Not Your Momma’s Olympic NP

It’s that time again friends. We are bringing you another installment in  
the Amazing Besties National Park Road Trip series. This was one of the most epic friend adventures either of us have ever had, so if you like best friend hijinks these posts are for you.  If you’re into pretty photos of natural wonders, you have come to the right place!  10 states. 9 National Parks and 1 National Monument. One summer of fun!

Want to catch up?  Check out the rest of the series here.

Days 19-21
Olympic National Park – Park #7!
Homeland of the Quinault and the Hoh

After weeks of driving north across the height of the US we reached Glacier National Park and began our voyage west across Washington. We made a pitstop for a waterfall and visited some childhood friends of Meridith’s. After three weeks of camping and camp food, sleeping indoors was a delight. We had pizza in Spokane that makes our mouths water to this day.

Reaching the Olympic Peninsula also meant taking our first ferry ride. We hopped on the ferry as the sun was setting over Seattle and arrived at the gates of Olympic National Park in the wee hours. Here is actual footage of Rachel getting ready to sleep in a nest of our clothes in the back of Meridith’s car.

We woke up early the next morning because (spoiler) sleeping in your car is neither glamerous or comfortable. Meridith wasn’t feeling super great, so Rachel took the wheel and drove us to the closest park Visitor’s Center, where we were hoping to get the down low about what we should do during our two nights and two and a half days in the park. We set out for the Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center, going up in elevation, and spotting a small fox on an early morning stroll.

When we arrived at the Visitor’s Center, the services weren’t going to open for several hours, and we suddenly realized, we were in another high eleveation habitat. It was really beautiful, but we had seen lots of these types of habitats at other parks on our trip, and we knew Olympic had some other unique areas that we wouldn’t get to explore anywhere else. Rachel snapped a picture of Canada, and we set off for another Visitor’s Center that would be open by the time we arrived.

We rolled up at the Olympic National Park Visitor’s Center in Port Angeles feeling a little punchy, and, turns out, the helpful park ranger we spoke to was right on our level. We told him we wanted to backpack both nights we were in the park, and we would prefer to do two, one night trips so we could see different parts of the park. The hot springs trail was closed (we still need to go back and check these out!), so he recommended we check out the the Hoh Rain Forest and then do a short trip along the shore south of the Hoh Indian Reservation. Unlike Dot and Jim, he told us we would “probably be fine” without a bear can. With those comforting words, we took off toward the Hoh Rainforest.

To get to our jumping off point at the Hoh Rainforest Visitor’s Center, we had to drive through Forks, of Twilight fame. We stopped for a coffee and to do some computer work, and there was a coffee drink named after one of the book’s main characters. The Twilight driven tourist economy was sort of facinating, but probably way less cute for the folks living out on the Reservation, which was also featured in the books and films.

We hiked out to Happy Four Shelter and pitched our tents right along the river. Fairies probably live in that place and pictures don’t really do it justice.

The next morning, we woke up early and broke up camp. Temperate rainforests are incredibly beautiful and unique ecosystems. This area gets 12 feet (yes, feet!) of rain each year. It drizzled a bit on us, but walking along a damp trail through the tall trees and carpets of ferns and moss was one of the best ways to spend the morning.


After a quick lunch, which Mer apparently still prepares a version of to this day, we were off again, hopping back on the 101 and heading toward the coast.

Our friendly park ranger from yesterday morning had helped us look at the tide chart so we could time our hike with the low tide, when the largest part of the beach was accessable to hikers. He also described the path we were taking as “Not your Momma’s walk on the beach,” which wasn’t very descriptive as to what we would encounter once we started our walk. Dude, you did not mention the part where we had to use ropes to climb up the bank when the trail hopped off the beach and into the forest! He also asked if we needed our hike to be a loop trail becuase “loop trails are the new black.”

Casual sexism aside, this was one of the most breathtaking hikes imaginable. Rachel actually wrote a poem about it, which we think sums up the trip pretty well.

Tide-pooling in the Rainforest – RDW

A national parks tour is the

Middle-class, white girl version of

On the Road.

Piled into my best friend’s hatchback,

I thought for certain,

At 25,

I’d be able to find myself.

The park ranger, Pablo, smiled.

“This isn’t your mother’s walk on the beach.”

We laughed at him, certain of our skills.

Self-assured, with boots tightly laced,

We trekked down 6 miles of the Olympic coast,

Past tall rainforest trees and wondered aloud,

Are we really in America?

The ocean always makes me feel like a shrinking thing,

 The tug-of-war between the moon and the earth,

Revealed tide pools full of purple sea stars and florescent annenomies. 

Stranded and exposed to our prying eyes.

And we tried,

Time and again,

To pretend that we had traveled to a distant land.

That home was somehow out of reach.

We could no longer be of help to struggling friends,

Siblings borrowing money to shoot into their veins,

Or mothers growing old with worry.

Surely they would understand,

For a little while, we will be lost here.

That night, we burned piles of drift wood,

Read philosophy by the fire side,

Looked up to the stars and felt



This is why I came.

I came to this desolate coast,

To put my problems in the perspective of the universe.

To see trash bags washed up on shorelines

And worry about sea turtles.

To know that my struggles, my life, will be washed away

With the tides of time.

But to be here,

To understand these timeless things.

Tall trees.

Sea mists.

The call of unseen shorebirds.

These things are without measure.

They are the only things that count.

We do not speak so much,

As we hike the 6 miles back toward the trail head.

There are cars pulled out onto the beach,

And families picnic on the shores.

I root a part of myself in this shoreline,

To grow tall beside the redwoods.

Then I turn my boots toward home.


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