The plan was to take a ferry to Vancouver Island and another to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, stay most of the week at Jackie’s house, and spend the last night of our trip in Victoria before coming back to an apocalyptic week of three midterms.
Our troop of four musketeers; Cori, Jackie, Olivia and I met at the bus loop. All of us, with the exception of Jackie, were recent transplants to the Pacific Northwest and were eager to see as many of the sights as possible. I, throughout the trip, took sadistic pleasure in sending pictures of the beautiful weather back home to Boston, which is buried under metres of snow.
As any good trip should start; it started with a mad rush to catch the bus. We hopped on after the bus had started moving. Tensions were high. But we caught the ferry, and the iconic double-decked bus on the island with plenty of time to spare. We grabbed lunch and soaked in the sun, a reoccurring theme for the week. I wanted to explore Victoria but we had another ferry to catch.
Usually, getting from one place to another is my least favourite part of a trip (few methods of transport have adequate legroom for 6’4” tall people like me) but ferry travel is the way to go. Unparalleled views, a White Spot on board and free Titanicking (the act of standing on the the bow of the boat, arms outspread, singing “My Heart Will Go On” at the top of your lungs) come included on every standard ferry. That is how travel should be. We reached Port Angeles, our home base for the next week, as the sun set over Straight of Juan de Fuca.
On Monday, after exploring the mom-and-pop quaintness of Port Angeles, we set out for our first big excursion. A short drive, another ferry (yet more beautiful than the last) which we sprinted onto as the last passengers, and we were off to Seattle. We spent the morning in Pike Place, exploring the artisan foods and crafts and avoiding being clobbered by the giant fish being tossed around. Live music could be heard in the distance, with vendors peddling everything from handmade potter, leather-bound journals to obsidian blades. The long morning drove us to find food, and soon I found myself with a delicious Russian pastry in my hand and we sat down in the sun, overlooking Seattle Harbour.
We explored a bit more of the waterfront, enjoying the rare Northwestern winter sun and the peaceful ocean. I made my mandatory stop in the local hat store (yes, I'm that guy) before we jumped on the ferry home.
We took the next day easy, sleeping, lounging by the lake and paddling a little. On Wednesday, we headed further west to the Hoh Rainforest. Somehow, we managed to avoid all the rain.
Often, when I set off into the woods or mountains, I go looking for adrenaline. It’s not hard to find; climbing a frozen waterfall, hiking a mountain in a snow storm or skinny dipping in below-freezing temperatures all get that sweet hormone coursing through your veins. And while excitement and danger are a significant part of the reason I love the outdoors, it is not the basis of our relationship.
I sit with my feet dangling over the sandy cliff. Below is a river, broken into several streams by rocky islands. The water is glowing a vibrant blue-green. Through the trees on the opposite bank, a lone, evergreen-covered mountain rises through the clouds.
The point, to me at least, of being outside in the wild is about the escape it provides. It may be cliche, though that makes it no less true, that there is something special about the untouched beauty of nature. No homework, no deadlines, nothing but the trail in front of you and the company you keep.
I'm somewhere in the depths of the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, Washington, USA. To ignore the trauma of the three midterms that await me the week after reading break, I've escaped with friends to Washington State for the break. Hiking the Hoh River Trail on an uncharacteristically warm and dry day proves to be a highlight of the trip.
First, we hike the short “Hall of Mosses” loop. Everything, and I mean everything, is covered in moss. The trail, branches, leaves and even the moss is covered in moss. It hangs like intricate, woven rugs, filling the air with an earthy smell. The hall feels closed, and indoor. The moss blocks out the sun; it feels like a natural Cathedral.
As we reach the main trail, the moss lessens and the trees open. Pacific Spirit Park, and Lynn Canyon Park, while rainforests, have nothing on the Hoh. Even though the day is dry, the rain 430 centimetres of rain a year can be felt all around. With every step, mud oozes from under my shoes, falling drops hitting leaves mixes with the excited songs of birds enjoying the early spring.
We take our time hiking, walking mostly in silence. We take every detour. The best is trail up to an waterfall, overgrown with fallen trees covered in moss. It is quintessential Pacific Northwest.
The hike is quiet, easy and peaceful; zero adrenaline. But nonetheless, it is an excellent day. After all, any adventure, is a good adventure.
Our time in Port Angeles was up and we took yet another boat, back to Victoria. We dropped our bags off at the AirBnB we were spending the night at and headed back into the city. All the trees were in bloom, the sun was shining yet again (how did we get so lucky?) and we just wandered. Victoria is filled with old architecture, unique shops and delicious coffee, or so I'm told. As far as I can tell, all coffee tastes like death.
Our trip ended as the sun set on our last full day away from UBC. All that was left was some delicious cheesecake from Pagliacci’s (worth the trip to Victoria by itself) and more buses and boats.
A week off from school, regardless of it’s purpose, is a great excuse to see our little corner of the planet. Rainforests, paddling, coffee, exploring cities, ferris and somehow, sun, is a week well spent by any measurable means. Sure, my lack of reading caught up with me, but I certainly don't regret the procrastination.