Friday, August 22, 2014

Campground Review: John Wayne's Waterfront Resort, Sequim, WA

We chose to spend our month in Sequim, WA at John Wayne's Waterfront Resort because it was a reasonable distance off highway 101 and on the edge of town, so more likely to be a peaceful place to stay. Sequim Bay and the lovely John Wayne Marina and Park are right across the street and the Olympic Discovery Trail is less than a quarter mile away.

There are 43 full hookup RV sites, about half a dozen dry camping sites, plus about half a dozen nice but expensive tent sites and a few cabins. Roads and sites are gravel, with picnic tables at the hookup and tent sites. Amenities include restrooms with showers, small laundry room, wifi, three communal fire pits near the tent area, badminton, volley ball, horseshoes, bike rentals. A guy rents watercraft (SUP, kayaks, canoes) on the property. The park wifi was intermittent fast/slow, so we mostly stuck to our own decent Verizon signal (4G with the booster).

There is a small meadow on the hillside above the RV park (great for dogs, Rosie liked exploring there too) and a short trail (maybe a third of a mile) looping around the back of the park through pretty forest, a nice way to stretch your legs in an evening stroll. The marina park across the street has plenty of benches and tables with excellent views of Sequim Bay, a really lovely place to hang out.

Since we were staying a month we requested a site along the back row, up against the trees. We got site 42, which gave us a nice private area for sitting and for Rosie to explore in the trees, much better than the pull through rows in the center of the park. Sites are a little tight, we had maybe 15 feet between us and our neighbors, but having the grass behind us and the trees creating the cozy sitting area made this a very acceptable site.

The park gets a lot of families on summer weekends but our site was further from the tent area and the short stay sites so we weren't really impacted by the influx of families. We were happy with this park (and our particular site) for a month and would stay here again. The park is very quiet at night.

We also had the pleasure of meeting Mark and Glenda, through RVillage, who were camp hosting at nearby Gilgal Oasis RV Park. They showed us around their park, which looked like another pleasant place to stay in Sequim, with pretty landscaping and a location a bit closer to downtown.

The back row backs up to a hillside covered with trees. We are the second site in from the left end.
Our neighbor on the left is a permanent resident whom we hardly ever saw, very quiet.

Our very private feeling sitting area is backed by trees on a hillside.
Rosie LOVED hunting in the bushes behind our site and caught several shrews and a snake!

The middle rows are not as pleasant as the front and back rows.

A small portion of the tent area. Tent sites are way back in the trees.
Restroom/shower facility plus fire pits surrounded by chairs.

The path up to the meadow...

This is about half of the meadow that sits on the hill above our site.
A trail takes off into the forest beyond the picnic table.

A view of the front row of the RV park from the water.
The front row sites are the most spacious and have water views, but also have some traffic.

John Wayne Marina Park is a wonderful place to hang out and observe Sequim Bay.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wrapping Up Our Month in Sunny Sequim, WA

We've had a great month in Sequim; the weather has been amazing, warmer than we ever expected to experience on the Olympic Peninsula. Several days reaching into the 80's, making us glad there are trails in the forest or along the water to keep us cool.

If you read this blog regularly you know we like to hike almost every day. We've hiked an amazing variety of trails during our stay in Sequim, but quite a few of them have entailed a drive of 20 miles or more, one way. Some days we just didn't feel like driving much so here's a summary of the local trails we hiked (or biked) around Sequim (some have been described in detail in my previous three Sequim posts).

Sequim Area Local Trails

Dungeness Recreation Area. A few miles of bluff and forest trails plus miles of beach hiking. Lighthouse nuts (Suzanne and Paul & Nina qualify) can hike all the way to New Dungeness Lighthouse via the 5 mile long Dungeness Spit trail...or go part way if you just want a lovely beach walk. Check the tides first though or it could be rough going.

Robin Hill Farm County Park. 3.5 miles of trails in the forest at the West end of Sequim.

Olympic Discovery Trail. Many miles of paved multi-use trail that passes through Sequim. Much of the trail that passes through Sequim is along highway 101 or through the busy middle of town, so not really conducive to a peaceful walk or bike ride. The portion of trail West of town is the best for a pleasant walk/run/ride in rural countryside. The ODT is accessible via a short walk from our RV park, the John Wayne Waterfront Resort, where we could make a nice loop of 4 - 5 miles by including W. Sequim Bay Rd. as part of the loop.

Marlyn Nelson County Park, aka Port Williams Beach. Located at the end of Port Williams Rd, this lovely little park is a lesser known place to access the beach, especially at low tide. You can walk North to view the Strait or South to see where a spit from Miller Peninsula creates the small opening to Sequim Bay.

We watched a young boy feed this adorable little goat along the Olympic Discovery Trail West of town.

Moving on to how we spent our final days in this beautiful area...

We actually got out on the water during our stay. Our RV park is across the street from Sequim Bay and the John Wayne Marina. Right on the docks is a small vendor renting kayaks and stand up paddle boards, so on our final day with Angela and Debbie we rented kayaks for a couple of peaceful hours of paddling on the Bay.

Admiring the boats in the marina as we head for the Bay.

Happy Hans!

Another day I took our neighbors inflatable kayak out and came across two harbor seals who were as curious about me as I was about them.

I managed to catch one checking me out!

One day we drove West about 30 miles to Salt Creek Recreation Area. This lovely county park offers some very nice camping, with both dry sites in the woods, and water/electric sites on the bluff. There are a couple miles of trails, a world war II bunker, plus tidepools and beach walking along Crescent Bay on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

When we first arrived the tide was low and the fog was fairly thick.

Beach walkers were ghostly...

Heading up on the bluff we found the abandoned bunker which you can drive through.

And got another view of the sea stack as the fog faded away.

Our last really big hike in this area was a doozy: Grand Valley Loop in Olympic National Park. Recommended to us by our Washington friends, Bill and Christine, this was a gorgeous, strenuous lung buster of a hike that took us through lush green valleys sprinkled with summer flowers, across numerous tiny streams and big, rushing, tumbling creeks, past two sub alpine lakes, and up some extremely steep mountainsides that offered spectacular views.

The road to the trail head offers amazing views of the Olympic Mountains.

Not far from the trail head the trail drops steeply into Badger Valley.

Badger Valley is laced with flowers and streamlets and we weave in and out of lush forest as we continue our descent.

Crossing Badger Creek.

Grand Lake really was Grand!

Moose Lake was equally beautiful.

Then it was time to climb out of the valley...

This trail goes up, seriously UP!

The top is finally in sight!

A look back into the valley we climbed out of, now in shadow.
At this elevation the mountain ranges have multiplied with spiky peaks in the distance.

Big smiles atop Lillian Ridge, along with some August snow remnants!

Sequim turned out to be a lovely place to spend a month. We've had plenty to do with a variety of terrains (beach, prairie, forest, mountains), good shopping options (Sunny Farms is an awesome grocery store, there's a Costco too), and we enjoyed several fun meetups as well. It's easy to see why Sequim is a popular retirement destination, with its prime location in the Olympic Rainshadow.

Next up, we head to the West side of Olympic National Park and spend a week in Forks, WA...more forest and beach time coming up!

Last, but not least, I want to give a shout out on a new product made by a friend of ours: Chili Hellion, a smoked habanero powder. If you like spicy and smokey give it a try...we tried it on steak and loved it and the spicy Bloody Mary described on the website sounds delicious! I also made a charred fresh corn and feta salad dressed with a combo of blood orange olive oil and a dash of this spice that was very good. Check it out:

Driftwood masquerading as a sea star along the Dungeness Spit.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Month in Sequim, WA; It's Been Three Weeks Already?

When planning our summer in Western Washington we anticipated temperatures in the 60's and 70's, good temps for our favorite activity: hiking. We've actually had a bit of a heat wave (desert lovers will roll their eyes over this) with temps in the 80's. Fortunately there are plenty of forested trails within an hours drive of Sequim.

One of those forested trails is the Humes Ranch Loop along the Elwha River. The Elwha River had been dammed for 100 years and efforts have been underway to remove the two dams since 2011, with complete removal anticipated in September 2014. This is the largest dam removal project in recorded history and a goal of the project is to enable all five species of Pacific salmon and four species of trout to return in the numbers seen before damming (400,000 salmon per year as opposed to 4,000).

About 95% of the trail is in the forest with a short section along the river and also passes by a couple of historic cabins dating to the late 1800's. It's best to hike the loop counter clockwise so you take the steepest part downhill.

The Elwha River is a lovely shade of blue and has a wide floodplain.

At Goblin's Gate the river makes an abrupt turn...

...and the water is funneled into a narrow rocky channel.

Further upriver we could see how incredibly clear the water is.
The river is at least 10 feet deep in this pocket.

Historic Humes Ranch.

Historic Michael's Cabin.

One morning we headed into the mountains anticipating a 6 mile hike in the forest when our way was blocked by this downed tree.

Closer inspection revealed it had been cut halfway through allowing it to fall across the road. We learned later that local logging supporters use vandalism such as this to protest attempts to expand the Olympic wilderness area.

We attempted to move the tree but too many other trees were in the way.

We ended up doing a short local hike at Robin Hill Farm where we suprised this cutie in the forest:

During one of our Sequim countryside drives we discovered a place to access the coast at Marlyn Nelson County Park. This park sits at the convergence of Sequim Bay and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. One morning with a very low tide we took a walk on the beach, heading South towards the spit that encloses Sequim Bay. It's about 1.5 miles to the spit and starts out with a bluff on the land side that gives way to an open wetlands and then a lagoon so you get to experience a variety of habitats.

At low tide there is plenty of rocky beach to walk on but very little of it was hard packed,
so even three miles RT is a workout.

Here the bluff side becomes wetlands.
Lots of driftwood along the beach.

The Olympic Mountains provide a stunning backdrop to this driftwood tipi.

This week has also included some social time. We finally got to meet Jim and Gayle of Life's Little Advenutres! They are avid hikers and bikers too so we've long wanted to meet up with them but our paths have always been just a little off. And while we did not have an opportunity this time to hit the trail together, we did have a great dinner with lots of spirited conversation and I am sure our paths will cross again somewhere, sometime.

We also met up with Jim and Gayle and the crew they camp with as well as former San Diegans Angela and Debbie at a Farm Store Stomp at Nash's Organic Farm in Sequim. Fun, casual, homey atmosphere at the barn!

Barn Dance at Nash's Organic Farm.

As mentioned above, long ago San Diego friend Angela and her cousin Debbie joined us at our campsite for a few nights. They pitched a tent on our site and we shared dinners and a hike on the Dungeness Spit. We had an excellent sunny, minus tide day on the Spit and chose to hike about half of the 5.5 mile spit. Here, the sand was firm and easier to walk on than the beach we'd hiked earlier in the week. Though it's a relatively flat beach walk, there is plenty to see along the way.

Colorful container ship.
Tons of driftwood to capture your imagination.

Hermann's gulls with their bright red beaks.

Hans, Angela and Debbie enjoying the sun and sweet breeze as the Spit stretches out in front of us.

Shimmering in the distance across the tidal flats lies the New Dungeness Lighthouse.
It would be an 11 mile round trip hike, had we chosen to go all the way out there.

Mt Baker is a specter across the Strait.

A truly fabulous dinner of fresh ravioli and grilled veggies with good friends!

Super moon rise over Sequim Bay.

A larger view of this lovely Bay.