Justine's Birthday Weekend

It was Justine's birthday this past weekend, and I wanted to take her away some place interesting to celebrate. It needed to be someplace close, as we only had the weekend, and I had just started my new job. I decided on the historic Lake Crescent Lodge on the Olympic Peninsula in Olympic National Park in northwest Washington. The lodge was built in 1915, and is another example of the amazing lodges in the US National Parks. We're starting to collect stays at many of them. Last year we stayed at Mount Rainier, which was equally amazing (but in a much different way).

Justine standing out front of Lake Crescent Lodge.

Justine standing out front of Lake Crescent Lodge.

Our day didn't start off so well - we were delayed as I had my credit card compromised, and I had to sort that mess out. We got on the road and had a surprisingly quick trip across the border. We headed down to Bellingham, did some shopping at Costco and stopped for lunch at the Chuckanut Brewery, while we waited for Stuart and Jo to join us. 

From there it was a little further south, before heading west and onto Whidbey Island. We passed through Deception Pass (sadly, mostly in the dark) and headed down to the ferry where we were to cross over to the Olympic Peninsula and the town of Port Townsend. We were trying to hit the 6:00 ferry, but it was sold out when we got there, so we had to wait for the 7:30. We hung out, played some cards and were happy to make it on the next ferry. 

From Port Townsend, it was about 1 1/2 hours to the lodge, but it was late and we needed some dinner. We stopped in Port Angeles at a great little gastropub and had a pretty good meal. It wasn't what I had planned for Justine's birthday dinner, but it was pretty close. After dinner we finished the drive out to the lodge and got checked in. Both the lodge and the cabins we were staying in are on the US Register of Historic Places, which was pretty cool. We were staying in one of the Singer Tavern Cottages, a two bedroom cabin just a stone's throw from the main lodge and the lake.

Justine out front of cottage #6/7, our home for the weekend. This was Saturday morning, as we arrived after dark.

The Great Room at Lake Crescent Lodge.

A map of our drive down on Friday.

Friday night was pretty low key as it was late, so we settled in for the night and got ready for a full day on Saturday. Saturday morning we awoke to a grey, overcast day. we kind of expected that, given that we were in a rainforest in the winter. We had breakfast in the lodge, then headed out for the day.

View out over the lake from the dock at Lake Crescent Lodge, on our very grey and rainy Saturday morning.

Our cottage for the weekend.

Before breakfast, while the rest of the group was sleeping I went for a run up to Marymere Falls. It wasn;t a long run, but it was a beautiful morning for running. I did also have a little bit of time to wander around and take some pictures.

rialto beach sign

After breakfast we got organized and hopped in Justine's car to start our day of exploring. We started off by heading west, out to the coast to check out Rialto Beach. This was a part of the park I had not been to, and was eager to explore.

The beach itself was pretty amazing, with huge trees washed up all along the beach. While it was still pretty grey and overcast, the rain had stopped, which gave us a better chance to explore. The beach is mostly rocky, which made walking a little tougher. 

Stuart gave us all a scare, and then a good laugh. He walked down onto the beach, close to the incoming tide. He was looking down at his phone, not paying attention when a bigger wave suddenly came up on him. We watched the water pour over the tops of his boots, only to see an even bigger wave coming at him. Despite trying to run up the beach, he got hit by it and knocked over. As he didn't get swept out to sea, or even get his phone wet, it was pretty hilarious. It was a good example of never turning your back on the ocean!

Stuart vs. Mother Nature

Driftwood on Rialto Beach.

Waves crashing on Rialto Beach.

Rialto Beach.

Bunch of goofballs...

After Stuart got changed, we explored the beach for a while, walking north. I had wanted to see Hole in the Wall, but it was 1 1/2 miles north on the beach, and between the wind, the huge surf and the potential for rain, today didn't seem like the right day. After exploring for about an hour, we headed back to the car and continued our exploration. After a short stop in Forks, we headed down to the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center, in the middle of the park.

The trees get big in the rainforest.

The big sitka. This was once the biggest know Sitka Spruce. Sadly, it broke in a windstorm in December of 2014 - such a shame that we missed seeing it by such a short amount of time!

The Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center sits in one of the greenest areas of the park. Sadly, it was raining pretty hard by this point, so I didn't bring my camera with us on our short hike. We did the Hall of Mosses trail, which took us past some huge trees, and through areas just carpeted in moss. It was pretty amazing.

Stuart in the Hall of Mosses trail. Not even one of the biggest trees!

It was starting to get late in the day, and the sun was starting to drop in the sky. I had wanted everyone to see the stretch of beaches just south of where we were, so we made a last dash towards Ruby Beach, hoping to get there before the sun set. Fortunately for us, the rain broke again, and the sun started to come out. 

Sunset on Ruby Beach

We managed to get to the parking lot above the beach just as the sun was starting to set. We made a mad scramble down to the beach, but sadly just missed the colour in the sun set. Still, as the clouds were holding off we had some sunlight and we able to explore the beach for a little while before the sun disappeared completely.

Rock sculptures on Ruby Beach as the sun sets.

We had a last bit of colour in the sky as the sun set over Ruby Beach.

Justine and I on Ruby Beach.

After the sun went down, we headed back to Lake Crescent Lodge. It was a little more than an hour's drive back, but we were still lots early for dinner in the lodge restaurant. We had some champagne in the room while we got ready, then headed in for dinner. Something new for me, we were able to bring our own wine to dinner, which was great!

Dinner was good, and we mostly had the place to ourselves. After dinner we grabbed another bottle of wine and hung out in the Great Room at the lodge. We played some board games, bit yelled at by the staff when we were too loud, and generally had a grand time. Soon it was late and time to head off to bed.

Our drive on day #2.

Sunday morning we all slept in a bit - there may have been a little too much to drink the night before. I was up earliest, and wandered out to see what the day was bringing us, and to take some pictures if it was looking good.

Amazingly, there was some blue sky over Lake Crescent Lodge!

It was looking like we were going to have a nice day! There was some sun, the clouds had lifted and you could see the mountains surrounding the lake. It was beautiful.

Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent Lodge watersports

Once everyone was up, we headed in for breakfast and has a leisurely start to the day. After breakfast we had to go our separate ways, as Stuart and Jo needed to be back early, and wanted to catch the 2:00 ferry. We wanted to do some more exploring. So we got checked out, packed up and headed out for more adventures.

Lake Crescent Lodge

There was a waterfall that I had missed the last time I was here, and so we headed back west to check it out. We headed towards the Sol Duc Falls trailhead, about 12 miles from the lodge. Our first stop was at Salmon Cascades, a viewpoint where a small waterfall provides good views of migrating salmon at the right time of year. We were a bit late for that one, but the waterfall was nice.

Salmon Cascades

A few miles further up the road we stopped at the Ancient Groves trail. This short loop took us through some amazing scenery, past some big trees, and deeper into the forest. The green of the moss was so vivid and lush, covering everything. And there were tons of mushrooms all over all the fallen trees. Pretty cool. 

The start of the Ancient Groves trail.

The light was quite amazing as we headed along the cliff-side portion of the trail.

Justine in the trees along the Ancient Groves trail.

A couple of miles further up the road we arrived at the Sol Duc Falls trailhead. There were quite a few cars - probably the busiest spot we'd been to yet over the weekend. We started off down the trail, and were again immediately enveloped in the lush greenery and perfect trail. 

Another beautiful trail through the lush rainforest.

A short distance down the trail, we noticed a smallish waterfall down a short side trail. We worked our way a short distance into the trees, and I was pleased to find a perfect little scene. We stopped for a bit, I took a few photos of the scene.

This trail was full of little waterfalls, and a few minutes further down the trail there was another one, cascading down through the rocks along the side of the trail.

More amazing scenery along the Sol Duc Falls trail.

As we got closer to Sol Duc Falls, the river got larger and louder. There was a lot more water, and the trail was elevated a bit higher up from the narrow chasm of the river. Sol Duc Falls was the biggest waterfall we saw on the trip this weekend, and while not particularly high, had an interesting look to it, with three somewhat separate shoots off from the falls.

Sol Duc Falls

The river rushing away from Sol Duc Falls

Looking upstream over Sol Duc Falls.

Varied Thrush. We had see a few of these around over the course of the weekend. Apparently they're pretty common in the area, but were new to me. Very pretty bird.

On the trail near the falls, there was an old shelter that was built in the 30s when getting into this part of the park was considerably more difficult. It was also on the list of historic places, and was in the process of being restored. 

Sol Duc Shelter

After hiking back to the trailhead, we hopped in the car and started heading back east. Our plan was to head up to Hurricane Ridge, another pretty famous spot in the park, and so we headed off on some backroads to shorten the journey. Along the way we had some more great scenery, as the clouds were hanging low over the surrounding mountains. And a deer.

Clouds hanging low over the mountains.

The deer were unafraid...

Sadly, the road up to Hurricane Ridge was closed for some reason. Wasn't supposed to be, but it made it easy for us to make the call to head for home. As it was, we caught the 5:00 ferry, but it was still close to 9:00 when we got home, after stopping for dinner along the way.

It was a great weekend - great friends, a beautiful spot and even some nice weather! Happy Birthday Justine!