I don't think the name of my column has rung any truer than after my past week's vacation. It was the best nine days away from my homelife I've ever taken, and it was across the country.
Last year, a decision was made to visit the Olympic Peninsula and see what that side of America had to offer. I can tell you it was not a disappointing decision. And after saving up for months, the trip was finally possible. My first flight was out of Boston to Philadelphia at 5:35 a.m. Around lunchtime, and after hopping another plane, I arrived to a drizzly SeaTac
Welcome to Seattle!
A few highlights from Seattle I can easily recall are the aquarium; the Seattle Great Wheel, which is lovely at night, as you can see the whole city/bay lit up; Von's 1,000 Spirits, a bar/restaurant with a wall of booze and fancy drinks; and the Underground Tour, a tour of Seattle's underbelly, is pretty dang interesting.
But I was less than thrilled with Seattle, if only because it seemed like a typical city. Nothing big or fancy or outrageous that grabbed my attention. No. That didn't happen until driving into the OP, where the mountains take your breath away and the salty ocean air reminds you of visiting the Atlantic with your family as a kid. But this was the Pacific. This was different.
The first stop on the OP tour was Port Angeles, where I stayed in a marina on a 25-foot sailboat. To put it in perspective: I slept in the hull of a sailboat , nice and cozy, with a bucket as a toilet next to my head (it was in a closet), with a sink, a table, a built-in cooler and a space heater only two feet away from the bed. The rocking of the boat swayed me to sleep each night. Sleeping on a boat beats the hell out of any hotel.
Port Angeles is right on the foggy water, with plenty to do and see in the town. The stores and restaurants were hip, and I couldn't help myself from trying to visit as many as possible, only to buy awesome hiking boots at Browns, an outdoors store.
From Port Angeles, a drive by Crescent Lake brought me to a hot springs resort. Sol Duc Hot Springs was pretty nice and warm. If you've never been to a hot spring, try it out if you can. They're pretty smelly, and if you're uncomfortable being in a large shower with nude people, forget I said anything.
After a weird/relaxing experience in hot water, three days of camping followed, without showers. Crescent Lake was, of course, gorgeous. A giant tropical blue lake surrounded by mountains all around? Yes, please. Night one of camping was a learning experience and a ton of fun. Night two brought a hike past the Makah Indian Reservation to Shi Shi Beach. Words cannot describe the amazing beauty of the powerful Pacific Ocean after a backcountry hike. And camping on the beach, while more difficult than a campground, is an experience to rival any other.
Night three brought us to the Hoh Rainforest, where giant spruces, cedars and redwoods towered over the packed campground. One highlight was at dusk, while driving in, we saw about a dozen elk munching on some grass on the side of the road. Their rut is beginning, but before we learned that they have aggressive tendencies this time of year, we went ahead and drove on up to them and snapped some photos. Tourists!
The trip wrapped up at the Quinault Lake Resort and Casino. Although no gambling was to be had by me, I did fully embrace the giant bed in the hotel room and the shower that warmly welcomed me. Being far from my new home in Cheshire made me miss a lot about the Berkshires, but sometimes you have to travel miles and miles to really experience something that brings perspective to your life. I learned much about what I hold to a high esteem, and I think every vacation, while it should be relaxing, should also be a learning experience.