Recently Rob and I realized that the daily grind was getting a bit too unbearable, so we made a decision to take a quick overnight trip to the Western Olympic Peninsula in our home state of Washington. I’ve been so grateful that two years ago we decided to move to the Pacific Northwest, which turned out to be more beautiful that we ever hoped for. In the two years that we’ve lived here, we’ve discovered so many amazing places, and continue to find more every month. The Western Olympic Peninsula turned out to be quite a gem!
On Saturday morning, we took an early ferry from our home ground of Whidbey Island towards Port Townsend on the Eastern Olympic Peninsula. The ferry ride takes about half an hour going across Puget Sound. Once we arrived in Port Townsend (a lovely place, by the way, deserving its own separate post), we headed west towards the famous Highway 101 that runs all the way from Washington state to Southern California, along the Pacific Coast in a lot of places. On the Olympic Peninsula, the highway goes to the north of the gorgeous Olympic National Park, winding through the most picturesque places like the shores of Lake Crescent and Lake Sutherland, and then turns south, passing through the city of Forks, and then heading down to Oregon and on to California.
First Beach in La Push, WA
Once we reached Forks, we decided to venture further west all the way to the Pacific coast in La Push, which happened to be only about 20 minutes away. This was the first time we reached the Pacific since we moved to Washington (as one of my Instagram followers said, ‘You’re a true Washingtonian now!’).
The La Push area boasts some incredibly beautiful beaches. To the south of where the Quileute River meets the ocean, there are three of them conveniently named First, Second and Third Beaches. To the north, Rialto Beach forms a fairly long strip of sand that’s great to walk during low tide.
We walked on the First and Second beaches on Saturday (the Second Beach was preceded by a .7 mile hike through a beautiful evergreen forest), and made it to Rialto Beach on Sunday.
Moi exploring some gorgeous sea stacks off the coast of the Second Beach
Some impressive-looking driftwood on Rialto Beach
The city of Forks became our basecamp for this overnight trip. In case you’ve read the famous Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer or seen the movies, you’ll know that Forks was the center of all the action in the book series. I was never a huge fan of Twilight but I did see the first movie a few years ago, and was very impressed by the beautiful scenery surrounding the city in the movie.
As it often happens, the movie wasn’t actually shot in Forks – its remote location was an inconvenience for the movie company – but the city couldn’t be prouder of its Twilight heritage. A very friendly lady at the visitors’ center gave us lots of maps for the surroundings, including some mementos specifically made for Twilight fans. As it turns out, Forks celebrates a Twilight festival every September, bringing in lots of movie and book fans into town.
Finding Vegan Food in and around Forks
Early into our trip to the Olympic Peninsula, Rob and I made peace with the fact that it wasn’t going to be an exceptional gustatory experience. Living in Seattle area, it’s easy to forget that there are vast areas in the country (and in the world) where vegan restaurants are few and far between. We made an effort to not set our expectations too high, so there was no disappointment to deal with.
I used some vegan travel tips from this post, and packed plenty of snacks for all occasions. There were apples and bananas, peanut butter packs, nuts and dates, tortilla chips, some dark chocolate, etc. to hold us over between meals. Both on Saturday and Sunday, we had veggie sandwiches from the only Subway in Forks because that was the most reasonable to-go vegan lunch option in town.
Dinner on Saturday happened at the Pacific Pizza restaurant prominently located right in the center of the town. I saw some online reviews suggesting that they could throw together a custom veggie pasta if asked, so Rob and I were intrigued. Unfortunately we had some miscommunication (or maybe the people who were willing to do a custom dish before no longer worked there), so we decided to order just a veggie pizza, sans cheese naturally since there were no vegan cheese options:
This pizza turned out to be pretty good. They definitely didn’t skimp on veggies! Olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, green peppers and even cashews, oh my!
Vegan-friendly dinner option #2 that I saw online – Hard Rain Cafe, a Chinese restaurant that boasts a separate vegetarian menu. Online reviewers raved about how good their food was, especially for a small town. Since we didn’t actually go there, feel free to take my word with a grain of salt.
On Sunday morning, instead of developing a headache while trying to find vegan-friendly breakfast options, we had bagels with Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter squeezed from mini-packs that I brought from home (the most delicious thing, tastes just like Nutella!). We ate those in bed at the hotel = fancy breakfast in bed experience! 🙂
Olympic National Park
Visiting Western Olympic Peninsula would have been incomplete without a visit to the Olympic National Park. There are a few entrances to the park, each of them leading to the most beautiful places to explore. Hoh Rainforest, famous for traditionally getting more rain than any other forest in the continental US, is located to the south of Forks within a 45-min drive. The moist environment and temperate climate create a perfect place for giant trees and lush greenery:
Seen above: Rob is standing next to what used to be one of the largest Sitka Spruce trees in the area. The tree snapped during a bad storm in December 2014 that had wind gusts reaching 170 mph. A picture of the tree before it broke showed that it was at least 5-6 times taller than this stump.
A river runs through it: Hoh River winds through the valley in the Hoh Rainforest, and can be easily followed all the way to the visitors’ center at the end of the road. Along with lots of other mountain rivers in the area, Hoh River provides the ideal breeding grounds for salmon in the fall, provided there is enough water for the fish to get this far inland. The recent years in the Western US have been notorious for the lack of rain, even in the wettest forest in the country. Also, overfishing doesn’t help the issue: even when there’s enough water in the river, there’s way less fish who manage to get here compared to 20-30 years ago.
On Sunday as we headed back home, we decided to stop by another entrance to the Olympic National Park. A peaceful winding road running along Sol Duc River took us deep into the park. There were a couple picturesque stops along the way. The first stop showed us a fish ladder – some rapids in the river formed by giant boulders that salmon jump over in the fall to get upstream. The second stop took us for a stroll in an ancient forest, with some trees aged over seven hundred years. At the end of the main road, we hiked to a gorgeous waterfall – a true gem of the park.
We saw quite a few small and large streams running down the sides of the mountain to join the main river. Moss grows wild in this cool and damp environment:
My cell phone pictures really don’t do justice to the beautiful Sol Duc Falls (below). Feel free to Google this waterfall to see better images 🙂
You can gauge the scale of things by looking at the person on the bridge below:
Our drive back went past the gorgeous Lake Crescent and Lake Sutherland – they deserve a separate post, maybe some time in the future. We took a nice stroll back in Port Townsend as we waited for the ferry, and had dinner at Hanazono Asian Noodle Shop, our go-to place for delicious vegan soup (one of only a couple vegan things on their menu, but it’s oh so delicious!).
Every time we leave the Olympic Peninsula, we make plans to definitely come back again in the near future to explore more of its abundant beauty. In case you’re ever in our neck of the woods, feel free to say hi!
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