Our second mini-vacation of the month is to the Olympic Peninsula, on the other side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Victoria. After loading the car this morning we started out towards Olympia so we could approach the peninsula from the south. As you can see from our track below (the red pins are where I took photos), our first stop was near Hoquiam at the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge. There weren't a lot of visible birds, but we did see a flock of Canada geese fly over, and a great blue heron standing by itself in the water. On the way over we were trying to decide where to have lunch, wondering how far we'd end up backtracking. Ends up there's a café right where we parked, and the reviews looked pretty good, so we gave it a try. We were pleasantly surprised and headed out well fed.
The next stop was Lake Quinault. We first took the turn-off on the south side of the lake, which is the Olympic National Forest side. Picked up a couple maps at the ranger station and decided we'd rather be on the north side where it's the Olympic National Park. Headed to that ranger station to check out a couple short trails, and started on the Kestner Homestead Trail which took us through a set of buildings on land which was homesteaded in the late 1880's. The trail then turned into the Maple Glade Nature Trail loop, so we chose one direction and headed back towards the car.
Before we got back to US101 we went to the Big Cedar Tree Trail and went to see, well, the Quinault Big Cedar Tree. We saw several other groups of people going there too. The trail was quite steep, and even though there were steps along the way, some of them were very steep, too (well over 12" tall). When we got to the top there was a couple already there who were trying to decide which tree was the big cedar. Looking around, it seemed pretty evident to us, especially since there was only one tree where you could walk inside (which you were supposed to be able to do). On the way down, we reassured others we passed that they didn't have too much further to go.
Back to US101 where our next stop was Ruby Beach, known for both its driftwood and sea stacks. It was a very popular place for photographers, and we saw lots of tripods in use, too. It was also nice that it was cool and foggy, which was a nice contrast to the warmer weather we were hitting earlier in the day.
After we were done at the beach we headed up to Forks to check into our room. The first thing we assessed was wireless access, which was there but kinda slow. That wasn't really a surprise, however. We then hit the store to grab food for the next few meals, and yes, we saw a lot of Twilight marketing there, as well as throughout the town (there was a banner about Stephenie Meyer day; the web site says among other events there's a blood drive!) Back to the room to eat dinner and make plans for the next day.