After working in Utah for several days, I headed straight to Seattle for my next assignment.  Fortunately, I arrived on Wednesday evening, and I didn’t have to work again until Monday.  This gave me the opportunity to visit two close friends who had recently relocated from Colorado to Seattle.  It also gave me the opportunity to do some hiking in the Pacific Northwest.


Traveling straight from Utah to Seattle promised a dramatic shift in climate.  I did end up experiencing a significant change in the weather, but it wasn’t exactly what I expected.  My flight from Salt Lake City was delayed by 30 minutes thanks to an unexpected rain storm.  Once we got in the air, the flight to Seattle was highlighted by a startling view of Mount Ranier, its upper 5000’ rearing up out of a thick layer of clouds.  I’ve often heard that Mount Ranier creates its own weather.  This effect was clearly on display, as the peak was surrounded by a tumultuous sea of clouds.  From my vantage point, it wouldn’t have seemed out of place if someone had skied down the peak and surfed across the sky.


I was greeted in Seattle by partly cloudy skies.  Where was all of the rain I’d heard so much about?  Brian met me at the airport and we picked up my rental car.  From there, we headed to Brian and Jill’s place on Bainbridge Island.  The drive there would’ve been more pleasant, if the brutally bright sun hadn’t been shining right through the windshield.  By the time we made it onto the Olympic Peninsula, I was contemplating moving to Seattle and opening the area’s first Sunglasses Hut franchise.


Bainbridge Island is nothing like what I expected.  The island is only a short ferry ride away from downtown Seattle, but it isn’t covered in rampant suburban development.  In fact, parts of the island are still undeveloped.  Large areas on the island have been set aside as parks and natural areas, and most of the existing homes are on large lots.  Although there is some retail on the island, there is very little of the crap usually found around major cities.  There are no Wal-Marts, Home Depots, or Best Buys.  The only fast food restaurant is a single McDonalds.  All of this makes for a pleasant place to live.  On the other hand, a 3-bedroom house there costs at least $400K.  Oh well.


As you’d probably expect, Bainbridge is a rather wet place.  Like Seattle and the rest of the Pacific Northwest, it receives more than its share of rain, especially in the winter.  All that rain can be tedious, but it does make for a lovely environment.  Large trees grow everywhere, and ferns and wildflowers are abundant.  That evening, Brian put one of the dogs outside, and when it returned a few minutes later, it had moss growing on it!


Brian, Jill, and the family moved to Seattle in January.  Since then, they’d been mainly focused on settling in and unpacking.  They hadn’t had much chance to explore.  On Friday, I gave them an excuse to visit the Olympic coast for the first time.


After a late start, Brian and Jill loaded their daughters, Kaitlyn (7) and Izzy (3) into the minivan for the long drive to the coast.  We headed around the north side of the peninsula, stopping at a Subway in Port Angeles for lunch.  After a particularly scenic drive around Lake Crescent, we passed through the town of Forks and continued on to the coast.  Our destination for the day was Rialto Beach, which is only a few miles north of Second Beach, where Christy, Dave, and I had backpacked several years earlier.  As luck would have it, we arrived at 2pm, which just happened to coincide with low tide.  Low tide is the ideal time to visit the Olympic Coast, because the receding water exposes tide pools full of sea creatures.  I was hoping to find some starfish to show to the girls.  Today, low tide also meant that we’d be able to visit the Hole in the Rock, a natural arch a short distance north of Rialto Beach.


We parked at the trailhead, and walked out to the beach.  The view was stunning.  Just offshore are dozens of tiny islands and rock formations known as seastacks.  Heavy, dark clouds hung overhead as we walked up the beach.  We followed a strip of soft gravel north, passing between thick stands of mossy cedars and the pounding surf.  Along the way, we dodged between numerous fallen trees scattered around the beach.


A few minutes later, a light rain began to fall.  This wasn’t terribly surprising, despite an optimistic weather forecast.  After all, we were walking along the edge of an immense temperate rain forest.  Luckily, the rain didn’t last long.  After only a few minutes, the rain stopped and I took off my rain gear.


We crossed a freshwater stream and approached an impressive series of seastacks.  Near the outcrops, I found what I’d been looking for.  Several tide pools had been exposed by the receding tide.  The first few I inspected were empty.  A few minutes later though, we found some tide pools inhabited by starfish and sea anemone.  The walls of the seastacks were covered in mussels and more starfish.  Kaitlyn seemed fascinated by the starfish, which came in a startling assortment of colors.


After exploring the tide pools, we continued north to the Hole in the Rock.  At high tide, the stretch of beach around Hole in the Rock is underwater.  To continue north, hikers are forced to follow an inland path that crosses the headland above the arch.  It was still close to low tide when we arrived though, so we were able to explore the arch.  We hiked under the arch, which provides access to the next beach to the north.  All around the arch were vast tide pools.  I must’ve seen more than 50 starfish and dozens of sea anemone in the area immediately surrounding Hole in the Rock. 


After a few photos we began the hike back.  The walking was surprisingly difficult, thanks to the soft gravel.  We headed back quickly, and returned to the car only a couple hours after we’d arrived.  From there, a couple hours of driving brought us back to Bainbridge Island.

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