Tag Archives: Olympic National Park

Ocean Park Retreat

We have arrived!  In Ocean Park Retreat Methodist Camp, that is.  Outside is wall to wall blue sky and full sunshine, the first day like this we’ve seen in  a week or two.  There’s a nice soft breeze with 61 degrees outside.  We have every window open an inch and both roof vents wide open, and the inside temp is a very comfortable 76 degrees.

Jim told you wrongly yesterday when he said we weren’t going to have a campfire before we left Mora Campground in Olympic National Park.  As we were walking before supper, we agreed the weather had lightened up a little and we would both enjoy a little fire.  Jim split some kindling, Deb laid and lit the fire, and we had a roaring fire before it started raining again.

The fire was so nice we pulled out our chairs and enjoyed the warm dancing flames.  Then we realized, this could be our last campfire of 2010 unless we stop in a national or state park on one of our remaining long-distance drives.  We’ll have a two or three-day trip from here to Boise at the end of the month, a three-day trip to Mesa mid-October, and that’s it for 2010.

So we made the most of last night’s fire.  We had reserved one small bundle of dry hemlock (of three we had purchased) and had scavenged leftover wood from departed campers’ fire rings over the past week.  With plenty of wood we quickly had a hot fire.  It was so nice Deb suggested we eat by the fire.

Jim grilled a nice marinated chicken breast and Deb made a wonderful avocado, tomato, and romaine and leaf lettuce salad.  Just as we finished eating the rain started falling more steadily.  Deb grabbed an umbrella and we stuck it out for a couple of hours, staying very warm and dry despite the outside temperature around 50 (and really wet).  It was nice, and if we don’t have another for awhile this one will serve as the right campfire memory.

Ocean Park Retreat (OPR) is an 80 acre campus a mile north of Ocean Park, Washington, on the peninsula west of Willapa Bay, sort of opposite and south of Aberdeen on the east side of the bay.  Oysterville is just north of OPR, and we hope we will be able to take advantage of these great sea treats.

We are here for a three-week work assignment with NOMADS, a bunch of RVers willing to serve with time and talents in various host sites across the country and beyond.  Some might be full-timers, two other couples here aren’t.  Folks typically sign on for a three-week assignment or can work as drop-ins where a church or camp requests the help.

Three other NOMADS couples already are here and were at work when we arrived today.  They have been staining the exterior of a large building at OPR and we’ll start helping with this tomorrow morning.  From the looks of the building we might do nothing else for at least a couple of weeks.  Whatever the tasks, we’re here to help and to get to know the other NOMADS.

We’ll have time to explore, including trails and 2,000 feet of seashore in the Camp, and we’ll try to find our way all up and down the peninsula.  Two years ago we stayed a couple of days in a small campground in Ocean Park and toured a little.  We’re allowed three days off each week for our three week stay, so we should have plenty of time to thoroughly find our way around.

Just a short post to update our location and, more significantly, our weather!  It’s nice to have an entire afternoon of bright sunshine.  Maybe we’ll see more of the sunshine and blue skies, we’re due for it.  And Ocean Park Retreat seems like a great place, both for volunteering and for enjoying the weather.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr

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How we found Twilight at Forks

Plomp, plomp, tick, tick tick, tick, plomp.  Rain sprinkles down from the trees, high above, with small drops sounding like individual loud ticks.  Then a couple of tom-tom drum beats sound, as a drops hit the skylight above our living room.

We packed up camp the night before leaving Sol Duc, expecting rain after midnight.  Rain drops on our Airstream’s roof woke us at 12:40 a.m.  Pretty sharp forecasters, these NOAA guys.  It seemed to sprinkle, off and on, all night and by 9:00 this morning had almost stopped.  Nice to hitch up without a lot of rain.

Hitching the trailer took minutes, we’d already moved the hitch head to the truck’s receiver before going to bed.  This morning we only backed the truck to the trailer until the ball hit the back of our Quickbite coupler and the coupler automatically snapped shut and locked.

No one’s offered a way to automatically connect the 7-way power plug, the safety chains, and the breakaway cable.  Bluetooth might someday work for the 7-way, but there’s just no good substitute for the heavy-duty connection of a big pair of safety chains.  Who wants to look back and see their trailer crossing lanes by itself?

Our drive was very short, no more than 55 miles between Sol Duc Hot Springs and Mora campground near La Push (originally La Bouche, French for the mouth, apparently referring to the river’s mouth at the ocean).  Mora campground is in the Olympic National Park, is well distant from highways, and full of tall trees.

We’re fifty yards from a comfort station, just right for keeping our black waste tank empty for days and days.  We have no hookups for the trailer and no appreciable solar exposure for the photovoltaic panels.  We’re only paying $12 per night, approx 1/3 what we paid at Sol Duc for water and electric.  And both campgrounds charge an additional $5 if we empty our tanks at the dump station.

Nice campsite at Mora in ONP

Part of our setup included connecting (but not starting or running) our generator to the trailer.  We love not using it.  The campground is nearly vacant today.  it’s the end of Labor Day weekend and besides, not everyone wants to camp in the park on a rainy day.

Why spoil the majestic solitude and quiet of this old forest with our noisy generator if we can conserve our batteries for essential uses for at least three days?  We’ll use the generator to recharge the laptops when we need to, but are happy to avoid running it.

Daily high temperature at Mora are 55 degrees, and we’re sitting at 71 in the Airstream after running our Wave6 catalytic heater a little over two hours.  Two weeks ago we met a veteran Airstreamer, a Boeing retired engineer, who claims he could never use or recommend a catalytic heater after having opened a trailer’s door and finding four people dead inside from anoxia.

We didn’t ask, but perhaps could have asked, him if he practiced and believed in good engineering practice.  Surely he would have answered, “yes”.  The only safe way to use any heater inside a home or RV is to follow manufacturer’s recommendations.  And monitoring for any malfunction of the heater is necessary and, we think, requires we only burn this heater when we’re alert and awake.  Naptime or bedtime?  Off goes the heater, completely off.

A direct-fired heater (as opposed to the RV furnace, which is separated combustion heat exchanger) like a catalytic requires, the manufacturer points out, a minimum of 24 square inches of free air intake (a low window at one end of the trailer) and 24 square inches of free air outlet (a roof vent or high window at the opposite end of the trailer).

Jim continues, at low but persistent measure, campaigning for a floor intake vent installed under the catalytic heater’s location or under the Airstream’s L-sofa with a low transfer vent louver to direct the air into the cabin.  How cool would this be, not requiring any window opening?

And the cabin would always have a nice amount of free ventilation from the coolest point outside (under the trailer). Oh well, back to reality — the gravity floor vent is a fun project idea but not something we agree on, for now.  We have a few other projects already agreed upon and just awaiting certain resources (time, money, tools, sources for materials).

The rainy days incline us to play board games (no, not bored games, we really like these), catch up on our current cache of magazine subscriptions, drink pots of tea, and nap a little.  And we’re walking daily, rain or shine.  We’ve explored Rialto Beach, La Push, Forks, and Bogachiel State Park.  Hoh Rain Forest we’ve saved for Saturday, rain or not.  Rain is good, in good measure.

not Bella's truck, but same model

The Olympic Peninsula Visitors Guide we picked up locally features a lot of stuff about some book and television series named Twilight.  Upon our drive into Forks we were less surprised, then, to find stores and signs everywhere with Twilight advertising on them.

Lumber has long been the product from Forks and finally they have another and more unique one, they are home to Bella, Edward, and Jacob.  Our good  timing allows us to be in Forks the very weekend they are celebrating Stephenie Meyer Day, in honor of all she’s done to excite the local economy.

We bought three bundles of firewood yesterday.  Maybe we’ll stay at Mora this weekend, avoid as many vampires as we can.  I’m going outside now to build a big bright campfire.  We hope it works!

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr

What’s a weekend without wifi?

Sitting outside the RV before sun-up this morning.  Chilly, around 50 degrees and no wind.  The sky is brightening but no sunlight hitting the trees high all ‘round us.

Strong steady whishing noise from through the trees south and west of our RV, must be Sol Duc River.  The river isn’t large or deep, but has that nice whitewater rushing water sound.  Debbie says this one sounds like white noise.

Before leaving bed, grabbed a camera to capture this view from the pillow through our bedroom window.  The nice part of camping in the forest or a field almost anywhere — leave the shades open at night.

Our window view up from the bed pillow

No streetlights burning brightly in, just pitch black everywhere.  It helps we’re under a new moon and amongst densely-packed tall trees.  Clear skies, unlike most times last week in Lacey, if we look straight up in this small clearing.

We drove 101 north from Olympia along Hood Canal (not a canal at all, but the sole glacier-formed fjord in continental USA, 600 feet deep and huge) through a series of small towns.  Much of this we recognized from our visit two years ago with a WBCCI caravan, National Landmarks West.

Lake Crescent on Olympic Peninsula

Through Port Angeles we drove and onward alongside Lake Crescent, a large and deep glacier-formed beautiful blue lake ringed with tree-covered slopes.  We were surprised not a single sailboat was on the lake despite steady winds across the water (We read later, personal watercraft not allowed on this lake). The day is a little cool – are they awaiting a warmer day?

The road from 101 into Olympic National Park evoked memories of Natchez Trace in Tennessee, a paved long and narrow road through the forest.  But this road to Sol Duc Resort Campground is through old growth Douglas firs, every other one seems six feet and greater diameter.

The 1912 Sol Duc Resort was pretty grand

More than 95 years ago was built a four-story resort at these Sol Duc hot springs.  The picture of the resort evokes thoughts of the grand destination lodges built by the American and Canadian rail line companies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  But this one lasted only four years before it burned to the ground.

Sol Duc has two campgrounds, the National Park one and the “Resort” one.  The latter has 20 sites and electricity and water hookups but no comfort stations or toilets.  The former has 82 sites, no hookups but vault toilets.  The national park one has paved roads and sites.  The resort is dirt and rocks.

We’re in the Resort campground.  For the $32 per night price we were expecting to be a little wowed.  Far from it, though — this is a gravel parking lot with railroad ties defining camping spaces between 13 and 18 feet wide.  And the utilities post sits at the back edge, each serving two sites.

Space is tight, sites are not deep enough to park the truck lengthwise in front of the trailer and aren’t wide enough to park the truck crosswise.  We moved our truck this morning to provide a departing camper necessary clearance.

The Resort is a small two-story lodge building, pools, and collection of small KOA-style cabins situated on the other side of the river, 300 yards from our campsite.  Three 25’ diameter wading pools are the hot springs.  And a 60’ long unheated swimming pool attracted no adults during our brief reconnoitering.

Sol Duc Resort Lodge 2010

The “lodge” houses offices, a gift shop, a small camping store with beer, charcoal lighter, firewood, marshmallows (the things you wish you hadn’t forgotten).  And there’s a restaurant.  But no wifi, no lounge area to hang out.  We’re a lot surprised an area calling itself a resort lacks these.

Lest you think we’ve lost sight of who and where we are, we’re not complaining about the accommodations.  We only are commenting.  Television holds no attraction for us, wifi and phone service are conveniences we’re fine without.  Well, sort of fine, we think.  But how will we spend our time?

We’re in a designated wilderness area and need to take full advantage of the benefits.  This is an incredibly gorgeous national park.  We’re glad we’re here.  Numerous hiking trails provide us opportunities for seeing more of the old growth forest, and the river’s falls, and some nearby lakes.  We’ve met nice folks.  And it IS dark and quiet at night, as we said.

Let’s go hiking!  The resort provides a trails map indicating several hikes and mileages.  Our first day out we don’t need a long hike, maybe a couple or three miles.  We chose one listed as 0.8 miles each way.  It doesn’t say, and we didn’t check, the starting location.  It would have been a good idea.

How big are these old Douglas Firs?

The trail is Sol Duc Falls trail from one side, and is named Lovers Lane loop from the other end at the resort.  It’s a very nice walk up one side of the river to the Sol Duc River falls and back the other side of the river through old growth forest.  On closer inspection, after our hike, the map shows distances for each trail from the trail’s respective trailhead.  Makes sense, but means you either drive to the trailhead or add the walking distance from campsite to trailhead.

Sol Duc Falls

Our hike was six miles, more than we bargained for our first day out but still a nice walk in the woods.  Second day we hiked the ancient grove nature trail, less than a mile-long loop.  It is beautiful and we would have enjoyed another mile or two of it.  Still, we deserve a long soak in the hot springs, right?  We paid $12 per adult for all the soaking we can take in a day

One pool is pretty warm at 104 degrees, one is less so, and one is barely warm.  We spent over an hour in the warmest pool, kneeling on the bottom so water was up to our necks.  The pool was so crowded, at 4:30 in the afternoon, we felt like sardines packed in a tin.  A movement back or left or right and we bumped into someone.

Hot springs pools at Sol Duc resort

And four of five of the someones were non-English speaking.  We thought we recognized Russian, German, and Japanese, but we weren’t certain.  We heard almost no English amongst the over one hundred people crammed into this warm pool.  Fortunately, 5:00 rolled around and enough people trickled out to make more room in the pool.

Our third day we hiked to Mink Lake, a 5.2 mile round trip with 1,500 feet elevation gain.  We passed through stands of very tall Douglas firs and were amazed at the great piles of fallen trees we frequently saw from the trail.  The hike up to Mink Lake took a little longer than the return trip for only one reason:  blueberries.

We stopped ten minutes on our way up to pick and eat blueberries.  Most were not fully ripened but we each ate a half-cup of pretty good berries.  We couldn’t have denied it either — our hands were deeply stained from some of the ripe berries.

Mink Lake seemed small, maybe an acre or two at most.  An old backpacker’s shelter and fire ring provide one of several designated campsites for backpackers.  Blueberry bushes abound on the lake’s south shore and the berries are larger and in clusters instead of singles like we found on the trail.

Mink Lake in ONP

We donned our fleeces and sat in the very cool afternoon long enough to share a snack bar.  Sunlight was fading and air temperature, which hadn’t exceeded 60 degrees, was falling.  So we packed up and hiked back down to our silver home at Sol Duc Resort.

Absent any wifi, we spent more time reading, hiking, and writing.  We’re craving connectivity, but appreciating the calm and un-busy nature of our days here.  This has been a nice visit in a very nice forest.   Maybe the resort has it figured out after all?

Today, Labor Day, it’s pouring down rain in Forks, 15 miles west of Sol Duc.  We’re in the Thriftway Outfitters/Grocery/Bakery, adjacent to the Dew Drop Inn (yep, another one).  Every other storefront in Forks includes either a store name or a feature with “Twilight”.  We had no idea whatsoever, never heard of Twilight series before.  Different layers of life — even frequent wifi doesn’t reveal all. . .

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr