Olympic Nat’l Park-Seattle: day 4

This morning started like all the others during my days in Olympic: up at 6:30, make coffee and breakfast, clean up campsite, pack…however, today had a little more extensive packing, as I was getting ready to leave the mountains and head back into civilization.  However, I could not leave the Park without one more tour.

I left the Sol Duc river valley by 8am and headed east.  After circling Crescent Lake one more time, one comes upon the Elwha river and valley.  The Park Service is undertaking a major project to remove the two dams on the river, reverting it back to a natural state.  I was hoping to see the dam while it was still in existence, since it won’t be here the “next” time I make it to the Olympic peninsula. However, the road was closed and I couldn’t get up there.

So I headed back out and turned back to Hurricane Ridge for one last view of the mountains. For fun I cut across River Road, through the heart of the mountains.  This narrow dirt road bypassed Port Angeles completely, and connected directly with the park road.  It was a foggy, dusty journey through farmland, homesteads, and timber company land.  After about 30 minutes of driving, I reached the road and started climbing.

Today there was a fair amount of cloud cover, which made for some dramatic vistas and pictures of the lowlands.  I didn’t stop too frequently, as I had a mission (to be on the road by 11:30 to make it back to SeaTac and return my rental car!).  I made it to the visitors center and continued on to the Hurricane Hill parking area.  I set of on the hike, hoping it wasn’t too long (and missing the mileage sign).  This paved path headed through alpine meadows and scrubby forests…nothing like the western rain forests!  Right as I summitted, my camera died, which was probably just as well!  I booked it back to the parking area, as it was getting late.  When I got back I saw that the hike had been 1.8 miles.  If I had known that, I probably wouldn’t have done the 40 minute hike.  In the end, I was glad I did…and it only set me about 15 minutes behind schedule!

After an uneventful 2 hr drive (one drive-through latte later) I made it through Tacoma and to the airport.  Though I was bummed to have to rent a car, in the end, I’m glad I did.  I saw a ton of cool things in the park…just wait till I get home and can download my pictures!

After about 45 minutes on the train I made it to Seattle, and then a 6 block walk later I was at the hostel.  They were playing Nirvana while I walked in…good sign.  Free wi-fi, computer room, reading room, continental breakfast…I think
I’m going to like this place.

I took a quick shower, dropped off my stuff, said hi to two of my 3 roommates, and headed into the city!  First stop, 360 Local for a burger (delicious) and a beer (too light).  The bartender was a friendly Seattle native who recommended the Smith Tower to me.  As it was billed as “cheaper and cooler” than the Space Needle, I was sold!

I meandered my way there, strolling the waterfront, having an ok espresso at the FIRST Starbucks, and checking some ferry prices.  I think I’m going to try to catch the 9am ferry across Puget Sound and back to start my day right!  Finally, I made it to Smith Tower, a 1914 building.  The observatory was on the 35th floor and offered panoramic views of down town and the rest of Seattle…including the Space Needle.  The ceiling was carved mahogany and inlaid Chinese tile.  Very cool!  There is a 36th & 37th floor…originally holding the water tank for the building and a small caretaker apartment.  However, it was renovated in the mid-nineties, the tank was removed, and now the penthouse is owned by a young couple!  I am frankly jealous of these two, and I wonder how they snagged such a great spot!

Afterwards I wandered a little more.  I wanted to wait for sunset to head back to the waterfront and take some shots, so I stopped in a local brew pub and tried the sampler.  Nothing impressed me frankly, and then it was 8:30 and time for sunset!

The views from the harbor were beautiful.  From the Olympic Mountains in the distance, the luxury apartments behind me, and the industrial machinery of the port to the south, it was a scene of great contrasts!  There were a bunch of people out strolling and taking in the sights…Seattle has the wide streets of a western city and a nice mix of old and new buildings.  There weren’t many people out earlier, which I found surprising, but a lot more made it out in the evening.

So, the ambitious plan for tomorrow: ferry ride, espresso tour, Sci Fi/Rock&Roll museum, REI (return bear mace), espresso tour, Seattle Underground tour, espresso tour?, dinner, and figure out how to get to the airport at 5am on Wednesday.  It will be a full day, but I should get some good sleep tonight!

ps: pictures at Flickr