Leaving Port Angeles was quite an ordeal. It seemed that everyone in the area had some personal idea of where we should go and how we should get there. Maps were consulted. The Internet was consulted. And finally even gas station attendants who brandished more maps at us. We went to fill up the RV with gas and this guy saw our motorcycle on the trailer. He steamed out of the store shouting things about the “best” roads. Dani was enthralled. I thought the whole process was dubious. It was a bewildering time attempting to escape. But in the end I fell back to my old patterns and simply left one morning on the motorcycle and went for a long ride.
I usually don’t take Dani with me when it is time to go scout out new campsites because it is a lot easier to turn the motorcycle around on dirt roads without two people on it. But it also gives me time to think and to ride a little harder than I would have otherwise. I cruised past beaches and campers in their jam packed pay for camp sites. Some of them I can understand, like the ones on the beach. I mean there is no other beach spot, but some I don’t, like the RV parks. I headed down as close to the Hoh rainforest area as I really could and just started darting down National Forest Service roads in search of a nice and quiet spot to park the RV.
I went down some really long and beautiful back roads before I found a nice big level spot that used to be a gravel pit but was totally surrounded by the forest. When we left Port Angeles in the RV, this is where I knew I was headed. It was flat, huge, secluded, and close to the places we wanted to visit. I zoomed back to say our goodbyes to Gary and Sheila (SV Irish Rose Westsail 28) and then the next day we set off to occupy the found spot.
Getting the RV to the campsites I find is not always easy. The roads on the Olympic Peninsula are very winding but worse, they go up and down slightly but constantly. This means a lot of braking as you ride into corners too fast on a slope. This means going slow. This means stopping from time to time to cool the brakes or downshifting and riding with the engine revved way up. It isn’t the RVs fault, we were probably the biggest vehicle on those roads most of the way and anything with our weight would be having a little discomfort. But we pulled through. The RV was fine in the end and while I was fighting the road, other drivers, and “adventure bikers”; Dani was lost in her personal wonderland with her face pressed up against the windows and her camera rolling. She loved that road as we sped past Crescent Lake. She loved it so much I just knew I was going to have to windex her nose print off the side window. Luckily she opened the window during the latter half of the journey.
Most of our RV trip has been driven by my desires. I wanted to go back to the Blueridge Parkway. I wanted the Natchez Trace. I wanted to see Montana again. Etc. Dani hadn’t even heard of many of the places we went to. But over time my desires dwindled and I experienced a “dark” period of wanting to be back aboard Sundowner. As though I’d had enough of this road trip. At that point, I divorced myself from the idea of trying to come up with “stuff” to do and told Dani that we could do whatever she wanted. This could have been a great decision or one of the worst mistakes possible. Giving Dani control of a trip is like disabling the brakes, but my energies were spent and I needed new eyes to draw me to things I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. And this is how we ended up passing the beautiful Crescent Lake on our way to the Hoh rainforest, which Dani told me were going to see.
We arrived at the spot I had picked out. No one had taken it while I was away. And no one really ever came by the whole time we were there. It turned out to be a great spot for peace and quiet. Well, at least from people. There were some birds that would sing to us at sunset when we built campfires. Dani called them the super sonic birds because their songs accelerated and pitched upward in inhuman ways that we cannot even attempt to replicate. They were the only birds we really saw or heard there except the occasional crow or hawk that went over.
We built a great many fires. It was chilly. It was wet. It was beautiful and calm in the evenings and we hadn’t had camp fires in a long time. The forest was piled with old dead wood and it made it easy to build fires. I didn’t have an axe though and so some of the later fires were a little wild looking. I would just drag a dead tree out of the forest, lay it over the fire ring and burn the middle out before dumping each end back into the fire ring. We stayed up late. Cooked marshmallows. Looked at the stars. And Dani would dance around the fire. In all, it was an extremely peaceful time. My inner aches to be back on the water dulled and I was able to enjoy the forest again.
I thought everything was good. I thought we’d found peace. I thought all we had to do would be to visit the Hoh. No. The map brandishing gas station attendant came back to haunt me. He had infected Dani’s mind. Told her the best beaches weren’t the ones right down the road from the campsite but instead were down some obscurely marked road where (as he told me in a hushed “man” voice) you can go triple digits. Now I like to ride fast but my bike isn’t doing 100mph anytime soon. Anyway, his geas was upon Dani and so off we went down some back road in the middle of no where to see a beach. A Pacific beach.
The ride was alright but the beach wasn’t. It had been closed due to some sort of shell fish infection. Infestation. Something. Dead birds marked the path down onto the cool, wet sands. The sights were pretty but it was not my idea of a beach. Maybe I’ve just been too spoiled by sailing all the tropical islands. I expect to see palm trees. Waves. Warm waters. Dani in a bikini. Instead there were strange people wearing all black milling about in the full sun as a constant light fog rolled over the sands. Hell, it was bringing back all those thoughts of longing for Sundowner. I needed a drink.
Dani made the most of it. We filmed it and she went back and forth over dinner if she liked it or not. We found this little town along the way back that looked like something out of Florida or Alabama. I suppose beach side towns are the same the US over. You know the one. Vacationville. Open 3 months a year and dead as a doornail the rest of the time. But it was high summer and so we found a place open and willing to serve us cocktails. I recovered from the beach. Dani still maintains we didn’t see it at its best.
As harsh a critic as I am of the beaches, I will say that I have become a great fan of the forests in Washington. We waited and waited. We prayed and did weather dances. We invoked Indian and animal spirits. Finally, about a week into our camp, the sun came out fully. The rainforests get 130+ inches of rainfall a year. As you can imagine this doesn’t leave a lot of time for the sun. Being sailors we know that time, tide, and sunlight wait on no mortal, so we, like everyone else, jetted off to finally see the Hoh rainforest.
Things started bad. The forest turned out to be so far off the main road (20 miles off!) that by the time we got there I realized I would have to seek gas immediately after our hike. The speed limit into the place was slow and we were on the tail end of a huge traffic snake. In the park, the parking lot was FULL! Thank God motorcycles can park just about anywhere.
This turned out to be a non event though. Once we started down our chosen trail, the people became sparse and the nature became rich. When most of us think “rainforest”, I believe we think of the dense tropical jungles nearer the equator. This forest was of an altogether different nature. It had huge trees draped in moss and it was carpeted with soft ferns and lichens. It was cool, breezy, and close to sea level.
The Hoh rainforest really was another world. All the fantasy shows you’ve seen with elves living in trees or hobbits under a hill could have been true here. The size of the forest seemed to make us smaller than we are, and its comfortable weather and nearby blue watered river gave it an inviting aspect. It was full of flowers highlighted by beams of sunlight that penetrated the canopy. We found berries and mushrooms. We saw owls and butterflies. The hike passed in just a blink of an eye.
We had ventured out to 5 mile island (appropriately five miles away) and back. I don’t think either of us will ever forget that hike. I can’t really fully describe it but please check out our video of the forest if you can.
We didn’t stay in the camp site too long after visiting the Hoh. We headed south with big plans for Oregon and California. Check out our new Vlog with live action! Until next time…
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