Pre-Honeymoon Honeymooning on the Olympic Peninsula

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John and I were married on July 3rd this summer. It was 90 degrees. It was a beautiful ceremony, an amazing weekend full of family and friends, and it was great to be married right after the Supreme Court decision.

Prior to that, we sold my old house, moved into our dilapidated new home, designed, permitted for the remodel and moved out of the home, lived in our Airstream for 6.5 months on the property, did our business in a honey bucket, moved back into the house, had Thanksgiving, moved back out of the house, painted the interior, moved back in the house, finished it, remodeled the basement, and finished all the landscaping. Then I had a heart “incident” and then triple bypass surgery as John worked full time, while we planned and had a wedding for 100 guests. We have to thank John’s sister Fran for help through the roughest weeks.

We really needed a vacation, but I couldn’t do long flights yet. So we planned our pre-honeymoon honeymoon for the Oregon Coast and Olympic Peninsula in Margaret so we could bring Buster and enjoy some cooler weather. It was awesome.

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Our first two nights were at Nehalem State Park just south of Manzanita, which is a quaint little town south of Canon Beach and much less crowded. The beach was stunning, though the wind picks up mightily from 10am to dusk and then dies down again. The park was clean, well kept and the campsites quite nice though our drought has made everything look crispy. The campsite was very full so I recommend making reservations early.

Walking on the beach was sublime and we were shown the town by our friend, Sarah, whose family has owned a beach cottage there for years.

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The next day we drove down the coast leaving Margaret behind at the park and discovered the little seaside towns and coves along the coast. We had fresh crab at a little spot just off the highway. There are a few spots to do this, but we found this one not far from camp. Down past Arch Cape, Rockaway Beach, Bay City Garibaldi and then Tillamook we went to explore.

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The Oregon coast is, in a word, stunning. We stayed a couple of nights and then decamped for the Olympic Peninsula passing through Astoria on our way. I always love going over the bridge between Astoria and Washington. It’s an amazing sight.

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Our next spot was near Lake Quinalt Lodge at an RV camp right on the lake. It could not have been better although we were lucky as the camp was not nearly as crowded as we thought it would be.

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There, we met a few great folks, and we were able to wake up and walk Buster down to the lake and have our coffee while he played.

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We had an amazing and romantic dinner at Lake Quinalt Lodge. The food was terrific including a Brie appetizer that was delicious. The lodge is as rustic as they come and takes you back to the early logging days. You could see from the old photographs how many trees they felled around the lake and how they’ve re-populated the lakeside with them.

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The Lake Quinalt area does boast the largest Fir and Sitka Spruce trees and we took a hike along the trail where you could really see the old growth and then where trees were sheared during the hurricane force winds of 10 years ago.

The next day we drove down along 101 to explore our next planned camping spot at South Beach and took one look at the overcrowded campsite full of box RVs and ATV’s and dirt bikes and every other loud toy and decided to stay those nights back at Lake Quinalt and just hang out. We felt we’d discovered paradise on accident and didn’t want to break the spell.

To Beach 3 we went and explored the tide pools and rocks. Low tide revealed thousands and thousands of sea anemones, mussels and eaten razor clams.

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After the beach trek, I was pretty much toast; worn out from traveling, hiking and such, my body just stopped and my heart was telling me to slow down so John and I just drove out to the Hoh Rainforest and I rested in the car while he took control. We lunched at Kalaloch Lodge, which was surprisingly good! It is another one of the classic old lodges that was built with a 180 degree view of the Pacific Ocean. The trees are windswept, and the cabins sit on the edge of the cliffs overlooking a small cove.

It was beautiful as we drove up into the Rainforest and strolled along the Hall of Mosses. Since rain had not fallen for weeks and weeks, the mosses were not as brilliantly green as usual, but you could see how, during a typically wet year, how emerald colored it could be. We went slow through the trees and the trail was mostly flat so I navigated it pretty well given how tired I was. I am looking forward to being on the other side of this healing process.

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Returning, we met Malcolm and his dog, Sheena, who stayed with us for a night. Malcolm taught us Cribbage and Buster wore himself out running around with a much younger woman/dog.

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We then ventured up into the Quinalt canyon to Grave’s Campground and stumbled upon Barry, the camp host. Man, he could talk! A crusty old fellow who was suspicious of me since I was eyeing his sewer line from his trailer and wondering where it was going off to and I was asking him about it. He then said he had PTSD from the Vietnam War so I kept quiet. It was a really interesting interaction.

We also were impressed with the backing skills of a fellow streamer who had the best spot in the entire campground along the Quinalt River. It was simply amazing how he shoehorned the vintage Airstream in. The woods were beautiful as the sun was setting and light raked through the trees.

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The next day it rained, Malcolm left, and John and I were content to hang in camp and relax and read as we’d planned to leave the following morning for the Macah Indian Reservation and Cape Flattery.

The drive up to Cape Flattery and our campsite was beautiful as we followed along the coast much of the way. Stopping in Forks, we encountered the oddest, but coolest grocery/hunting/outdoor wear/fishing and general goods store you could ever hope to see. Awesome sandwiches, too!

We almost took the Twilight Tour, but John held me back. We are on Team Jacob, but a friend of mine is still Team Edward. Almost bought the t-shirt, but resisted that, too.

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On through Neah Bay and up to find our RV camp with some of the best views of the ocean one can see. It’s on the Macah Indian Reservation and is first come, first serve. You need a $10 permit to be in the reservation with an RV. We were the last ones to pull in and lucked out and got a spot for a full hook-up. In the picture, you can see the camp from the rocks. The clouds were coming in, rays of light shone through followed by the sliver of a sunset at the point. It was truly spectacular to see.

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The walk down to Cape Flattery was mostly on a boardwalk built for rainy days. The views out to the ocean, the craggy cliffs and swirling tides made for a terrific checkmark off John’s bucket list.

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On a side note, we picked up some smoked salmon in Neah Bay at a tiny little shack off the main road. There’s a sign that just says Fish so we followed it. Inside sat about five people while one guy manned the cash register. We were offered a taste and it was delicious, the Salmon jerky not so much. But we bought some and brought it home. We also tasted some salmon that had been traditionally cooked over an open pit on skewers that some women were selling for a fundraiser. It was some of the best salmon I’ve ever tasted.

The next day we drove down 112, which is one of the windiest and hardest to navigate roads pulling an Airstream. But the views are spectacular and you follow along the Strait of Juan de Fuca all the way to Port Angeles. There are some tasty RV camps along the way that we want to return to, but we had reservations at the Elwha River RV Park.

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When we arrived, we were amazed at how nice the park was. Full hook-ups, somewhat narrow, but level pull throughs, very clean laundry facilities and a location that can’t be beat. The staff was also pleasant and easy to talk to. We were to stay for 3 nights to explore all around the area, but had to leave after the 2nd night because we were put close to the septic tanks and the smell from them was extremely bad and overpowering – so much so that both of us couldn’t sleep the second night. We asked after the smell and were told they didn’t have the proper filters, and they’d only owned the park 5 months. If it were me, I’d be fixing that right away because we just simply couldn’t stay there any longer and won’t go back unless we are assured it’s fixed.

But as we arrived, our friend Merideth texted us and let us know she was arriving with 5 pounds of clams from Taylor Shellfish so John and I went to a great market nearby (Haggens) and bought chorizo, onions, tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. We steamed the clams up and they were delicious.

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Meredith joined us the next day for a trip to Lake Crescent and to see the lodge on the way to Sol Duc Hot Springs where we soaked a bit. The lodge and lake were beautiful, but the hot springs were a bit of a disappointment. I don’t know if I was just tired that day, or there were too many people or that the pools weren’t what I was expecting, but it’s not a place I’d return to. I’d opt for a more natural surrounding or a place where there are less people. The lodge, however, was rustic, the surroundings lovely and the view across the lake quiet and peaceful. The water is clear and cold and reflects the surrounding trees and sky perfectly.

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We ended the day by heading up to the top of the Elwha River where they blasted the dam away to restore the river to salmon and reverse the damage done at the beginning of the 20th century. It was amazing to see how the river has cut through the valley even though we’ve had two low water years. The falls down through the shoot are spectacular and it was a very moving moment for me to see what can be done for the good of our ecosystem rather than greedily destroy things.

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The next morning we went to where the Elwha River meets the ocean and was astonished at how decades of silt had created a huge beach, and how the river had carved its way through it. We spent a fair amount of time there and Buster had a great time swimming down the current and to the ebb.

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Then on up to Hurricane Ridge, a place that John really wanted to see. I’d been there when wildflowers blanketed the ground, but this time the dry grasses were a perfect complement to dissecting lines of green and blue. We spent awhile just looking out across the horizon at the line of mountains, the threatening sky dissipating and the sun rising in the sky. It was the perfect ending to an incredible 11 day journey seeing our beautiful state. Now that fires are destroying the landscape and people’s lives in Eastern Washington, this trip brought into focus how lucky we are to live in such natural beauty. We know that the land will repair itself and were lucky enough to see that rivers can be reborn, too.

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Landscape changes every day – sometimes in an instant and much of it over eons. Our trip was but a snapshot – a blip on the radar of time and we were lucky to share it together with Buster and some new and old friends. This trip served as the start of our marriage and was so indicative of the easy way we are with each other given all we’ve been through during the past two years.

Many people have asked me how marriage has changed me. It’s very simple really. I feel settled for the first time in my life, which has not been an easy one. But I know John will be there at the end of the day, I know he’s there when he’s clear across country, or making children’s lives meaningful through music. I am settled, finally, 54 years into a life that could have ended just a few months ago. I consider myself one very lucky (and happy) husband. And if we leave our lives as two halves of a whole, on a beach sustaining the lives of other beings, well that will be fine with me.

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Onward….

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Four Weeks Down

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I’m sitting on the bed in the Airstream writing this recap of our remodeling project. Buster has taken over the dinette for his bed and it’s too much work to undo it every day, so we leave it down for him. Of course, he’s laying on our bed while I write.

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Week four was particularly eventful. The roof was removed along with the east room. The East Room will be rebuilt pretty much from the ground up given that it is now supporting a walkable roof we call The Sky Deck. Which brings up last weekend when we inaugurated the deck with two evenings of cocktails, friends and neighbors.

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The weather was truly amazing, and then our brand new neighbor, Grant, brought over a Steelhead Salmon fillet cooked on a cedar plank. It was extremely thoughtful and brought good karma to what, we think, will be a well-used deck.

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Wednesday night, the sky was extraordinary. Amazing colors, clear air and light delineated the mountains and lake.

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As the week progressed, the East Room took shape and the foundation wall was made and the plumbing restored from the basement. Ivan and Leo continue to do great work on the framing, and it’s great to watch their progress.

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Buster has proven to be a great site dog, curious about all things, but when he gets tired he takes himself to the Airstream for a nap. I think he misses John as I do. He likes having us both around so he can alternately entertain himself with either of us. John has been in Florida where the heat has been oppressive, but he’s enjoying the humidity, he said. We started the week finding out that a new grand baby is on the way in January 2015. We are both excited for his son and daughter-in-law, and baby Connor as well. 2015 will turn out to be a great year.

Thursday night brought rain for the first time to the open ceilings and concern for the floors kept me awake. Indeed, pools of water formed where the roof leaked since the covering had been removed. The sky opened up again throughout the day today, but now it’s sunny and bright, wind whipping the tarp around and roughing up the lake.

I’m missing my friends in Bennington this weekend where they are celebrating 20 years of the MFA Writing Program. I graduated in 2002 and it is still in top form.

This weekend might see us out on deck again depending on the weather. It’s supposed to rain, but it might be nice to just sit out there with a glass of wine and a good book thinking about the future.