Olympic National Park & North Cascades

We rolled into Forks, drove by the camping goods store that Bella worked at in the Twilight series, stopped in a kitschy little t-shirt shop with cardboard cutouts of the various characters, and stopped for a photo-op with a few Twilight-related signs at an RV park.

After stocking up on groceries, we spent 3 days backpacking the Enchanted Valley trail. This hike would’ve been much more enjoyable if the historic chalet had been open, but it was closed due to high water levels threatening the integrity of the structure. We began at the Graves Creek trailhead (after adding an extra mile because the road was washed out), and followed the Quinault River through thick forest for miles. There were some pretty waterfalls, but it was mostly dense forest. A spring flood had destroyed large sections of the trail, and we had to hoist ourselves onto and across logs for a good mile.

The Valley itself was beautiful, and we observed a very bold black bear walk right through the middle of the six or so campsites scattered around the chalet. It would be nice to do this trail as a loop, if you had access to a shuttle or second car. The hike out was long and dull, and we were swarmed by large wasp-like creatures at the end. I would advise future hikers to wait until the road has been repaired and the trail cleared, and perhaps in a year the fate of the chalet will be decided.

After a few days enclosed in forest, we headed to the beach for some unique camping. Neither of us had ever beach camped before, but it was one of my favorite nights of our entire trip. The weather was perfect, and we only had to hike about 2 miles in the sand to find a great spot.

Olympic National Park Rialto Beach

Olympic National Park Rialto Beach

Jake started a fire and we just enjoyed the view and read until sunset. And what a sunset it was!

Olympic National Park Rialto Beach Sunset

What a view, huh? It was even better knowing that since we were on the West Coast, we were some of the last people in the country to watch the sun go down. There was a meteor shower that night, and it was perfection.

We lucked out with our perfect evening, because the next morning the entire beach was covered in fog. We had planned to beach camp a second night, but the weather was so crappy (we couldn’t tell if it was sleeting or if it was just so windy that the ocean was spraying on us) that we decided to head inland. Sure enough, just like California, as soon as we got about 15 miles inland, it was hot and sunny.

We explored a bit more of the Olympic Coast, but the fog sent us back inland. We made the long drive to Mount Rainier, which was most definitely worth it.

We stopped in Seattle, just for a day. We visited Pike Place Market, and then split up for a few hours. I dropped Jake off at the Space Needle (I had seen it previously with my friend Becca), and headed to quirkly little Fremont to tour Theo Chocolates. I’d highly recommend this tour if you’re in the area, as it’s only $10 for a full history of chocolate and a factory tour, and as many chocolate samples as you can eat!

We grabbed dinner in Fremont and then headed to North Cascades National Park. We camped in forest land, and dayhiked up the challenging Sahale Arm Trail.

Sahale Arm Trail North Cascades National Park

The views were pretty stellar from Cascade Pass (5400′ from 3660′), and Jake hiked almost all the way up to the Sahale Glacier Camp (7600′). I was glad we weren’t wearing full packs!

We got permits for a long loop hike that Jake found in our new backpacking book. The trail is actually just outside of North Cascades, in Ross Lake National Recreation Area and the Pasayten Wilderness. The Devil’s Dome Loop (43 miles) was by far one of the hardest hikes I’ve done. The trail leads out with a 3,300′ climb in elevation, and keeps on testing your limits after that. We made it up the switchbacks, and then set up our tent in preparation for an impending rainstorm. The next day was spent going up and down thousands of feet, and the evening was spent drying out our clothes over the campfire. There wasn’t much in the way of views because the mountain was covered in rainclouds.

Day 3 was much nicer, offering fantastic views of Jack Mountain. We also saw a grazing black bear, who allowed Jake to take some photos before running off into the vast alpine meadows. We only saw 3 other people the entire time.

Devils Dome Loop in North Cascades

Devils Dome Loop in North Cascades

Jack Mountain Devils Dome Loop North Cascades

After reaching Devil’s Dome, we began a long descent down to Ross Lake, where we pitched our tent and hoped for a cool breeze. Jake went for a swim off the rocky cliffs, and we lusted after a nearby campsite that we could see next to a dock.* The final day was spent hiking the mind-numbing but fairly flat trail back to the car. We chugged a gallon of Gatorade, drove the winding road back to Marblemount, feasted on real food, and slept the deep sleep of the backpacker. On our way back West, we stopped at the Cascadian Farm stand for some granola and other goodies. We drove on to Bellingham for our last night in the U.S. before heading up into Canada!

*If you are in North Cascades and you’d like to do this trail, I’d highly advise camping at the Devil’s Lake boat camp (right next to the water with a dock). You do need a free backcountry permit to camp there. Next time I’d like to kayak camp from the resort to this site.

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