Our last area on the Peninsula still unexplored was the eastern coastline. We selected the small town of Potlach, just south of Hoodsport, along the Hood Canal. Though situated on the water, after our five boat rides, we were ready to stay on some solid terra firma. Potlach seemed well located to also explore some of the eastern parts of Olympic National Park. We were able to hike and explore a new area of Washington State.
Potlatch is a small unincorporated community located where the mouth of the Skokomish River meets the Hood Canal. This is where our RV Park, The Waterfront at Potlach, is located. Just 16 RV spots, we had a wonderful site right on the water. We spent our mornings watching sunrise over the water, and our days watching “Sammy the Seal” play right in front of our coach. There were sometimes five seals playing and swimming all day. We also saw bald eagles and lots of fish jumping. Apparently, the area is full of large salmon.
We managed three good hikes while we were there. One thing about being on the coast and hiking in the mountains is the elevation gain. Most of our hikes were steady climbs averaging about 600 ft per mile. Our first hike was the Staircase Rapids loop. A simple and very popular trail following the North Fork of the Skokomish River. As we were there in late summer, there was not a lot of water. Enough for some pretty cascades, but hardly rapids. The trail is also one of the main entrance trails to the backcountry of the eastern part of Olympic National Park. It decided to rain some on us. Not much, but enough to get the trail wet. Besides the rapids, the highlight was probably the large suspension bridge across the river at the far end of the loop.
Our second hike was probably the highlight of our stay. It was also one of the steepest of our entire trip, over 1600 ft in just 3.5 miles. Lower Lena Lake is a steady seven mile roundtrip out-and-back up to the lake. The lake is a natural lake nestled amongst the mountains of Olympic National Park. The water was a crystal-clear emerald color. Some neat trail bridges dotted the trail. We found a wonderful overlook for lunch.
Our last hike was another loop trail up and around a creek. Once again, another steep climb up 1300 feet in about 2.5 miles. This time, the trip up as just a constant climb, with not much scenery. However, this trail is known for all its water crossing and large number of bridges. The main attraction of the hike is the confluence of Big Creek and Branch Creek. There is a separate short loop trail going down to the main confluence. Jennifer was not excited to descend after climbing so much but was a good sport and journeyed on down. At the top of Branch Creek was a very cool bridge, and a wonderful spot for us to have our snack. I think I counted over ten individual bridges on the trail.
All our activities were not just hiking. We did a day trip around the area. We drove around the southern curve of the canal visiting the small town of Union. We found a fun little shop, the Cameo Boutique & Wine Shop. While we did not buy much, we did have a great conversation with the owner and got a lot of local suggestions on places to go. She sent us up to Alderbrook Golf course for some great views of the water and the Olympic Mountain range. Alderbrook is an active golf community up in the hills. The views were tremendous. We were even able to see our RV park across the water.
In all her reading and learning about the area, Jennifer found an off-the-beaten path cool big bridge for us to go check out. High Steel Bridge is an old logging bridge standing over 300 ft above the river below. It was a winding long drive along forest service roads but well worth the trip. There, in the middle of nowhere was one of the highest bridges we had ever seen. It is called the “Vertigo Inducing” bridge and after walking across it and looking down, it is aptly named. On the other side is a short trail to an overlook where you can see the entire span and the true magnitude of its height.
While we had hoped for one last chance at some seafood, it just did not work out. We did manage to find a small local brewery and had some of their local brews. Potlach Brewing, actually located in Hoodsport, is a small waterside brewery with some fun beers. My favorite, which I brought home a 6-pack of was their Hood Canal Oyster Stout. Does that count as seafood? Almost right next door is Hardware Distillery. Once again, a small waterside business, they too have some unique offerings. They are known for their pear vodka based aquavits. I sampled seven of their unique whiskeys and their trademark Bees Knees Honey which is a distilled mead. And yes, we brought a couple bottles home as well 😊
The most unique and our favorite part of the trip was what I mentioned in the introductions. We really enjoyed having coffee in the morning and wine in the evening watching Sammy and his friends playing and swimming right in front of our RV. Potlatch turned out to be a great place for us to visit the eastern part of the Olympic Peninsula. As we said farewell to our stays on the water, we readied ourselves to turn inland and head into the central part of Washington and apple country.