Monday, August 29, 2011

Pacific Northwest Day 12 - Rain, Rain, Come My Way

Friday, August 12, 2011

A casual breakfast of eggs with shrimp, crab, and salmon at the Salal Café in Port Townsend was the perfect way to start the day.  Dipping again on the Turnstones at the marina was not nice, but couldn’t be helped.  Negotiating fog as thick as soup, a course was set for Westport via Forks.

Seeing the Olympics shrouded in fog re-enforced how lucky I have been on this trip. Rainier? Crystal clear.  Olympic National Park? Crystal clear for the most part. Who can complain?

The road takes you in and out of the perimeter of the National Park. Before long, you pass through the town of Forks. Pretty bland in most respects, this town of 3,500 people has seen a 600% boom in tourism with the release of the Twilight movies.  The vampires, in this series anyway, can venture into daylight, but their skin will sparkle like glitter.  So, the books are set in the one of cloudiest places in the country.  Makes good sense, right?

I also got a kick out of the tours you can take throughout the town. I can see the people taking it now -  "Ohhhhh, here is the high school. Ooooohhh, there is the doctor’s office where the lead vampire works..."   (It is not a blood bank, by the way.)  None of these places, in case your interested, resemble the scenes in the movie simply because the movie is not filmed here. 

If you travel here and camp, don’t forget to secure your firewood south of town. Some huckster was selling bundles of official Twilight Firewood at $4 each. He must have been to the Klondike Gold Rush National Park and learned a thing or two about marketing.

( I just re-read the previous paragraphs about Forks and Twilight. Let me clear. I did not take a tour. I am not a fan (although I have seen the movies). The shortest path from Port Townsend to Westport is via Forks. )

Down and around from Forks was the entrance road to the Hoh Rainforest.  Still a part of the National Park, this place is tremendously wet.  Seattle, while famous for its rain, doesn’t get that much.  It averages about 35 inches a year. New York City gets more! So does Atlanta! And Houston, too! It is urban legend that Seattle gets rain all the time. What they get are the clouds.  Lots and lots and lots of clouds.  All this happens simply because they are on the east side of the Olympic Mountains – the rainshadow side.

The Hoh Rainforest, however, is a few miles off the ocean and west of the mountains. As the saturated air hits the mountains and rises, it all dumps into the rainforest.  160 inches annually (plus or minus a dozen). That is a tremendous amount of rain.  By most accounts, if it is not raining, it will be cloudy.

So, with rain gear at the ready (including camera condoms), the sky opened up.  I don’t mean it rained.  The clouds broke. By the time we reached the Visitor’s Center, the sky was blue and the sun was shinin’. One of the rainiest places in the country and there was not a raindrop to be had.  Unbelievable. Sure, the summer is considered dry, but come on! Sunshine? This is the Hoh Rainforest!

I was really looking forward to some photography. If you have ever seen photos of the place (here, here, and here, for example), it is lush, green and dim.  It seems like the kind of place where you expect dinosaurs or something.  Not today.  I should have brought sunscreen.

All that complaining aside, it was an enjoyable place.  If you like ferns, you’ll love it.  If you like Sitka Spruce trees hundreds of years old and billions of feet tall, you will have trouble leaving.  (Those my binoculars wadded up on the tree's root in the picture below.) If you are in northwest Washington, try and get here if you can.

A few minutes were also spent dinkin' around in the Pacific Ocean at Ruby Beach.  It is that simple. Whether it is your first trip or your umpteenth trip to an ocean, dink away. All the cool people do it.

In Westport by late dinnertime, the hotel was secured (reservations are nice!), food was ordered (Dungeness Crab Cakes at the HalfMoon Bar and Grill) and beer was consumed.  The Longboard Lager (#1,078) is brewed in Hawaii. That added Hawaii to my list of beer states even though I have not yet been there.  All in all, they can keep the stuff.  While not bad, I was not horribly impressed….

While evening photography on the beach may have been nice, I was very tired and it was, believe it not, quite cold.  That was quite a breeze coming off the ocean. Great. Waves.  Final preparations were made for Saturday’s ridiculously early departure for the pelagic trip.

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