Road Scholar 21472

As a way to escape the Houston Summer Hell, as the saying goes, “Go North Old Man.” Long range forecast for the Seattle area is highs 75-80. Lows in the 50s.

The splendor of nature beckons you to Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, a vast and pristine area of rainforests, mountains and rivers. Experience the crash of Pacific surf on the sea stacks at LaPush, stroll a fragrant trail to lovely Marymere Falls and marvel at the greenest place you’ll ever see: the Hoh Rainforest. Learn from a Makah tribal member about the life and traditions of Neah Bay, the westernmost point in the continental U.S. Study the ecology of this unspoiled environment with naturalists and take home memories of old-growth forests, deep blue mountain lakes, wood smoke from a driftwood campfire and the perfume of sunbaked cedar boughs along the trail.

• Ascend an 18-mile highway to Hurricane Ridge for close-up views of snow-covered Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park.
• Enjoy a delightful lunch at historic Lake Crescent Lodge.
• Delight in “Music in the Barn” at Quilcene, a performance from the chamber music repertoire featuring internationally known artists in a relaxed setting.

Program Notes: Outdoor program in variable weather conditions.

Activity Notes: Walking one-half mile with options to walk up to two miles; groomed trails with some uneven areas, rocky, sandy beach. No climbing required. Longer walks available as time allows.

Itinerary Summary: Arrival Seattle, 1 night; coach to Port Angeles, 4 nights; coach to Seattle, departure.

Day 1, Saturday, Sept 5 – Arrive Seattle / Disorientation / Dinner
Take the StuporShuttle at 8:45 45AM and fortunately the weather cooperated. I had forgotten that this would be the Saturday of the Labor Day Weekend – very long lines to check in and for security. And for something different, there was a repeated (and re-re-re-re-re-repeated) announcement of a fire alarm in the building. Everybody was to take the stairs (not the elevators) and evacuate the building – but nobody paid any attention to the announcements and alarm sirens.

United UA 762IAH – SEA11:25A–2:08P4:43

Nice flight, arriving 30 minutes before it was scheduled. We had a great view of the top of Mt Rainier rising above the low cloud layer. No rain on arrival. Arrive in Seattle and take the complimentary hotel shuttle from the airport. Register in the lobby between 4:00 and 5:00 pm. Our Group Leader is Nancy Dorey. It is a larger than expected herd of cattle – 31 of us. Dinner, after a short walk in a drizzle, is in restaurant adjacent to our hotel at 6:00 pm until after 8. The menu looked good, but the food was, at best, poor and the service was extremely slow. The "Subway" sandwich I had at the airport this morning was much better. Due to the late running dinner, all other activities were postponed until sometime tomorrow. Then a short walk back across the parking lot in more drizzle. We did get some info on how to stay dry in tomorrow's rain.

Day 2, Sunday, Sept 6 – Puget Sound Music Festival Concert
It is supposed to be a 40% chance of rain today, both in Seattle and in Port Angeles. The same is forecast for Tuesday. That “how to stay dry” information we got last night will be very helpful.

After an early breakfast (available at 5PM) which is waffles from the usual waffle maker, juice, and some muffins, etc., at the hotel, We have to haul our luggage downstairs by 7:30 and board the coach by 8:15 to head for the ferry terminal in Seattle and short 30 minute ride across Puget Sound on the Washington State ferry to Bainbridge Island and then to the little town of Poulsbo.

We stop at the Poulsbo Market (groceries and everything else) to pick up a box lunch (open ended selection from sandwiches, soups, etc.; I chose soup, rolls and soda) to eat at the concert. The early morning forecast is for 50% chance of rain (it did rain overnight) deceasing to 20-30% by noon and we lucked out – no rain but overcast, dark, gloomy, damp.

Enjoy (?) your lunch at one of the picnic tables (under an umbrella) reserved for us in the orchard, then move into the old somewhat remodeled barn (nice comfortable church pews for seating) for a really great concert of classical music. Virtuoso violinist Ray Chen returns to the OMF for a program including Beethoven, Saint-Saens, Ysaye, Falla and Monti. Winner of the 2009 Queen Elizabeth Competition, he has taken the world by storm with a playing style reminiscent of the great violinists of the golden age. The concert was fabulous and will probably be the highlight of the trip. An interesting musical development: the piano of course has a music stand and the violinist has one, but there are no printed scores with pages to turn. Instead there are I-Pods embedded in the music stands so no need to turn the pages by hand. Fantastic Concert!! After the concert travel about an hour to Port Angeles. Check into your water-view room at our hotel. We can see Vancouver Island across the seaway.

As we arrived in Port Angeles, we were given a short drive-around to see some of the places to eat tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday nights. One, with a large name across the front, was the “NASTY CHINESE FOOD” restaurant. Oh – is this some kind of new “truth in advertising?” It was only after the bus had crossed the intersection and was almost beside the building that we could see behind a tree that the real name was the “Dynasty Chinese Food.” They need to do something about that tree!

There was no time for a stroll along the boardwalk before or after dinner. Dinner tonight is a buffet (seafood entrée so I settled for salad and veggies) at our hotel. Lodging: Port Angeles Red Lion Hotel (much nicer than I first thought, just the usual poor lighting), 4 nights

Day 3, Monday, Sept 7 – Hike to Marymere Falls / Drive to Hurricane Ridge
Labor Day HollarDay! Breakfast is in our hotel this morning. Menu will vary daily, but although not quite what was described, it is a nice enough short buffet. The weather looks promising for the day – no rain in sight and even some areas with clear skies; just “cold” at higher elevations.

Depart for Lake Crescent and the trail to Marymere Falls. Enjoy the interesting 1.5 round trip nature walk through fragrant woods along a rushing river. Stop along the way to observe the giant trees, hear the birds singing and breathe in the clean, clean air. Walk at your own pace for maximum enjoyment. This turns out to be the highlight of today.

We'll lunch on the sun porch at the historic Lake Crescent Lodge. Our tables overlook deep blue Lake Crescent and the mountain peaks beyond. We had to choose from a menu a month ahead of time – and I chose the cheeseburger and fries. Best meal of the trip so far.

After a stop at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center and its interpretive displays and videos we'll drive 18 miles up an almost continuous switch-back road from near sea level to 5242’ elevation to Hurricane Ridge in the heart of the Olympic Mountains, with its own weather pattern, to see its highest peaks, snowless-covered shrouded in clouds. View its famous avalanche lilies and other wildflowers. Keep an eye out for mountain goats in the distance (none), and deer (lots) much closer. The Visitor Center at the top has many interesting exhibits.

After the 18-miles of downhill switch-backs, dinner tonight is on our own for something light and cheap since I did get something to eat at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.

Day 4, Tuesday, Sept 8 - Neah Bay & Makah Tribal Museum
Breakfast will be in the hotel. Drive about 2 ½ hours to Neah Bay, furthest northwest point of the continental United States. Visit the Makah Tribal museum and learn about the artifacts preserved by a mudslide hundreds of years ago. Hear about the tribe's historic and contemporary life. Our speaker, although a substitute, was excellent with a great sense of humor. The museum is excellent also. It was an excellent presentation and the best part of the day.

As we did on Monday, we have our sack lunches we purchased this morning at the local Safeway. Have our Picnic lunch in the Museum's community room. I also got something for tonight but ended up going to the local DQ.

This afternoon, on our drive we pass through the little town of Forks, infamous from the books and movies “Twilight.” I even got a picture of the infamous sign. Our stop at First Beach at LaPush on the Quileute Reservation will show us large waves crashing along the beach. There even a few surfers trying out their (limited) skills. Weather permitting, there may be time for a bonfire on the beach. Although a nice “different” excursion, it was pretty boring for me. Dinner tonight will again be on our own at the DQ in Port Angeles.

Day 5, Wednesday, Sept 9 – Walk the Hoh Rain Forest & Explore the green Alders
Breakfast today is in the hotel. It is a lot of driving so we have to leave at 8. Our first stop is, like yesterday, at the local Safeway to buy our lunch for today. Then we'll drive (long drive) to the Hoh Rain Forest, where giant trees and herds of Roosevelt elk thrive. Watch for river otters and eagles. A ranger will tell us about the ecology of this unique area but we didn’t see any elk today - just yellowjackets and Gray Jays.

A US Park Ranger takes us on an over hour-long nature walk the Alder Trail, with its crystal-clear streams, flowing Hoh River and green, green, green. We have our Safeway Picnic lunch at the Hoh. A couple of problems, one more serious than the other: a) the place is infested with what someone said are “yellow-jackets.” We actually had to give up our picnic tables and walk around to eat; b) very insistent, intrusive Gray Jays who continuously kept landing on our table, even taking bites from our foot as we were trying to eat it. We finally gave up on eating ourselves and teased the Jays. One of them “stole” food directly from someone; another even landed on someone’s head. Taking pictures was fun.

Then since 2 hours was allocated for lunch, there is time for some other shorter walks. Despite the yellow-jackets, this was a good day so far.

On the way back to the hotel, we stop back in Forks, named because it's the site where three rivers come together, for a very brief (too brief) visit to the Timber Museum. Learn about the industry that supported this area and how it has changed. Poor stop! Way too short. The "lunch hour" should have been shorter.

Dinner tonight is be at the hotel (they ran out of food and had to quickly prepare more) and then followed by another Park Ranger who gave an excellent presentation on the Elwha River Restoration: removal of two old dams, and the reforestation, etc. project. After that I’ll stay up until almost midnight trying to get things repacked for the torturous trip home tomorrow.

Near catastrophe! A couple of days ago we heard that the Hood Canal Bridge was closed “indefinitely.” This is on our planned route back to the airport. By about 3:30 today, Pat and Nan were desperately trying to find another route to get us to the airport – requiring MAJOR changes in timing and routing which would include two, not one, ferry rides and lots extra driving. Then we lucked out: about 6 we heard that the staff had managed to get the bridge reopened so we are back to the original rushed schedule.

Day 6, Thursday, Sept 10 – Conclusion / Departure
Breakfast will be in the hotel. It's time to depart from Pt. Angeles at 8:30 this morning. We expect to arrive at SeaTac Airport no later than noon but traffic conditions or ferry schedules may make our arrival a little later. Hopefully the schedule holds up or "I'm Dead!" There may be time for lunch at the airport, but I doubt it.

United UA 1626SEA – IAH1:57P – 8:08P4:11

Home about 9:30P.

Port Angeles Red Lion Hotel (4 nights). 221 N. Lincoln St., Port Angeles, WA 98362. phone: 360-452-9215. Description: Sweeping water views; restaurant; lounge. Room amenities: Microwave; refrigerator, dataport phones; free wireless internet access. Elevator.

Selected pictures
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