Starting out, the plan was to head for Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada. Neither George nor I had ever had a chance to see this calendar-worthy place, and I had always had visions of where and how I would photograph it. This particular trip began in the summer of 2010. I am adding that little bit of information because it is an essential, albeit poignant, part of this account.
Leaving Orange County in California, we headed north through Los Angeles. About the time we hit the populous San Fernando Valley, a startling thought suddenly occurred to me.
“George. I didn’t bring my passport.”
” I didn’t either.”
Silence prevailed for an uncertain moment as we both sifted through our brains for some kind of option at about the same rate. Personally, I was thinking initially at warp-speed A) Egad. We’ll have to go back, quickly followed by B) Egad. We’ll have to go back AND fight the LA traffic all over again but with more traffic and heat as the day wears on, and finally in reality speed C) We just CAN’T go back.
George must have been going through the same processes as he spoke up about the exact time I had reached C. “Well… we can’t go back, but we can change our destination. We’ll just have to go to plan B.”
Hmmm. Another moment of silence.
“How about the Olympic Peninsula?” he added. “You know, the Pacific Coast Range and all that? We’ve never explored that area…”
Within a window of about 5 minutes, our entire agenda had changed to “Plan B”. Although I had been excited to see Lake Louise, this Plan B actually started generating new ideas in my head as to what we could see and the routes we could take. Having slowed down to 55 MPH during this Interstate Intermezzo, we now happily returned to 65 MPH pulling once again our home-away-from-home behind us. We had a destination to reach.
We had many adventures throughout Northern California, Oregon and Washington State along the way, following, for the most part, US Hwy. 101 through the beautiful peninsula with lakes and rivers. But it was about Port Angeles along the Strait of San Juan de Fuca in Washington that we began to tire of being on the road every day and began to long for a respite somewhere for more time than just one night.
It was about that same time that an interesting handmade sign beside the road caught George’s eye:
“Homemade Elk Jerky. One mile ahead”.
Oh yum. My favorite, I was wise enough to say only to myself. But sure enough, there it was, one mile down the road as promised. A man and his motorhome and his elk jerky beside the road. It was a beautiful thing for any self-respecting jerky lover. George, of course, stopped in anticipation of smoke-enhanced elk deliciously cooked for hours with tender loving care. Need I mention I stayed in the truck with our dog Toby (well, in all honesty, I’m sure Toby was on George’s side with this one)?
George came back a happy man. He had bought a good supply of elk jerky which he immediately started in on. For the record, I did try it; It was OK. The best event, (in my opinion) however, was not the jerky but the information George received from the Purveyor of Fine Meats and I know not what else. George had had the good sense to ask the man if there were any campgrounds within the area (he must have been a local, right? I mean, he had a motorhome and all…).
The man looked at George and our rig AND our CA license plate and responded, “Sure! There just happens to be one down the road a ways. Just continue on down 101 and you will see a sign that says “Forks”. Look then for another sign that says “La Push”. Turn right and drive down the road fourteen miles and you’ll see the campground.”
Really, George? FOURTEEN MILES off the main road? Again, I had the wisdom to remain silent. As we approached Forks about 25 miles away, I began to see cute little shops with Twilight novel-themed paraphernalia. Some people were even dressed as the characters in the series of children’s books.
I said, “Hey, look, George! This whole town seems dedicated to the Twilight series! … WAIT a minute! Wasn’t Forks the town in the series?”
He agreed it was. We stopped by the visitor’s center and learned that Stephanie Meyer, the author, had chosen Forks as the location of the novel because she wanted it to take place in the rainiest, gloomiest place in the United States. That would be the Hoh Rainforest in Washington State right next door to Forks! The ranger even gave us a map of the town so we could take a self-guided tour of the houses mentioned in the series. Who knew?!
We managed to make our way back to the 101 and find the turn-off for La Push. About seven miles down a one lane road and weed country I finally began to have my doubts.
This time I threw my wisdom out the window and asked tentatively, “Umm, I don’t know, George. Did that guy appear to like having Californians in his state? Was he friendly? Do you think he might possibly have been pulling a joke on us?”
George, forever trusting, just responded, “Let’s just wait and see.”
Mile fourteen was approaching and we had one last turn in the road to master. So far, no sign for a campground, no evidence of other human activity, not even the inevitable human trail of trash.
And… there it was.
Before us lay an Eden not unlike perhaps that OTHER one. Imagine: A driftwood-covered beach and cove with a river emptying into it. A giant rock covered with its own forest. A fishing village and store. An inn and … A CAMPGROUND!
We quickly got a site and began to celebrate our good luck. We learned that La Push was an ancient Indian village, still occupied with a tribe. The words “La Push ” actually came from the French words “La Bouche”, meaning “The mouth” because of the river. When the native people heard the french words and weren’t familiar with the french language, they thought they were hearing the words “La Push,” and it stuck. The giant rock was a burial site for the Indians’ relatives. Traditionally, they would place their loved ones’ remains in canoes and hang them from the trees on the rock.
Oddly, this euphoric place is usually covered in a gray fog like the Pacific Range is known for, but to our great fortune, they were having a heat wave and the temperatures reached into the 90’s with clear blue skies and incredible orange sunsets ceremoniously displayed behind the giant rock. Toby loved the beach and since our stay here, Sunset Magazine has discovered it, too… twice! We stayed at La Push two more nights exploring the Hoh Rainforest with NO THOUGHT of rain. Seeing the wettest rainforest bright green in sunlight was another experience visitors seldom happen upon.
Alas, the old Elk Jerky Purveyor turned out not to be a jerk and an extremely kind person. My wisdom thrown out the window was replaced with new learning about a very spiritual place. My doubts have learned to become patient. In the year 2009 Canada and the USA changed their policies regarding passport necessity because of growing security concerns for both countries. It was our good fortune that we had forgotten about that. And, as for being passport-less in Canada? That sounds like a movie waiting to be filmed… in Lake Louise. Wink ! Wink!