the never-ending journey to Olympic National Park
To make the most of my premiere voyage to Seattle, a trip that ultimately was not intended for pleasure, I had booked a night at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort in the middle of the grandiose Olympic National Park (see “sights” and “digs”). Little did I know just how grandiose this thing was!
After my obligations in town were complete around 2:30 PM, I rushed to the small city of Edmonds to hop on a ferry that would take me across Puget Sound. A colleague had advised me to leave as early as possible since the comfortable weekend weather was sure to attract minions of Seattlites making the same trek. He was right, for I had to wait through the unloading and re-boarding of three ferries before I could squeeze my car on the vessel! (Naturally, I was fourth in line after the third ferry had left the dock! Arrrghhh!)
My ultimate destination was somewhere beyond the distant mountain range that loomed ominously in the background. I had to get to the resort before the lobby was to close at 9:00 PM, so I was understandably concerned that the sun was already setting as I made my way on the ferry to Kingston. Sadly, I knew there would be little hope in stopping for a proper dinner. Thus, I ended up eating a shabby chilled-over roast beef sandwich in the commissary. Bleccch.
The main road in and out of Olympic National Park is Highway 101. You can take it in either direction from the ferry drop-off at Kingston. The 101 loops around many of the of the park’s main attractions, and though the speed limit is 55 to 65 mph throughout most areas, don’t let the seemingly short distances fool you. Twists and turns and small towns that pop up in the middle of nowhere will undoubtedly slow you down! Combined with the ferry excursion, this is easily a trip that will take visitors a half a day, if not more. Plan ahead so that you are not too exhausted, or like me, preoccupied with a deadline to reach a final destination by nightfall.
As I headed out from Kingston, I forced myself not to stop too often to take photos of the often tremendous scenery that passed by on each side. It was not easy. The call of Mount Olympus, especially when viewed around the Port Angeles area, was difficult to resist.
Twilight is powerful around here, in more ways than one (see “sights”). The haze of light and dark plays a game of trompe l'oeil with your eyes as you traverse along the edge of Lake Crescent. Drive carefully, and if necessary, take a few pit stops to recharge your battery. I would have followed my own advice if the main city in the area, the aforementioned Port Angeles, had not been so depressing. With a church on almost every street corner, and groups of young ruffians figuring out any which way to occupy their lonely Friday night, I decided to keep the doors locked, and the windows sealed! Still, if you are looking for “comforts from home” (i.e. a Walgreen’s or a Wendy’s?), Port Angeles is the closest you’re gonna get.
On my way back to Seattle the following day, I rejected the urge to stay longer at Rialto Beach for its storied sunset. I knew full well that the 2 ½ hour journey would take no less, and I only had a three hour window to catch the last ferry from Kingston. While I stopped once to grab a few more images of breathtaking Lake Crescent, I once again felt as though I was in a race against time! Olympic National Park is extraordinarily beautiful, and is meant to be enjoyed! Plan your itinerary and approach in advance and take your time!
The Edmonds-Kingston line is just one of many ferry schedules in the area provided by the Washington State Department of Transportation. Locals use their vessels daily to get in and around the city and its surrounding environs. The Edmonds-Kingston line usually starts at 5:30 Am and goes until quite late. Make sure to check the WSDOT website for more detailed schedule information as it does change dependent on the season. Single ride tickets are available from purchase prior to boarding. Prices vary according to whether or not you have a bike, car or motorcycle. Expect to pay no more than $16 USD one-way if traveling by car.
Set of Drifters tip: Special mention must go out to Chelsea Handler who entertained me to no end with her audiobook while driving solo through the vast Olympic National Park. We advise a similar selection for your car if you plan on making this somewhat intimidating trek alone!
Washington State Department of Transportation – http://www.wsdot.com/ferries/schedule/
Edmunds-Kingston Ferry - Ferry Dock, Edmonds, WA 98020 (about 17 miles north and slightly west of Seattle’s city center)
Port Angeles – located along Highway 101 inside Olympic National Park (about 61 miles from Kingston)