And so we left the comfort of our Airbnb, with still some DIY to do, on to our first campground. The plan is to ‘dry camp’ or ‘boon dock’ as much as we can, which means we would stay in places without facilities. As our RV can provide what it needs (water, gas, electricity) on its own, we do not need to be somewhere where we can hook up our electricity and water. A big reason to do so is of course to save money! But another very important reason is that it means you can get away from the beaten path and really enjoy the outdoors.
Tall Chief RV Resort – Our first campground
To find our bearings however, and to do the last bits of painting, we opted for an official RV resort just outside of Seattle. We signed up for ‘Passport America’ (thanks Tom for the tip!) which got us 50% off, and reserved for 1 night as no more was available. This campsite has water and electricity hookup on your own campsite, and is located in the woods which gives it a very outdoorsy feel. We were welcomed by Bill, the ranger on duty, and found ourselves a nice spot. To taunt our misfortune we went for spot number 13, convinced that our unlucky streak must be over.
It seemed like it, as the swimming pool which was under repair actually opened up the next day, and one hour into our stay the ranger came to tell us there was a cancellation and we could stay one more night! The place was the perfect spot to figure out life in an RV, and fantastic for the boys as they roamed the roads on their bikes, played on the playground and saw their first deer and squirrels! In the meantime the last bits of painting was done, and Sven tried out some bike trails in the neighborhood while getting groceries.
The thing that really hit us now is that this RV is one fantastic vehicle! Everything works, it is comfortable, and bigger then you would expect. We have one ‘slide-out’, which is literally a part of the RV that you can slide out, making the inside even bigger. Of course walking the campground we realized that we are by far the smallest RV in the place, with trailers that are so big, one was even pulled by a full truck! If we thought parking would be difficult, we realized that there are pickup trucks the size of our RV… So we should be good!
Sven also had his first try at cleaning/emptying our black water tank (i.e. our toilet) which was a test he passed with flying colors. Hence Luc has decided this would be his ‘task’ as he is so good at it 😊. We filled up our water, cleared our grey water (i.e. dirty water from the sinks and shower) together with the black water and with all appliances powered up again, we considered our first 2 nights to be a camping success!
Harvest Hosts – Another brilliant option
After this first camping experience it was time to get 2 more things sorted: A US mobile phone number, and a bike for Kim. We spent the better part of the day visiting the Snoqualmie Falls, doing the big groceries, having a picnic in a local park with a large playground, and bought a bike that will work for the rest of our trip, and fills up our bike rack nicely.
To stay the night, we decided to give Harvest Hosts a try. Another membership we signed up for, which gives you the opportunity to sleep at farms or other places of business for FREE, provided you buy some of their produce. The prerequisite is that your RV should be self-contained, meaning you do not need anything from the host to stay the night properly (e.g. bathroom, kitchen, etc). Our first stay was at Reed’s Sweet Wine just south of Seattle, where we were welcomed and invited to take as much ripe fruit as we wanted. Of course you do not have to say this twice to Luc & Bo, so we went off to clear the place of anything edible. End result: 2 empty boxes (Luc & Bo ate everything along the way) and a bowl filled with raspberry, blueberry, mulberry (a first for us, very delicious!), blackberry and … The next morning we had an explanation about all the funky wines the lady of the house makes and sells and bought ourselves a ‘taster pack’ with 5 little bottles.
Casino night – For free?
We traveled on, upward into Olympic National Park, but before actually entering it, we stayed in the parking lot of a casino, the 7 Cedars, for free! They even had 8 spaces with electric and water hookup, but those were already taken, so we simply parked in the big parking lot. We had to sign up in the casino, won a beginners 5 dollars we lost again on the machines, and the boys were even allowed to have a quick tour through the casino to get a feel for the place. As a one-nighter it was absolutely perfect…. Did I mention it was free? 😊
Olympic National Park – Hurricane Hill
We hit our first NP, the first of many we presume. The honor went to Olympic National Park, right around the corner from Seattle and sporting mountains, rainforests, lakes and pacific coastline. In order to visit a NP, you have to pay the access fee. Olympic is 30 dollars for 7 days, or you buy an annual pass for ALL National parks, at 80 dollars. This is of course a great deal for us as we plan to visit as many as we can, and it is valid for everybody in the RV!
We decided to stay in an NP campground for the first night, and after claiming a spot (it is first come, first serve), we made our way up to the top of the Hurricane Ridge. Our RV was not allowed for the last 1,5 miles, so we decided to put our thumbs up and try to score a hitch to the start of the trail up the Hurricane Hill. It is fully paved, and a steep ascend, but the rewards are quite awesome. There are still patches of snow in the middle of summer, deer and squirrels abound, and the views at the top are simply stunning. After a snowballfight, we made our way back down and got a ride from a very kind couple from Arizona, we are sure we will meet them again on our travels! In the campsite we finally fired up our brand new grill, which resulted in a deliciously cooked meal outside of our RV, and could even build a fire!
Marymere Falls, Lake Crescent and 3rd beach
The next day we split up, Sven went on a 35-mile bike ride to lake Crescent, while the boys and Kim left the campsite to get our cancellations at the Visitor Center, before making our way to the trailhead for the Marymere Falls. After a steady easy walk, Luc finally got a bit of challenge in a hike, with a steep and narrow path up to the falls. When we got back and felt the water of the lake, the parents boasted about taking a dive, which unfortunately on this side (there is a boat ramp) was not allowed. So we moved to another spot where the water was much choppier and thus seemed much colder, but of course we took the challenge and dove right in for a refreshing (brrrr) dip.
Lunch on the go, as we needed to catch low tide at 3rd beach. To get there, a forested walk ending in a steep descend to the sandy beach had to be mastered, with again lots to see and a nice challenge at the end. The beaches of the coastline are known for their tidal pools, which show marine life you would normally not see at a regular beach such as anemones, starfish, urchins, etc. unfortunately we caught the worst tide of the month, but were still very impressed with the things we saw. We can only imagine what it is like at a better tide… After some sanded play on the beach, we made our way back to the RV to drive out to the Hoh Rainforest for the next day. We try our first ‘boondock’ i.e. dry camping in a pull out along the road. We actually took a little gravel side road for a bit and parked our RV at the end.
Hoh Rainforest & Quinault Lake
The next day, we wake up early and leave for the Hoh Rainforest Ranger station before having breakfast. The Visitor Center at Port Angeles had mentioned that the Hoh Rainforest parking lot gets crowded during the day, which means that people will only be let in when another vehicle comes out. To avoid this, we drove there before 9:00, and decided to have breakfast in the parking lot of the ranger station, before heading out on the trails. This was a good call, as 10 minutes after we arrived all RV spots were taken, and when we drove out a few hours later, there was an insane queue out by the NP gate to let people in.
We first visited the ranger station, which had a very good display on the rainforest and its inhabitants. Especially the banana and liquorice snails peaked the interest of the boys, for which there was an extra cancellation in their book, so the hunt was on! There were 2 loop trails; the Hall of Mosses (0,8 mile) and Spruce Tree (1,4 mile) which were easy hikes and very impressive. The first is a loop that shows all kinds of spooky mossed trees and explains about how fallen trees create rows of new trees on top of them, a colonnade. The second actually passes the river, where in our imagination of course we were waiting for a bear to appear across the river to scoop up a salmon! We didn’t see one, but there were warnings for elks and bears at the beginning of the trail. Only thing we saw was two little boys in colored sweaters…
After Hoh, and enjoying the traffic jam we passed on the way out, we made a long drive down to Quinault Lake. We had a nice picnic on the north shore of Quinault Lake before heading all the way south towards Aberdeen, where we would stock up in the Wallmart, making our own little foodstorage in the RV. Then we headed out to our last Harvest Host stop around the NP; The Azebrasis ranch. A lovely small ranch with a few horses and a green pasture you can park in. Charlie, the host, showed us around and helped us to some fresh produce from her vegetable garden, which was really tasty and educational… Who knew stevia is actually a plant, not just a brand??
Next week: Week 5, exiting Washington through Long Beach, on to a new state – Oregon!