbor

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Lot of boats moored at the marina

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Just one of many pretty views along daily walk  /  We like this tree behind the RV park

We can walk up the hill to the Olympic Discovery Trail, right from our little home! The Trail is a 130 mile converted rail trail with a rich history.

If we take a left, once on the trail, we can hear the traffic on Hwy 101 but we cannot see the cars through the thick vegetation. To the north are private homes and beyond that we get glimpses of Sequim Bay.

It is two and half miles to Sequim Bay State Park. “The Park is a year-round, 92-acre marine camping park with 4,909 feet of saltwater coast.” We like to walk down to check out the beach area. One day we talked to a crab fisherman for a bit and learned a few interesting things.

Most of the campground is exposed to traffic noise from Hwy 101, but the smaller sites near the water are quiet. They would be perfect for someone with a small RV footprint such as an R-pod.

The route to the park and back makes for a perfect 5 mile walk with enough hills to add an aerobic element. We always see lots of folks out with their dogs in addition to a few cyclists that have the same idea.

Someday soon we’ll get the bikes out and see more of the beautiful trail.

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Walk route on the Olympic Discovery Trail to Sequim Bay State Park  /  It’s a nice trail!

Mother Nature is slowly claiming this old truck and trailer

If we walk up the hill and take a right on the Olympic Discovery Trail we can walk two miles to the Sequim Visitor Center.

Shortly after hitting the trail, we traverse the impressive Johnson Creek trestle. It is “410 feet long and 86 feet high. It is the largest railroad trestle on the Olympic Peninsula. It is curved and banked for strength and stability” The abutments, which are perfect for looking down into the creek and deep ravine, originally held barrels of water for use in the event of a fire.

Unfortunately, a good portion of this trail section is open to the highway. So not only can you hear the traffic, you can see the traffic, too. It just is not very peaceful with little payoff at the end. We walked to the Visitor Center this one time because we wanted to get some information. We like the walk to Sequim Bay State Park better.

However, the walk up the hill and across Johnson Creek trestle has been added to our walk we do a few times a day.

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Walk route on the Olympic Discovery Trail to the Sequim Visitor Center  /  Go that way to our home!

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The elk welcomes people entering Sequim from the east on Highway 101  /  A replica of the Dungeness Lighthouse at the Visitor Center  /  The Johnson Creek trestle is impressive

On 3 December  we went snowshoeing…

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 of 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 headed up the twisty ridge road on a cloudy Sunday morning. A couple of miles from the top, the edge of the road went from no snow to several feet.

The ridge is what keeps Sequim sky’s blue. The southwesterly weather systems dump their moisture along the ridge! 12” of new snow fell the previous two days adding up to nearly 4 feet of snow.

Within a half mile of the parking lot, we saw a few skiers/boarders dropping in off the steep terrain above us. They either bum rides or walk back up the road.

After an hour we reached our goal. The parking lot was half full before noon. Between wisps of stratus, we could see rugged snow-covered mountains all around us and blue sky above.

Elsewhere was a winter wonderland with the giant spruce dressed as snow ghosts everywhere. The temperature was only in the mid 20’s with light winds.

We donned our snowshoes for the first time since Crater Lake, seven months ago. It felt so good to walk across the unbroken snow. It was Arleen’s first day snowshoeing since her back surgery, so I planned a shorter route.

We trekked up the north ridge, across the groomed ski trails and the soon-to-open tubing runs. Finally, we ended up at the overlook above the highway and across from Obstruction Peak. There were a few skiers dropping in on the steep off-piste routes.

We saw a lot of other snowshoers and families out enjoying the winter paradise. The clouds kept moving in and out through the afternoon so we never got a perfect view of Sequim and the Strait of Juan de Fuca 5,000 feet below us or of the mountains that we knew were all around us.

It’s pretty amazing to be at sea level on the beach in the morning and within an hour be up at 5500 feet in a spectacular winter wonderland.

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Snowshoe route in Olympic National Park  /  Excited to be at Hurricane Ridge!

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Fresh snow and good weather

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The snow and frost covered trees are beautiful

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Doing our snowshoe dance in the spectacular Olympic Mountains

On 5 December we checked out the Elwha River Valley in Olympic National Park…

Madison Falls are in the Elwha Valley area of Olympic National Park, just to the south of the town of Elwha. We had heard that the Olympic Hot Springs Road was washed out due to the flooding from the Elwha River.

We started at the Madison Falls parking area. The road beyond was closed. Huge Maple trees dotted the picnic area.

First, we took the short walk up a nice paved trail to the Madison Falls viewing platform. The pretty 60 foot falls were nice and full from all the recent rains and the melting snow thousands of feet above us.

Next, we walked around the gate and about a mile up the road before the destruction greeted us. We could see from the scarred soils, flattened vegetation, and forest debris exactly how high and where the river ran.

We met a Park Ranger who told us that some log jams broke apart which allowed the water to take a new direction. That combined with a long period of heavy rains led to the flooding. The river began flooding while running around 3,000 cfs and peaked at over 18,000 cfs! A similar incident occurred in 2015, but this time the river carved a deep permanent channel.

The road was literally ripped apart. The aqua, glacial silt choked river has receded but now cuts directly across the road. The river tore chunks of pavement out and wrinkled other sections when it undercut it.

There was nothing left of the campground. We only knew it was there because the ranger said it was. The shelter is sitting cockeyed and is full of silt.

The most telling evidence of the power of the river, were the logs that were jammed against trees. They were huge and layered several deep. We could see trunks that had been shredded and twisted apart.

The road and the campground are closed indefinitely. There is a trail that skirts the damage and the river by way of the hill to the east. The trail goes to the Elwha Ranger Station and the Hurricane Hill Trail.

There is also Ranger Housing there. They had to hike out when the flooding occurred. Then they had to hike back in to get their perishables when it became evident that the road was not going to be repaired anytime soon.

We find the Elwha River dam removal and fishing moratorium fascinating. So far the number of salmon that have been returning is higher than expected.

We met a woman on the walk back to the truck who has recently moved into a home just outside the Park boundary. She found salmon fry in a creek through her property that was supposed to have only invertebrates! Were those fry there before or have they made their way to the creek as a result of the dam removal?

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Walk route along the Elwha River  /  Exploring the another section of the Park

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The Elwha River is pretty impressive

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Madison Falls is very pretty  /  In late November the Elwha River carved a new channel across the road

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After a flood in 2015 and another this year, there’s not much left of the old campground

On 8 December we walked around Fort Worden with Deb and Siesta…

We met Tom and Deb at the NROA Rally in June. We were drawn to them because they live in Sequim, have an interesting past, and they raise puppies to be guide dogs.

Deb promised us that we could help with the puppies this winter. The dog she is co-raising now, Siesta, is 14 months old and is close to going to “recall training”. This was a day to work with Siesta.

Deb picked us up and we headed to Fort Worden which is near Port Townsend. Deb briefed us as we drove on our interaction with Siesta.

The main idea is to keep the puppy from being distracted from the task at hand. So Shawn and I were instructed to not pet her till Deb felt Siesta had ignored us long enough. Then it was just a pat on the head when she had her vest on. That is hard for a dog lover!

First, we went to the Fort Worden Historical State Park main campus Commons to get a map. “It is a 433-acre multi-use park with more than 2 miles of saltwater shoreline and a wide variety of services and facilities, including a conference center that can be booked for multi-day events.”

There are miles of hiking and biking trails, ample water activities, campgrounds, and sports fields.

“More than 70 historic buildings span the property, with a glimpse of Fort Worden’s past with a wide range of beautifully restored accommodations,” including Alexander’s Castle and Officer’s Row.

Fort Worden was an active US Army base from 1902 to 1953, then a juvenile detention facility, before it was turned over to the Parks Department in 1971. We’ve never seen a better restored and maintained former military facility.

As soon as we parked at the trailhead, Deb got Siesta out for a potty break without her vest on. The dogs learn that when their vest is on, they are working. When the vest is off they can potty and play.

We did a few miles on different trails around the old battery areas. It was amazing to watch Deb and Siesta work and interact together as we met other walkers and other dogs. Siesta did quite well.

Afterwards, we all went to lunch at Doc’s Marina Grill. Deb selected a table rather than a booth and Siesta settled under the table for a rest. Whenever I peaked at her, she was awake, with her head down but looking around.

Doc’s has a great view of Port Townsend Bay. Plus they have “great food by using the finest and freshest in the Northwest; and an innovative menu”.

We look forward to more adventures with Deb and Siesta. Hopefully Tom will join us next time too.

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Walk route around Fort Worden  /  The military cemetery

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Deb and Siesta walking the fog shrouded trail  /  Mount Baker is in the background

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Point Wilson Lighthouse and Mount Baker

On 10 December we kayaked around Sequim Bay…

We selected a fairly warm day with calm winds for our first kayak venture in Sequim Bay.

The marina has a nice ramp with free launch and parking for folks with small paddle craft such as kayaks, canoes and paddle boards.

We started out by paddling around the outside of the rock retaining walls to the marina from a different perspective. Near the Mariner’s Memorial overlook, we said hello to Frank, Donna, and their 4-legged friends. It’s feels like home when you see people you know every day.

We made a large circle out in the bay. Soon after leaving the marina, we realized we were not alone. Arleen heard a very loud splash off her starboard side. Was it a Sequim Bay Nessie?

Then I saw the telltale bowling ball head in the water. We were being escorted on our journey by three curious Harbor Seals. Harbor seals are found throughout the nearshore waters of Washington including Hood Canal, Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca out to Cape Flattery.

At one point one of them swam right under my kayak, looked up and looked me right in the eye. We always enjoy their comic antics. They were either following us because they were curious or they thought we were going to throw them some fish?

Along the south side of our route, we went by a crab boat that has been moored in the bay rather than the marina like the other boats. The older vessel always added a little something special to the pretty view from our trailer.

But it never moved so we were very curious to see if it was just an empty display. However, on close inspection, we could see it was a fully operating boat. Ironically, it was gone the next morning…

We enjoyed our first North Olympic kayak adventure. It was a good outing to see how Arleen’s back is doing, which is great! Next time, we paddle to the New Dungeness Lighthouse!

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Kayak route around Sequim Bay  /  It’s not easy to do a selfie in the kayaks!

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Posing near the entrance to the marina.  Our friends, Frank and Donna, are on the bench.  /  We like the seals!

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Frank and Donna shared this picture of us

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Sequim Bay and the Olympic Mountains

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Checking out an anchored boat

Our trailer is above and just ahead of the boat’s bow between the two trees

On 11 December we had an adventure in Port Angeles…

Arleen had a dental cleaning first thing in the morning in Port Angeles. As she always says, a day for an appointment and responsibilities always gets interesting with me.

We took the opportunity to visit “Remembering Our Fallen”, a traveling photographic war memorial that honors the 4,800 military heroes that paid the ultimate price fighting The War on Terror. We highly recommend a visit when it stops in your area. We were very moved.

"This beautiful display consists of over 30 Tribute Towers supporting double-sided and full-color banners to withstand the elements, making it possible to be exhibited outdoors, as well as indoors. Each Tribute Tower is 10 feet high and 5 feet wide and will include military and personal photos of our country's Fallen. "

We found Capt Nylander, a fellow weather forecaster, and teared up when we saw the picture of his beautiful family. He was killed in April 2011 in Afghanistan.

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“Remembering Our Fallen” is a traveling exhibit that features military and personal photos of the 4,000+ heroes that paid the ultimate price fighting the war on terror

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It’s a very humbling exhibit  /  Arleen knew Nathan Nylander, a fellow weather warrior

Next, we went to explore the Port Angeles City Pier. It is next to the Ferry Terminal. We will take the 90 minute ferry ride to Victoria sometime this winter.

We walked out on the pier and climbed the three-story tower which gave us an eagle-eye view of the harbor as the ferry steamed towards the terminal. We could see the Coast Guard Station at the end of the three mile long Ediz Hook. On our walk back we chatted with some of the crab fishermen as they hauled in their traps.

The pier also has a nice concert venue area and the Feiro Marine Life Center. A rainy day would be a perfect time to visit the Marine Center.

The Discovery Trail skirts along the harbor and beckoned us. We walked about a mile east with a view of the harbor the entire way. We noted that there were many memorial benches and trees. A few overlooks have been designed to give a better view of the harbor and interpretive signs along the route helped us with the local fauna.

It was nice to see another piece of this amazing trail.

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Walk route along the Port Angeles waterfront  /  Interesting info about the Port Angeles Harbor

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A ship anchored in the harbor  /  Watching the Ferry arrive

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Catching dinner off the pier  /  A piece of the World Trade Center  Towers  /  I make a good seal!

Port Angeles and the Olympic Mountains

On 14 December we attended a Christmas party…

Tom and Deb are raising their 10th guide dog. They invited us to their Puppy Pilots’ Holiday Party. There were about 10 dogs there.

Three of them were puppies in training; Siesta is a little over a year, Megan just shy of a year, and little Booney is just about 7 months old. He still looks and acts like a puppy. For the buffet dinner, he was spinning circles and chasing his tail in his crate!

The other dogs, including Dora and Bronte, are “career change” dogs. These are dogs that for one reason or another were unable to complete the rigorous program to become a certified guide dog. They were all returned to the people who raised them. Now their days are filled with activities such as therapy dogs, scent training, and long walks.

Arleen and I enjoyed meeting the other puppy raisers, puppy sitters, the veterinarian, fundraisers, and promoters of this wonderful organization, such as Paula of Popping for Puppies Foundation.

We enjoyed their festive potluck and then we played a few games with the dogs. I participated in a “picking up the poo” contest in which I had to take off the vest, pick up “poo”, and get vest back on one handed. What makes it hard, is that you are not allowed to let go of the leash. I could not contend against the experts!

We look forward to spending more time with this great group of people.

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Booney, puppy in training  /  Deb, Tom, Bronte, and Dora  /  Kenneth, a retired pup

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We are about to do a pick-up-the-poop contest  /  Sharing a little love with Siesta after the goofy contest

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Puppy Pilots Christmas!

On 16 December we learned about owls…

We found out about the Dungeness River Audubon Center from Deb. She was going to a program on Owls. We have always been fascinated with owls so Arleen quickly signed us up to join her.

Powell Jones was the presenter for the Focus on Series of Owls. Powell has worked at the center for 15 years and is passionate about owls! As he said, his name rhymes with the bird so it is natural they are his favorite.

We learned so much! Owls date back 60 million years and there are 205 species!

He talked about owls rarely seen on the Olympic Peninsula such as the Snowy Owl. Their appearance fluctuates with the 4-7 year lemming cycle in northern Canadian areas.

Then he concentrated on local species; the vicious Pygmy Owl, the bug-eyed Northern Saw-whet Owl, the wood dwelling, rodent eating Western Screech Owl, the rare, mature forest dwelling, Northern Spotted Owl and the tiger of owls, the Great Horned Owl.

Interestingly, the Spotted Owls decline is complicated. It is not so much the mature forests disappearing that has affected it numbers but also the disappearance of the flying squirrel. The flying squirrel’s numbers are low because it only eats truffles that only grow in old-growth forests. Plus there is a new competitor…

The Barred Owl is not native to the area. But he was not introduced by man. He migrated on his own from the northeast. It may be that man’s rural growth and farms enabled this. His competition with and hunting the Spotted Owl has led to a real wildlife dilemma in the northwest.

Powell let us listen to many of the owls calls. Plus we talked about their pairing rituals, nesting, and their amazing ability to hunt at night. They are perfectly camouflaged, can turn their heads 270o, and they have 14 vertebrae in their necks. They fly quietly but do not do well in the rain. Their exceptional hearing makes it possible for them to hunt blind!

Also, he talked about their ability to regurgitate pellets. That’s because they swallow things whole so the pellets are the bones and feathers.

Finally, Powell recommended if you have an issue with rodents, get a Barn Owl!

Afterwards, Arleen and I wandered around on the trails in the Railroad Bridge Park. We looked carefully for owls, though the best time is at night. Instead we enjoyed the impressive Christmas decorations.

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Owls and owl wings at the Dungeness River Audubon Center  /  Powell gave an outstanding presentation

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Full house to learn about owls  /  Amazing camouflage

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The Dungeness River Bridge is impressive  /  A bald eagle hanging out above the river

Hurricane Ridge round two…

Hurricane Ridge received 20” to 24” of fresh snow in the last week.  There was nearly 5 FEET on the ground! 

As we drove up the winding road, we could see snow at much lower elevations than our first Hurricane Ridge excursion. At the same time the road started getting icy. We saw FIVE cars stopped to put on chains in the middle of the narrow two lane road!

Finally, we turned around when we saw a long line of cars waiting to enter the Park. We knew we would be fine but the combination of very slow moving drivers and bat-out-of-hell drivers is trouble on icy roads. We’ll return after the holidays.

We stopped at an overlook at 1,700 feet elevation. There was a good one to two feet of snow there! There were a few dozen people walking and sledding with their kids and generally having good time. Arleen and I walked for a while enjoying the fresh fallen snow and the views down to the Strait.

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View of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Victoria BC

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Enjoying the pretty snow in Olympic National Park

John’s in town!

Our good friend John was in Sequim to celebrate the life of his 96-year-old father with his family. We were honored that he took time from his schedule during this difficult time to meet and visit us.

We’ve known John since we all lived in Alaska over 20 years ago. Since then we have met in locations around the globe. It is always good to catch up with him and hear the details of his latest travels. We look forward to seeing him next year in Alaska where our friendship first began.

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John is our good friend from Alaska


We will stay in Sequim WA until April.  Then we’ll hop on the ferry and head to Alaska for the summer!

Parting shots…

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A posing crab at the John Wayne Marina  /  We like the name of the blue boat in the middle

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Family of trumpeter swans  /  Winter berry covered in a delicate frost