The Olympic Peninsula in Winter

January 28, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Evening on the water in Port AngelesEvening on the water in Port Angeles Over the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, Lisa and I drove out to the Olympic Peninsula. Our first goal was to drive up to Hurricane Ridge, but we wanted to make the drive in the morning, so on Sunday night we stayed at a cheap motel on the outskirts of Port Angeles. That evening, we went for a walk along the waterfront, saw some dramatic clouds, and a few lonely ships anchored in the harbor.

The next morning was cloudy but free of rain; looking up toward the mountains from the motel parking lot, we could see a mass of shifting fog and cloud clinging to the upper summits of the mountains. We weren't sure if we would get any sort of view or not, but we had already come this far, so with tire chains in the trunk and ready to Hurricane Ridge, living up to its nameHurricane Ridge, living up to its name go if things got dicey, we started up the long, twelve mile road to Hurricane Ridge.

But the tire chains turned out to be unnecessary; the last few miles of the road were covered in snow and ice, but there were enough cars and trucks coming and going that the ice was rough and the tires were able to maintain traction. So after some careful driving, we reached the summit of Hurricane Ridge.

5,000 feet above sea level, Hurricane Ridge was busy living up to its name. The wind blasted up over the ridge, sending drifts of snow into our face, and we winced behind our scarves as we hurried across the parking lot to the Visitors Center. On the windward side of the building, snow had piled up into fifteen-foot drifts, right up to the second floor windows.

Sun, clouds, and snowSun, clouds, and snow We had considered renting showshoes and going for a short hike, but the stinging wind coupled with the expense of snow shoe rental (and the fact that neither of us had ever actually snowshoed before) made us decide to wait to try snowshoeing until another time, hopefully somewhere where the conditions were a little less extreme.

So we stayed near the Visitors Center, pleased that we had gotten a view despite the clouds, then headed back down the icy road.

Strolling along the water in Port TownsendStrolling along the water in Port Townsend With most of the day still ahead of us, we decided to go to Port Townsend, on the very northeastern corner of the peninsula. It was about an hour's drive from Port Angeles, and when we got there we had lunch at a little diner on the water's edge. We walked along the water for a bit, where it was almost as windy as Hurricane Ridge, but at least the wind wasn't accompanied by gusting snow.

From there, we drove to nearby Fort Worden, an old army base from the early 1900s. Now the main fort along the shore is an old, spooky derelict that would make a good setting for a horror film, and you can still walk through the dark hallways. If you pretend, you can listen to the echoing screams of the hyperactive children scampering around and pretend they're poltergeists.

We walked along the shore to the nearby lighthouse and Point Wilson, and once we felt thoroughly windblown, headed back to the car. We caught the ferry home to Seattle just as the remaining daylight faded from the sky.


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