While Jay was flying across the ocean for an extraordinary adventure, and I was looking for a bit of my own ordinary adventure closer to home. I went with three friends and my cousin to Sol Duc Hot Springs on the Olympic Peninsula and it was an incredible weekend full of relaxation, beauty and relationships.
Sol duc is a bit of a journey. It involves a ferry ride from downtown Seattle, then a drive past Port Angeles and Lake Crescent and then 13 miles up a dead end road along the Sol Duc river. It’s about a two and a half hour drive when you get off the ferry if you go straight there. Since I hardly ever go straight anywhere, of course it took longer! There was a stop for crepes, and one at Walmart since some members of our party forgot their swimsuits! (OA tip: We live in the Seattle and therefore Walmart is not part of our routine. However, when on an OA, Walmart can be a Godsend. They are usually in rural or suburban areas on the way, and you can get anything you might need or have forgotten in one spot)
We had a reservation at the campground, which I highly recommend, since the Twilight mayhem it’s harder to just drive up and find camping on the Olympic Peninsula, and I have spent more than one night driving from campground to campground and eventually sleeping in the car, which is a total drag.
The campground looks like middle earth:
I recommend site 21, which I picked randomly but learned from the campground host is the best site in the whole campground. It’s at the far end of a loop and is pretty large (there’s a great site for one tent way back from the road and fire pit) and next to a beautiful creek. There’s only space for one car but you can park another in the amphitheater parking lot which is only a five minute walk away. (OA tip: when reserving an unknown campground spot on the internet, pick the site that is farthest from the entrance, at the far outside of a loop, not next to the bathroom and near whatever body of water might be near.).
Once we got settled we were excited to walk over to the hot springs for some swimming (0.5 miles on an absolutely beautiful trail). The trail had beautiful Aspen trees
and parallels the Sol Duc River, where it’s clear there is a tremendous amount of rainfall, though on our visit it was gorgeous. On sunny days in the rainforest I am always struck by the sun hitting the moss and it’s silouette.
I can’t wait to see this trail at other times of year, especially when the leaves change the whole trail will be washed in gold.
The hotsprings has a coffee shop and giftshop (with an excellent book selection) and changing rooms (you can also buy swimsuits and towels just in case). They have four pools, one that is cold and the largest (and has lap lanes). Then it has three hot pools (they are not all the same temperature). One of them is open to kids, the other two are not. They are basically like big hot tubs. One has a fountain in it. While in the pools, you are surrounded by mountains and evergreen trees. I can’t imagine anything more pacific coast than that. The cost for the hot springs is $15 for adults and $11 for kids.
After a couple of hours of soaking and talking, we were ready to make our way back to our camp and make dinner. For dinner, we each brought something to share and feasted on cold fried chicken (though some heated it up over the fire), potato salad, fire roasted asparagus and salmon and of course smores! This trip’s experimental chocolate was the Trader Joes Peanut butter and jelly bar and it was delicious.
In the morning we got up and had a leisurely breakfast and a few rounds of coffee. The sun came up over the hills and things warmed up quickly! Afterwards, we took an amazing hike to Sol Duc Falls. The hike, a 7 mile loop, is mostly flat and absolutely gorgeous. You can also drive closer and do a much shorter, 1.5 mile hike. We opted to hike right from the campground. The loop went up one side of the river, crossed the river at the falls, and went down the other side of the river back to the hot springs. You can do the whole hike from the tent without having to drive to any trailheads!
The trail to the falls goes through old growth forest and along the gorgeous river is really the highlight. We saw some wood ducks and heard tons of birds singing. One thing that I love about hiking in familiar environments, is how different the experience can be depending on the weather, the time of year, the time of day, and your state of mind. On this hike I kept noticing the brilliance and warmth of the sun as it filtered through the dense forest and off the clear water. Even though this was my first time on this trail, I was drawn as always to nurse logs, which I’ve loved and known about as long as I can remember.
While watching the falls and taking it in (and enjoying a snack), I was thinking about the brilliance of the sun and I noticed that every few seconds the spray of the falls made a brilliant rainbow that only lasted a couple of seconds and was different every time. Like all rainbows, everything has to be just right to see it…you have to be at the right angle relative to the sun and the water droplets. you have to be paying attention at the right moment. It’s fleeting and you can’t really capture it. But I tried!