My Best Friend Came from Iowa: Olympic National Park

This summer was spent with several visits from family and friends, including my best friend since Kindergarten. On the top of my list of things to do while she was here was to visit Olympic National Park. This park holds a very special place in my heart. It’s one of the places Andrew and I visited that stole our hearts before we made the official decision to move to the West Coast. Since we moved we’ve had plans on several occasions to go back, but life and weather have gotten in the way.

The first trip this summer was made with my best friend from Iowa. Her trip was a trip of firsts. First time seeing a mountain up close and personal, first time seeing the Pacific Coast, and first time camping! This was a shock to me as I absolutely love camping! We reserved a camp site right along the dune at Pacific Beach State Park (note: I reserved the site before she booked her flight, this place fills fast)! We checked in as soon as we could, set up camp, ate an entire bag of chips and container of guacamole, and explored the beach.

One of the perks of Pacific Beach is campfires on the beach are allowed. This was my first time starting a fire on the beach and I was proud to say I was quite successful. We made dinner in our pie irons (Beyond Burgers and Pie Iron Pizzas) and watched the sunset. After the fire died out we crawled into the tent and watched Criminal Minds on Netflix.

We got up bright and early, packed up the tent and got on the road….we had a long list of places to see before heading back to Portland. Our first stop (after breakfast) was Ruby Beach. This is one of my favorite places on the West Coast. Everything is displayed perfectly…Sea Stacks, Driftwood, Ocean. It was packed even though we were there on a Thursday morning.

We got back on the 101 and headed north toward the Hoh Rainforest. This is one of few remaining deciduous rainforests and every time I visit I feel like I am in a fairy tale. We did Hall of Mosses Trail, just an easy loop right off of the visitors center. We ate a quick lunch of sandwiches after in their (packed) parking lot and got back on the road to hit Hurricane Ridge.

Hurricane Ridge is located on the northern portion of Olympic National Park, just outside of Port Angeles. This part of the drive requires an important disclaimer about me: I ALWAYS take the shortcut! Growing up road trips were always taken with the mindset that we get there as quickly as possible, with as few stops as possible. This has transitioned into my adult life as well so of course when my GPS suggested an alternative route that would save us 5 minutes, I took it!

Keep in mind, we were driving a Mini Cooper. My turnoff was sooner than expected and quickly turned into a single lane road. The decision to take this route was quickly questioned and I responded that if we hit a gravel road I’d turn around….which was not what I actually did. Within a few minutes the two of us were driving down a rough, pot hole ridden road, in my Mini Cooper. We both breathed a sign of relief when houses started coming back into view and the road became paved again.

Shortly after our detour we climbed the winding road to the top of Hurricane Ridge. The view was incredible and looked exactly like a scene from The Sound of Music. There were multiple friendly deer that stopped to have their pictures taken by tourists.

We hit the road to head back to Portland and spent the next five hours singing to the radio and trying to find snacks!

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