From the Elwa Valley, I continued on US Highway 101 toward Crescent Lake. By accident, I pulled into the East Beach area of Crescent Lake. I soon found myself on a small piece of lake shore with only a few people on the beach.
It was beautiful. I walked around and took several pictures.
I wanted to get in the water so I rolled up my pants and walked out into the shallow beach still wearing my flip-flops. The water was cold and my senses sharpened as the water started lapping against my ankles..
I stopped to enjoy the moment: people laughing, kids splashing around in the water, one boat yelling out to another another off in the distance and a dog on a paddle board barking. It was perfect.
I continued on US-101, following the lake's shore to the Crescent Lodge. The road into The Lodge from US-101 passed through a stunningly beautiful grove that made the whole thing feel like a dream.
I explored the grounds for more than an hour. I hiked a short nature trail then strolled along the beach that made up the lake's shore. There's a large dock extending from a portion of the beach adjacent to The Lodge. On this day, the dock was doubling as a diving platform for a group of kids enjoying the warm summer weather.
The Singer Tavern Cottages are situated in a shady section just feet from The Lodge. They're a beautiful collection of small cottages, each with shaded porch and wooden rocking chair.
There was a lot of activity inside The Lodge itself. The lobby restaurant, bar, gift shop, and reception desk were all buzzing.
I went inside to buy a sticker and mail a few post cards, but a cold beer at the bar was too good to pass up. I ordered a pint of Pyramid Brewery's Singer Tavern Amber. It reminded me of Negra Modelo, a Mexican beer a really like.
Apparently, Pyramid brews Singer Tavern for this bar alone. The Singer Tavern was the original lodge before the National Park Service took the place over.
I left the Crescent Lake Lodge and continued west on US-101, bound for the Sol Duc area. I wanted to hike up to Sol Duc Falls and survey the Sol Duc Campground.
I stopped to get a photo of Ansel next to the National Park boundary sign, then headed up to the park entrance.
It was getting late when I arrived at the Sol Duc Entrance Station. The Park Ranger was still manning the station so I showed her my Annual Park Pass and continued into the Park.
I pulled over at the Eagle Ranger Station but it was already closed. I'm not sure if they have a park passport cancelation but it's close enough to US-101 for me to return later.
I saw signs for Sol Duc Hot Springs but, in the interest of time, passed on stopping. I really wanted to hike up to Sol Duc Falls and it was starting to get late.
I did stop for the Ancient Forest Nature Walk. It was a short trail through an idyllic section of rain forest that looked more like a manicured garden. Once again, I was treated to a ecosystem that seemed to find the perfect balance of ferns, moss-covered logs, and old growth canopy.
The Sol Duc Campground is one of a few at ONP that can be reserved on Recreation.gov. I wanted to have a look so I'd know which loop to reserve if I have the opportunity to return in the future. The Loop A campsites felt cramped, almost to the point of being awkward. The Loop B sites had more space and provided more privacy from neighboring campers.
The road ended at the Sol Duc Falls parking lot. I parked and started up the path toward the Falls. The distance to the falls was about a mile one-way. The path cut it's way through a forest that looks like dinosaurs should be walking around.
The Falls were idyllic. The creek cascades through a series of stone pools above the falls before falling into a narrow moss-covered stone canyon.
Beyond the canyon, the creek widens as it winds through the lush forest down steam.
I enjoy seeing how the Park Service finds the balance between protecting these natural features and building the trails, bridges, boardwalks and viewing decks that make them accessible to everyone. Sol Duc Falls is a great example of that.
As I walked back to the parking lot, I took some time to appreciate in more detail things like the foliage, moss, and rays of light bleeding in through the canopy. It's easy to take for granted the individual components that contribute to the overall effect in a place like this.
After the waterfall, I made the drive back to my campsite at Heart O' the Hills Campground near Hurricane Ridge.