We left on a Sunday and spent 5 nights exploring the Olympic Peninsula. We had sort of intended to spend 7 nights but with Friday being the 4th and all, it was a little not-our-style to be in a packed out campground and the idea of driving home in the soft rain seemed much more appealing than setting up a tent.
Before our trip I did extensive googling on ‘exploring the olympic peninsula with toddlers’ and ‘family activities in the olympic peninsula’ and such. The biggest advice I got was DON’T GO ON LONG HIKES and CHECK OUT THE EXCITING MARINE LIFE AT LOW TIDES. Both great advice. And so here is our version of a family camping trip in the Olympic Peninsula.
Our first decision we made was that we were going to do the trip in a clockwise direction. Most advice online suggests doing the trip in a counter-clockwise direction but the dates we wanted to book at Hobuck didn’t line up so well if we did the trip that way.
So our first destination was Lake Quinault.
We packed up the car like expert Tetris players (something I find so strangely satisfying) and made a quick stop at Fremont Market for some lunch before making the 3 hour drive all the way to Lake Quinault.
What we packed for Mika
3 books, bubbles, a box of chalk, her blankie and 2 of her tiny dolls (Mimi and Lulu). We also packed the iPad in my bag but to our actual huge surprise, we didn’t use the iPad ONCE, until she discovered it by accident on our last day. Somehow she managed the 600 miles or so of driving with just this awesome music CD (found on Spotify) and small talk with her imaginary friends Snake and Monkey.
Lake Quinault is gorgeous. We set up a tent at Falls Creek (no reservation needed) for $20 a night and almost had the entire place to ourselves. The water was swimmable and we cooked some veggies with pasta for dinner and had hot cocoa before sleep.
The next morning we did some little hikes opposite the campground. There are many tiny trails of less than a mile each that you can kind of join together to make your own distance. Mika walked for 1.4 miles of trail and then we carried her for another .6. Super great family spot that was definitely not too busy on a Sunday afternoon.
Our second night we spent at Kalaloch which did NOT live up to the hype. It is one of the only campgrounds in the peninsula where you really need to reserve a site and we managed to grab one a week before we left. The campsites are all on gravel, so it feels sort of like you are tenting in a parking lot. And the ocean view is nice I suppose, but it’s pretty windy and once you make it down to the beach it is quite spectacular but not we-should-spend-the-whole-day-here-building-sand-castles sort of lovely, more like this-would-be-a-romantic-windy-wild-beach-walk sort of lovely which, of course, we were not able to really make the most of. So Kalaloch was meh.
From Kalaloch we drove up the coast to Mora Campground via Ruby Beach which is wow beautiful and perfect for a half-full day excursion with toddlers. We walked to little rock pools and saw huge starfish and beautiful colors.
We stayed at Ruby Beach until we were hungry for lunch. Our next stop: the Hoh Rainforest. The Hoh Rainforest is pretty spectacular and we happened to be there on the hottest day of the week (92F/33C). We hung out in the visitor centre for a while, mainly for the air conditioning, and then set out to do the Hall of Mosses trail. The trail is easy, Mika walked 3/4 of it, but despite the beautiful moss and trees and nature, I was being followed by some nasty stinging flies/bees that would NOT leave me alone. We had left the bug spray in the car so I sort of just swatted and walk/ran most of the trail and felt flustered and hot by the end of it.
Back in the car, we stopped at Forks (Twilight famous) for some supplies and continued to Mora Campground. We found the best camp spot in Loop E (closest to the river) and set up our tent nestled amongst huge trees.
You can’t walk to the river because apparently it’s moved over the years and so we had to hop back in the car and drive to the beach (4 minutes). The beach was Rialto beach and it is covered in gorgeous drift wood and amazing rocks (not much sand).
We did the hike to the hole in the rock – we strapped Mika in the Ergo with the intention of making it a good-paced trip, but with mistiming the tides and and walking mostly on piles of sinking rocks (not packed sand) it turned out to be about 3.5 hours round trip. The wild coast is so beautiful and towards the end of the walk Mika fell asleep on Ivan’s back so the whole thing felt sort of magical.
For dinners at Mora we had hummus sandwiches one night and the best ever easy-to-make bean burgers the next night.
From here we were joined by some friends and we made the 2 hour drive to Hobuck Beach Resort. We had booked a cabin for a night which didn’t have ocean views but was a 2 minute stroll to the beach. The vibe of the place is very Indian Reservation as opposed to hot tourist spot and it was definitely one of our favourite places so far. It reminded us a lot of the top of the north island in New Zealand (like a much bigger version of Spirit Bay).
We swam in the ocean, played frisbee and buried the girls. We took our first shower in a week and felt so fancy and clean that we decided to go out for dinner. The sun was low and hot and we drove to Neah Bay and found what seemed to be the only dining spot in town and right on the water. It was almost suitably named Warm House Restaurant.
If you are ever up that way and you get the urge to dine out – DON’T. Steph and I shared a seafood platter and there wasn’t anything on our plate that wasn’t deep fried in the most repulsive batter you can imagine. The place is really just a small town Denny’s or a glorified seafood version of KFC. It’s not worth it.
The next morning we drove out to Cape Flattery and told the girls they would need to walk the whole thing. I actually had no idea what the walk would be like or how long it was, but the girls managed marvelously and the trail itself is extremely toddler fun/friendly. The views at the most northwestern point of the contiguous United States aren’t overly spectacular, but it’s more just the sort of feeling one gets when standing at a point that is the ‘most’ of anything. (Glorious).
From here we headed back down through Neah Bay and stopped at Pat’s Place for some Indian Tacos which is something I WOULD recommend because the place is small and run by Pat herself and the food must be bad for you but is delicious.
And this is where we made the decision to head straight home instead of trying to set up a tent at Lake Crescent. It started raining lightly and we decided we would stop at Sol Duc hot springs so we could swim in the rain and then drive back to Seattle.
Sol Duc Hot Springs is nice but not really the greatest place for a 3 year old. There are 3 small thermal pools, more just like hot tubs, and only one of them allows toddlers. There is also a big non-thermal swimming pool that is ‘warm’ but definitely not toddler warm and so at 4pm when they closed the toddler-friendly pool for an hour for cleaning/resting, M really had nothing to do. So she and Ivan went inside to get a beer and I swam for another 15 minutes in the colder pool before hopping out.
There is supposedly a lot of great hikes around the hot springs and so I think the ideal thing to do would be to stay in a cabin next to the hot springs, sans toddlers, hike all day and relax in the hot springs in the afternoon before dinner.
So that was the whole trip. Camping with a toddler was, in our case, easy and enjoyable. We had such a good experience and we can’t wait to do more. On the way home M asked us when we would go camping again and we told her that we plan to do it as MUCH as possible before her little sibling arrives at the end of summer.
we got out of the city for a night, mid-week. the big trees, the snow, the lake, the cozy cabin, the HUGENESS of it all – it’s the sort of stuff that makes me love this part of the world.
it’s snowing right now and i’ve decided that i never want to take snow for granted. maybe that means always living in places where snow is just a possibility rather than a sure thing. last night we were walking from a friend’s place downtown to get some dinner and snow was falling and beautifying everything it touched. and it is so beautiful to experience the squeals and the joy and the excitement it brings to a city that doesn’t really always expect it.
i deactivated my facebook account. which i didn’t think warranted a public announcement, but apparently some people think facebook is Real Life and so to ensure some that i haven’t committed suicide – i am STILL alive. And if you are wondering why i decided to leave the party, i feel like it could take an entire novel (that i’m never going to write) and really, the gist of it is that i don’t see the point anymore. maybe i’ll change my mind, that’s cool. just for right now, this works for me.
i went to New Zealand with mika for the whole month of january. it was hot. and wonderful. and all the things. here is a list of the things that made me really happy in NZ:
- my mum & dad (oma & opa to mika) and ALL the time they got to spend
- running a LOT & not needing to bundle up and then finishing each run with a jump in the ocean
- swimming in the ocean
- swimming lessons for mika (2 weeks EVERY day!)
- pub quiz with friends (this makes me really happy even though i don’t really contribute and usually end up wondering why i think i like pub quiz)
- long blacks
- teaching my first yoga class! (and loving it)
- watching jazz in a park
- watching an outdoor movie projected on a silo
- playing squash with my brother
- playing LOTS of banagrams and catan
- doing cryptic crosswords with my dad
- eating fish and chips on the beach
- going to the bay of islands for an incredible wedding
- a long road trip with my brother
- running an old favourite bush run with my brother
- being able to spend so much time with some of the people i love the most
- and mostly, the real reason the trip was even planned – to watch one of my best friends get married. and to spend so much time with both of them. and for them to spend so much time with mika (their goddaughter). here’s what you missed out on:
where am i again? another 18 hours, totally different from the last time (we both sorta just slept the whole way), and i’m back in seattle. no matter how many times i do it, plane travel still blows my mind. i can wake up in winter time in new zealand and then go to sleep in summer time in seattle. it’s crazy.
the whole trip was sorta crazy. after being sick for so much of it, we finally managed to cram a bunch of stuff into a couple days: i played squash with my brother, we picnicked with one of my best friends and her two kids, i caught up with a group of ladies and babies that i joined before mika was born (who are now ladies and toddlers with baby siblings!), i managed to have lunch and dinner and drinks with friends but still didn’t manage to see everyone.
and then maybe the best part of all – my brother and i did the drive out to the beach that we grew up near and we walked along the wild west coast of new zealand and i felt tiny and humbled and strong and free.
6 hours from Seattle to Honolulu and things were going swimmingly. We’d gotten up at 430am, rode the bus and the train to get to the airport for 645am. Mika was so easy to travel with and here we were in the outside garden at Honolulu airport and I was congratulating myself for such brilliant parenting whilst drafting a blogpost in my head along the lines of ‘how to not only survive being in transit with a 2 year old for 18 hours, but actually love it too’. Of course I should have been suspicious. As we all know by now, just as i’m convinced i’m the best parent in the world, life starts laughing at me.
Just to make it clear though, we did have a very enjoyable 6 hours on a plane and 3 hours in an airport, so a total of 9 hours in transit that were really quite wonderful. I would go into detail about the ‘airplane fun box’ i made for mika (a magidoodle, max’s mud, a woodkin’s dressup doll, tiny books, toy animals etc) but she just played with each one (to make me feel good i’m sure) then asked if i’d brought the ipad. Hmmf. But I wasn’t complaining: we managed 3 hours of quiet play, 1 hour of ipad, 2 hours of gorgeous sleep and then 3 hours of running around a garden. Which meant for me: 3 hours of watching mika play with fun new toys, 3 hours of crosswords and book, and 3 hours of stretching and chasing mika around a garden. WHAT MORE COULD I ASK FOR? 9 hours down, only 9 to go, I’M KILLING IT!
We’re the first to board the big plane in Honolulu, direct to Auckland. Mika runs ahead and finds our seat and i’m putting our bags overhead and she starts throwing up all over our seats. I swoop her up and run her to the toilet, but not before she throws up again in the isle and all down my legs. The flight attendants are on it in a flash, they divert boarding passengers to the other isle, replace our seat cushions and get to work disinfecting everything. Jesus. I clean mika up, calm her down (she’s crying and scared of all the commotion) and then change my own clothes.
I was hoping it was just a random one-time throw up thing, but this turned into the longest 9 hours of my life. Her tiny little body, lying in my lap, naked, sweating, heaving, sleeping, throwing up, and the wonderful attendants collecting our spew bags and bringing us fresh towels and blankets. The lovely doctor on board, who sat with us, eager to dispense advice, and my sudden realisation that our lack of health insurance in the states meant that i was essentially getting a $400 consultation FOR FREE and so hence making the most of it. The exhaustion i’d feel every time mika threw up, feeling the exhaustion of her tiny little body. Not being able to read or watch a movie or fall asleep because mika would throw up on herself and i wanted to catch it in time to sit her up. Counting down NINE hours and realising (painfully) that nine hours is longer than I spend with her one on one over the course of a regular day. Not being able to eat. Not being able to stretch out. Not being able to go to the toilet.
And then the feeling of relief when we landed and the lady at customs not batting an eyelid when she realised i’d only half filled out the immigration forms and when we got through the gate and saw mum and dad and vinny and brooke and they took my bags and we got home and mum bathed mika and i lay down, exhausted and relieved that i was with my parents and relieved that mika was smiling again and relieved that i was stretched out. Waking up and realising it was morning and mika wasn’t next to me or in her crib and opening the door to mum & dad’s room and seeing mika stretched out between them, on a towel with a spew bowl next to her. Seeing Red at brunch and feeling like i am home even though i know i couldn’t live here right now. Watching mika play with her grandparents and uncle and sleeping on grandpa’s lap. Putting on my running shoes and running through a city that i know so well, the air so cold and biting on my lungs compared with seattle right now, and wanting to leap and jump and punch the air for the feeling of gratefulness for space and air and life that one can only feel after sitting for so long with a sick baby on an airplane.
It’s been a trip. And i have to soak it all up because it’s all i can do to stop myself getting anxious about doing it all over again in 11 days.
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