Monday, July 18, 2016

2016 Ft. Flagler Camping Trip: Part 1

I am bound and determined to write a post about our recent camping trip to Ft. Flagler before any more time has passed. We've already been home for over a week ... it is time to get this post done!

As you loyal readers may recall, we camped at Ft. Flager last year, too, and had a great time. In fact, we had such a good time that we decided (probably on the drive home) that we should return this summer. We packed up our gear and ourselves, dropped off Buca at the dog hotel (only then did we noticed we grabbed the wrong bag and accidentally left his food at home -- oops!!), made a quick stop at the closest pet store for more dog food, went back to the dog hotel (with food, much to Buca's happiness) and then headed to the Edmonds ferry terminal. Fortunately, we left early enough in the day that we didn't get caught in a long line; in fact, we got on the first ferry that was arrived.

The crossing was uneventful (as one would hope) but mighty windy!! At one point, we noticed that Annika was standing at an angle, simply relying on the wind to hold her up ... and it did!!! The views from the ferry were lovely and made this water-lovin' gal so very happy and content. The only thing that would have made the crossing better would have been if I'd thought to grab a hair band before leaving the car, so I could have controlled my hair in the wind!

Annika waiting to set sail

Ahoy, matey! 

Happy sailors

Daddy and Conor (who commandeered Mama's sunglasses!) 

My three cutie pies

Did I mention the wind???

Hello, ferry!

Yup -- still windy!

Before long, we were back in our car, trying to flatten our hair, and driving toward Ft. Flagler State Park. After about a 45-60 minute drive, we found ourselves at the front gate of the park. As we waited for the car in front of us to finish checking in, I slipped out of the car to take some photos of this deer family. The funny thing is the park ranger asked Eric (when it was our turn to check in) how many people were in our party. He said "four", which really confused her because she definitely saw three people in the car (I was up with the deer). Sorry, Ms. Ranger... we didn't mean to make you think you were going blind or crazy!!

When we were at Ft. Flagler last time, we drove around the campground and scouted out which sites looked good to us and which were less desirable. (Smart, huh??) We decided to try camping on the bluff this year, so we could soak in the glorious view that is available.

Our view
(straight out from our site)

More of our view
(looking to the right)
And now looking to the left

After we got settled (which took a bit more doing than we expected because our site was not exactly level ... something we didn't notice during last year's site scouting expedition), the relaxation officially began. We played ball, blew bubbles, read, drew in the dirt, the kids rode their scooters, and we just kicked back. There's an initial push to get everything in its place when we first arrive somewhere, and that part can be tiring/hard work. Once that is done, though, we find ourselves breathing a bit easier and enjoying the chance to unwind.

Our camping small world story: As the kids were playing, they heard some kids at the next campsite over from ours. Annika has never met a stranger and decided that she wanted to meet the kids. Come to find out, she and Conor had played hide-and-seek with one or two of the boys at Bitterlake a few days before. Talk about random!!!!

We knew rain was in the forecast, so brought our canopy along ...
and were very glad we did when the rain came!

Conor playing ball

Good catch, Daddy

Annika getting her turn to play
 The kids had a great time going up and down and up and down and up and down the road next to our campsite. It kept them busy while Eric and I set up the camp, which was really convenient! Each time they went by, we'd hear a chorus of, "Hi, Mom! Hi, Dad! Bye, Mom! Bye, Dad!"

And there they go!

Annika rounding the corner

Conor trying the seated method

We knew the forecast called for rain, so planned accordingly. We brought the canopy to act as a rain fly over our table and were glad we did because the rain came in during dinner! The first night was wet ... it rained so hard that sleep evaded us at times. That plus the howling coyotes (I'd forgotten that we had heard them the year before until we heard them this year... quite the loud chorus!) made for a tired Saturday morning for the Olsons. When I say it rained during the night, I mean it RAINED. We didn't have a lovely mist or a random sprinkle. The rain pelted our tent ... and made me start seeing the benefits of people who camp in trailers! That rain was loud!!

Because we had expected Saturday to be a wet day, we opted to drive to Sequim to tour the Olympic Game Farm. To keep this post from getting insanely long, I'll write a post about that adventure tomorrow ... stay tuned!! The long and the short of it is we had a fantastic time and enjoyed seeing all of the beautiful animals. Such a treat!! Ironically, we went there to avoid the rain, yet it didn't rain until we got back from our day in Sequim and were back at our campsite. The best laid plans of mice and men, eh???

Here's your teaser photo!
On our way back from the game farm, we stopped at the remaining portions of Ft. Flagler. There are some neat old structures/building/bunkers, that are open to the public (and apparently, many birds based on the amount of nests we found). All four of us had a great time exploring the nooks and crannies of the buildings. Because our kids are ... well, kids ... and don't necessarily remember a bunch of details from a year ago, all of these explorations were new (again) to them. They had a marvelous time running around on top of the bunkers, not to mention walking through the dark, dark, dark bunkers. (I'm probably mis-using the term "bunkers", so please forgive me if I am.)

Conor off to explore around the corner

Daddy and Annika 

Annika in a window opening

Running laps on top of the bunkers

View from the top of a bunker

Daddy and Conor

Daddy and Conor inside the bunker

Nest with three baby birds

Acrobatic Annika

"Conor, whatcha doin?"
"Oh, nothing. Just hanging around."

After we returned to our site, Eric introduced our kids to Jiffy Pop. They were quite fascinated when the aluminum foil cover evolved from a flat surface to a dome that was full of popcorn. Watching their faces was the best part for me. (Note to self: Jiffy Pop popcorn tastes really weird!!)

Annika shake, shake, shaking the popcorn

Conor gasping in response 

Saturday night was much dryer than Friday night, gratefully. Dryer weather, no howling coyotes, and a busy day all helped us sleep much better our second night at camp. I was still mighty grateful to have coffee in the morning, but it wasn't quite as emergent as it was the day before!

Sunday morning meant it was time to have a quick breakfast (courtesy of Chef Eric, our resident camping breakfast maker) and then we needed to tear down our campsite in order to be on the road by 9, which would give us ample time to get the ferry back to Edmonds... or so we thought! (Insert duh-duh-duh ominous music here.)

We were sooooo proud of ourselves for being efficient camp packer uppers. We were focused and thanks to everyone's help, were in the car and pulling out of our campsite at 8:59. Oh yeah, baby!! We drove to the Hood Canal Bridge, only to encounter a bit of a traffic jam ... a very unexpected traffic jam. We were 10-ish cars from the bridge and noticed a police officer was in the intersection. We figured that maybe a car accident was blocking traffic. NOPE. Lo and behold! We found out that the bridge was experiencing mechanical problems, but the DOT workers who recently arrived thought it might be an hour and then things would be fine. After about 30-ish minutes of waiting, the police officer started announcing that the bridge would remain closed longer than expected (possibly the next day), so start looking for alternate routes ... for us, that meant a drive down to Olympia and then back up north to Seattle  Great ....

Eric got the brilliant idea of high-tailing it back up to Pt. Townsend to see if we could catch a ferry to Coupville (Whidbey Island) and then drive down to the Clinton ferry terminal and cross there. It was a great thought until we got to Pt. Townsend to discover one of the ferries on that run was out of service and the only vehicles permitted on the ferry run were ones with pre-existing reservations ... oh, and there were no remaining reservations available. Awesome ....

We realized our only hope of getting home was to drive the realllllly long way home. Yup, we hit the road to Olympia and then made a 180-degree turn north toward Seattle. The drive along Highway 101 was very scenic, which made a less-than-desirable situation a bit easier to bear. Plus, the kids were amazingly cooperative and didn't complain (much) about the amount of time they were stuck in the car on a windy roadway. (I'm sure the Dramamine I gave them didn't hurt the situation!) We saw many a small town along the way ... some we'd never even heard of.

After 6 hours, we made it home (note: if all had gone according to plan, it would have been a 2-hour trip home) tired, ready to be out of the car, and incredibly grateful to be back in our own house. Almost immediately, I grabbed Eric's keys so I could finish the last leg of our journey (while Eric unloaded the van) ... I drove up to Edmonds to retrieve Buca from the dog hotel. He was happy as could be ... soaking wet from playing in the wading pools and smiling from ear to ear.

While our trip home wasn't exactly ideal, we still made it home safely. We had a fun trip to Ft. Flagler and are grateful for the chance to spend the weekend camping as a family. We also decided that if we ever have the chance to buy a vacation place, it will NOT be on the west side of the Hood Canal Bridge! :)

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