The big feature of our trip this time was a first visit to Forks, WA. We’ll get to the actuals a bit later in the blog, but our title comes from our first impression, cruising through town on the main drag (Hwy 101), just before we blinked and missed the rest of it. It’s a common feature, we have found, that most towns way out of the way of big cities, have this: a large Propane or Natural Gas dealership with an inventory of pressurized gas tanks in varying states of serviceability, a polite way of stating “freshly painted or not”.
But first, let’s properly introduce our trip. After a hyper-strange 2020, we decided to start 2021 with a camping trip, hoping desperately to set the tone for a better year with some fresh air, exploration, and quiet relaxation. In late 2020, we had successfully negotiated a reduced work week, in a preplanned “slow slide back into retirement”, and welcomed 2021 with 3-day weekends, starting appropriately on the very first Saturday of the New Year, January 1. So, we packed up the rig and set off that morning to our base camp in the Olympic Peninsula, the Elwha Dam RV Resort located just outside of Port Angeles, WA.
The day dawned rainy, not our favorite weather, but we welcomed the opportunity for some exceptionally clean air and forged on. We had a wee bit of a hiccup when I mistakenly headed for the wrong ferry landing, intending to arrive at Edmonds for the crossing to Kingston, but instead seeing the Mukilteo landing in our windshield about the same time my brain went “Ooops”. We had given ourselves plenty of time, however, and made the 10 mile backtrack to the Edmonds landing in record time, arriving just in time to buy our ticket and drive onto the 10:20 boat right on schedule.
I always like crossing the Hood Canal Bridge, just in the off chance that one of our Navy’s giant missile subs will be making a transit. It’s quite a sight, with the escort ships spread out on all 4 corners of the giant hull of the sub, all trying to squeeze through the bridge opening. The bridge isn’t a draw bridge, rather the center section splits in the middle, with each side dropping down and retracting under the roadway to expose the opening. I’ve read that it frequently misbehaves and jams, which can take way more than an hour to get corrected, leading to sizeable traffic backups on both sides of this primary roadway. Not today, however; we sailed through smoothly (pun intended). The rest of the 1 ½ hour drive was without rain, but we had plenty of wind, gusting to about 50 mph at times. We took it slow, and arrived exactly as we wanted, just in time for the rain to start back up. I’m not a huge fan of setting up the rig in the rain, especially when it’s cold and windy, but the prospect of 3 days of camping away from all the craziness took the sting out of it.
Setup went quickly, the sites at Elwah Dam are nice and level, and pull-through for easy positioning. After we got situated, we took a drive into Port Angeles to scout out some ways to help support the locals. Takeout food seemed appropriate, and in the process of hunting that down we found the local donut shop, Sasquatch, which is only open a couple of days a week. Happily, Saturday was one of them. We scored enough tasty treats for the next 3 mornings.
Also in our short recon trip, we went down to the Port, where the Blackball Ferry provides service to Victoria BC. This very cool sculpture caught our eye.
Another sign that you are out in the boonies, a real reduction in the number of broadcast TV channels your rig’s antenna can pick up. Most RV campgrounds don’t provide a good enough wireless internet to make streaming TV content practical; in fact, most of them strictly forbid it. So, we settled for some late afternoon viewing of our childhood friend, Bugs Bunny! This is what passes for TV broadcast in Booniesville USA.
While I don’t care much for rain while I’m camping, we absolutely love sleeping in the rig with the rain playing out on the roof at night. We call it Lullaby Rain because of the calming effect it induces, and the great night’s sleep we always get when it happens. Saturday night was such a night, resulting in a solid 10 hours of rejuvenation.
We woke up Sunday fully charged and ready for our primary mission: exploration of Forks, WA, the filming home for the Twilight series that chronicled a town populated with vampires. We never watched any of the shows many seasons, but nobody we know avoided the publicity that accompanied the fad it produced. We even had to visit the hamburger diner inspired by the show at Three Rivers Resort. A sign on the road declares “No Vampires Beyond This Point”. Did we feel safer passing that sign? Yawn.
The drive to Forks is predictably not very exciting. You are, however, driving through some very pretty forest, and past Lake Crescent, a charming resort destination tucked among the Olympic Range. About an hour after departure, Forks appeared in the windshield right after we crossed the Sol Duc River.
The main drag, Hwy 101, with the aforementioned Propane dealership, stretches from John’s Beachcombing Museum on the north, to the Forks Timber Museum (closed until further notice) on the south.
The town teeters around Tillicum Park, which has a really nice Gold Star Families Memorial, another not-too-uncommon small town hallmark.
Tillicum Park also borders the town playing fields, which also border the town schools. A very efficient use of facilities and land that most big cities really can’t pull off.
The nearby local bowling alley is punctuated by twin pyramids of presumably expended bowling balls. How those balls become expended is beyond me.
Just because we always do, we took a drive through some of the neighborhoods to see how the locals live. Probably because we were driving slowly and checking things out, we picked up a Sheriff shadow that followed us from a distance. Such are small towns, and we salute their diligence! Again, something the big city can’t reproduce.
We were advised by one of our tenants to visit Rialto Beach for some “great driftwood” scenic viewing. A side road to La Push took us there, where we also passed the Three Rivers Resort hamburger joint that apparently no longer offers refuge from vampires. Arrival at Rialto Beach is into a small well maintained parking area separated from the beach by a 10’ high berm absolutely covered with large driftwood piles.
The previous day’s storm had stirred up the Pacific Ocean considerably, and the surf roared. We climbed the berm on a narrow path and found a beach even deeper in huge driftwood that was under vicious assault by multiple sets of waves between 10 and 15 feet high that started out hundreds of yards offshore. Even the shore break was impressive. Not a surfer in sight, though; it might have simply been too much.
It was nature’s power at is finest. As a sailor and boater, I’m always awed by the pure energy of the ocean, and I couldn’t help but recall the many news stories of “Sneaker Waves” that catch onlookers off guard and sweep them away into the thrashing surf. In fact, since waves were literally pounding away at the shoreline not too far in front of us, we decided we had seen plenty and made our way back over the berm and into the parking lot. Less than a minute after that we heard shrieks and yelling, and saw ocean-soaked people running back over the top of the berm and climbing onto high piles of driftwood, and water washed over the top of berm, headed to the parking lot. We aren’t sure if anyone was caught in it, but on our drive out we were passed by 3 emergency vehicles headed toward the beach. We never saw anything on the news, so hopefully it was only a minor event.
The drive back to Elwha was just as pretty and uneventful as the drive out. On the way, we were rewarded with hints that the storm was breaking and might just give us a little sunshine.
And, indeed, once we returned to the rig, a short while later, the sun came out and gave us an opportunity to take a walk.
Our walk didn’t pan out. The ground around the resort was so saturated that small shallow rivers literally flowed through the campground and made the 10-minute hike to the old Elwha Dam site impassable. We had hiked up to the Elwha Dam several years ago not long after it and its companion dam, Glines Canyon, had been fully removed in 2014, and really wanted to see how the river had recovered. From my research, it is a remarkable transformation; where just a few years ago there was a dead river, now there is a beautiful cascading flow that is miraculously filled with growing salmon and steelhead trout runs reminiscent of those that existed over a hundred years earlier before either dam’s construction. Nature is a powerful force that will not be denied.
Our trip accomplished what we wished for. We left that beautiful spot well rested and recharged. We finished our donuts with gusto. We explored things we had never seen before. And we enjoyed not one, but 2 nights of Lullaby Rain. Here’s Tippy!