Last night I flew back to Seattle from Alaska (great time!), and found my car stored safe and sound at Lance's, who let me keep it there while I was away. Exhausted, I gratefully crashed at his place before heading to see my friend Brandon a couple hours away in Hoquiam this morning.
Brandon and I were good friends throughout high school. We enjoyed a lot of the same things, always quoted funny movie lines, and were in the same musical theater production or two. He went out of state for college, I moved to Los Angeles for a few years, and our lives took different directions. We lost contact for a handful of years, but reconnected a couple years ago while him and his wife Heather were visiting his family in Minnesota. We didn't have as much in common as we used to, but we still laughed at the same things, and the 3 of us got along great. They currently live in Hoquiam, where they flip homes to rent or sell, since finishing college in Colorado.
The 2-hour trip to Brandon's was awesome. After only an hour outside of Seattle I was driving past the greenest trees I've ever seen.
Hoquiam, which has designated itself as "The Friendliest City," is a town of about 10,000 people, located on the Pacific Ocean's 'Grays Harbor,' at the mouth of the Hoquiam River. Its name comes from a Native-American word meaning "hungry for wood". Hoquiam is the home of the internationally acclaimed Loggers' Playday, celebrated with a parade and logging competition every September. It's also home to dozens of species of migratory birds which nest along the water's edge during the milder months. The Grays Harbor Farmers Market and Craft Fair is one of only two Washington State farmers markets open year-round.
When I got to Brandon's he happily came outside and greeted me, and he and Heather gave me a tour of their cute little home, pointing out all the beautiful updates they've made to get it into its current state, and showed me to the guestroom, all thoughtfully made up for me. They took me out to lunch at Casa Mia, their favorite local pizza place (ridiculously good), where we got all caught up, and a few of Heather's friendly relatives stopped by. Then we stopped for yummy ice cream at a little diner stand (order from the window only) on our way to Lake Sylvia State Park. Before we started our evening hike, we checked out a giant wooden ball carved from a single log by a local logging legend. Story has it the logger could stand atop the floating ball and 'walk it' from one end of the lake to the other. The area is rich with logging lore and history."
Thursday, November 11th
This morning Brandon and Heather took me to a house they recently bought. They plan to either flip it and sell it, or if they love it, move in. Either way, it's in need of some serious TLC, and Brandon valued my opinions on what to renovate to get the most bang for their buck. Finally, my faithful years of fan-hood to HGTV were put to the test, lol. The house seemed to have good bones and lots of potential, and I'm excited to see what Brandon & Heather make of it.
This evening we visited Snoqualmie Falls, "one of Washington state's most popular scenic attractions." The rain didn't dampen our spirits; we happily explored the two-acre park under our one umbrella, lol, and checked out the 270 foot waterfall from the observation deck, and then by trespassing on private property for a closer look, before browsing through the gift shop. We're so gangsta, lol. On our way out of town, we stopped to get a better look at a HUGE section of log on display from the town's old lumber mill. If you look closely, you can see the type of carriage that was used to haul these massive 10-15 foot-wide logs. Upon arriving back home, Heather graciously put her culinary skills to work, preparing a super delicious salmon dinner. Yum!
Friday, November 12th
It's not every day that I get to spend with people who have the same energy level and desire to cram as much as possible into one day, but Brandon and Heather are no ordinary couple! We started the day off with a bang: Olympic National Park. "The remote and rugged Olympic Peninsula juts into the Pacific from the western flank of Washington State, its moat-like isolation allowing for the development of natural and human history all to its own. At the center of the peninsula is 1,400-square-mile Olympic National Park, a preserve of rare, primordial ecosystems that has garnered the park the rare dual designation of World Heritage Park and International Biosphere Reserve. The longest wilderness coastline in the Lower 48, the 57-mile Olympic Coastal Strip is accessed by roads at only a few points. Otherwise this expanse of rock and sand belongs to hardy backpackers who negotiate the tides, beaches, and treacherous headlands on foot. This is some of the most picturesque coastline anywhere; sea stacks and islands parade out into the pounding surf, often capped by miniature forests."
We entered through the southwestern entrance, to check out Quinault Valley. "The lake's quiet isolation is perfectly captured by the woodsy 1926 Lake Quinault Lodge, with a spacious wood-paneled lobby, massive fireplace, and comfortably old-fashioned rooms." This is where Brandon & Heather got married! Then we hit the trails to the World's Largest Spruce Tree. At 191' tall, and a circumferance of nearly 59', this 1000 year old Sitka Spruce is one of the Quinault Valley's six champion trees. Also in the valley are the World's Largest Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, and Mountain Hemlock. The trees are well watered, with an average yearly rainfall of 12 feet! After giving the old guy a hug, we moved on.
Continuing on, we drove up to Ruby Beach. "Although this is not a beach for sunning, surfing, or swimming, there is no lack of stunning scenery at Ruby Beach. Mounds of bleached driftwood have been tossed carelessly on the shore like handfuls of pick-up sticks. This log bone yard derives from forests up river where floods undermine the forest, cause trees to fall, and then deliver them to the ocean. Rocky ironshore at the water’s edge plays host to tidal pools where visitors can examine a host of marine critters struggling to survive in the ebb and flow of the tides. Offshore, sea-stacks thrust up from the depths, their tops covered with the barest vegetation." We played for a little while, and Brandon and Heather laughed as they watched me get totally soaked by the tide that came in while I was climbing on the rocks.
We ventured onward through the western slopes of the park to the Hoh Rain Forest, "where annual rainfall is measured in yards. This heavy precipitation, coupled with mild temperatures and dense summer fog, provides perfect conditions for temperate rain forests, such as the primeval moss-bearded woodlands in the Hoh River Valley. Bigleaf maple and vine maple host an abundance of epiphytes (plants growing upon other plants) that give the rain forest its characteristic look and ethereal quality. A plethora of mosses, ferns and plants compete for space on the forest floor, and grazing elk keep the understory open. Dead and downed trees decay slowly and support new life as ‘nurselogs.' The Hoh is one of the finest remaining examples of temperate rain forest in the United States, and is one of the park's most popular destinations." I picked up a park map at the Visitor Center and we hiked the Hall of Mosses Trail. Well, we didn't find Bigfoot, but I've never seen such lush vegetation in all my life. WOW!
We wrapped up our day with a visit to the little town of Forks. "A large percentage of Forks visitors are fans of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, which is set in the town. As a result, Forks has seen a 600% increase in tourism since the books' publication. Tours are available of locations that resemble the places described in Meyer's books, although the movies were not actually filmed in Forks. Locations include the Cullen house, the house where Bella lives, the hospital where Dr. Cullen works, etc." We stopped in at the Chamber of Commerce, where I snapped a few pictures and picked up Self-Twilight Tour directions, map and trivia sheets. None of us were huge fans, but we checked out a couple points of interest, a shop or two, and grabbed some din-din at Sully's Burgers (cheap, yummy food!). We took a couple photos next to the now-famous Forks welcome sign before heading home to grab a couple things for the birthday party we attended.
Saturday, November 13th
This morning, with a feeling of reluctance, I said my goodbyes to my good friends Brandon and Heather. This is always the hardest part of my trip :( Until we meet again!