And what a final week of summer it was. I am officially back at school getting things ready and prepared for the first day but I could not have been happier with how our last week of summer went. Olympic National Park and Washington was a blast. The kids deserve the utmost props, we had lots of planes and waiting and driving and waiting and they did great. Seeing their faces as we showed them the mountains, valleys, rivers, beaches, and rainforests made our hearts so full.
We tried to plan less for this trip knowing that we would have lots of travel time and the potential for park backups, tired kiddos, or random something happening! We wanted to have them see mountains, forests, lakes, and beaches. And it was so hard to not want to push more and to see more while we were there but Crystal and I felt like we did a good job reading the kids. And with all the advice we got, the one that stuck out the most was snacks! Holy cow I have never seen the kids eat so much. We would always think we would overpack for food for the day but then always be thankful we did.
Day 1: Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge is a mountain top in the middle of Olympic National Park and it was our first stop. It is about 5,000 feet in elevation and about an 18 mile ride from the bottom. We set off early Tuesday morning, driving through a bit of rain, before we reached the visitor's center around 9am. Oh boy, was it chilly. We knew it would be colder at the top and were thinking around the mid 50s. Temperature was a brisk 44 degrees at the top. Told the kids to throw on as many layers as we could as we didn't pack our bulky jackets in the suitcases! After a bit of grumbling and complaining about being uncomfortable we finally set off on some hikes and could not see a thing it was so cloudy. Thankfully as we heard from a couple of other hikers, the clouds burn off around noon, so we stuck around, grabbed some lunch, and the payoff was incredible.
We understandably did not want to leave the sights but we were eager to see our main vacation spot so we reluctantly headed to our cabin. The sights there were pretty respectable as well.
Day 2: Hoh Rainforest and Ruby Beach
The second day was our big travel day. This was the day we knew we would be spending the most time in the car and potentially waiting for park entry. We would be traveling about 1.75 hours to the Hoh Rainforest, then another hour to the beach, and then about 2 hours back home to the cabin. We first headed to the Hoh Rainforest, thinking that we were leaving pretty early, but not early enough. We got into the park and started to see the line. At about 9:30am, the parking lot was already full, and cars were only being let in as cars left. Kids did pretty good with this as there was plenty to see and keep busy with as we waited another hour to move about 1/2 mile. Finally though we were able to get in, find a spot, and walk two different shorter hikes (about 1 mile each) through the park.
The kids had never seen such large trees before and were amazed at their size. At one point, the Hoh River cuts right near the trail and we took a quick pit stop to climb some rocks and skip some stones.
After the Hoh Rainforest we began the journey to Ruby Beach to see the tide pools. We were not disappointed. The pools were teeming with life amidst the wild, misty beach.
Day 3: Lake Crescent
On day three, we headed to Lake Crescent which was about ten minutes from our place. We discovered a gem in the Log Cabin Resort that has about 20 cabins that sit right next to Lake Crescent. It was the least busy place we had been in all of Olympic National Park. We were able to find a spot to park easily and we rented kayaks within 15 minutes. We wanted to be able to get out on the water and have the kids feel small. The kids have been out on paddleboards before and out on a boat, but never on a kayak. They were a little nervous at first, worrying we were going to tip, but before long they were the ones paddling us to places! This was my favorite part of the trip by far. Being in the middle of the water makes you feel so small and so much more a part of the mountains, I could have stayed out there all day.
This summer was absolutely fantastic and was the fastest summer I think there ever has been. We did a lot and I will always wish for more time to do more. They did so well on their first adventure vacation that we already can't wait to plan the next one. Until next time!