Trip Report: Olympic Mountains (but as a theme park trip)

August 3, 2020, 1:37 PM

This summer, my family of theme park outsiders thought it would be completely irresponsible to be visiting a theme park this summer, and since we live in the Pacific Northwest, we decided to explore some of “nature’s beauty” instead. If you couldn’t tell from the sarcastic quotation marks, I am not a nature lover. However, I tried to make the most of it by looking at the trip as if we were in a theme park, which was a combination of psychotic and refreshing. Here is my trip report of going to the Olympic Mountains, as if it were a theme park:

DAY ONE

Our voyage began with a morning of pit-stops on our drive from Seattle to the Olympic Mountains - an Epcot world showcase of all the tiny Washingtonian towns we had never been to before. The first stop was Gig Harbor, where we took in the expansive, sparkling sea, although that was pretty much it. It was like walking outside Disneyland and seeing the castle, but not being allowed in. After a few pictures, we drove to our next rest stop: the uneventful town of Bremerton.

Like the Tomorrowland Speedway/Autopia, we briefly drove around but there was nothing much to see. Our next location was finally something worth noting - the tiny downtown area of Port Gamble. The town was charming, adorably little, and very Main Street USA-like. From the architecture, I’d expect Sam the Eagle would like living here.

In Sequim, we stopped at the Purple Haze Lavender Farm, which I would describe as a discount Food and Wine Festival. There were okay views of the lavender field, an okay lavender Arnold Palmer, and we took some okay pictures, but everything was very much just “okay.”

After arriving at our exterior entry motel in Port Angeles, we walked around the moderate downtown that was quite well-stocked with good stores, although I believe comparing it to Downtown Disney would be an exaggeration. We got bento boxes for lunch (Epcot’s Japan pavilion?) that were, to use my favorite adjective, “okay.” Then, we went to a small but surprisingly expansive candy store that you actually would expect in Disney. We got chocolate covered dried apricots, dark chocolate malt balls, and fudge, munching on the goodies as we drove to our first major activity in the Olympics: hiking Marymere Falls.

It was a three mile hike (queue line?) but breezed by and had a pretty waterfall at the end of it as our “reward” - maybe you’d find it in Pandora? In summary, it was pleasant for what it was.

Afterwards, we relaxed at the gorgeous Lake Crescent with the sun’s golden rays thrusting upon us (overdramatic? Moi?). Escaping from the world and just reading/taking pictures (things you’d probably do with free time at a Disney World hotel) was very enjoyable.

For dinner, we went to get a decent roadside meal at Granny’s Cafe, a homemade Mrs. Knotts-style burgers and fries restaurant with outdoor seating. The Moroccan spiced sweet potato fries were delicious, and the rest was fine too. Also, we saw some animals behind the restaurant and discovered a farm including goats, ostriches, and chickens, like a petting zoo at Animal Kingdom! It was much more enjoyable before I realized I had a chicken burger… Oy.

Finally, to end the night, we drove up to the Hurricane Ridge visitor centre to watch the sunset. The views over the mountains were stunning, like walking into Cars Land for the first time, but, you know, nature. It could also be compared to seeing Expedition Everest from a distance, but it was much more beautiful than that (although I would've been happier seeing Expedition Everest). After taking lots of great pictures and soaking it all up as much as we could, we called it a night.

DAY TWO

We began our day with quiche, hashbrowns, and creme brûlée french toast at the Chestnut Cottage Restaurant. The meal was sugary and filling - like most Disney breakfasts.

After lots of driving, we arrived at Rialto Beach (at low-tide to see the tidepools). Taking pictures and searching for creatures was quite fun, the highlights being seeing some seastars (this isn’t Nemo’s submarine voyage, kids) and the spectacular giant rock formations called seastacks. The seastacks were quite similar to those I’ve seen in Thailand, which is also semi-similar to the giant rock formations in Pandora, but real. Overall, it was a very good nature experience, although we did have to walk through the rocky beach, which was not fun.

After eating some lunchy munchies (hummus and crackers for me) in the car, we went to check in at our adorable log cabin, which looked like it was built out of lincoln logs. It had the same vibe as staying in a Cozy Cone in Radiator Springs.

Then, we ventured into the luscious and highly hyped Hoh rainforest, hiking the shorter trail: Hall of Mosses. It was, as the title suggests, very mossy. Although there were a few cool atmospheric visuals (cough cough PANDORA cough cough), it wasn’t extraordinary.

To cap off the day, we grabbed so-so pizza at Home Slice Take n Bake, which is better than the cardboard they serve at schools, but not great - maybe the food would be at Universal CityWalk if the restaurant’s architecture was fancier. After a round of Bananagrams (this is a stretch, but Toy Story Mania?) and eating some of the fudge we bought (which wasn’t as tasty as I wanted it to be), we called it a night.

DAY THREE: THE FINAL DAY

At the start of the trip, we had bought a box of Einstein Bagels just in case we couldn’t find good food or needed something quick on the road. Today was the day that paid off. After our drive-and-eat breakfast, the clan headed towards the foggy schmoggy Ruby Beach. Once my travel partner finished taking pictures of driftwood and looked for heart-shaped rocks (yawn - it was more boring than Journey Into Imagination with Figment), we found a cove in a seastack where you could smell the ocean’s salt. To my delight, it felt like the Little Mermaid dark ride queue in Florida. After we spent some time reading our books, which was fun, we went, sing it with me, “on the road again.”

Our next stop was Kalaloch, where we got chowder/salad at an outdoor restaurant (not great, but theme park food never is). We chose not to hit the beach since it looked similar to Ruby (which can be compared to clone rides in Anaheim vs Orlando), so we went to the Quinalt Rainforest instead for a short hike. It wasn’t as mossy/unique as the Hoh, but the natural elements were more varied and therefore more interesting to look at - for the last time, it was like Pandora.

Once we made our way to the nearby Lake Quinalt Lodge to rent boats as our final hurrah of the trip (which would be like flat Splash Mountain I guess?), it turned out they were only allowing guests to rent them due to COVID.

And so our trip came to an end, with the highlights being reading, the Rialto Beach seastacks, the spectacular views at Hurricane Ridge, the adorable cabin we stayed at, and the farm-to-table… adventure, I’ll call it. Although not a long vacation nor a super spectacular one, it was a very enjoyable escape from the COVID-centric isolation we’ve all been living in. Stay sane, and stay safe.

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