The Olympic National Forest is one of the true gems of Washington state and it has so much to offer that you could not possibly view it all in one day. One of the places that we chose to explore over the Memorial Weekend is Hurricane Ridge, which is about 17 miles south of Port Angeles. This road is crazy and I will be completely honest with you if you have a fear of heights this may not be your cup of tea. You climb steadily for those 17 miles on roads that are not always very wide and rarely have a guardrail. BUT if can brave this road there is so much to see. Unfortunately for us it was a cloudy weekend and we weren't able to take in much of the view but even without the view the area was breathtaking. On our drive up and down we were treated with glimpses of the wildlife that was beginning to stir. And at the top of the road is a nice visitors center that offers information on the area, a gift shop, a café and a short video about the national park itself. My advice would be to go later in the summer, probably July, when the snow is mostly gone and the wildflowers will be in bloom. There were a few flowers blooming, as you can see below, but I know more will show once the ground warms up. There are quite a few trails up here that on a clear or semi-clear day produce beautiful views. Definitely a must for the outdoor enthusiast.
View from the top on a cloudy day
Snow at the top of Hurricane Ridge on Memorial Weekend.
So for my family Memorial Weekend was a four day weekend so we decided to venture a little farther from home. We ended up on the peninsula of Washington State, specifically at Dungeness Spit which is just a couple miles outside of Sequim, WA. There is a great little county campground that offers two loops with a total of around 60 campsites (sites 1-33 are first come first serve) None of the sites have hookups but most are beautiful with tons of foliage throughout. There are centrally located bathrooms with clean showers($.25 per 2 min) and a playground for the kiddos. We had a very nice experience here as both the camp hosts and the park rangers were very friendly and helpful.
Just a heads up, the campground is separate from Dungeness Spit one is county and one is considered a nation park so if you pay to camp that does not cover the fee to go and walk the spit (which was $3.00). The hike out to the lighthouse is 5.5 miles from the parking lot and for the most part is not overly strenuous, the hardest part is getting to the beach itself. Make sure and pack water and snacks as it could take you a couple hours, unless you just cruise along and don't look for treasures. Our family did not come prepared and made it just 2 miles short of the lighthouse.
Even though we didn't make the lighthouse we still really enjoyed ourselves. This beach is the perfect combination of the inland and ocean beaches. We were able to find a lot of fun treasures;
This beach had a lot to offer as it has been left relatively untouched. No one is allowed to drag anything off the shore since it is a wildlife refuge. The pole to the right is actually a tree stump that was buried in the sand upright. For my family it was a great experience to be able to walk along the beach without the worry of crazy beach drivers or trail horses running us over. Just my advice but if you plan to do this hike take plenty of water, your camera, some snacks, and good tennis shoes. This is a great place to take your time and enjoy the beauty of the shoreline.
Well I spent the week deep cleaning the camper and decided I couldn't wait to take it out until next weekend. Sooo, a last minute camping trip came about. We didn't want to go to far so we headed down to Alder Lake which was about an hours drive for us from our side of Joint Base Lewis-McChord but it was worth it.
The lake is long and shallow and quite beautiful and we were lucky enough to have decent weather for most of our time. It is a pretty clean lake that can be fished or swam in. My family enjoyed both. We chose to camp in the Rocky Point Campground which is at the end of the lake closest to Elbe, WA. It is small campground (24 sites) but each site has electric and water and although the sites are on the small side they are kept clean. There is a central outhouse that is heated and also kept very clean. The only drawback is that you are right next to Hwy 7 but to be honest we weren't really bothered by the highway unless a large group of motorcycles came by. If you decide to go try and get site 409 as it has the best view and a nice trail down to the beach.
View from our campsite
Although the term beach is a bit of a stretch as most all of it is just huge rocks you have to climb around(probably why it was named Rocky Point). I will say that if you have small children this probably isn't the best choice as the beach itself could be pretty dangerous, there is a larger campground on the northern side of the lake where it might be a bit safer for smaller children.
My son getting his "Sheldon" on.
Even though we did head out to go camping my oldest and I did do a little exploring and checked out the small town of Elbe, WA which was just about a mile or two down the road. This town is very small but full of some great things. The two oldest buildings here are their church and general store(both are pretty cool) and they have a railway museum and, wait for it, a railroad hotel called The Hobo Inn. Now I didn't stay in it, obviously, but the concept was pretty cool. You rent out a train car to stay in. Next the hotel they have a pizzeria that was fantastic and is also in a train car. There is also another restaurant that is in a train car, but sadly we didn't try that one out. For such a small town there was plenty to see.
Great pizza place!!
All in all we really liked the lake and the little town of Elbe and will be making more trips back this summer!!!
Well it s that time again, hiking season!! So we started ours off with bang and went to Wallace Falls State Park on Highway 2. I had read in "Best Short Hikes in Washington's North Cascades & San Juan Islands" by E.M. Sterling that it was a little over 2 miles to get to a view point of the falls and the map at the bottom of the hike stated close to the same distance so we set off trekking up the hill. We decided to take the longer but gradual uphill climb of the railway grade trail and it was exactly as advertised, it wasn't overly difficult with plenty of places to take breaks but when we came to the end of this part of the trail (marked as 2 miles) a surprise was waiting for us as a sign proclaimed that it we had an additional 1.5 miles to get to the falls. We were unable to continue further for multiple reasons and was greatly disappointed to have hiked that far and not see the falls. On the way down the hill I turned on my phone's app, Map My Dog Walk, which I have used multiple times to keep track of the distance we walk and according to this app the walk to the end of the railway grade trail was actually three miles long, not two. So all in all, the hike itself was beautiful (and I am sure it would have been stunning if we had seen the falls) but the maps were confusing and seemed off when listing distances. Plan on at least 2 miles in one direction to see the falls(if you take the Woodland trail instead of the Railway grade trail) but it could be up to 3-6 miles total so just plan accordingly. The hike itself was beautiful, as it winds its way through the forest you will get to see a lot of beautiful plant life and small creeks and streams(which are nice if you have a puppy who needs a drink). Here are a few pictures of the plant life and the view at the beginning of the hike itself.
So we celebrated fall with a trip to the pumpkin farm. We haven't been able to do this for a couple years because of us living in Alaska so it was fun to reintroduce the family to fall fun. The kids have definitely gotten big in the years since we have gone.
We started off the day with a cow ride. I don't know how Goobers actually manage to fit into the car but he did and they were able to take a trip behind a tractor around the farm and had a lot of fun.
You can't go to a farm without a ride on a pony. I am pretty sure that Giggle's pony wanted to ride him rather than carry that big kid. Definitely his last year on a pony ride. I was pretty sure Sassy was going to have a heart attack, she was so excited to ride the ponies.
So the bigger boys couldn't ride the ponies so they went and conquered the hay pyramid and started making a competition out of who could get to the top the quickest.
And then there was a corn maze. This maze was huge. And shaped like big foot, which was their theme. We split into teams of two; Jack & Thud, Sassy & Giggles , and me and the Manchild. The manchild and I didn't take long to get through a portion of the maze, although he had to protect his head against the leaves, lol. Well one of the things we didn't realize was that not only was big foot their theme but they also had one that would roam around scaring people. Thankfully we were never approached, between my apprehension of masks and his skittshness there probably would have been a big foot beat down. :) BUT the children were not as lucky. Seems the youngest team heard the hollering and decided to make their own dang exit out the back of the maze and trekked around it to find us. The older boys came face to face with big foot, which scared the poo out of them.
After our crazy run through the corn maze, we took a break and picked out pumpkins and ate caramel apples, what an amazing lunch. Then went on the other activities. This hay maze was much more my style and was beautiful to boot.
Another family favorite was the corn cannon. Each of the family got two shots of the cannon, they all loved it!
The whole afternoon was a lot of fun. To finish off our time the kids got to do a hay jump and the manchild and I were able to relax and watch them. I have to say that I will gladly spend money doing something like this as a family! It is something that we will all remember.
As our time here at Fort Wainwright is coming to an end my least favorite part of Army life is upon us; farewells. This post has had many ups and downs but for me it had a major first; a out of the home job as a Family Readiness Support Assistant for the Air Cav unit. I won't say that this job was a piece of cake because there were times when I wanted to pull my hair out but the families and Soldiers made it all worth it. And they brought me into their families and made me one of their own. This is the first full time job I have held outside the home since the birth of my oldest over 14 years ago and it felt amazing to have an identity beyond that of mother and wife. I was appreciated by the work I did not because of associations. So back to the farewells; I was farewelled on two separate occasions. The first being done by the Soldiers where I was presented with a Cavalry Saber(not to be confused with a sword as I quickly learned), and I was given a little lesson on the proper technique to run a man through(with could come in handy later on with the manchild)
It was done on a beautiful mount with an inscription on the bottom
I was blown away, the CAV has traditions that they adhere to and to be allowed to be apart of them really meant the world to me.
The second farewell was organized by two ladies who have been special to me Ms. Monika Anderson and Ms. Laura Black. They went through the trouble of organizing a ladies night out for me and it was a great time! During the dinner there were a couple presentations; the first was an award the Patriotic Civilian Service Award, it was such an honor to be recognized in such a way!
It even came with its own medal!!!!
After this award I was given presented with my very own Stetson. I was so excited I could barely contain myself.
Traditionally the Stetsons have cords that represent your rank(officer vs enlisted) but since I don't fall into either category they created a cord just for me of red and white( the tradition CAV colors), along with that they also provided pins that represented our unit, and me in particular. I absolutely loved it and even survived the Breaking in ceremony that comes along with being presented one of these. Essentially a grog is created in the center of your new Stetson and you are then expected to drink from it.
My grog included things like Alaskan beer, brown sugar to represent sand for our deployments, gummies for my children, vodka for the tears cried, baileys for the mornings I wished I could have added it to my coffee(you get the picture).
The ladies were nice to and didn't add anything that would have made it taste terrible. Once the alcohol is added you then begin drinking.
Until someone gives you a little help
It's a another crazy CAV tradition that I was privileged to be allowed to be part of. I will miss all the families that I have gotten to know in the CAV and hope we all cross paths again in the near future!!
PS Thank you Monika and Laura for making the evening so much fun, love both of you girls!!