Friday, July 27, 2007

The Sol Duc Adventure II (07-22-2007 to 07-26-2007)

NOTE: Forgive me, but when I was assembling this blog from my collection of old forum entries and from dated folders of pictures that I had never gotten around to writing about, I failed to take into account just how long this story was, and how many pictures would be involved in its telling.

In future posts, the stories will be broken down into multiple entries, to reduce the page load time. However, because there is already 40 additional entries past this one, simply waiting for its completion, I had no way of subdividing it and the end result is this very long entry.

Please forgive me and suffer through the page load as all the images load, it'll be worth the wait.

Almost a year ago, Dawn and I took the Redneck Express on a journey out to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington to explore the Sol Duc Hot Springs. Our last adventure had been in late October and though it was shorter than I would have liked, it was an enjoyable trip.

Given our good luck on our previous excursion, we decided that we would take Dawn's mother along with us this time, and go in July instead of October.... Something we would later come to regret.

Our first order of business was to find a better spot to stay at when near the Seattle area for the first part of our trip, shopping downtown Seattle and Pike's Pier is after all, a mandatory stop.

So, out came the maps and campground guides.....

On our last journey, we had stayed up at Dash Point State Park, which while it was an okay park, made us worry alot about property theft and possible vehicular damage. The annoying lack of a dump station also compounded things since very few of the available sites had hookups, and getting ahold of one was was like trying to win the lottery!

Throw in filthy, unkempt coin-operated bathrooms and you've got the makings of a desperate hunt for something better.

At the time, we had been .... warned.... away from staying at the Kent KOA..... So, I had to find something else that would be acceptable to Dawn and Dawn Mom. Using the Camper's bathroom was of course, right out, since Dawn wasn't fond of navy showers and her mother had problems bending over.

The really annoying problem with the King County and surrounding area is that there really isn't much in the way of nearby campgrounds outside of the Kent KOA, Dash Point State Park, and Saltwater State Park.

I finally decided on a slightly out of the way park called Kanaskat-Palmer State Park. The area around it looked rather lush and the park was out away from the more urban and industrial areas that the other two state park options closer in had been. In addition to being in a nicer area of Washington, the park had another appealing feature, the Green River.

The area was also filled with some other interesting State Parks, sadly none of which we would have time to visit. Those included Flaming Geyser State Park, and Green River Gorge State Park. At one time the area had been the major coal mining source for the state of Washington, however, only one open pit remains in operations, the others having been closed years and years ago.

After a couple months of waiting and anticipation, the date of our adventure finally arrived. Everyone packed up their gear and I met Dawn and Dawn's Mother over at her parent's home. I met them at the end of the drive, each with their plastic trash bag of stuff (skipped suitcases since we were packing our clothes into the overhead cabinets in the camper).

As usual, I over packed, loading up my little red cargo trailer with far more gear than I would ever need on the trip, a habit I didn't break until a couple of months later at which time I finally decided that the trailer was more hassle than it was worth and had a front cargo rack built.

The drive up was fairly uneventful, Dawn and her mother took turns riding in the cab and the other at the dinette in the camper. When Dawn rode in the camper, she read her book, when her mother rode in the camper, she did her knitting, it was really rather interesting as I've never seen anyone do knitting while going down the road.

We arrived the in the wee hours of the morning and slipped into our campsite and went to sleep. The weather was supposed to be clear and sunny for the trip, but for some reason a weak storm front hung around for that evening and we wound up pulling into a somewhat soggy campground.

This didn't matter too much, at least in my mind, because we had reserved a site this time with water and electric (No individual sewer available, but didn't matter that much, the bathrooms were nice), and it had a paved pad.

Washington is one of those places, like Oregon, where the soil in the State Park campsites isn't yer normal somewhat compacted dirt that when it gets wet it either turns into clay, or mud. Rather, the soil in the campgrounds is a little like the flakes in a box of instant potatoes, except you don't get something creamy and tasty when you add water.

Rather, the rain kicks all these thousands of little dirt flakes up in the air about 3-4 feet and applicates themselves to any and all objects in the area. This includes the sides and rear of your RV, and the vast majority of your normally rather nice asphalt RV pad.

So, a shoe cleaning wound being necessary before they could be brought inside the Camper to keep them out of the rain.

Once we got settled in, I took a shower and went to go to bed and discovered that between three people in the camper, and the humid air, the it had become a good 80 degrees inside, without the heater ever being turned on.

In order to facilitate a modicum of comfortable sleep, I switched the A/C on to clear the steam and heat and then went to sleep.

Our Campsite at Kanaskat-Palmer w/ Camper unloadedWhen I woke, (or was awoke, take your pick) roughly 5-6 hours later the girls were already up and anxious to get into Seattle and dive head first into the shopping extravaganza. Once I found out where I had misplaced my brains during my five or so hours of attempted sleep, I dressed, made everyone something to eat (mostly me) we unloaded the camper and unhitched the little trailer, we piled out and I got my first chance to actually look at the campground.

Things were beginning to dry out now, as the sun had staggered like a drunken sailor from behind the storm front of the night before, and that potato-flake dirt was hardening to the consistency of high strength concrete on the outer skin of the camper and trailer.

As I observed my surroundings for the first time without the need of high beam headlights, a Subaru pulling an old viking tent trailer came to a stop in front of our driveway. I didn't pay him too much mind as I went about securing camp for our departure for town until I noticed that he was still staring at me from his driver seat five minutes later, no attempt at contact having been made.

By now, I'm beginning to wonder if the man has had a sudden stroke and died while sitting in front of my driveway out of my campsite, or if he's just staring at me while I bent over and locked things up. Both ideas were very disquieting to say the least.

I never found out, as his wife...thing..... got out of the car and stomped over to me and demanded to know what we were doing in their site that they had just been assigned by the front desk!

Rather than start into a colorful disagreement, I walked over to the driver's door of the truck and extracted the print out of our reservations for the night prior and that evening.

I brought it over with me and double checked the site number on the post. Yup, its my site alright....

So, I returned at this point to the wife-thing-it and showed her the reservation document, to which a series of sounds that I can only describe as being some weird cross between under-the-breath cussing, the gurgling sounds one's stomach makes as warning signs of an attack of explosive diarrhea, and a cat with a flatulence problem came from her.

Then, she just simply left. I never saw them again, and I didn't feel terribly bothered by that. I did, however, check in at the Park Ranger's station to find out what happened.

As it turned out, they never actually bothered to make a physical inspection that morning to see if I had actually occupied my site the night before.

Dawn at the DoorBy this time, Dawn and her mother were ready to go, so we piled into the truck and set out for Seattle.

On our way out of camp, I spied a rather classy RV combo. The combo was made up of an antique GMC C20 Van, possibly an early Suburban, I'm not entirely certain what model the truck was, and an Argosy Travel Trailer.

The trailer was very obviously new, given the rounded access doors and modern hardware neatly hidden in the paint job and some older fashioned looking sheet metal shrouds. Either way, this rig was perhaps the best example of RV taste I've seen, and frankly takes the cake over a shiny Airstream trailer any day of the week!

The drive back from Kanaskat-Palmer took us roughly an hour during the day time to reach Seattle. In the traditional fashion of Washington, the traffic goes in odd belts of progress and congestion, intermixed with kamikaze drivers and folks from Tacoma.

We eventually arrived at Pike's Pier Market, and after dropping the ladies off out front, I drove down behind the market and found myself a spot inbetween a great many other vehicles. It took quite a bit of patience and skill to squeeze the massive pickup in between the various other vehicles, but I pulled it off without scratching a single bumper.

As I made my way up to the market place, I came across a rather odd creature in the same parking lot....

The cat car held a place at the top of my "Weird Sh*T" list for quite a while afterward until I came across an oldsmobile in Hillsboro, Oregon that was done up to look like a bull, including a windshield wiper motor on the trunk that swished a tail back and forth....

Finally, I waded into the throngs of people pressing and drifting and randomly standing staring off into infinity that makes up the shopping plaza of Pike's Pier.

Since our first visit, Pike's Pier has held a kind of special fascination with Dawn and I, neither of us is sure why, outside of my personal pastime of torturing the cheese ladies at Beecher's Cheeses by sampling everything in the case and then buy somewhere between 1/2 to 1lb of the first cheese I sampled and had planned on buying from the get go.

That never gets old, I don't know why....

Our first stop is almost always the Pike Place Fish Company, aka, Pike's Pier World Famous Fish Tossers. These fellas are always a major hit amongst folks, whether or not they're letting fly with airborn Salmon and Cod.

Situated right beside those flying fish is a giant bronze piggy bank. Name "Rachel", this bronze pig is the unofficial mascot of the Pike's Pier Market. Rachel was designed by local artist Georgia Gerber and modeled after a pig (also named Rachel) that lived on Whidbey Island and was the 1977 Island County prize-winner.

She's been at the corner of the Market underneath the "Public Market Center" sign since 1986. Not too far from her right shoulder is perhaps the best little doughnut stand in Pike's Place Market.

When we came back to Seattle on this excursion, we had no idea that the Pike's Place Market was coming up on its 100th anniversary the following month, so we were quite unprepared for the Parade of Pigs that were scattered throughout Seattle's downtown area.

Just about every business had its own pig. Some had theirs placed outside, some within their store front windows, but they all seemed to have pigs. After a while, we got to being silly on some of the easier to reach pigs, like the Royal Pork stationed out in front of the giant Uwajimaya plaza.

Out of the many things one finds at the Pike's Place Market is food, an almost infinite smorgasbord board if you will. I try to eat as much of it as I can with each visit.

One of my personal favorite shops is the Three Girls Bakery and Sandwich shop. They have some really very tasty sandwich combinations and of course soups. This is followed closely by....

Well just about everything in there, its really hard for one to limit such delicacies to something as linear as a list.....

Besides being home to a never ending party for the tongue, the market is also home to the birth mainstream coffee. Nestled amongst the variety of stands, you will find the roots of both the Starbucks Coffee Company, and Seattle's Best Coffee.

And of course, let's not forget the street performers all over the plaza.

In order to perform at Pike's Place Market, these performers actually have to get a permit from the city and then can only occupy their assigned spot for so many hours. If you time it just right, you can actually catch the shift changes at the market when one group packs up and another takes over.

At first glance, one might be lead to believe that Pike's Place Market only has the street level area of stands. But, they'd be astounded to find out that the market sprawls and sprawls and sprawls. There's numerous ups and downs one must take, between underground tunnels between buildings, or open sky bridges.

Then just when you begin to think you've seen it all, you find another stair case taking you deeper into the depths of the market, or some remote little hallway that you think you've seen before, until you actually look closely and realize that there's stuff in that hallway that you somehow managed to miss the first time.

After spending a fair number of hours shopping the Pike, and two return trips to buy more time from the meter in the parking lot, the ladies finished up their shopping excursion, having successfully filled any and all available space in the extended cab with their purchases.

Personally, I came away with a selection of cheeses to take home and experiment with later.

Once we were packed up in truck, we turned north and made our way up to Mercer St. and Seattle's most well known landmark, the Space Needle.

The Space Needle

Before we made our way up, Dawn and I decided that it was time that we actually explored the little amusement park situated at the foot of the giant space needle and see if any of the rides were any good.

By this time, that pesky rain front was sneaking back in again to take the sun out for another round of drinks.

A few trips on the Viking and Dawn taking a run on the roller coaster, we made our way in and up the needle to the top observation deck.

Our original dinner plans had been to go to Kell's Irish Pub again for dinner with Dawn's mother. However, when I called, I found out that they decided to close the kitchen early that evening because of the "Bite of Seattle" going on.

My original visions of Steak & Kidney Pie were dashed upon the rocks of the bay below and I was tasked with trying to find us a new place to find dinner.

As a stroke of luck, Dawn and I had been in the area several months earlier staying at the 5th Avenue Red Lion for a convention. During our stay, we had discovered that in the basement of the hotel was a Pub called Elephant and Castle.

Elephant and Castle is based out of Victoria, Canada, actually, based originally upon an old chain of pubs back in England from long ago. Either way, they served good fish and chips, and thus we went there for our dinner.

The following morning, we had breakfast, and packed up camp, loading the camper back onboard and hitching up the trailer.

A brief stop at the dumpstation....

At Caveman Kitchens, getting Goooood BarbecueAnd we were on our way to Kent, Washington, home of Cave Man Kitchens Barbecue, The Great Wall Mall, Sweet Kitty (One of the Dawn's favorite shops), and of course Torklift, the only one on the list that we didn't visit.

Once our shopping in Kent was completed, along with lunch of slow cooked meats, we made our way back into Seattle to board the ferry across the Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island and parts west amongst the foggy precipices of the Olympic Peninsula.

As we pulled into the Pier for the ferry, they were getting ready to make last call for the ferry. In a hurry to get us onto the ferry, the attendant glanced briefly at the Redneck Express and decided to go with the 30' length fee, having missed the little trailer hidden behind the camper's girth.

We scooted on as fast as we could, with a brief stop to turn off the propane tanks and slap the sticker on the side of the camper.

Joyce (Dawn's mother) joined us on the top deck for a while when the ferry first set out, later retiring back to the cab of the truck to knit while we steamed across. Dawn and I drifted around the boat, while I took a few pictures here and there of the retreating Seattle skyline.

By now, unfortunately, my camera had begun to develop problems. Periodically, when the camera was first turned on, or shut off, the lense would jam trying to extend or retract and the camera would have to be turned off, the edges of the lense body pushed and prodded and then the camera turned back on until the lense finally made its way all the way in or out.

The problem would repeat itself sometimes whenever a deep zoom was attempted, causing the camera to shut off and require the aforementioned fiddling in order to bring the camera back to operational condition.

Our original plan had been to make our way to Sol Duc that evening and then visit Hurricane Ridge on our return trip back towards Seattle. However, by the time we had made it across the sound on the ferry and reached the Hood River bridge it was beginning to become late and it was decided that we'd stop at Sequim State Park for the night and get some rest, rather and push on to Sol Duc and risk not finding any campsites being available.

Given what we discovered the next evening when we did reach Sol Duc, it was just as well that we did stop.

We arrived at Sequim State Park around 9:30pm that evening, road exhaustion filling us and sinking deep into our bones. With a great deal of luck, we managed to find one of the few remaining pull-through campsites open in the park.

The downside was the campsite was directly across from the shower building. However, this wound up being an upside as well since none of us really had the energy to hike a long ways for a shower.

To my dismay, I discovered that the Washington State Parks system had decided to convert out a majority of their showers from working on quarters to working on tokens.

To add insult to injury, the showers actually cost more using the tokens than they originally had when they took quarters, plus they ran for far less time on the individual tokens than they used to on the quarters. This rather put a serious monkey wrench in my plans to use the roll of quarters I had purchased for the trip for showers. None of the machines at Sequim State Park accepted quarters, instead only wanting paper money, something I hadn't really brought much of with me.

A scouring of purses and wallets produced enough singles to feed the machine to produce a meager handful of tokens for the three of us to split for showers.

Given our already tired nature, it was decided to skip making my originally planned meal for the evening and just go with the old fashioned simplicity of bologna sandwiches.

While Dawn's mother, Joyce, made use of the shower building first, the two of us wandered down to the boat launch at the base of the hill that Sequim State Park is situated on. We wandered out onto the wooden dock and walked till we reached it's end, then laid down on the deck to gaze up at the stars.

The night was crystal clear, a midnight blue phosphorescence overwhelmed with a crush of stars that filled the mind and touched the soul. We laid there, silent, only the waves breaking on the shore and the creaking of the dock to fill our ears....

That was until a group of drunk teenagers wandered down and put on a great show of making asses of themselves. In their inebriated state, they failed to notice us creeping quietly up the dock, our flash light off till we burst out of the nearby shadows making out like banshees on a crack binge waving our arms and jumping all about.

We never saw the teens after that, they took off like their heads were on fire and their asses was catching. As we started back ourselves, keeping our laughter to a whisper, I found one black and white converse shoe, that I can only imagine one of them lost during their marathon dash up the hill.

Camped at Sequim for the nightA warm and cloudless morning greeted us as we emerged from the camper, throwing all that had been cloaked in shadow into sharp contrast.

As we secured the jacks and readied the Camper for the road, I happened to scan the neighboring campsites.

As sure as chickens have feathers, Irony has a sense of humor.

Not three sites away was our scared-shitless group of hungover teens from the night before, braving that evil of the hungover, the almighty sun.

As we pulled out of camp, I smiled and waved as we passed their site. I somehow doubt they recognized us as a few febbled attempted to wave back as we passed.

The group of teenagers weren't the only ones wishing the sun was quite so bright or so prevalent that morning. Dawn, having slept rather poorly the night before, had taken the news that we were preparing to leave with a few baby-swear words and the pulling of the blankets over her head.

So, she remained in bed as we continued on down the road, sleeping here and there, and sipping a bottle water to try and encourage herself to feel better. I can imagine that having the bed gradually swaying side to side and bobbing occasionally as we crossed a bump or sag in the road probably wasn't helping.

While staying the night at Sequim State Park had not been on our original itinerary, it did give us a distinct advantage in being only a hair over 22 miles from our first stop of the day, Hurricane Ridge.

Not too far outside the western city limits of Sequim, Dawn finally surrendered to the reality that she wasn't going to get any additional sleep and paged us on the CB to pull over so she could climb down out of bed and join her mother and I in the cab.

Now, for those that aren't familiar with Hurricane Ridge, I'll tell you a little of advice before ya go there. Make certain your brakes are in PERFECT CONDITION!

View Larger Map

As you can see from my map above, the road from town to Hurricane Ridge is long and rather winding affair, rising 5200 feet in elevation in only the span of 8 miles! Certainly not a road for bring a trailer up..... like me.

My little trailer, while small, wasn't the lightest thing the world, and is not possessed of its own brakes.

The drive up, while scenic, was slow. The truck methodically made its way up the grade at a land speed record of 15 miles-per-hour! On more than one occasion, when enough of a straight-away presented itself, even if it was a double solid line, folks would pass as fast as they could to make their own attempts at setting a new Guinness World Record for getting to the top of the climb fastest.

This was not my first experience with this road, either. Many years ago, as a child, my family made the journey around the Olympic Peninsula of Washington in the trusty old 85' Chevy Suburban.

The ride up had been fun, and the view from the top was great, as was the very social deer. However, my father's choice to not downshift (even though there are very LARGE signs at the top of the road saying "Steep Grade Ahead! Use Lower Gear!") wound causing us to have to make an emergency pull off and exiting of the vehicle when the brakes started smoking like mad, my mother certain that the engine had caught fire.

I learned my lesson from back then. I went up the mountain in second and back down again in second.

Now, if one follows my advice above and practices the rules of common sense, then there should be no reason why you shouldn't make the drive and reap the rewards of the adventure.

The views from Hurricane Ridge are unlike few others found in the Pacific Northwest, shy of making the drive up the Going-to-the-Sun Road at Glacier National Park, Montana.

Oh, one other important thing to remember about climbing up 5200 feet in elevation. While it had been a comfortable 70 degrees down at sea-level, it was a tad less warm higher up in elevation. With the winds that can whip through the area off the snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains, it is wise to have a wind breaker or sweat coat handy for when you step out of your vehicle.

The day we decided to visit the ridge had indeed been a popular one, however, not as much so by US citizens as it was with foreign tourists, the majority of whom seemed to have been from Switzerland or Germany.

On more than one occasion I had to question whether or not I had accidentally found a rift in reality and had driven through to a highway leading up to some Swiss peak instead of Hurricane Ridge.

We were greeted at top of our climb by a parking lot crammed with autos, and more than a fair share of larger motorhomes and trailers. I had to make several loops around before finding an RV spot level enough to park for an extended stay, and as I gathered some of my hiking gear out of the back, I happened to spy one of the most well known "Expedition" RVs that was on the market, the Earthroamer.

What is an Earthroamer, you ask?

A $150,000 motorhome that's supposed to be able to tackle any terrain and still have all the conveniences and comforts of a well appointed class A.

Last I'd heard, the company had gone bankrupt, don't know if they reorganized or not, but I recall them leaving their credits on the hook to the tune of several million dollars, but I could be wrong.

They were one big lot of pretentious prigs, legends telling of their attempts to muscle more than one major RV forum into squelching any negative comments about the concept or design of their product.

I don't mourn their passing :p.

Though, they did make a really neat looking rig.....

Ahem.... I digress.

After a brief interlude involving having to kill a yellow jacket that shot inside the camper the moment I opened the door (there was quite alot of the little devils out and about that day) I joined Dawn and Joyce as they rested on the benches looking out at the majesty of the Olympic Mountains.

In my absence they made kept themselves occupied calling to a doe that was perusing the parking lot for dropped human food and other little tasty morsels.

Besides visiting the Visitor Information Center that's situated up atop the ridge, and just sitting back and enjoying the view of the mountains, there's a paved trail that wends its way further up the ridge another hundred or so feet above the Visitor Center, offering up superior views of the Olympic Mountains and also of the Strait of Juan De Fuca and the city of Port Angeles far below.

As the trail carried us further and further up and around the ridge, the Olympic Mountains became more and more pronounced and it became easier to see just how much of a small ridge the visitor center and all its traffic was actually sitting on in terms of these giant, spinal mountains.

As we rounded onto the back-side of the ridge, a number of Ski Patrol related structures came into view. There's even a Ski-Lift there, though I don't know if its used anymore. Hurricane Ridge must be fairly popular amongst the cross-country crowd.

Perhaps someday in the future, I'll return and witness Hurricane Ridge in all its snowy glory.

As we made our way past the ski-lifts and meandered back towards the visitor's center, we came across a number of scenic vistas that offered ample opportunity to make a variety of shots.

Both Dawn and I took our turns sitting on the ledge with the Strait of Juan De Fuca standing behind us.

We were about to set out for the Visitor Center when an unexpected guest appeared amongst us, somewhat timid and curious about what we were up to. Our deer friend hopped back and forth across the path a few times, glancing at us from different angles, perhaps attempting to ascertain if we had any tasty snacks to offer it or not, before finally disappearing off between the trees.

At last, we finally returned to the Visitor's Center and reunited with Joyce who had been quietly watching the brothers and sisters of our friend deer from earlier pace around near the rear of the Visitor Center patio in hopes that people would feed it.

Dawn joined her mother on the bench, while I wandered off to take care of getting the camper ready for our departure.

During our absence, I had been joined by the Earthroamer and an older motor-home along the same side of the parking lot. The older motor-home worried me alot as it departed not long after I returned to the camper, its outer dual on the passenger side wobbling in and out as it rotated.

As I made my way back to Dawn and Joyce, I happened upon a Swedish couple whom had been traveling the USA with their pet dog. What surprised me was that their dog was a poodle, almost exact in its description to the faithful companion of John Steinbeck from his book Travels with Charley.

I chatted with the couple for a while, asking if they had ever heard of the book, describing that their dog was a dead wringer for the one described in the tale. They replied that they were familiar with Steinbeck, but had never heard of the Travels with Charley. I gave them a brief synopsis of the story and recommended that they pick up a copy to read before they finished their journey, as I suspected that they would probably be amused by the anecdotes of Charley during his ride with his owner.

Sadly, we had to part ways as Dawn and Joyce joined me and we started our slow decent back to Port Angeles.

However, I couldn't help but stop half way down to snap a couple more shots of the view.... and of course the camper!

We safely made it down from Hurricane Ridge, the front brakes only slightly overheated and needing a cool down so that the passenger side caliper piston would retract.

The drive for the most part was fairly uneventful, alot of ups and downs, punctuated by the occasional mad rush of other drivers passing us all at once. This persisted for a number of miles, until me finally burst forth from the tree canopy and out along the southern shore of Lake Crescent.

For Dawn and I, this was our third trip around Lake Crescent, having passed it the first time a few years before using my old Half-ton and canopy, making our loop from Aberdeen all the way up the Washington Coast on the 101 till we finally crossed the ferry from Bainbridge Island and entered Seattle.

However, this was Joyce's first time witnessing the lake, so we stopped on more than one occasion to get our pictures by it.

Given the view and that we were all kinda crammed in the truck cab, Dawn decided to climb up into the camper and enjoy the view from the cabover's massive front picture window.

At last, we arrived at Sol Duc, expecting it to be somewhat empty given the day of the week.

Hahaha!...... no.

Sol Duc was crammed and I mean sardine-grade crammed! As I looped around the main campground (Loop A, it wasn't until a year or two later that I discovered Loop B) I was beginning to lose hope that we'd find a campsite.

In the end, we wound up taking the only one available, which was available because of its complete lack of shade, and remote concept of level ground or really much of a parking pad.

It was also the local dog bathroom, we later found out.

There's no pictures of this campsite, by the time we got there and got setup, Dawn was pissed (at me, as is the case whenever one of my grand schemes goes to hell in a hand-basket) and I was tired. We went and did our best to enioy the hotsprings which were crowded and noisy from kids, but the charm from the previous year wasn't there.

After soaking around at the springs for a while, we came back to camp and I made barbecue, steak for myself and Pork Chops for Dawn & Joyce. There really wasn't terribly much relaxation or enjoyment as we constantly dealt with loud foreigners who decided that our picnic table was their personal swim wear dryer, and the heat of the day.

We packed up rather early in the morning and left the campground to use the hot springs one last time (Where I ran into the old motorhome with the wobbling wheel once more, apparently he made it down the mountain safely) and then made our way further west, rather disappointed in our second Sol Duc experience. Enough so, that at the time we were vowing to not return again.

Not certain what to do with ourselves before turning South, we debated visiting the town of Forks and its logging museum (I being the only person who was actually interested in said museum), that was until I came across the turn off for Highway 113 and Neah Bay.

We pulled off the road briefly to consult my folded plastic map of Washington and went "Eh... why not." So, blinkers on, we turned off Highway 101 and started making our way towards Neah Bay.

If one has never driven Highway 112/113, I do wholly recommend the experience, just be certain to take far far more time than we had available that day, to do the exploring.

The road winds its way along Washington's north-west shores, taking you through the Makah Indian Reservation along the way. It'll become very evident the moment you enter Reservation land as the road quality will drop off drastically, so much so that there'll be grass growing up between the cracks in the asphalt. Not all of the Indian tribes have Casinos and are rich.

As you wind your way through the narrow bridges and shoulder-less lanes of the highway, you cling closely to the ragged Pacific cliff faces, giving your passengers the view of their lives, and perhaps a little more!

The closer you come to Neah Bay, the more man-made docks and shelters appear, their moorings filled with a wide range of fishing vessels from the Crabbing boats to the Net fishers.

Till at last you finally reach Neah Bay. If you've ever wanted to go ocean fishing, in some ways, this place is a Mecca to it.

There's a wide range of reasons to visit Neah Bay. To go fishing, to buy fish (Neah Bay is the best place to find some really good deals on Smoked Salmon), or one really interesting little fact about the place.

Neah Bay is situated right on the crux of Cape Flattery. What's special about Cape Flattery you ask? Only that its the north-west most point of the continental United States.

Situated out on tiny Tatoosh Island just north of the cape is the Cape Flattery Lighthouse.

From Wikipedia:

Built in 1854. Its first light was displayed from a first-order lens in 1857 and was Washington Territory's third lighthouse. The house with a 65 foot tower from the center still stands. A fog signal building with a 12-inch steam whistle was built on the island in 1872. The original first-order lens was replaced by a fourth-order lens in 1932, then with a modern optic lens in 1977. Although closed to the public, it can be viewed from Cape Flattery via a short 30 minute walk. The island the lighthouse lies on is named Tatoosh Island after a Native American chief of the Makah Tribe.[citation needed] It is the farthest north lighthouse on the West coast.

Sadly, when we arrived, Cape Loop Rd. was closed to vehicles because of construction and the only way to get to the north-west most point was by a free shuttle bus which had already stopped running for the day.

Since our plans to go and visit the point were dashed, we browsed around the town till we came across a sign for a gentle selling smoked Salmon (Very very big wooden sign, kinda hard to miss).

His store was made from what was probably once a garage, but had had several lean-tos and other various shelters added on, then later enclosed and used to expand the original space.

Inside there was a large collection of those giant silver-gray Rubbermaid marine ice chests, each one was filled with various cuts and sizes of freshly smoked and vacuum packed Sockeye and Chinook salmon.

Directly across from the door was a counter made of several large cedar deck planks that had seen their fair share of salt water and fisherman's boots before becoming his table of commerce.

In a corner behind the scruffy deckhand that ran the shop was what had at one time been the boiler from an old steam tug that had been salvaged and converted into a meat smoker. The 2x4 walls had been carefully heat shielded through a method known as stacking as many used bricks up between the old boiler and the wood as possible.

As we entered, the deckhand greeted us with a smile a vibrant hello and proffered us a plate of freshly cut smoked salmon to sample.

Curious, we both took a piece of each type of fish, Sockeye and Chinook, and tried each separately, rolling the meat around on our palettes to investigate the flavor.

Yeah.... we bought a few pounds to take home with us.

Since our plans to visit the Cape were done and we'd gotten our fill of smoked fish to take home, we made our way back to Highway 101. By now, it was starting to get late in the day and we were getting hungry.

Given that Forks was the closest place for dinner, we decided that we'd just follow the 101 the rest of the way back down to Aberdeen and cut over to I-5 from there, rather than pay for another ferry crossing (which might not have been running by the time we reached Seattle).

So, we stopped in at the first seafood place we found on the way (not really having much of a good idea as to what was available in Forks). The Smokehouse Restaurant.

At first glance as we pulled into the parking lot, it looked like a nice clean, decent place to eat. It certainly appeared busy enough to be alright.

So, we went in and ordered up the local Halibut and chips and proceeded to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

First off, lemme explain a few things. In the picture above, that was the total number of cars at the place when we arrived, folks were getting ready to leave at the time we arrived (7pm) and maybe half of the place was full.

It took an hour to get our dinner. But, I figured, good food takes time.

What has this trip taught you so far, what I assume and what turns out to be reality are two very different critters.

That was some of the crappiest Halibut I'd ever eaten.

They advertised home made pie, the folks behind us had just been getting their blackberry pie on a plate when we had sat down at our table, so I ordered a slice.

See above.

Anti-acids all around for when we got back to the truck. Joyce wound up having to lay down in the camper after awhile, the food was just that bad.

We made our way home from there. Trying a couple times to find a section of beach I had seen a long time ago driving this route the opposite direction. We never found it.

Eventually we made it home, sometime around 7 am.

Sol Duc could go to hell.

At least till next year when it redeemed itself.

Oh yes, for you folks out there that are Jeep fans, here's a neat find I came across outside that horrid restaurant.

A J20 pickup truck.