Free Camping on the Olympic Peninsula

The Olympic Peninsula, the Hoh Rainforest, the Pacific Ocean...it's hard to put into words how beautiful this area is.  Especially because I'm from the midwest, had never seen the Pacific, and didn't even know rainforests existed in the US.

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After a week-long visit with our friends in Seattle, we hitched up and drove 4 hours west to the Olympic Peninsula, home of Olympic National Park.  I had scouted a couple different boondocking locations through the trusty Campendium site but was feeling a little nervous about them for a couple reasons: 1. the boondocking locations were more spread out-if one place didn't work, we'd have to drive an hour or more to check out the back up option. 2. each location only had a couple reviews and that leaves some unanswered questions.  We look for a number of things when choosing a site-will it fit our 34-foot RV?, how are the roads leading in to the site?(some are so washboarded that they're almost impassable for a big rig), is there cell signal?, how many sites are available aka what are the odds we'll be able to secure a site when we arrive? Those are just the basics before we even worry about whether it's actually a beautiful location, where the nearest town is, and if water will be available etc...Every boondocker has different priorities when scouting locations.  All of this was on my mind as we made our way towards the Olympic Peninsula.

We stocked up on food at the Walmart in Aberdeen, WA. Fun fact: While Aberdeen is now offically known as the "Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula" in the early 1900's, it had the nicknames "Hellhole of the Pacific" and "Port of the Missing Men" due to its high murder rate. Lovely place, Aberdeen...It's a good idea to stock up on supplies in Aberdeen if you're continuing north.  We passed only two other gas stations with diesel and neither were super convenient to access.  Grocery stores are also scarce.

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A couple hours later, we were almost to the campground when we finally caught glimpses of the Pacific Ocean.  I hadn't seen it before so we pulled over at one of the beaches and walked to an overlook.  It really was love at first site.  This wasn't the Florida beaches that I grew up visiting on vacations, the Pacific water was darker and instead of palm trees, there were forests bordering the sand.  There were large rock formations in the water and along the beach and it feels wilder, moodier, older and less touched by people and tourists.  

We pulled into Minnie Peterson Campground located on the edge of the Hoh Rainforest just outside the National Park and luckily, gratefully, pulled into the only open site for the evening.  It was a large, beautiful site but was unfortunately, a space for campers with disabilities so without handicapped tags, we were only able to sleep in the site and needed to relocate in the morning.  The next morning, a neighboring camper let us know that he was leaving and we were welcome to his spot.  We happily snagged it and were set up by mid-afternoon.

We spent the first day just marvelling at our surroundings.  Sunlight can barely get through the thick canopy of huge trees and moss drips from the branches.  It's damp and earthy and misty and every shade of green.

For the first time since we left Indiana  our solar panels weren't getting enough sunlight to support our daily usage.  We had anticipated that problem and purchased a generator right before arriving on The Olympic Peninsula.  Alex bought the Predator 2000 from Harbor Freight and we've been really happy with the purchase.  We didn't need a generator at all for the first four months of our trip. Spring and summer in Arizona, Colorado, and Idaho provided more than enough daily sun to keep us powered but now, with shorter winter days, we use the generator a little more often.

Olympic National Park is big, it's 922,651 acres and the 13th largest national park.  It has three distinct ecosystems: sub-alpine forest, temperate rainforest, and ocean coastline. We stayed on the west side of the peninsula, very near the rainforest and about 30 minutes from the coast.  We never drove up to the mountainous, Hurricane Ridge area simply because we ran out of time.  We visited the Hoh Rainforest twice and the park's beaches twice as well. We would have done even more exploring but Minnie Peterson Campground has a 7 day limit. We did visit the town of Forks to do laundry but there's not much to say about Forks other than it's where the books and movies of Twilight were set so you can buy vampire themed t-shirts and they also have the most expensive laundromat we've encountered thus far.

As the end of our seven day limit approached, we were still trying to figure out where to go next.  We wanted to drive south along the Pacific Coast towards Portland and northern California but the wildfires were popping up all over the place in those areas and we'd been dodging wildfires for almost two months.  We were very tired of smoke-filled skies.  So we decided to backtrack down to Utah, to see Zion and Bryce Canyon and Arches, National Parks that we hadn't visited this summer.  But as we made that decision, another opportunity popped up.  I found an employment ad on WorkamperNews for a winery in Wisconsin.  I submitted our resumes on whim-a winery sounded fun and it would put us close to Indiana making for an easy drive home for the holidays.  Lo and behold, we received an almost immediate reply.  We packed up to leave our campsite, pulled in our slides, hitched up our rig and then sat down on the couch and had a Facetime interview with the owner of the winery.  She offered us the job so at that moment, our travel destination changed from Utah to Wisconsin.  We hopped in the truck and began our trek back east.