Camping, Hiking, Mount Rainier National Park, National Parks & Monuments, State Parks, Olympic National Park, United States, Washington, Waterfalls

Whirlwind Washington – Part 2: Hurricane Ridge, Point Wilson, Mount Rainier, and Billy Frank Jr Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Time to wrap up talking about my busy week and a half I spent in Washington in May 2022! (Yes, I blogged these incredibly after the fact, and I do not even have an excuse!). You can read Part 1 here, which covered fun stuff like the Hoh Rainforest and Rialto Beach.

Let’s first talk about the day spent wrapping up the adventures around the Olympic Peninsula…

The former Kloshe Nanitch Lookout. This fire lookout was removed in 2012 and just this platform remains. On a clear day, there are amazing views of the Sol Duc Valley. On a cloudy day… well, it is still a cool view!
The path leading from the Kloshe Nanitch Lookout.

This day we would wrap up some things in Olympic National Park and then make our way back to my friend’s house. It really was a random hodge-podge of activities.

Dinosaur at Granny’s Cafe… or at least a descendent of a dinosaur

Breakfast ate, we headed to the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles to grab Junior Ranger books to work on when we got to Hurricane Ridge. Sadly we missed grabbing them at the visitor center at Hoh Rainforest, so we were going to have to rush through completing these. We chatted up a great ranger who told us about some hidden gems in the park to explore, and also talked about adventures in other national parks. Then we headed on the road up to Hurricane Ridge, the most accessible mountain area in the national park.

I took this photo mostly for the elevation on it.

Our visit to Hurricane Ridge mostly consisted of completing the two Junior Ranger books and wandering through the visitor center. Due to the snowy conditions and not having snowshoes with us, we were not able to do any hiking, though there is plenty of it in the area. We’d have to settle for some photos and souvenirs!

Clouds rolled in and out, but we got a few mountain views.
Junior Ranger and Ocean Steward! My first since I became a Junior Ranger in 1990 at Devils Tower. And so begins a new thing to collect.
Obligatory entrance sign photo as we left. Did that a bit backwards!

It was already lunch time, so we grabbed burgers at Fat Smitty’s, and Eric turned the truck towards Port Townsend to see what adventures we could find along the Puget Sound.

We ended up at Fort Worden Historical State Park, driving out to Point Wilson Lighthouse. This lighthouse sits at the end of the Quimper Peninsula and marks the entrance to Admiralty Inlet from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The present lighthouse was built in 1913. It was closed at the time of our visit, but they will resume tours in 2023.

Entrance into Point Wilson Lighthouse
Point Wilson Lighthouse, which was built in 1913

We briefly poked around more of Fort Worden. This fort was one of three that made up the coastal defense system known as “The Triangle of Fire.” Lots of old restored buildings remain, and on site there is a conference center, campground, and hiking trails. A Discover Pass (Washington’s state park pass) is required for vehicles.

Distant mountain views
Labeled photo of the mountains, which included the volcano Glacier Peak

To finish out this day, we decided to jaunt over to Mount Rainier National Park in hopes of catching a sunset. I had never been to this park, so even though it would be just a brief visit, I was game! I mean, I am not going to turn down the chance to do a handstand on an active volcano!

View of Mount Rainier as we headed that direction. 14,000 foot peaks look so much bigger from a sea level vantage point!
A very non-traditional NPS entrance sign at Mount Rainier National Park! Thankfully it was evening so I could stand in the middle of the road to grab this selfie.

We went up the road to Paradise, one of the park’s five developed areas. Paradise is mostly known to the general public for its abundant wildflowers in the summer months, and to climbing enthusiasts as one of the main ways to begin a summit push. But alas, since it was the beginning of May, everything was still covered under a lot of snow, so there would be no wildflowers for me.

Heading up to Paradise

We missed sunset, but still took a few minutes to take some photos and use the restrooms. This was just such a crazy short trip, but I still count it as a visit, even though it is apparent I need to come back one day! I won’t lie, I want to climb Mount Rainier eventually one day soon!

This is my “there is a volcano behind me, huh?” face
Doing handstands on Mount Rainier in Crocs, because why not? From this angle, the summit does not seem that far away?! So misleading!
Nighttime stream views.

The rest of the week in Washington was dedicated to remote work and agonizing over the increasingly awful weather forecast that would cause the trip to Mount Saint Helens to be called off. I was pretty damn sad about this, but not much you can do when that much snow falls.

Why we did not climb Mount Saint Helens. The permit date was May 7th. As you can see… this volcano had other plans for me.
Some spring colors!
An evening walk in Tacoma

On the weekend that was suppose to be Mount Saint Helens, alternative plans were made with Eric and Jen. We headed back to Port Townsend (snagged the Point Wilson Lighthouse passport stamp while we were there) to explore a beach known for its sea glass before heading to camp near Mount Rose, our stand in mountain for the weekend.

Next up was a stop at Rocky Brook Falls, reached by a very short walk near Brinnon.

Mossy scenes are some of my favorite!
Rocky Brook Falls is a fantastic waterfall!
This is how to cheer me up when a volcano says no to me climbing it!
Nature trying to reclaim the sign at Rocky Brook

After driving around Fort Worden again, we met up with Jen at North Beach Park to hike out to Glass Beach, which is just past McCurdy Point. This is a very popular area for finding sea glass, which is glass (that often was dumped as trash in the ocean) that has been smoothed by tumbling around in the water. It is a trek of about 3.5 miles out to get to the best caches of glass. Two old car axels will mark your arrival at Glass Beach, though we were finding sea glass before that point

Heading towards Glass Beach on North Beach
By the time we walked back the water was around this rock as the tide moved in.
Beach views
Anemone in a tide pool

The hunt for sea glass was pretty captivating, and I found myself enthusiastically joining the others in the hunt for little clear, brown, green, and blue specks. Though none of the glass pieces were big, We all managed to collect quite the bounty. Overall, we walked over seven miles, which was a lot more than I was expecting to do. Luckily most was on packed sand, but it was still quite the evening! Time for dinner and heading to camp on the Olympic Peninsula.

For those who know me, you know I do not eat fish. I only tried tuna for the first time in August 2021. So the fact I ordered the smoke salmon mac n’ cheese was amazing! Dinner at Doc’s Marina Grill in Port Townsend
Roof top tent views were not too shabby
Morning camp views. We hit the lottery with a perfect camping spot and hiking location that wasn’t getting heavy rain or snow like the rest of the area.
I’ve had morning coffee in worse places.

I blogged about the hike up Mount Rose here. This was a tiring affair, especially coupled with the seven mile trek to Glass Beach. So on Sunday (Mother’s Day), we agreed to keep the adventures pretty tame. The choice was exploring the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge near Olympia.

Entrance sign photo on an amazing spring day!

Billy Frank Jr Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1974, and protects the area where the Nisqually River flows into the Puget Sound. Over 250 species of birds and other wildlife call this area home. There is a visitor center, but it was closed during our visit (forever thwarting me from getting my first stamp in my Blue Goose Passport Book).

There are several miles of hiking trails at the refuge, so we out to explore the inner loops and then ventured all the way out on the Nisqually Estuary Trail. Though my legs were screaming in protest, we covered a little over five miles!

The trailhead, or so I’ll call it. So not so funny story, just after starting on this sidewalk, I tripped and fell hard onto my knee, tearing my leggings and skinning my knee cap. It was super embarrassing as a decent crowd saw it happened. 😦
Grasslands Overlook obstructed by foliage
Dairy barns built in 1934 that pre-date the refuge. The Brown Farm was started in 1904 after 1500 acres of salt marsh was drained and four miles of dikes were built to keep the water out.
Estuary views
Heading out on the boardwalk across the estuary
The tide was out
The bird life at the refuge was great! I’m not a bird watcher, so not sure what these guys were called
Curious tracks in the mud
Skunk cabbages
Ferns are some of my favorite plants!

And that wraps up my week and a half in Washington last May! Plenty of exploring, though it was sad about the whole climbing plans not working out. Every time I go, I walk away with so many other things I want to see!


6 thoughts on “Whirlwind Washington – Part 2: Hurricane Ridge, Point Wilson, Mount Rainier, and Billy Frank Jr Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge”

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