ONP & Mt. Rainier—D20

Once I had my LRRH (Little Red Riding Hood), I knew I could go for more extended periods of time camping. For my next week off from the jets, I chose to explore the Olympic National Park in Washington. I was starting out from Tacoma, so my route took me from the south up to the west coast, rounding the north, and then jetting out back east. I only had one place picked out: Hoh Rainforest. From my brief research, it looked magical and drippy with character. The Hoh did not disappoint—I visualized and found the perfect camping spot on the corner of a lush road with a fallen tree, two dogs across the road, and a white van next door (ask me about my visualizations later… they’ve been extraordinarily profound lately!) Anyways… as you can see below, it was like magical fairies gifted Heaven down to me and smiled. I spent a joy-filled evening just sitting by my campfire and watching the world not rush by, then the next day I hiked five miles through the forest, passing waterfalls, rushing rivers, and serene hikers who had spent the night sleeping next to them.

Continuing up the coast, I didn’t have much of a plan, but looked at my map and saw—Beach #1, #2 and #3. There were short hiking trails attached to them, so I decided that this would fill my day, and I would end at Mora Campground just a crick away from the water. I think my jaw literally dropped open when the hiking path opened up and I saw the view of beach #2. Giant mounds of earth and trees reached out of the shallow waters against fallen remains of their ancestors lying on top of each other on the sandy shores. The tide was low, so people were actually able to walk all the way out to one of the monoliths (I did not because I was not in the mood to go barefoot and have my feet freeze off.) This was my first experience with a beach in the PNW—and I knew right then that I need more. A lot more! I proceeded to hike to beach #3. As I walked, I imagined a man at the end who would chat with me and share some great information… lo and behold, I met him. He told me about a great site he’d just left in Rainier Nat’l Park. “Do you remember the site you were at?” I asked. “Why, yeah I do! It was D20! It’s truly breathtaking, the best site in the whole campground, right on the edge of the cliff overlooking Mt. Rainier.” Right then & there, I knew how I would end this road trip. D20—Here I come!

I read there were hot springs nearby, so that was the plan for the next day. I found the very last spot at Sol Duc campground that night and shared my wine with a woman who pulled up next to me in just a pick up. She was hiking and soaking all day, ate a bite of a sandwich, and set up her camping mat in the back of her truck. I invited her for a glass, and we ended up chatting for over an hour by the campfire. The next morning, I gave her my (now spare) air mattress and wished her a happier sleep for the remainder of her journey. Then off to the soaking pools I went. It was two hours of blissy hot pools mixed with quick dips into the frigid cold waters. After feeling quite noodly, I showered and decided to head to the next mystery spot. On the way out, I got into conversation with a lovely woman named Spring who lived nearby. She told me of Diamond Lake, and a great little secret spot where I could go and take my chair and wine and get away from the masses and twirl my toes in the water. She also invited me to stop by her home and say hello and, heck, stay the night if I wanted with her and her husband. I memorized the directions to her house, and bid her adieu. I did end up driving by the next day, but I got shy and decided to just wave and continue on, appreciating the openness and warmth that she offered me. I also wanted to find this secret spot at the lake as soon as possible! On the way to the lodge, however, there was a big accident, and the only road was backed up for miles, so I took a detour to explore the edges of the north end of the lake, maybe have a picnic. That’s when I came across my own private Idaho—or, in this case, a dock. Nobody else around, just me and the breeze coming off the lake, the water lapping up on the shore, one beer, and a sandwich. Perfect. The traffic cleared and I made my way to the lodge—following Spring’s directions, I actually found the secret beach, twirled my toes in the cool sand, and sipped my glass of chilled pinot gris.

Time for D20. The whole way out to Rainier, I envisioned pulling up to D20 and seeing it free, setting up camp and reveling in the views that my #3 beach guy had described. I saw myself saying hi to my neighbor, him inviting me to share some wine and a campfire, and us having a stellar evening together. (I’m telling you, people, this stuff is pow-er-ful!) That is exactly what ended up happening. Well, not exactly… D20 was occupied, so I took D19. But guess who was in D20? Yup. The guy who invited me for wine. The next day when he left, he passed on his campsite to me, so I spent day 2 in the exact spot the beach #3 guy had told me about, sipping my coffee at the edge of the canyon where the white river flowed through, staring up at the glacial mountain above which adorned a white cloud cap at its peak. The stars were out full force, and I even saw a shooting one… so bright, it made me gasp.

The ONP held up this year’s tradition of each place being my favorite—each one bringing just as much happy happy joy joy as the last, but with different characters, shifting scenery, and wild surprises.

Below, some of the images that can’t even come close to sharing some of the magic with you…

The incredible lush & beautiful Hoh rainforest campground.

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Hike to Beach #3, where I met the man who told me to go find D20.

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Below: My “hike” 5 miles out to sea to the New Dungeness lighthouse & a hidden treasure private Shelly-dock on Diamond Lake!

Mt. Rainier and the stunning Whitewater campground.

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