Thursday, December 2, 2010

Olympic Peninsula

Aug 22 Sunday, Collins Campground near Seal Rock, WA
Danee is holding the next installment of “Dexter” for us to watch on my return when I pick up the replacement phone for the replacement phone from TMobile.  I have a couple weeks to wait, so I might as well go around the Olympic Peninsula instead of roaming around Seattle and being under foot when Danee gets home from work. 
I was on the road by noon to take the Fauntelroy ferry from South West Seattle to Southworth across the Puget Sound.  $3.60 saved me riding about 70 miles through Olympia and 2 or 3 hours of urban traffic.  It cost the same as riding and I got the minor thrill of being on a ship.  Within an hour I was on US 101 and on curving roads with a grin on my face.  
I went to the Brothers National Forest on the inland side of the peninsula and looked at some dispersed campsites along forest roads.  I started to go up a steep side road, but stopped about 30 yards up, except I didn’t stop.  With the front brake holding the wheel, the clutch in and the front tire sliding, I went down the hill backwards, dragging both feet.  It sure felt like I was going to fall, but I finally came to a stop in a bush.  Whew!   
None of the camp spots suited me, so I chose the campground by the Duckabush River.  The water sounds so nice, so here I am at #10.  I can see the rapids while I lay in my tent.   
I can also see big black slugs oozing along.

Aug 23 Monday, Dungeness Forks Campground near Sequim
Continuing north on 101, I kept stopping beside the road to eat wild blackberries, so juicy and delicious.  I met Steve, who sells used fishing gear beside the road.  He is a stutterer like me, but he struggles much more.  We talked about stuttering and fishing for a long time and he set me up with some tackle.  I can fish in national parks without a license and wanted to give it a try.  Right next to him was a roadside used house wares dealer and I finally found my little frying pan.  I had been to about 20 yard sales and 3 thrift stores with no luck.  Now I need a lid…  After groceries in Sequim, I headed off to camp.  I found several blah spots and liked the camp ground better.  I had a spot on the Gray Wolf River and could hear it all night.  My pan worked perfectly to cook a hunk of salmon I had bought at the store with no illusions of actually catching something.

Aug 24 Heart O’ the Hills Camp Ground near Port Angeles
Eggs cooked in my pan, a small delight.  Hot coffee and then off to try fishing after dawn.  No fish, nor did I hook myself nor did I fall in the river; a 2 out of 3 success in my mind.  I wonder if my red coat or not so subtle fishing rod stick made a difference.  I didn’t see any fish jumping or rippling the water.  It was a simple pleasure to watch my spinner lure in the current.  Time to move on, I thought.  I get goal oriented about getting to the next camp ground, thinking that the last camp site will be taken and rush to get there.   
Well, there were about a hundred open sites when I got to this, my first actual Olympic National Park visit.  I settled on a view location with a jumble of fallen trees and the sound of a stream.  Snug and peaceful.

Aug 25 Heart O’ the Hills, day 2
I met Joe, a Thai bicyclist, and we chatted cycling and camping.  I rode off to Hurricane Ridge to join scores of other seekers of alpine serenity.  Despite the crowds, I did enjoy seeing the saw tooth horizon of snow spotted peaks.
This spot was worth waiting 20 minutes for a bike to come along.  As I was returning down the hill, a doe and her 2 fawns were beside the road grazing on the plentiful grasses that grow there.  They were not the least camera shy as each passing car stopped to capture the moment of wild encounter.

Aug 26 Forest Road 2819, mile 9
A shopper at the Port Angeles Safeway struck up a conversation with me.  So many other motorcyclists are curious about the TW that I never lack for human contact.  This guy suggested a sweet spot near a bridge by the road to Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort .  He and his girlfriend had stayed there just this last weekend.  Sure enough, it was a perfect place to camp, with huge trees to deflect the rain and near the Sol Duc River.  Maybe it’s just me, but the sound of the rapids reminds me of rush hour traffic on the freeway, minus the trucks.  Oh, so peaceful hearing all those other people going to work and to not be in with them.  It’s sort of like hearing lawn mowers on the weekend and not having to do it myself because Pedro, who came earlier in the week is our mow, blow and go specialist.  I’ve been reading John le Carre`s “Absolute Friends” and was at the most suspenseful point just before dusk when someone fired a shotgun from across the river.  Such an emphatic punctuation made me jump and sent me right back to Viet Nam.  I was unsettled for the next several hours until about 2 am when I slept.

Aug 27 Fri Hoh Camp Ground near Forks
For me, this is the single most sought camp ground of my trip so far.  It is in the mossy rain forest along the Hoh River.  On the way here I stopped at a state fish hatchery to see if I could beg a fish.  The first thing before I could get off my bike, a guy came over to talk to me before he went to the hatchery pond to fish.  Wouldn’t you know, he says that he likes catching fish more than eating them and would I like a big fillet of Coho salmon.  Such luck!  He had soaked it in brine and then flavored it with brown sugar, pepper and smoke concentrate to mask the flavor of fish, which he didn’t like.  Some went into my shrimp chowder that night, saving having the rest for lunch and dinner tomorrow.  I met two off duty park rangers, Ryan and Kiley, this evening as a result of seeing his KLR650.  I let him ride my TW around the parking lot and he was struck by its light weight and great gas mileage.

Aug 28 Sat, day 2 at Hoh
I was up at 5am, did exercises in my sleeping bag to warm up and put on about every layer of clothes I had.  As the dawn broke, I was sipping hot coffee and eating eggs in a pita.  My aluminum stove cover/cooking pot smells of salmon even on the 3rd pot of boiling water.  I love fish, but not like this.  I believe in the separation of fish and coffee. 
A pack of coyotes serenaded their farewell for the night as the first light came over a hill and washed the river into brilliance.  I’ve created an evaporative cooer for the fish by wrapping it in a wet towel and putting it in the shade.  It should stay fresh until this afternoon.  
I made a quick trip to Forks for more food, library and internet.  Pity the library is on its summer hours and is closed weekends.  Just inside the foyer was the object of my desire, paperbacks for a donation.  Sigh.  So near…  Back in camp, the salmon was delish with a tomato, cucumber and onion salad with Italian dressing and the nectarines grown locally and sold at the combination grocery, clothing and hardware store, The Outfitter.  They even had my favorite yogurt, The Greek Gods – Plain.  With stevia to sweeten it, there’s none better.  Sorry to go on so about food but my life has distilled down to eat, ride, sleep and then repeat.  
As I sit at the table in my camp, I am savoring how the trees move in the breeze.  Leaves rustling on the ground as they are blown by seem to say, “Come run with us as we skip and hop in the wind.”  Feeling the sun warm one side of my face when the wind softens, I am content to sit at the table, watching ravens scout for left out food.  “Caw, caw.  Those careless campers from yesterday are gone,” as they fly from tree to tree seeking opportunity.  None for them here and I am left to listen to the wind in the trees, the river flowing and my stillness within.

Aug 29 Sun Hoh Oxbow campground
The weather report predicted rain tonight, so I went looking for a free spot.  I had heard that the primitive State campgrounds are free, so I rode around looking at them nearby and found it to be true.  I rode through a camp on the Hoh River and 101 and was approached by Isaac and Kyler who are hitchhiking around the peninsula for adventure.  They live near Shelton on the south end of the Olympic Peninsula.  Since they are hitching, they are not using the whole space and offered to share since the campground is full.  I dropped off what I had in my bags, went to Forks for more food, brought that back and went to my site in the National Park to break camp.  When I got back, there was still no rain and I pitched my tent on a ledge overlooking the river. 
Dinner was a big trout that I caught at the market and shared with Issac and Kyler.

Aug 30 Mon Ho Oxbow
Another trip to Forks to the library for internet and to get paperbacks.  Steaks were 2 for 1 at the market and they still had great nectarines. I brought back 3 pounds of meat and we ate it all with BBQ sauce.

Aug 31 Tue  Hoh
Rain half the night, all day and night.  I fixed coffee and scrambled eggs for breakfast in only dry place, the foyer of the outhouse, cooking for Isaac and Kyler, then reading in my tent while they stomped around staying warm.  Pitching their tent in a flat depression when it is going to rain pretty much guaranteed a close encounter of the wet kind.  I went back in the late afternoon and fixed a stew for us and back to my tent to finish my book, “A Case of Need” by Michael Crichton.

Sep 1 Wed South Beach CG
The rain stopped and I went again to Forks for food, gas and internet.  
A couple hours later, I finally came to the Pacific.  I’ve returned to Mother Ocean. 
Several miles further and I was at the South Beach CG with a spot overlooking the shore.  My neighbors had been camped there for 10 days on their honeymoon and looked settled in for the rest of the season.  Driftwood sticks holding a tarp over their tent and an old van parked alongside looking like it had spent much time with the hood up, coaxing more miles from its engine.  A Ron Paul sticker was squarely in the middle of the hood, declaring its identity to no longer be Ford or Chevy.

Sep 2 Thur South Beach

I remained another day, savoring the ceaseless muted roar of the surf.  Rows of 4 to 8 waves continually breaking with an occasional whooshing slap of the length of a wave toppling at once reminded me of many languid days and camp nights along the Pacific coast.  I feel at home here laying in my tent with my feet sticking out, brushing the smooth, dry autumn grass, warm in the sun. I fell easily into a nap, soothed by the ocean’s lullaby.

Sep 3 Seattle
Cold and foggy at the beach, time to move on and back to Seattle to pick up my 2nd replacement phone from T-Mobile.  Back to four walls and TV at Danee’s.  I’m so grateful to be able to come here.

Sep 6 Seattle
I’m planning to head southeast tomorrow to get away from the rain that is coming.  Maybe my luck will hold and I’ll be able to ride between showers. 

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