written by David Volk | photos by Jason Redmond
The rented 1991 Westfalia’s acceleration framed the camping trip. It took about two minutes to get from zero to sixty. Fortunately, the open road, nostalgic hippie adventure getaway did not require speed.
Squishy brakes aside, traveling without a schedule and little need to stop allowed me to coast on this three-day drive around the Olympic Peninsula in a Volkswagen camper van from Peace Vans in Seattle. I usually don’t camp alone. Normally, I shuttle my kids to their troop trips. But not this time. No booger-flicking boys or high-pitched chattering pre-teen girls, just the cool air, silence of a campground and a quick walk right before sunset.
The first night I rolled into my camping site at Dungeness Recreation Area campground and scouted out the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge before it closed. When I returned to my campsite, I polished off a bottle of Hummingbird Hills blackberry soda—a perfect nightcap for reading in the quiet. The next morning, I walked the sand spit, a narrow 5.5-mile strip of land. Beached logs jutted in all directions and required dodging the driftwood no matter which direction you took.
After the peaceful morning, I took off and gave way to capricious stops. I pulled over for every scenic overlook along Highway 101. After enjoying the 624-foot-deep glacial Lake Crescent, I followed the signs for Sol Duc Hot Springs, a resort with hot mineral springs, in the Olympic National Park. A dip in the hot springs costs $14.
Roadside attractions aplenty meant another advantageous whim to follow Sasquatch near the turnoff for Route 112. I investigated and found furniture maker Connie Bangert who painted Bigfoot on 8-foot-tall sheets of plywood and sold them for $100. Since one did not fit in the rental van, a few selfies with Sasquatch sufficed.
I hit the Hoh Rain Forest in the early evening and began the short hike on Hall of Mosses Trail, then switched to the Hoh River Trail to see the waterfalls about 3 miles in from my beginning spot. I wagered how much time to spend at the waterfalls, knowing I had to check-in at Kalaloch Campground, approximately 39 miles away from the rain forest. I hit the road, once again.
My campsite at Kalaloch had a view of the beach and the setting sun. Enough light left me with enough time to plate dinner and pour a Finn River Hopped Cider. I made my plans for the next day as the darkness faded over the picnic table. In the morning I would finish circumnavigating the peninsula.
The benefit of a solo road trip meant I didn’t have to run plans past anyone. Whatever turnoff or idea popped into my head, I could act on it. Such freedom rang true the next morning when I realized that Neah Bay, the northwestern-most city in the continental United States, was close. Being a native Floridian, there was something appealing about journeying from one corner of the country to the other.
So I went driving and looking for that point. The curvy, coast-hugging highway that passed through the Makah tribal town and the road to Cape Flattery took far longer than I had anticipated.
Hiking down a series of observation decks afforded me the opportunity to witness the sea stacks, cliffs, coves and caves where the Pacific Ocean and Strait of Juan de Fuca met.
I stood at the end of the country, a dot on the Olympic Peninsula, and watched the restless ocean. At the end of this road trip, I had my son waiting for me, wanting the hockey rink ice swept. I stayed just a few beats more to milk this solo adventure.