Saturday, August 14, 2010

The End (for now)

From the Davenport Hotel we loaded up Ulysses for his second to last push, a four hundred mile jaunt to the Olympic Peninsula. Did you know that Eastern Washington (like Eastern Oregon) is actually a desert? I didn't, but now I do. We got stuck in traffic driving around Seattle, but we made it safely to the Lake Quinalt Lodge after 9 hours in the car.

The buzz around town was that campsites were hard to come by in Olympic National Park, so I woke up very early the next morning and drove 16 miles out a gravel road to ensure that we got a site at the Haven Creek campsite, which was basically deserted. But at least I got to take a nice drive through the morning mist. Our campsite over-looked the Quinalt river and was surrounded by huckleberry bushes. (Note: did you know that huckleberries are one the most cherished food sources of the black bear, many of which make their home in Olympic National Park).

The author sampling some of the native huckleberries.

Olympic National Park has a couple of different things going for it. It advertises itself as being three parks in one. There are the glaciated peaks of Mt. Olympus, which we didn't see (we've seen some glaciated peaks already). There are several temperate rain forests, where enormous spruce and fir trees grow hundreds of feet into the air and everything is covered with moss and lichens; our campground was in one of those, and we went for a long hike into one on our second day in Olympic.

Light through trees on the Enchanted Forest trail.

Lunch by the Quinalt River.

Crossing a bridge over a creek on our way out.

There are also pristine beaches with forests running right up to their edges. We woke up early on our third day and drove three hours North to the Mora campground by Rialto beach. It was a good thing we got up early; by the time we got there (about 9:30 a.m.) there were only four sites left. On our way North we drove through Forks, WA, which we learned (about the time we arrived and started seeing vampire-related kitsch and advertising everywhere) is Twilight country. (What the hell is Twilight firewood for chrissakes!) We managed to avoid having our blood-sucked on our way to the beach.

Now the East-coaster in me has this vision of the beach: it's hot; it's crowded; millions of pounds of human flesh coated in sunblock are splayed out, exposed to scorching ultraviolet light; children build sand castles while small dogs try to remove their bathing suits; scantily clad teenagers walk and oggle and flirt; perhaps a band plays on the boardwalk. (We saw exactly this beach on Tybee Island on the fourth of July.) The beach in the Olympic National Park couldn't have been more different. It was cold. The people on the beach (and the beach was far, far from crowded) were all dressed in north face; many were carrying backpacks; a few people were camping. It was cloudy and gray (finally some Northwestern weather!) and enormous drift logs crowded the highwater mark on the beach.

Starfish in a tide pool at Second Beach.

The author getting ready to dip his feet in the Pacific, marking the end
of the transcontinental journey. It was very, very cold.

Self-timer on driftwood, Rialto Beach. The literature says that
driftwood logs in the surf can be "dangerous weapons that kill."


I am writing this from Vero Coffeehouse in Eugene, Oregon, a few blocks away from home. We arrived yesterday evening after a surprisingly grueling final day of driving from the Olympic Peninsula in Northwestern Washington. Who knew there would be so much traffic surrounding Portland and Salem? But we arrived, safe and sound, almost seven weeks after we left DC. We came 8,434.4 miles on this journey. As the crow flies from my house in Takoma Park to Rebecca's house in Eugene it's about 2,500 miles. Ulysses is in dire need of an oil change; he sounds like a 1967 VW Beatle. But he got us here and is resting peacefully in the driveway.


  1. Congratulations - and thanks for keeping me entertained all summer following your trip- Deb

  2. Home at last, G&R. My favorite moment of every trip -- but that's me (and why I'm sitting here at home).

    Now the real journey begins.