Our Trip to the Olympic Peninsula

Dosewallips RiverMy wife and I have been exploring the Pacific Northwest since the day we started dating. We’ve seen much of Washington and Oregon and will probably drive to Idaho and Montana this summer. This particular weekend, we spontaneously decided to explore the Olympic Peninsula and venture into the Olympic National Forest in an effort to photograph some of regions immense beauty. My friend Adam suggested we also spend some time in Port Townsend, a little artsy community on the northeastern tip of the peninsula. I spent Friday planning the trip with Google Maps and the Washington State Parks and Olympic National Forest homepages. We also bought a pair of coolers, important gear missing from our camping supplies. I grabbed my old boy scout dome tent, packed the jeep and headed west.

BarnOur campsite at Dosewallips State ParkOur first stop was the Dosewallips State Park, which we found almost empty except for a few hardy campers willing to brave the cold nights of early spring. We arrived after dark and quickly set up our campsite. Our neighbors from a nearby campsite were friendly and came over to introduce themselves. We quickly established that we has some similar hobbies, including photography and they invited us to their campsite to share some home-brewed beer and good conversation. They also had a fire that put ours to shame. In the morning T and I packed up our campsite and headed north to Port Townsend. We would return to Dosewallips State Park that evening to stay in a comfortable platform tent that I reserved on Friday. The drive to Port Townsend was full of breathtaking scenery and we stopped frequently to photograph it. We planned to attend mass in Port Townsend at eleven and so each stop made us feel a little guilty about prolonging our trip.

Downtown Port TownsendWhile driving to Port Townsend, I had two little birds fly out and hit my jeep about twenty minutes apart. Both of them were killed and that almost ruined my day. I have always loved birds and I never expected them to fly toward a moving vehicle. I’ve hit opossums and raccoons before but never birds – it was a bizarre event. We finally arrived in Port Townsend only to find that were late for mass. Our Lady Star of the Sea, the town’s Catholic parish, had scheduled mass fifteen minutes before the time listed on the website, so we sighed and entered the church. We spend the morning and part of the afternoon exploring Port Townsend and browsing the art galleries and shops on Water Street. I highly recommend the Stepping Stone Gallery at 1017 Water St. The artist is incredibly talented and produces oil-on-canvas paintings showcasing the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. He takes his art a step further and designs frames to accent each painting by utilizing textured materials such as embedded wood or glass. When we were finished browsing shops, we headed to the northern tip of the town and drove through Fort Worden State Park. The Park takes its name from the commander of the USS Monitor, the first ironclad warship that saw action for the north during the Civil War.

Reflections on the lakeLake Leland at duskLater in the afternoon we decided to head south toward Dosewallips State Park stopping at Lake Leland and the Rocky Brook Waterfall. While photography was the main motivation for our trip, I also used it to scout out some great fishing spots. Lake Leland was a perfect fishing hole. It has a campground, a beautiful setting at the base of the Olympic Mountains and is apparently full of fish. We spent some time taking in the picturesque scenery, snapped a few photos and headed south again to reach the Rocky Brook Falls before dusk. Fortunately, the falls were just a short drive from our campsite.

Old boat

Rocky Brook Falls is a hidden gem, which is ironic since its incredibly easy to access. Water cascades from a height of 168 feet in a single 25 foot-wide fan. A little over twenty years ago, a micro hydroelectric plant was installed at the falls to help power the nearby town of Brinnon. The buildings of this plant hide the trail that leads to the base of the waterfall and if we hadn’t had precise directions we would have never found it!

Inside the platform tentWe returned to Dosewallips State Park just before dark and claimed our platform tent. The park has three of these tents, designed to provide visitors with a bit of a historical context. Raised up on a wooden platform, the tent consisted of a set of canvas walls and a triangular canvas roof with a waterproof tarp for rain protection. Early loggers, pioneers and miners in the Hood Canal region traditionally used platform tents as they offered good protection from the elements. As night fell a rainstorm started to dump buckets of water adding to the coziness of our canvas castle as we fell asleep basking in the warmth of our space heater while listening to the melody of a thousand raindrops.

Platform tent

Murhut FallsPregnant wife on the trailNot wanting to leave our comfortable platform tent, we slept in as long as we could. After packing up our campsite we headed east into the Olympic National Forest – our destination being the Murhut Falls trailhead. While driving on unpaved forest roads we saw plenty of wildlife, including a herd of shy mule deer. As we reached higher elevation, the ground began to show signs of thicker snow cover. We quickly realized that our trek to the falls would involve a lengthy snowshoe hike. The hike itself was a workout but well worth it for the waterfall was a real prize. I have to applaud T’s effort since she is in her first trimester of pregnancy and suffering from intense nausea. We stopped on the trail as necessary for photographs and nausea control, eventually reaching the falls. Before arriving at the Olympic Peninsula, we stopped by a camera shop and picked up a neutral density filter. For some reason, they are incredibly difficult to find, perhaps because they have limited applications. ND filters are used to reduce light intensity entering the camera, allowing longer exposures without overexposing the subject. They are essential for photographing streams and waterfalls and we put ours to good use when we reached Murhut Falls. In fact the picture you see here is a pair of images that I stitched together in Photoshop.

We had an amazing time and I’m already planning another trip to explore the northern and western side of the Peninsula. We also intend to enter the Olympic National Park and possibly backpack into some of the more remote campgrounds. I’ll be bringing my dad here as well for some great fishing. Regardless of what we decide to do, I’ll blog it here.

Murhut Falls

4 Comments

  1. Learned about Rocky Brook Falls and platform tents at the state park from your page. We will be checking it out.

    Thanks-

    Alex

    Port Hadlock, WA

  2. Right on. The platform tents are usually taken on the weekends, unless you can register for them early enough. Rocky Brook Falls is just a short drive from the freeway and its well worth the visit. Have fun!

  3. hi do you have any pictures of the walk way up to rocky brook falls, im getting married up there and want to show my grandma to make sure she can make it up there. Thanks! *sara

  4. I do.. I’ll send you an e-mail.

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