Today I'm sharing the last part of our amazing trip around the Pacific North West! It was such an awesome vacation!
After Matt and I left Rialto Beach, we headed straight up North to the most North Western point in the contiguous United States, Cape Flattery!
This was the last few days of our trip around the Pacific North West before we headed back home to Charlotte. It was a more low-key part of the adventure but the views, wildlife (we photographed an American Bald Eagle!), and beauty did not at all disappoint. I personally love the ocean and the beaches so I was very excited to see more of it! I even found a little treasure...
CAPE FLATTERY, NEAH BAY, & HOBUCK BEACH CAMPGROUND
Driving up to Cape Flattery is full of beautiful photography opportunities. We stopped at just about every overlook because I was determined to find whales as this is a top whale watching area along the Pacific North West Coast. I was whale watching the entire trip, everywhere we went, but unfortunately, we saw none. Bummer! But we did get lots of great boat, bird, and landscape shots along the highway into Cape Flattery.
There are so many unique birds in the Pacific North West. Here is a heron enjoying a sunny morning with alcids, cormorants, harlequin ducks, and western grebes. I wanted to see and photograph puffins so bad (they are adorable!) but we didn't see any of those either.
These are Harlequin Ducks. They are striking small sea ducks with a small bill, short neck, and long tail. They enjoy turbulent waters and dive down in the ocean for their food which mainly consists of mollusks and crustaceans.
Tall beacon-like sea stacks are all over the Pacific North West coast, even in the far north western corner at Cape Flattery. I love the sea stacks at Rialto Beach but these were also very cool. I am fascinated by them!
If you look closely at the bottom right of the photo, there are dozens of birds sitting on a rock enjoying the warm sunshine. This is a typical sight all around the PNW.
This is another really amazing waterway with tons of wildlife. Everywhere you turn there is something beautiful to see! This river is located along the drive to Hobuck Beach Campground. Look at all those birds!
Purple wildflowers thrive along the easy hike to Cape Flattery at Neah Bay.
The 1.2 mile hike out to Neah Bay at Cape Flattery is easy peasy! You go through a dense forest of Sitka Spruce trees before you reach the bustling coastline. Boardwalks like this one help guide the way. It was a lot of fun!
Here is what it looks like once you reach the end of the hike! Beautiful views of tree topped sea stacks and vistas everywhere with incredible vantage points.
Cape Flattery at Neah Bay is where the straight of Juan de Fuca joins the Pacific Ocean. There are 5 observation points over steep elevated cliffs.
Geological formations such as sea caves, sea stacks, and contoured cliffs can be seen along this rocky coastline.
Cape Flattery is rich with marine, bird, and plant life. I love the light in this photo and how it illuminates the blue swirling ocean waters below. The waves were very strong and choppy.
Tatoosh Island can be viewed in the distance. It has a functioning lighthouse that helps guide ships away from the rocky Washington coast.
Sunset was incredible. We were hoping for lots of clouds and color but we were presented with another stunning sunkist sunset! Absolutely gorgeous!
Blue Hour at Neah Bay! This was one of my favorite photos from the day! I love the wave that is crashing at the bottom and the dense forest that meets up with the ocean and the Canadian mountains in the background.
We parked the camper van at Hobuck Beach Campground that night. It is a very popular campground on the Makah Indian Reservation at Makah Bay. This campground and beach is perfect for walking, birding, surfing, and swimming.
Scattered all around the campground are these beautiful Washington Apple trees. They were crisp and delicious!
We woke up the next morning and had a delicious breakfast then took a leisurely stroll, coffee and cameras in tow, along Hobuck beach. It was such a sunny, breezy, and perfect morning!
Matt went off for a bit to photograph some landscape shots down the beach while I took my shoes off and played around in this sandy tide pool area. I was looking for shells but I found something even better! I found a treasure peaking out from the sand: a Pacific Coast Sand Dollar. I couldn't believe it! I was like a kid in a candy store. I yelled down to Matt jumping up and down. I was so excited that I totally forgot to even take a picture of it in the moment on the beach.
I took the sand dollar back to the camper van, washed it off, dried it out, and polished it up and this is what it looks like today. It's absolutely lovely. It sort of looks like the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, doesn't it?
Pacific Coast Sand Dollars are only found on the West Coast from Alaska all the way down to Baja, California. They are often found in abundance in tide pool areas adjacent to the ocean like the one I found it in (pictured above). I'm sure I would have found so many more if I kept looking. These sand dollars are very unique as they practice suspension feeding. In other words, they feed standing up on their side while other sand dollars (like the ones you find in Florida, etc.) feed laying flat on the sandy ocean floor.
It's currently sitting on my dresser in my room and I look at it every single day. It means the world to me and is a constant reminder of the amazing time we had in Washington!
A few hours after I found the Sand Dollar, we photographed our first ever American Bald Eagle in the wild. Wahoo! It couldn't have been a better day.
Just like we had been whale watching the entire trip, we were also Bald Eagle watching too as Washington State has one of the most thriving populations of American Bald Eagles of anywhere the US. We actually saw a Bald Eagle fly by us at Mount Rainier but unfortunately we weren't fast enough to get a good shot so we were still hoping to find one before we headed home...and we did!
While we were driving back down the highway out of Cape Flattery, I spotted this beautiful Bald Eagle perched in plain sight on a rocky cliff overlooking the ocean. I shouted, "OMG! BALD EAGLE! BALD EAGLE! STOP THE VAN!"
When we got out of the van, we slowly and quietly crept up to get a shot of him on the cliff but he flew away down to this rocky cove. That's when we realized he was feasting on some recently caught prey. He was munching away! I think he was eating a bird because he kept plucking out white feathers and spitting them out. American Bald Eagles are birds of prey and eat all sorts of things including fish, ducks, and other birds.
In the 1950's the American Bald Eagle population was almost wiped out due to the use of DDT and other pesticides but thankfully in 1972 DDT was banned and since then steady population growth has been occurring nationwide.
The American Bald Eagle was removed from the Washington state federal endangered species list in 2017.
After he flew out of the cove, we got back into the van and drove a little ways down the road to see if we could find him again. He was nestled in this tall tree along the coastline. This was our last shot before he flew away for good. I couldn't be more pleased with the photos we got. It was such a bucket list moment for me and Matt!
Lake Crescent is out of a dream. My mouth dropped at first sight. Matt and I were so in awe of the beauty of this lake. The bright crystal blue color of the water, the peaceful tranquility of the surroundings, the beautiful mountain top peaks standing over the lake. We will be coming back here for sure! It was unbelievably beautiful. Words can't even describe it.
Lake Crescent is a glacial mountain lake located entirely within the Northern foothills of Olympic National Park.
It's deepest part is 624 feet and it's 12 miles long. It offers trout fishing, dense mossy forests, hiking trails, waterfalls, picnicking, camping, and boating.
Lake Crescent Lodge is a popular tourist destination where people come from all over to rest, relax, and take in natural beauty. The lodge has hotel rooms, outdoor cottages, a great bar and dining area, and a big lobby with comfy chairs and wood burning fireplaces. You can also rent rowboats and canoes for the day. Matt and I enjoyed a nice dinner here after a long day of hiking. They had delicious vegan options too!
These mountain top views are on the hike up to Mount Storm King. Also known as the hardest and most but-kicking hike Matt and I have ever done in our history of hikes. We almost turned around - we were absolutely exhausted. It was incredibly strenuous. Not at all for amateurs. Phew!
The beautiful views from the many overlooks were priceless and offered more stunning scenes of Lake Crescent from high above.
Lake Crescent is known for its brilliant blue water. The beautiful crystal blue glacial water has exceptional clarity which is caused by a lack of Nitrogen which inhibits algae growth. Thus the water is very pristine and clean.
We were almost at the top of Mount Storm King, which is a really amazing photo op of the entire lake, but the last section was very dangerous. This photo of me looking out at the lake is where we called it quits. To my left is a sheer cliff. We assessed and reassessed going up the steep, dry, rocky cliff behind me to reach the summit but we decided not to take the risk. There was only a dinky rope to help guide you up and with all of our heavy photography gear, I didn't think it was a smart idea. I'm scared of heights like that. One wrong slip and you could fall off the entire mountain. No photo is worth that risk to me. None. Matt pushed and pushed thinking we could do it but I said no. I am very glad I went with my intuition. We already got a lot of amazing photos. That one wasn't worth the risk to me. Safety is always paramount when hiking!
Other fun things to do at Lake Crescent are hiking to the nearby rivers and waterfalls. Marymere Falls (below) is a super easy hike located down the road from the Lodge. The trails are wide, well groomed, and there are ferns and moss covered trees everywhere.
A spectacular nurse log a few feet from Marymere Falls! It was enormous! I love these things!
Sunset at Lake Crescent was simply beautiful! We ordered a glass of red wine from the Lodge and sat outside watching the sun go down. 'Heaven is a place on Earth with You' <3
PORT ANGELES, WA & THE DUNGENESS SPIT
Port Angeles, Washington is a bustling little seaside mountain town and is 17 miles East of Lake Crescent. It's known as "The Gateway to Olympic National Park."
It's the epicenter for the Olympic Peninsula with visitors coming from near and far to visit the Pacific North West of the United States. I even read somewhere that Abe Lincoln called Port Angeles the nation's second capital after Washington D.C.
Matt and I only spent a few hours in Port Angeles and at the Dungeness Spit before we headed back to our hotel in Seattle.
We grabbed a healthy bite for lunch at New Day Eatery Cafe on main street which had tons of delicious vegan and vegetarian options. I ordered the Quinoa and Wasabi Burger and it was absolutely delicious! They also make the best shakes you have ever had. A great little cafe!
A short walk from the cafe is a busy marina with huge barges and beautiful blue ocean views. The harbor is home to lots of wildlife including herons, fish, and funny harbor seals that were putting on quite a show for the visitors.
Port Angeles was a neat city! I definitely recommend stopping by here on your journey around the PNW!
The last few hours of our trip was spent walking around the Dungeness Spit Wildlife Refuge. The Dungeness Spit is a 6.8 mile long sand spit jetting out from the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula into the Straight of Juan de Fuca. It's the longest national sand spit in the United States. The body of water it encloses is called the Dungeness Bay.
This is the New Dungeness Lighthouse. You can easily reach it by taking the 5 hour, 5 mile round trip hike down the spit. You also get an incredible glimpse of Mount Baker, an active volcano, in the distance behind the lighthouse. Wow!
Around the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge you will enjoy breathtaking views, natural coastline, and an abundance of wildlife including 250 species of birds and 49 species of land mammals and marine mammals.
I really loved the landscape here at the spit. In one single photo you have crashing ocean waves, sandy log covered beaches, sheer sand cliffs, and rolling mountains. This isn't something you will ever see in North Carolina. Stunning!
I always find wildflowers where ever I go! Nature always finds a way to thrive even in the most harsh conditions.
After Matt and I finished our stroll at the Dungeness Spit, we headed back to Seattle to drop off the camper van. As we were driving down the highway we caught the most beautiful glimpse of Mount Rainier at sunset. I grabbed my camera, adjusted the settings, and took a beautiful golden hour shot of the volcano with crows flying in the foreground. It was magical! A perfect ending to a perfect vacation!