Labor Day Weekend I took my first official vacation day (Yippee!) and flew to Seattle to visit Jenny, who was working in Seattle with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Early Friday morning we woke up, picked up our rental car and drove to the trailhead, a 3 drive around the south end of Puget Sound, through Olympia and Aberdeen and then to Lake Quinnalt in the southwest quarter of Olympic National Park. Our hike started up the Quinnalt River with some nice views of the Olympic Mountains towering in the background.
Twelve miles later we arrived at our campsite in a thicket beside the river where we enjoyed some Seattle microbrews and some couscous with sun-dried tomatoes and smoked salmon (how appropriate).
The next morning we climbed 3000 feet up and out of the Quinnalt River valley to a set of meadowy lakes at 5000 feet.
As we approached the top of the ridge breathing hard and looking down at the muddy trail to make sure we didn't slip, we suddenly heard breathing ahead of us. We looked up and not 40 feet away was a Roosevelt Elk, the largest of four elk subspecies in North America. And trust me- he was big. He was probably 8 or 9 feet tall and luckily for us not interested in a few scraggly hikers. After glaring at us while he continued to chew some grass, he turned around and bounded off, shaking the ground as all 1000 pounds of him daintily hopped away. Alas, my camera reflexes were a little slow, so no photos...
Camp was beautiful but mosquito infested. We put up the tent as fast as possible and then hunkered down until it was safe to come out after dark.
The next morning we looped back to our car and continued our journey around Olympic National Park, stopping briefly to play in the ocean:
Followed by a quick drive through Forks (OMG!), the setting for the Twilight novels. I didn't actually know Forks was where the books are set, but driving through quickly resolved any doubts: Vampire Woods Tours! Vampire Souvenirs! Full Moon Werewolf Tours! The only thing we stopped for was gas. We eventually made our way back to the ferry back leading back to Seattle and we were back at Jenny's by 6 PM.
The next day we checked out the city, including the Chittenden Locks in Ballard, Pike Place Market, Capitol Hill, and the University of Washington. We had a clear day and the beauty of the campus was evident with Mount Rainier dominating the backdrop.
That night I (sadly) bid my farewell and returned to New York on a redeye, ironically leaving North America's wettest city (and wettest non-tropical location: Olympic National Park) after a beautiful cloud-free weekend and returning to drenching fall rains in New York.
All in all, a fun trip, with a fun hiking buddy (see her flattering mug shot below!).
Seattle - a city I could definitely live in and perhaps even return to sometime soon (foreshadowing!).