May 3rd and 4th, 2014
Our first destination as Vanderlust Americas was decided for us. Danielle's friend Chris had invited us out to the Dungeness Spit - a narrow, ever-growing strip of land on the North side of the Olympic Peninsula. Both Danielle and I had never been and were more than excited to have our first adventure in Big Blue together.
The campground itself was what you would imagine a typical pay-campground to look like. But we were welcomed with warm smiles from Chris and the gang. Because it was the first weekend in May, we were greeted with intermittent May showers that never really went away for the whole trip.
As I had never met any of this group, the first few moments were spent in the usual interview-esque conversations between Danielle's friends and I. But, I always enjoy meeting new people and hearing their stories (if they're willing to share). To me, meeting new people is the spice of life. Everyone has a story - something they've been through, places they've traveled, obstacles they've overcome, pains they've suffered, people they've loved, and the list goes on - and we can often find common ground which aid in the process of acclimating to new company, or their story is so different than our own, we just listen in amazement.
The goal of the trip was to walk the Dungeness spit. At 11 miles round trip, we knew it would take a majority of the day, so we opted to save that for Sunday so we could tackle it early and cross our fingers for a break in the weather.
Instead we ate, talked, explored the campground, did some reconnaissance on the spit, and then decided to go check out the Olympic hot springs. There were 6 of us in the group, so taking one car and piling everyone in Big Blue was the natural choice.
Unfortunately, the road leading to the hot springs was closed on account of the Elwha Restoration Project (part of the dam restoration), so we headed back toward the campsite. That night was spent sharing stories around the fire, eating, and playing games. Danielle and I retired a little early so we could finish getting the van setup before hittin the hay.
Big Blue is a 1985 Volkswagen Vanagon GL, and did not come with a what's known as a "z-bed", a rear seat that folds out into a bed. The seats Big Blue had were the nice, contoured seats. Because it was still in really good condition, the seats really hugged you. It also had armrests, which are a nice amenity for anyone sitting back there during a long trip. Someone, at some point, had modified the seat to become a fold out but didn't take into account the contours and hard armrests. We found that out the hard way that first night, our first night in Big Blue. But, to be honest, I was so excited, I didn't mind.
We woke to find the weather much as we had left it - cloudy, gray, and rainy. After breakfast, we walked to the East end of the campground to the entrance to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge which the Spit is a part of. Because dogs aren't allowed on the Spit, we had to leave Missy to keep watch over Big Blue. (Note: We can't recall the exact amount, but there was a "suggested donation" of $6 per family of four.)
The weather and lack of sleep meant for an rather uninspiring morning preparation for the walk. We set out anyway, looking forward to out first adventure together. Walking the Dungeness Spit was long. Long and dull, in my opinion. We some slivers of nature, but nothing compared to what we had imagined. Although, come to think of it, I'm not sure we really had much of anything in mind, or expected to see anything, really. But, perhaps it was the wrong season or because of the weather, but both sides of the Spit were devoid of life, save for a few small birds here and there and the occasional curious seal.
At the end of the spit is a historic lighthouse that is manned by a group everyday citizens who volunteer to become "keepers" one week at a time. They take care of the grounds and lead the tours. It wasn't very busy, again, due to the weather, but the lighthouse was a little cool to explore. [Danielle's Take - The volunteers were enthusiastic about getting to spend the week on the beautiful historic property that they had to reserve a year in advance and hearing that they were DRIVEN to the lighthouse and picked back up with all their luggage at the end of the week sparked my interest. Later I looked into it and it turns out you have to pay a couple hundred for the week to stay there giving people tours, manning the museum, and mowing the lawn. Meh, not so cool of a vacation after all.]
All in all, it was a fun first trip. It set the tone for the adventure-filled summer that was to come and gave us plenty to think about in terms of what we'd need for future trips. It's always good to explore new places and meet new friends, and this trip afforded us both.