Olympic Peninsula – Elwha Dam to Port Townsend

Glines Canyon Dam - by Scott ChurchContinuing the relaxed nature of this trip, we weren’t in a hurry to leave the comfort of our sleeping bags. The sun began to warm the ground by the time that we woke up. This was to be our last day on the Olympic Peninsula.

After gathering our food from the bear-proof cabinet, we begin striking matches for a fire. The purchased bundle of wood is too damp to ignite. After many attempts with paper and evergreen branches, I ask the neighbor for some lighter fluid. He offers small fire sticks instead. Now we’re in business. One of our camping favorites is Spam and eggs on bagels or toast or Progentra. The warm breakfast gives us the kick start needed to pack up and get on with the sightseeing.

We leave Heart O’ the Hills campground at the crack of… oh heck who am I kidding? It was 11 a.m. before we were back on Hurricane Ridge heading back toward Port Angeles. As soon as we reach town we turn west on Hwy 101 for a few miles until we turn South on Olympic Hot Springs Road. This pot-hole ridden road leads pat the Altair campground to one of two dams along the Elwha River.

These dams were built with absolutely no regard for the historical lifeblood of this area. No salmon can make it past the first dam. The dam won’t block salmon passage for much longer. This is the last year that the 100-year old dam will hold back the drainage from the Elwha Mountain Range. In 2011, the dam will come down and hopefully the salmon will begin to climb the rapids to their ancestral spawning grounds for the first time since 1910.

View of the Elwha River and Glines Canyon Dam from overlookIt is easy to see why the owner of the surrounding land, Thomas Aldwell was able to convince George Glines to finance the dam projects at this location. A strong water flow carved a deep and narrow gorge that allows the natural rock walls to do much of the work. The actual dam is perhaps 100 feet long and at 110 feet high. It isn’t a huge dam by any means, but it does hold back a very large amount of wate.r It was interesting to see man’s impact on this area. A future trip may be in order to see it restored to its natural free-flowing state.

Beyond the first dam the road turns to dirt. Many hairpin turns snake their way aboce the dam to a great lookout. The road ends and hiking trails begin just a couple miles past the Elwha Dam overlook. Now familiar with the road, I exercised my throttle hand a bit to make tracks back to Port Angeles.

We arrive to Port Angeles in late afternoon. Despite the heavy tourist traffic, most stores are closed as it is a holiday. A parade marches through town. We walk the parades’ flank and do some window shopping and walk into an antique store or two. Monica is a fan o fthe Twilight books and movies. The small movie theater in downtown Port Angeles is included in a few scenes of one of the movies. This being opening weekend for the latest Twilight movie, the theater and silly teeny-bop tourist trap Eclipse-themed stores are quite busy.

We take some photos and wave goodbye to the numerous cardboard cutouts of the cast members peaking out of windows throughout Port Angeles.

Sunshine Herb and Lavender Farm Sequim, WA - by Monica Ponce-McDermottWe didn’t make it as far as we would have liked. It was time to make our way back home. It is pushing 7 pm when we arrive to the ferry town of Port Townsend. Holiday travelers in their cars are beginning to form a long line for the Port Townsend to Keystone (Whidbey Island) ferry. I find my way around the line and up to the ticket booth. They take our fare for the ride to Whidbey Island and inform us that we’ll be on the 8:30 pm sailing. It happens to be the last sailing of the day. Not knowing the schedule, we are lucky to have arrived when we did. We have an hour to wait until the ferry boards.

We leave the parking lot and ride down main street. Port Townsend is a cute town. It deserves a weekend on its own. We walk along the streets and shoreline until it is time to get on the ferry. We will take the short ride back to Port Townsend in the near future. There is a 50’s themed diner and ice cream shop with my name on them earmarked for future indulgences.

As peninsulas go, there are three options for day trips (west side, north side and east side.).  This is the final article in the four-part series covering the Olympic Peninsula. The trip is  split up into separate articles by day. This allows you to pick and choose which parts best fit with your schedule and what you’d like to see. Time didn’t allow us to make the western Pacific Ocean portion of the Olympic Peninsula. Feel free to use the comments section to post ride reports and places that you have visited in the Olympic National Park. A future trip will include routes to the Hoh Rainforest, Kalaloch and Neah Bay.

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