We had agonized over the closing of the Hood Canal Bridge, the bridge connecting the Kitsap Peninsula to the Olympic Peninsula across the Hood Canal. The scheduled maintenance was set to run through the middle of June with the opening just after our beloved guests would have left. We watched the reports closely on the internet, each day an revised date for the opening was coming sooner and sooner as crews completed various tasks ahead of schedule. The Washington State Department of Transportation had to complete 20 perfect openings and closings of the draw before they would be allowed to open. The 20 openings had to happen concurrently, each one after the next, perfect. The testing was set for the day before the Grandparents would be arriving. Once twenty draws in a row had been shown to work perfectly the bridge would be opened. I came home that evening to check the website finding all twenty tests had been completely perfect and the bridge was open for traffic.
One of the major plans we had developed was a trip to the Olympic Peninsula. This part of the visit was up in the air due to the bridge closing and now with its completion we could follow through with our plans to see the wonders of the Olympic mountains at Hurricane Ridge. Hurricane Ridge was an all access point to the views of the Olympic Mountains, sort of the drive through version of a mountain hike. The views have been described as breath-taking, amazing and unforgettable. These were all reasons we headed for the Olympic National Park that Saturday.
The trip started with the ferry ride to Kingston from Edmonds. We piled in the car, drove down the hill and waited for the ferry. We were all cozy in the car and fortunate enough to have everyone fit in one vehicle. We pulled onto the ferry and everyone climbed out to go up on deck. It was nice to have a fresh perspective on the area, a new person to share the experience. The kids were excited following Grandma and Grandpa around the boat pointing out their favorite sights while Grandma and Grandpa added their own observations.
We landed safely in Kingston and made our way toward the park. We were getting hungry and spotted a road side burger joint. Squeezing out of the back seat of the car was somewhat of a challenge at this point. We gathered around a table at Fat Smitty's admiring the photos of sailors and marines scattered between signed dollar bills pinned to the walls and ceiling. The main attraction at the restaurant was the Fat Smitty burger, two half pound patties piled on with a bun separating them, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, bacon, cheese and special sauce. This was the northwest's response to the Big Mac, bigger, much less healthy and made to order. Traci and Savannah split one. It was served sliced in half on two separate plates, each half of sandwich was a meal unto itself.
We left Fat Smitty's, bellies full, the minivan cursing us through whining transmission gears as we climbed through thick fog up the road to Hurricane Ridge. The Grandparents had been to Hurricane Ridge a few years ago and promised a view above the clouds where the air thinned and revealed glaciers, peaks and forests. The fog was thicker as we drove until the parking lot levelled out in front of us and breaks in the fog revealed brief views of the nearby mountains. We went to the visitors center where a man volunteering for the park tolerated our witty quips about the cloud cover. He then explained at ten a.m. that day the view had been clear but the clouds rolled in low and had been climbing up the mountain ever since. The view now extended to about ten feet. The Hood Canal Bridge had delivered us to a cloud covered hint of a spectacle.
The grounds surrounding the visitors center was populated with mule deer lolling on the hillsides. They wandered close to the building, through the parking lots and never gave much attention to the gawking tourists. We hiked some of the snow covered blacktop trail around the park. Shane was delighted with the snow, steamy fog rising from the white frozen surface. He dug it up and threw it at everyone, escalating our peaceful stroll through the woods into a full on snowball fight. We were careful to stay on the path or on the snow.
The vegetation at this level of elevation has a short growing season making the grasses and flowers fragile. A Park Ranger had instructed us to stay on the asphalt or the snow and we would not harm the tundra. As we were leaving the trail a man haphazardly walked across the tundra to avoid the snow. He was greeted by Grandpa calmly and directly explaining the reasoning for the proper course through the snow to the asphalt walkway. The man apologized and corrected his direction of travel across the snow.
We drove to Port Angeles and hung out there for a bit. The older girls wet shopping while grandpa and I went down near the water to examine the ships moored there. Most of them were cargo ships, large, floating masses of blue and white. There was little activity on the ships so we walked back to the car and picked up the shoppers.
We tried to eat at a restaurant in Port Angeles. It was a seafood version of Denny's attached to a hotel down near the waterfront. The views were haphazard, the menu was limited, the service was non existent and everyone at our table was hungry. We stayed for about fifteen minutes, ordered some coffee and bantered about the merits of staying and eating in such a place. We eventually agreed getting away from the place before the food had been ordered.
Three restaurants later we landed at a pizza joint, ordered beers for the adults, too much pizza for the kids and relaxed for moment waiting for our pizzas to be done. We all ate too much.
We drove home nearly sleepwalking to our bedrooms. We had to rest, another weekend day was ahead of us.