Thursday, October 19, 2006

Solduc Adventure #1 (10-17-2006 to 10-19-2006)

This was originally posted back in October, 2006 to the RV.Net forums, where I posted alot of my travel tales over the years. Now, I'm adding them to this blog, which will house my travels going forward into the future and any other related posts, such as projects on the camper and such.

Well, got back day before yesterday morning (round 5:32am) from my 3 day trek through Seattle, and the Cresent Lake area of the Olympic National Park. My traveling companion for this outing was my fiance and was our last big go for a nice quiet getaway before the KIT goes to bed till next year (Or till a few buds decide they want to go snow camping somewhere).

This was my first time taking the big KIT out of state and also this was her longest road trip to date, all previous trips being maybe a max of 400 miles long. All miles counted up, we drove roughly 839.3 miles in the span of three days, and God, I wish I could have had 4 days to do it in...

The full set of 92 photos from our trip can be found at this link:

Sol Duc Adventure, as I'll be only using a few in my thread.

Our adventure started out at roughly 2:10am Tuesday morning, about two hours behind schedule. After making a brief stop over at the local Denny's near the freeway for the misses to be to pick up something to eat for her dinner (She had been working the day of our departure, so basically we were leaving just after she had gotten off from work, or at least that was the original plan), we pulled onto the freeway and started north.

On prior trips, I had never had time to weight the rig to find out how much I was running, this time, however, I did and scared the******out of myself. I was heavy, really really heavy. Course, alot of that problem was the fact that the holding tank was near full and also my fresh tank was full too. I wasn't over anything other than my GVWR, but I was really close to the upper limit on my tires, I think at some point I will be upgrading to some better E rated tires, the ones on the truck are rated pretty low, only 3054 lbs each, so I had 6108 tire capacity and at weigh time, I was running 6020 on the rear. If you are wondering, my GVWR is 8500lbs, and my fully loaded truck with full fresh AND full waste was running at 9358lbs.

Course, I also had this going on my setup for this trip.

For those that are familiar, that's the master built HitchHaul wide body model. I added two small caster wheels to the bottom of it to act as skid wheels when going in and out of driveways and they've worked wonderfully. I added this rack after our last trip in fouler weather where alot of mess got inside the camper from storing our firewood tote, extra 20lb propane bottle and extra gear inside the camper. This time round, it was all stored outdoors and we could still get inside the camper.

For those wondering, that hitch extension is 48" long and we reinforced the hitch itself to handle the extra flexing from that weight hanging out there. Now, if ya bounce on the step, the truck suspension bounces instead of the hitch flexing. You can see my hitch extension and rack in the on position and how I load my truck bed in the next couple pictures:

Anyway, back to the main adventure. So, off we go down I-5 bouncing all the way. Since its 2am or just after, and needing a dumpstation, the nearest free one I could find was the Gee Creek Rest Area at mp 11 in Washington, just past Portland. At this point, I'd like to thank the tax payers of Washington for having dump stations at some of your rest areas, they were very clean and very nice and all dump stations seem to be setup with trailers with a driver's side discharge in mind.

There is nothing quite like making a U-turn at the bottom of the ramp heading back toward the freeway so you can get your dump valve on the right side to dump. The Fife/Federal Way Rest area where we make our next dump at is far easier to navigate this same problem as its three dump stations wide instead of one very narrow road, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

20 minutes later, we're dumped, the truck's rear end has lifted about 2 inches and after another adventure in turning around once more we're back northbound.

For the majority of the trip, the interstate drive is uneventful. I listen to my Steven King audio book (Book 7 in the Dark Tower Series) and the misses to be naps lightly with her head proped against the door with a pillow.

As I mentioned earlier on, we left 2 hrs behind. I had wanted to be underway around midnight so that we would be off the freeway by the time the morning rush hour started. Sadly, this was not to be.

First off, let me say to anyone from the Tacoma area that was merging into traffic onto northbound I-5 at around 5:30 am on Tuesday, you all drive like fuck-tards and make the folks driving during rush hour in Portand look like saints and angels.

I was cut off no less than 35 times and had the scoot in and slam on yer brakes drill done no less than 50 times in the span of 2 miles, I am still astounded that I didn't run over any of you that morning as I attempted to make my way to the Port of Tacoma exit so I could slip off onto the tranquil length of WA-509 towards Dash Point.

Needless to say, the misses to be wasn't able to sleep during this portion of the drive, not per say from the road, but from the seemingly unending line of obscenities leaving my mouth during that part of the drive.

After perhaps the most aggravating twenty minutes of the trip thus far, we finally made the port of Tacoma exit and slipped off into the quiet of Docks, junkyards and Boat Fabricators before the scenery gave way to.... well scenery.

Morning finds us still intact and nestled into site 19 of Dash point. After a brief visit to the human black water dump facilities, as my own holding tank was near full, I was reminded of why I had wanted a camper. Dirty bathroom/Dirty Shower, which still raped you at $0.25 for 3 minutes of shower time.

Dash point is a nice park, its quiet and the campsites are somewhat private. However, it also seems to act as a local temporary trailer park in some aspects and hippie gathering ground. The nicer RVs were mostly to the front of the park where the small supply of Eletrical/Water Hookup sites are, no sewer and also the dump station was out of order. However, I think Dash Point is the first time I've witnessed a state park doubling as a graveyard for no longer road worthy TT/Motorhomes/and ex-school busses. I never once saw anyone using any of the above, with exception of a 31' prowler? that looked like it hadn't moved from its current location in a number of years, certainly the vehicle parked in front of it wasn't the tow vehicle, that or honda civic's have really upped their towing capacity without me knowing.

We snagged one of the more isolated and level looking tent sites towards the back, another benefit of the camper, even with unloading the camper, we could still fit in. It was clean and quiet and didn't cost much and no one stole anything or vandalized our stuff, so other than the oddities of my neighbors causing me to shake my head a bit, it was a good nights stay.

After a nice breakfast, we loaded ourselves into my unencumbered pickup and made for Seattle to do our shopping adventure. Least, that was the plan.

Let me make this note, Mapquest's Trip Planner is a piece of crap, if you want directions that make sense, use something else.

After a short time of driving down southbound WA-509 to Tacoma, turning around then driving back north again (Directions started off by telling you to turn the wrong direction from the entrance to the campground). We made our way to Kent then to South Seattle, then North Seattle, and then finally to Pike's Pier. The misses to be loves japanese stuff, and alot of our adventures in seattle were visiting the International District, The Great Wall Mall and a few other novelty shops. She had a good time, I enjoyed her having a good time and it made up for the horrid condition of seattle's roads and the two times my head connected with the ceiling when going over ruts, bumps and complete lacks of road in the downtown area.

I have to say for the record, for the amount you folks in Seattle pay in taxes, and the condition of your streets, I think you're getting the short end of the stick. Personally, I'd ask for a refund .

Dinner was delightful, which added a nice capper on the end of the first day's adventures. We dined at a local Irish establishment known as Kell's, its located on Post Alley, which is part of the Pike's Pier establishment.

They have some absolutely wonderful food, if you ever go, try the pasties (Corn beef was my favorite), the Steak and Kidney Pie is also a treat, and the Irish Whiskey cake is to die for.

One side of the establishment is the quiet, candle lit dining area and the other is known as the "Public Bar", which has the live music and the larger of the two bars.

The first day as a whole? It got the thumbs up.

We both slept very soundly that night. Tuesday had given us a nice day of sunlight and a few clouds, however, overnight the rain had rolled in off the coast and my repair work on my roof was tested. Thank God, it got the seal of approval, no leaks. The damp morning greeted us after our nights sleep in our warm dry camper. I did realize on this trip that my furnace thermostat is a worthless thing and I will need to invest into a more intelligent digital one at a later date.

It was decided that before breakfast, we would reload the camper. And thus we did, we got a good rehearsal on the process back in September when we went to the coast, so it went without too much trouble.

Our loading process also included entertainment as the people tent camping across from us (They moved in the day before while we were out and about) decided to start their campfire of wet wood. Their solution? Pour about 5 gallons of gasoline on it. Long story short, that wood never caught.

Loading done, we re-leveled the camper and went about fixing our maple bacon, scrambled eggs and french toast.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, the dump station at Dash Point is closed. So, we popped over to the Ranger Station and asked about where there was another dump station. They informed us of the dump station at the Rest Area/Weigh Station just up the road from the Fife Freeway exit. Thanks to the previous days adventures I had already familiarized myself with the road (Taylor Road) we needed to get to the fife on-ramp.

Now, for anyone wondering where they can dump their rig that are northbound, let me recommend this one, its very nice, clean and has both potable and non-potable water sources which you can do all you need to. Sadly, its only on the northbound side.

Probably about a half hour's drive finds us at the toll booth with the toll clerk whose certain we're longer than 30'. She get's out, measures us, declares that we were right and that I was 25' long, then prompty charges us the under 40' rate instead of the under 30'. Since we didn't want to miss the ferry, I didn't argue it. I got the usual little red sticker, which I stuck on the compartment door and turned off the fridge after putting my refreezable ice blocks down into the fridge area. I left the gas on long enough to heat the water heater so I could take a shower during the crossing.

Thirty minutes of quiet boat travel and a refreshing hot shower later, we were back on the road, only stopping long enough to take on some more fuel in Poulsbo before continuing west onto Hwy 101 and Sol Duc.

To save a bit of time on driving, we took the ferry to Bainbridge Island. From Bainbridge you cross two bridges to get back to the mainland of Washington, one small one off Bainbridge itself, then the second off the larger island via the Hood Canal Bridge. In retrospect, I think next time we may take the one to Bremerton and spend some time there taking the tour of that one naval ship they have open to the public, I love old ships, loved it when I got to tour the U boat they have in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

If you ever want an astounding drive through the changing colors of the season, you need go no further than Hwy 101 between Forks and Port Angeles. The highway goes through some of the most breathtaking areas of the Olympic Penninsula, and is chock full of a number of campgrounds and parks along the way, After 2 trips, I haven't even scratched the surface. My above pictures do very little justice, of how it looked as the low hanging mist parted for a moment revealing sheer peaks then rolled back in again shrouding them from view.

Another wonderful area of the drive through Hwy 101 in the Olympic Penninsula is the drive you make around Cresent Lake. In the summer this lake is gorgeous, and in the fall and winter, its just as beautiful. The winding road along the lake's edge is peaceful and provides one with a setting that would be fit for a page in a John Steinbeck novel.

If you ever happen to find yourself hankering for peace, quiet and the vast majority of a campground to yourself, late October is a fine time to be at Sol Duc. The advice given to me from the Hot Spring resort was the best time of the week to be there was between tuesday and thursday as all the city folken from Seattle aren't crowing the place in, you practically have the place to yourself, I know the two of us found ourselves having the hotspring pools almost to ourselves, shared with one other couple and their two well behaved kids.

We stayed in the Sol Duc Campground itself, not the gravel parking lot the Resort called a RV park, and had our pick of over 47 campsites (The other 3 were occupied). This campground is very densely forested, offering both back in and pull through sites (No showers in the campground, but clean bathrooms).

We were still having rain on and off when we arrived Wednesday, but the tree canopy above us was so thick that we were able to sit outside and enjoy our campfire and me my two cigars without getting soaked.

Reflecting back on the campground, I could imagine myself driving around the corner and seeing Steinbecks old trusty green GMC parked amongst those trees, its a place that would have been fitting.

One thing I loved about this place is the fact that you only pay admission once a day to get into the hotspring pools, meaning you could go in for a morning soak, hike one of the many trails in the park, including the one going down to the waterfall below the resort (Sadly, didn't get chance to do the hike) and then come back for an after hike soak before retiring to your camp for the evening.

The resort consists of three pools, each of slightly varying temperatures. The shallowest and coolest is the low waiding pool which is ideal for those with small kids. The second is as deep as the main fountain pool, but the water isn't as hot. The third, and my personal favorite, is the Fountain pool. Its the largest and the fountain in the center is actually where the new hot water from the hot spring underground beneath the resort is piped up from. All water is pass-through, meaning its cycled through the pools then allowed to continue its course through nature, and is rigorously tested multiple times a day for purity.

As we were circling the parking lot to depart for camp and a nice lasanga dinner, which included garlic bread, a nice tossed salad and a bottle of Van Duzer Wine we had picked up on our previous camper adventure, we came across a couple Olympic Forest Natives having a light snack on the grasses that grow between the small cabins they have there.

Sadly, we had to depart our relaxing setting of Sol Duc Thursday afternoon to start back towards Seattle, but, we didn't leave empty handed. Not too far outside the city of Port Angeles, the misses to be turned to me and asked how far the next rest area was. Not knowing exactly how far out of town, I told her "There aren't any rest areas along the highway dear, but we have a toilet with us, so I'll find us a spot to pull off." Looking pale, she said she'd hold on as long as possible.

Fortunately, not too long after this conversation, I noticed the signs for the "Dungeness Bay Wilderness Area" and decided to pull off there. When we got to the road for it, I discovered the park itself was set back a ways from the road, and the misses wasn't looking like she could hold the dam up too much longer, so I pulled into the first driveway I could find. Turned out it was a place called the "Pumpkin Patch."

Moms and Dads, if you've got little kids, live in Washington, and it woudldn't be too long of a drive, I recommend taking your kids here, its just west of Sequim on Hwy 101 at the turn off for the Dungeness Bay Wilderness Area turn off, Kitchen-Dick Road.

One of these days, I will need to seriously spend some more time puttering around Port Angeles, its a neat little time capsule is possesed of a great deal of history, and also is home to Hurricane Ridge, a breath taking drive up into the mountains that affords one a spectacular view of Mt. Olympus.

Back in Seattle one last time, decided to take an extra trip to the shops for the misses to be one last time before having dinner at Duke's in Greenlake (Can't really recommend them anymore, they changed alot from the first time we went there long before I was a part of and then decided to take in a late night stop to the Space Needle before journeying back home to Oregon.

I will say this, if you ever want to give you truck and camper a true stress test, just drive it anywhere within the city limits of the Seattle / Tacoma area, the interstate and the city streets will put your suspension to the test and push it to its limits.

I hope you've all enjoyed my albiet lengthy travel log of my last big adventure of the year. Frankly, I can't wait to make a return trip.