above: our hazy view from Hurricane Hill
Port Angeles, WA is our last stop before we start our long trek east back towards home (I guess it’s technically not home anymore, but it’ll always be my figurative home). I can’t believe it’s been 14 months and we’ve only made it 3/4 of the way around our first lap of the country. It’s been a good pace for us but I have a feeling that we may slow our pace even further next year.
Our home for the week was at the Elwha Dam RV Park in Port Angeles on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, with Victoria Canada in view just across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
We really enjoyed our campground. Although our camping area was smaller than usual, we had a great view of the owners’ horses on our drivers side. The new campground owners have three horses who spend their days grazing in a field, which happened to be right next to our campsite. We found it fun watching them graze, run, and roll around in the grass each day. Max got to meet one (we were told that the brown horse thinks she’s a dog so she comes over to the fence for attention from everyone) but seemed indifferent—after a few sniffs Max wandered off. Opie, on the other hand, never completely got used to the horses. He would start barking at the horses but over time finally relax….until the next day when apparently Opie had forgotten there were horses next to us and the cycle would start again.
The campground is adjacent to the former Elwha Dam with access to an easy trail/road that leads to the river overlook so we took a nice stroll to check it out. It’s pretty amazing to think there was a large lake and dam there, since it’s just a fast flowing river now, although you can still see a lot of pulverized rock along the hillside from the removal of the dam.
The dam was originally built in the early-1900s and helped provide economic growth and electricity to the Port Angeles area. Unfortunately over time, it meant salmon runs had much less habitat, the fish returns (to spawn) were reduced drastically, and there was erosion of river habitats downriver (new sediment that would rebuild eroded shores was stuck in the reservoirs).
To reestablish the habitat, native species, and rebuild the area, the National Park Service created the Elwha River Restoration which included removing the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams. The Elwha dam removal started in Sept 2011 and finished in Mar 2012 (Glines Canyon dam removal wasn’t completed until August 2014). Native fish and invertebrates population is growing again, sediment has been rebuilding the shores, and other animals on the food chain are beginning to benefit from the changes. It’s mind-boggling to think of how one thing can make such an impact on the entire habitat.
While we were in the area, I had wanted to visit the Olympic Game Farm, it sounded like a lot of fun until I read the reviews online. There’s a driving tour where many of the grazers (llama, elk, bison, etc.) will come right up to your window for bread which sounds immensely entertaining; however the enclosures for the predators they have (wolves, tigers, bears) sounds awful. Reviewers say the predators are stressed and the enclosures are small. I don’t think I could bear to see or fund that, so we decided to skip the farm.
We did take a nice drive to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park and hiked Hurricane Hill, a paved but steep 3.5 mile round-trip that overlooks some stunning panoramas. Unfortunately the air was a bit hazy but the trail still had some marvelous views.
We did see wildlife right along the trail. I think the deer are so used to human presence that they just don’t care—we passed multiple deer who ignored us and continued to graze even when we were less than 2-3 feet away from them. We also saw a very large marmot grazing (and mostly ignoring the humans). The marmot left only when another one much further away raised a racket with some very loud, shrill alarm calls.
The Olympic Pennisula provided us with wonderful cool and sunny days so we spent a lot of time at the campground enjoying the weather. Opie got a lot of playtime, Max got some good walks (cooler weather makes for a happier Max), Mike made good progress on programming, and I got to do some fun sewing. I finished up a wallet but found it was too big for me, so I made the mini version of it instead which is perfect.
Port Angeles is very close to Victoria BC. You can take the ferry from Port Angeles (with your passport), roam around Victoria, then head back on the ferry when you’re done, all in one day. A lot of folks recommended the trip; however, it’s an all day trip and we didn’t want to leave the boys (especially Max) alone for too long. Max tends to be pretty high-maintenance in his old age and we’ve stopped using sitters or day care for him, so we decided to save the Victoria trip for the future.
Now that we’re turning east we’ll be visiting the Seattle area and then we’re in for some long drives through Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, visiting some more amazing places along the way.