At the end of our two-week limit, we moved from our comfortable camp at Washington Park outside of Anacortes to Pioneer Trails RV Park on the south side of town. Nightly costs at Pioneer Trails are expensive, about $55/night, but the long-term rates are much better. At $800/month, plus $.10 per kWh for electricity, a month-long stay at Pioneer Trails cost us about $27/night; a bargain for western Washington State.
We set up in a full hookup site, F4, which was spacious but required serious leveling for our trailer. The park is large, quiet, and close to Anacortes, with a coin-op laundromat and large clean bathrooms with free showers. But, the gravel roads were dusty anytime a car drove by and there was occasional noise from military aircraft roaring out of nearby Whidbey Island Naval Air Base. Still, it made a good base for overnight trips to the Olympic Peninsula and the Cascade Mountains plus there are many places nearby where we could launch our kayak to paddle around northern Puget Sound.
From Pioneer Trails I rode my bike around the trails and roads and we hiked out through windswept forests of spruce and fir. We went to local concerts in Anacortes and Mount Vernon (all good) and admired the fleet of yachts in the Anacortes marina (lots of them for sale). I even broke out the guitar to sing a couple tunes for open mic night at the Brown Lantern Pub in Anacortes (at least no one threw anything at me).
One morning we walked out to a beautiful, grass-covered bluff overlooking Admiralty Inlet, Sarles Point in Sharpe Park on the west side of Fidalgo Island. As we napped on the bluff I heard a whooshing noise; the unmistakable sound of a whale blowing. We hurried to the edge of the cliff to see a pod of about eight orca whales moving into the channel just below us. We watched them for the next hour as the circled and broached, some of them only fifty yards off shore. Our vista point on the bluff allowed us to see them from above, so we could see them even when they were swimming underwater. It was better than a whale-watching cruise. What a treat!
Later in the week our friend Matt visited us and we loaded up our truck with camping gear, coolers and hiking gear. We took the Port Townsend ferry to the Olympic Peninsula and drove three and half hours to the far end of the Olympic Peninsula and Lake Ozette, a remote part of Olympic National Park. Lake Ozette is near land’s-end of the continental United States and set in a rainforest a short distance from the wild Pacific coastline of Olympic National Park. We set up our tent in the small National Park campground on the shores of the gigantic lake.
The Ozette campground is small and a long, long way from anything, so come prepared and full of gas. In summer there are flush toilets and water at a community spigot. Medium-sized RVs can get in, but there’s only 15 sites so get there early. There are no power, water or sewer hookups, no dump station, not even trash pick-up (pack it in, pack it out). Campsites cost $20/night ($10/night for us with my senior America the Beautiful pass).
We attempted to kayak around the lake, but the kayak sprung a leak. No matter. We spent the next two days hiking out to the wild Pacific coast; one day to Cape Alava, the next day to Sand Point. Each hike was a six-mile round trip walk through the rainforest on cedar planked trails. At night we roasted artichokes on the stove and played lively games of gin rummy.
At Cape Alava we strolled along the wilderness beach at low tide while sea lions croaked at us from off shore rocks. We scrambled over the rocky shoreline and explored the tide pools exposed at low tide. We entered the Ossett Memorial, a small plank shack on a bluff that houses artifacts from the Ossett Tribe (the Ossett Indian Reservation borders the National Park at this point).
At Sand Point we strolled the magnificent wilderness beaches, admiring the dramatic “sea stacks” (large vertical rocks sticking up out of the ocean) while a bald eagle scolded us from a sitka spruce tree. We found a large pile of huge driftwood logs and napped on them in the summer sun before hiking the three miles back to camp.
Just the hikes out to the coast were amazing. The rainforest was fascinating; the big trees, the colorful mushrooms growing on everything, the forests of ferns. Eagles, bears, otters and sea lions. And, it’s all protected as wilderness within Olympic National Park. This is a special place like no other in the United States.
It was a great trip, but the rain moved in, so we moved out. We packed up camp in a cold drizzling mist and started the drive back to Anacortes. But, our adventures weren’t done yet. We stopped for breakfast at the funky, remote fishing town of Seiku before driving around stunning Lake Crescent where the sun was still shining, the rain not having reached it yet.
Then, at the Elwah River near Port Angeles, we walked down a trail to see the Elwah River running free. This is one of the great environmental success stories of the century where two dams were removed in the late 1990s to free the river after which all five species of salmon immediately returned to spawn (pink, chum, sockeye, silver and king). They had been restored from the brink of extinction and now are a living testimony that nature can repair itself, and rapidly, if we just give her a chance.
We finished the trip by stopping at the eclectic Victorian seaside town of Port Townsend where we strolled around the turn-of-the century town and enjoyed the street bands playing at the waterfront before boarding the ferry back to Coupeville on Whidbey Island. Of course, when we arrived in Coupeville we had to stop at Toby’s Tavern for bowls of steaming fresh mussels and cold IPAs before making the final drive back to Pioneer Park.
Now it was the first of August, but the misty rain at the coast had finally drifted up to Anacortes and we were in long pants and fleece jackets. Still, what a great trip!
Next; on to glacier-covered Mount Baker to hike, pick wild huckleberries, and watch the sunset over the North Cascade Mountains. And, time to fix the kayak so we can paddle around more of Puget Sound. We’ll report that in Part Three of our Anacortes stay.