On this particularly lovely Monday morning in late September with the trailer in tow, I headed south to Olympia, then west to the Highway 101 turnoff, then north on Highway 101 along Hood Canal.
I have to tell you, when I was planning this trip, I was confused about the route at first. I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest (well, mostly) and I always thought that Highway 101 was the “coast highway” or the Pacific Coast Highway. Well, it might be a “coast highway” in California and in Oregon. But in Washington State it acts up. Immediately after crossing over the bridge at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River, except for one short mile along the coast north of Ilwaco, Highway 101 heads inland. It continues inland in order to bypass Willapa Bay and then Grays Harbor (which I talked about during my Lake Wynoochee and Coho Campground camping trip).
After Grays Harbor, Highway 101 then continues to head north through deep forests, not back to the coast. Eventually it does turn west and runs back along the coast for about 12 miles, but then turns back inland through forests and mountains, eventually turning east. It touches the salt water of the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the northern shore of the Olympic Peninsula at Port Angeles, then heads back inland away from the water and easterly again, and then turns south! It hooks up with Hood Canal at the town of Quilcene and then continues south, following Hood Canal all the way down to the bottom of Hood Canal, almost back to Olympia. It makes almost a full circle around the Olympic Peninsula, most of it inland.
I mentioned all of that to a good friend of mine who also was raised around these parts. He didn’t believe it either, so got out a map to see.
The western Pacific Ocean coast of Washington is about 150 miles long, but the “coast highway” Highway 101, runs along the coast for only about 13 miles of that, spending most of its life instead in the forests and mountains of the Olympic Peninsula or along the edge of Hood Canal.
So … when I say I went west from Olympia to the Highway 101 turnoff, understand that I was no where near the Pacific Ocean. In fact, I’m not sure I was even outside the city limits of Olympia when I turned north onto Highway 101.
Ok, so now you know where I am … let’s go camping!
About a half hour after turning northbound onto Highway 101, I pulled over for a little break. I’d been driving for an hour and a half since leaving the trailer’s storage unit and that’s my self-imposed limit for driving time. This was a perfect place to stop for a breather.
Perfect because I had just come around the corner at the south end of Hood Canal and saw it stretching out before me. I could smell the salt water and hear the sea gulls.
Hood Canal runs mostly north-south, but also turns a corner here at the southerly end and then heads northeasterly for about 15 miles. Right here where it turns, this corner, is the most southerly point of Hood Canal. The tideflats were beautiful with no sounds of any city to be heard.
Hood Canal is salt water, filling from the north and emptying northbound as well with each tide change since the waterway is a dead end. It’s part of the greater Puget Sound waterway (USA) or the much larger Salish Sea area (USA and Canada). Hood Canal is not man-made as the name “canal” might imply but is a natural saltwater waterway fed by water from the Pacific Ocean.
From out on the beach next to the water’s edge, this was the view northbound up Hood Canal. Hood Canal is about 65 miles long, is not highly settled by humans but does have the occasional small town and the very occasional marina for boat travel.
Hood Canal is well known for recreational saltwater shrimping, access to plentiful hiking and camping in the Olympic National Forest and the Olympic National Park with lush forests and many waterfalls, numerous salmon-spawning rivers, and other marine life.
Low oxygen levels in the water in recent years have been taking a toll on marine life, however. It’s thought the cause is climate change and increased bacteria growth in the water due to temperature change of the water. I sure hope we can correct this. It’s just so beautiful here.
From here on north, there were many views of the Canal and several places like this one (above) where Highway 101 ran right along the edge of the Canal.
You can see there weren’t many other folks in the campground this particular Monday and that was fine with me. I like being social, but I have such sensitive hearing that any kind of noise at night can be bothersome.
As it turned out, even all the way through Friday morning, campers spaced themselves so that no one was immediately adjacent to anyone else. By this time in late September with most schools back in session, the people who are still out camping are usually experienced and maybe a bit older and wiser. I met at least half the people in the campground and had a great time!
I set up Towhee the Trailer and, as usual, when I wasn’t even looking, Little Towhee scooted her basket over to the trailer door and was already cheeping away with the local birds.
I was fixing a snack inside the trailer but started hearing odd sounds … couldn’t tell exactly what they were and started to get curious. And then I looked outside … zounds!
A herd of wild Roosevelt Elk! The photo above was taken as I was standing outside with my back against the back wall of my trailer. They really were that close. But wait, there’s more!
The photo of the bull elk above was taken with the zoom lens, as were all of the photos below. The local, native name for Elk is Wapiti from the Shawnee and Cree word waapiti, meaning “white rump”.
The mature females were almost as large as the males and were usually darker. Roosevelt Elk are the largest of the Elk species.
The Elk were in the campground for 2-3 hours, roaming around wherever they wanted to roam, eating the grass mostly. The Camp Host came over to me in his scooter car and said the Elk were so familiar with the Camp Host’s rig that they would come right up to it, especially since it sat right there all summer and fall and so had nice, luscious, tasty, green grass growing under it.
As familiar as the Elk were with that rig in particular and with people in the area, the Camp Host said he didn’t dare go anywhere near them this time of year since they were in rut, in the breeding season, and the males can be aggressive. A full-grown bull Roosevelt Elk weighs around 900 pounds. The Camp Host sat in his little scooter car right next to my trailer for about 40 minutes until the Elk decided to move and let him go home.
Oh my word! I couldn’t believe my luck. I had chosen Dosewallips as my destination for this trip because I knew there would be a chance that some Elk might come through the campground in late September … but a whole herd of about 30 of them?! And that close?!
And this was just my first day there. I wondered if I shouldn’t just hitch up and head home since the rest of the week was apt to be quite boring in comparison. Wow, what a thrill. One of my camping neighbors told me they had been coming here for more than ten years, hoping to see the Elk, and this was their first time seeing the Elk. I felt awfully blessed!
But stick with me here. I stayed right where I was and I certainly did have more great adventures during the rest of the week. You’ll see. 🙂