It was November when we visited this jewel of the pacific northwest. Knowing well some of the roads and sites were closed, and thanksgiving weekend is not enough time to explore the entire Olympic Peninsula, we still made our travel arrangements for a 3day/3night trip. We packed layers, rain outfits, camera gear and were all set to go.
On thanksgiving day evening we arrived at Sea-Tac airport and immediately started on a 2hr drive to Sequim in our rental car. As it was a holiday and all restaurants were closed, we had to manage with frozen packaged food and a microwave in our room at Holiday Inn Express.
We were greeted by piercing cold air as we stepped out of our hotel that made us want to turn around and snuggle in our room. As we walked to the car we noticed that the plants surrounding the hotel premises were covered in frost. We spent sometime clicking pictures before we were on our way to the park on US-101. Our first stop was the Olympic national park visitor center. We collected a map and enquired about Hurricane Ridge, which was closed that day due to un-drivable conditions. So we decided to head to Hoh Rainforest first and make stops on our way back. About 75 miles on US-101(1:30 hours approximately) till we hit a left on upper hoh road (another 18 miles). Contrary to our plan we stopped many times along 101 to capture beautiful frosted trees and grass along the sides of the road. We had an early lunch at Pacific Pizza in Forks as we knew we won’t be able to make it out of the forest in time.
As we turned on upper hoh road we could tell we were entering the iconic temperate rainforest. It was a windy road between tall mossy trees and deep green vegetation. Tiny ferns and mushrooms growing on nurse logs and on tree trunks was a great photo opportunity. It took us a good 3 hrs to finally arrive at the visitor center. It was a short 0.8 mile trail to Hall of Mosses starting at the parking lot. The smell of damp forest, frozen trail, frosted ferns and fallen leaves, moss draped trees, moss hanging from the branches looking spooky - it was otherworldly.
On our way back we stopped to photograph the beautiful scenery of flowing hoh river edged by Sitka Spruce on the other side. Quinault rainforest and Sol duc were not accessible due to rain damage. It was already dusk so we figured we do not have enough time to explore the beaches along the pacific coast. So we drove back to Sequim just in time for dinner.
We made our first stop at the visitor centre again and luckily the road to hurricane ridge was open. Just off the parking lot there was a trail deep into the woods but not sure where it lead to. We did not go all the way in but just enough to spot a few mushrooms. We drove our way up to hurricane ridge on a zig zag icy road. It was bright and quite warm at the peak where we were welcomed by incredible panoramic views of the olympic mountains. All the hiking trails up there were blocked by deep snow. On our way back downhill we almost had an accident when a car coming in the opposite direction lost control.
We had our lunch at Fanaticus Sports Grill in Port angeles and headed to Lake Crescent. The scenery cannot be described in words. It was jaw droppingly beautiful but bitterly cold as well. The whole setting was painted in white frost, fallen leaves crunched under our shoes as we walked and the serene lake was surrounded by beautiful mountains.
Frost in different shapes and sizes clinged to the vegetation but so weak that they crumbled by our touch. It was our first time witnessing frost of that magnitude. Totally excited we spent lot of time photographing. It felt like a 100 degrees below zero. It was funny how we were running back to our car every 10 mins to warm ourselves in the heat from AC. We hiked a distance on the Marymere Falls trails but did not go all the way as it was too cold for us that our toes and fingers were numb. The day was almost over so we returned to our hotel.
We debated between waking up early and going to the beaches or spending the day in Seattle. We ended up going to Seattle as we felt it would be too much of a drive and afraid we may not be able to make it back in time for our evening flight. After a 2 hr foggy drive we arrived at Space Needle in Seattle. We had a delicious lunch at the quirky Collections Cafe. The collections and displays inside were very interesting; every table had a display of its own.
We visited Chihuly Gardens first. Indoor glass installations and glass gardens were absolutely amazing. The glass making process was very interesting as well. When our time came we took the elevator up to the top of space needle. The sky was almost clear so we were able to see the downtown and amazing 360 degree views of the city.
The scene quickly changed. We drove to the airport in frighteningly invisible fog conditions, and boarded our plane back home.
There was so much amazingness that cannot be put in words and pictures don’t do true justice. We missed out on a lot of places because it was winter which means we may be going back, sometime during spring.