SJL2: Park Pass please

The next big adventure of the summer was camping in two national parks. NOT one but TWO! First up was Olympic National Park, a stop in Fox Island to see friends and then onto Mt. Rainier National Park.

Day 1

To start the trip off the Bainbridge Ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island! (hahaha got that sea leg in!).

Bainbridge Island was charming!

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Lunch was Fish & Chips at Doc’s Marina Grill. Then swing by Pegasus Coffee (it is absolutely charming and a great place to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and a sweet treat). If you don’t want a sweet treat there you can walk to over to Blackbird Bakery The musical treat for the afternoon was having the Speakeasy Jazz Cats playing music out front of the bakery. Super fun stop and a must visit for anyone staying in the Seattle area.

Now then…onto Olympic National Park!!!

First stop in the park is to Hurricane Ridge, the drive is no bueno if you get carsick (consider yourself warned!). After a drive up to the top, a stamp in my National Park Passport it is down to Heart of the Hills campground and time to pitch a tent and build a fire. Heart of the Hills has some good spots that aren’t rocky and all pretty level. It is all walk-in for $20/night and firewood is cheap. As with being in most national parks, be sure to carry cash for firewood and campsite fees.

Day 2

After a night at Heart of the Hills, we drove to Port Angeles (a good place to stop and get some coffee and lunch fixings (I recommend Easy Street Coffee and Tea – get the Coffee milk, the cold brew syrup is made in house and it is excellent – for sandwhiches to go stop in at Country Aire Markets. )  From Port Angeles we went on to Lake Crescent, where we did an easy 1.7 mile hike to Marrymere Falls. The Lake Crescent Lodge is absolutely adorable and if you have the time I would recommend staying there. The views are spectacular and it is just charming! We did not stay there rather went to Sul dac camp, campsites are $25/night – ground is rocky and there are only a handful of walk-in spots so I recommend making a reservation. What I learned this trip is that those campsites not run by a concessionar are easier first come-first serve and there are more walk-in sites available.

Once settled in at the campsite (to which this would be my first night sleeping in a hammock), we mosied over to Hot Springs Resort to 1) get firewood and 2) check out the hot springs. So the hot springs: the set up is akin to multiple hot tubs and a pool, all at different temperatures. There are showers and lockers – I recommend taking your own shampoo/body wash and towel (you can rent towels). With that said – next time I would rather hike to find the hot springs and not just go to the resort and I would not stay at the cabins at the resort. Otherwise the night went well and I slept most beautifully in my hammock. Olympic is very much a rainforest, so do expect for a mist and damp weather, this would be a big contrast to Mt Rainier.

Day 3

Leaving Olympic we took the scenic route through Forks (it’s a dump…I get why Bella wanted to leave – I didn’t see Jacob or Edward but the drive through coffee stand was decent so there is that). The scenic route took us by Ruby Beach (holy amazing – get out and if you have time hike down!). Lunch was in Aberdeen, nothing worth really noting, and then it was onto Fox Island! Fox Island is delightful and it was great to visit with friends and enjoy great views paired with excellent conversation and laughter.

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Fox Island Sunset

Day 4

Leaving Fox Island we headed to Mt Rainier National Park and passed several cute town along the way. We stayed at Cougar Rock Campground in the park, walk-in sites are Loop A and R, reservations can be made however there were plenty of walk-in sites. This campground is run by the NPS and is $20/night, with firewood being $7/bundle. After getting settled in our campsite (i.e. hanging the hammocks) we drove over to the Longmire Visitor Center (another stamp in the NPS passport) and a short .7 mile walk around the Trail of Shadows (a very easy loop with educational points along the way).

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The general store at Longmire is fully stocked with anything you could possibly ever need and all the souvenirs one could ever buy – it is located next to a lodge with restaurant (whose food seemed a bit overpriced in my humble opinion). That night we attended the campfire ranger talk (If it is offered in any national park you are staying in GO!) and learned about the development of Mt Rainier (I may or may not have been super happy and geekily excited). Sleeping in our hammocks was pretty great, until temps dipped into the 30s and it was a tad chilly. My shining moment was waking up in the morning, starting the campfire all on my own (and made my own coffee!) and getting the coals to a heat factor of “fires of Mordor”. All without burning myself or anything else!

SIDE NOTE: The Cougar Rock Campground utilizes electric vehicles to patrol the campground – this made me VERY happy. I was very sad that I couldn’t find a ranger to speak with about the use of said EV. Side, Side Note: I’m a nerd – I know.

One thing we did learn was that even though we were traveling in July, it is still a bit early in the season for hiking the upper bits of the park. The Paradise area still had large amounts of snow and Sunrise had only JUST opened (i.e. the day before). So we didn’t really get to hit the trails we wanted to, however the drive was spectacular. With rain and dropping temps in the forecast for that night, there was a unanimous decision to forgo another night of tenting and head back to Seattle. Given that big, beautiful, glorious snowflakes were falling at the Sunrise Visitor center – we deemed our decision to be a good one.

Final Thoughts

I would really like to get back and explore Mt Rainier more (just a tad later in the season) – the scenery was spectacular and I didn’t get to do the hikes that I would have wanted to. In terms of lodges, the Paradadise Lodge and Lake Crescent Lodge are the two that I would be inerested in staying at. In terms of comparisons, I don’t think you can compare the two parks. The ecosystems are completely different and that makes visiting them both in the same time span absolutely fascinating.

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“The national park idea has been nurtured by each succeeding generation of Americans. Today, across our land, the National Park System represents America at its best. Each park contributes to a deeper understanding of the history of the United States and our way of life; of the natural processes which have given form to our land, and to the enrichment of the environment in which we live.” George B. Hartzog, Jr., NPS Director, 1964-1972

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