Sunday, December 28, 2008

Announcing New Website:

I've started up a little family business, My twin, 14-year-old sons and I are going through 8 years of digital vacation photos, making travel articles about them that we post on This section of the website is meant to attract visitors off of search engines and eventually make the site a well-known destination for travel information about the Northwest. We'll orient our travels over the next few years towards gathering new photos for the website. For example, I love Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee - my favorite garden in the Northwest after Butchart, but I only have one old, grainy photo of it. We'll have to go back. has two more components. It offers free listings to Northwest vacation rental owners. We then post a daily ad on, rotating among our listed properties and the nearest metropolitan area. This is the principal draw of visitors to the site currently.

Lastly, the main point of the site for us is to promote our new vacation rental marketing service. This grew out of an arrangement we made with an owner in Moclips, WA on my site. He was impressed with the marketing and advertising efforts I had made for my own house (, and asked how I might help him. Between his busy travel and work schedule, he hasn't had time to effectively update and promote his vacation rental website. We agreed that in exchange for a free weekend visit to his house (when it wasn't booked anyway) and 10% of rental income we generate, we would do the following:

1. Take new photos. We came away with 210 good photos. We also made these available to the owner, who is replacing some photos in his advertising.
2. Put up a new website ( This is entirely separate from his current website. Our 10% fee only applies to leads we generate.
3. Post daily Craigslist ads promoting the new website.

We are starting this effort in the off-season and during a recession, but we have generated four leads and one New Year's booking in the first six weeks of operation. We figured that there must be more owners out there who need the same assistance. The program is explained in detail here:

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Grays Harbor County Courthouse in Montesano

We returned to the Grays Harbor County Courthouse in Montesano on a Monday before Thanksgiving in order to turn in our passport applications. We had tried to apply for passports the year before at the Bellevue Main Post Office, but the line ran out the door. At this courthouse we strode right up to the county clerk's desk (room 203) without any waiting. It was such a pleasure.

The other reason I planned this visit was to take a look inside of the building. My younger son and I had driven by on a weekend visit to Lake Sylvia State Park, when the building was closed. I had read that there were murals inside. Indeed, the interior of the courthouse is very lovely. The major murals are found inside the front entrance: a scene of Captain Gray landing to meet a party of Indians on Grays Harbor and a Governor signing a treaty at Cosmpolis with another group of Indians. The core of the building is taken up by three rising tiers of wide stairwells. The interior is richly decorated in marble, mosaic tile, brass light fixtures, and fine woodwork. From the second and third levels you can view the ceiling frescoes inside the dome with allegorical female figures of justice, prosperity, and others.

I asked the clerk whether tours are ever given of the building, but she didn't know of any. Still, you are free to wander about during public hours. She recommended attending a trial - always open to the public - because the courtrooms are also beautifully decorated.

More about Montensano:

New partnership:

We agreed recently to help out the owner of the Ocean Cliff vacation rental house in Moclips with marketing. In exchange for taking new pictures of the house, putting up a new website, and promoting it on and elsewhere, we were allowed to stay in the house for free one weekend and we'll get a 10% booking fee for any reservations we generate. The owner lacks the time to market the house on his own very effectively.

I'm teaching my teenage sons how to build the website and post ads on Craigslist. If this first relationship goes well, we may offer it more widely as a little family business. We'll offer the service to homes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia that we could reach in an extended weekend.

The Ocean Cliff house in Moclips sits on a magnificent two acre site. Through a few windswept trees at the cliff's edge, you have an unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean and the wide sands of Sunset Beach below. The owners have landscaped the backyard beautifully with a cliffside deck and benches and a masonry fire pit. The fire pit becomes the communal focus of the house as we gathered there each evening.

The house has five bedrooms: 3 up and 2 down. The two floors can be rented separately or else the whole house together. Each floor provides 1,300 square feet of space to spread out in. The highlights of the interior are the two king size beds in each master, the luxurious tiled bathrooms, the modern full kitchens, and the marvellous ocean view from nearly every room.

Beach access is found by a short walk nearby: either down the stairs at the Ocean Crest Resort to the north or the Analyde Gap Road to the south. You can also drive down this road and park or drive on the beach.

Here's the new website we are working on:
Here's the owner's original website:

Point Grenville at Low Tide

I returned to Point Grenville on 11/23/2008, bringing my family along to see the place. I had visited alone the previous April. We arrived at low tide, which made for a different experience. An extensive field of low rocks and tidepools were revealed that were covered up on my last visit. We saw hundreds of starfish in every crevasse and clinging to the bottom of the rocks. This rock with the arch shown above was the limit of what you could see to the north at high tide. Now, we could walk out beyond it, skipping from rock to rock.

New pictures:

More about the beach house:

New partnership:

Bob's Pacific Beach House has partnered with two other luxury beach houses around the Olympic peninsula: the Rialto Beach House in the northwest corner and Triton Cove Beach Home on Hood Canal. We offer a 10% discount when two or more homes are booked together. The idea is that these homes can be booked together as a package to cover all the sights of the peninsula and Olympic National Park. If any particular house is booked, we have a list of alternates and will help you plan your trip.

The outstanding features of each house are:

Triton Cove Beach Home
Located directly on the water with a big deck and hot tub looming over the beach. State park's boat ramp located immediately adjacent to the property. Collect your dinner right off the beach at low tide or out of Hood Canal with a crab pot.

Rialto Beach House
Gorgeous log home located just three miles from famed Rialto Beach. The house sits on ten acres directly on the Quillayute River. The nearby Rich Wine Bar is a great spot for fishing and its unobstructed view of Mount Olympus. Gather in the evenings around the fire pit.

Bob's Pacific Beach House
Set on a bluff with wide view of the ocean. Half mile walk or drive to the beach. Driving, bike riding, and evening bonfires allowed on the beach. Seven miles to incredible volcanic reef and seastack rocks at Point Grenville. Half an hour to Lake Qunault.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Montesano and Lake Sylvia State Park

My little boy and I needed a break from the drive home between Aberdeen and Elma, so I pulled off the highway and followed a sign to Lake Sylvia State Park. It turned out to be a delightful park. A bridge crosses the lake and brings you to a lakeside picnic area and playground. The playground attracted several families on a sunny Sunday afternoon in September. My little boy enjoyed playing with all the other kids. The park has a campground, two boat launches for human-powered boats, and three trails heading off into the woods. We saw canoes and a fisherman out on the lake.

Next, we drove around the city of Montesano and stopped outside the historic courthouse. Montesano is the county seat of Grays Harbor. The courthouse is a lovely old building. I've read that there are murals inside, depicting the discovery of the harbor by Captain Gray. Nearby are historic neighborhoods with many old, attractive houses.

See more pictures at:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sunset Visit to Copalis Rock at an Extreme Low Tide

At sunset just before heading home to the Seattle area, we stopped by Copalis Rock. This is located four miles south of Pacific Beach by road, and another three miles south driving down the beach. There's a stream one mile north of the rock, but today it was low enough to drive across.

We arrived at the rock both at sunset and at an extreme low tide. On my last visit, the water kept me a few hundred feet away. This evening we could walk right up and touch the rock. The first thing you notice that close is that the rock is really a collection of about four rocks - perhaps more if you could see around the other side. There are also a few sizeable rocks further out on the ocean, which are perhaps mostly submerged by a higher tide.

The lower ten feet of Copalis Rock - the part that is normally submerged - is covered in big purple and orange starfish, tightly closed anenomes, and mussel shells. This coast doesn't have any tidal pools that I'm aware of, so the low tide is a special opportunity to see these animals.

I'll post more pictures here:

Monday, September 1, 2008

A group of vacation rental owners along the North Beach (Pacific Beach and Moclips) have gotten together for some cooperative marketing. The new website describes every attraction we can think of that you can drive to from this area (between Westport and the Hoh Rain Forest). We are contemplating a public open house this autumn and a quarterly newsletter.

So far we have had fun visiting each other's houses, getting to know each other, and trading stories.

Give it a look!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Four Parents Escape to Westport

This day we four parents left our kids (six of them ages 5 to 18) at the beach house, and escaped for a day trip to Westport. The day was rainy, so we needed a place with a couple indoor attractions. The drive from Pacific Beach to Westport via Aberdeen lasts about one hour.

We started at the Grays Harbor lighthouse - the tallest in Washington state. I've written about the lighthouse before, so I'll just mention a few things. We had a different docent than the time before, so I learned a few different facts. One thing of note is that the 135 step iron spiral staircase is freestanding - not bolted to the building. It does rest on a few ledges built out of the walls, but otherwise it supports itself by several braces propped against the inside of the building. Iron and concrete expand and contract at different rates, so any bolts drilled into the walls would have pulled loose over time.

From the lighthouse we hurried over to the maritime museum before closing time. Three attractions here made this visit very worthwhile: the main building itself, the former coastguard station, is very beautiful; two whale skeletons are displayed outside; and a neighboring building is devoted to the Fresnel lens (pictured above) from the Destruction Island lighthouse. The lens, when they turn it on so that it rotates and shines light out from the inside, is a surpassingly beautiful sight. Destruction Island is otherwise inaccessible to tourists, so it is fortunate that the lens was moved here.

Next, we went for a walk through the town in a light drizzle. Across the street was the marina, where some boats were selling freshly caught fish (tuna, in this case). We stopped at the One Eyed Crab for some wonderful seafood and clam chowder. Next, we bought saltwater taffy at Granny Hazel's candy store. They offer 50 flavors of saltwater taffy. We located the aquarium, but a sign on the door said that the pumps had failed and the attraction was closed indefinitely. We ended our stroll at the blue observation tower at the north end of town. We spotted several surfers in the cold water below us. The waves were pretty active, so some of them were managing to catch a good wave.

I'll post more pictures here:

The Big Spruce on Lake Quinault's South Shore

The amazing Big Spruce is found along Lake Quinault's South Shore Road adjacent to the Rain Forest Resort Village. A sign on the road identifies the spot and parking if provided for about 10 cars. A short quarter mile trail brings you through some bushes, over a stream, and up to the tree. The tree is said to be 1,000 years old and reaches a height of 191 feet.

Nearby you can spy a nice view of Lake Quinault on the resort's grounds. We meander over there to enjoy the view and the beach.

Return to Higley Peak

We returned to Higley Peak on August 25, 2008. If you recall, we had visited there at the end of June, but snow on the road blocked access by our car. We trudged on several miles in the snow, but never found the trail to the peak.

This time the snow was all gone and the road had been cleared of fallen trees, so we drove right on up. We stopped at a clearing where the road widens out and you have a view of a green valley to the north and a beautiful stand of moss-covered trees to the south dropping away down a steep hillside. This was the furthest point we reached on the June visit. And lo and behold! I found the trail at this point. It is found on the hill to the southwest. The entrance to the trail is overgrown. A sign marking the entrance has fallen down. A few tens of yards into the trail is another sign that identifies the trail for certain.

So we proceeded up the trail. The trail is narrow and almost disappears in a couple spots. Below you the hillside drops away very steeply. The trail climbs steadily and wraps perhaps 3/4 of the way around the peak - rather than switching back and forth. You pass a gigantic rock formation about mid way. As you wind around the mountain, you are bound to catch the side facing the sun, and this lights up the forest beautifully.

After half a mile, you reach the peak. There is a little clearing at the peak. Some posts and concrete blocks indicate that something was once constructed here, but it is gone now. Now, my interest in Higley Peak originated from the idea that we would get a view of Lake Quinault. The peak hovers over the middle of the lake's north shore. Unfortunately, some young trees have grown up and almost completely blocked the view. You just get a narrow glimpse through some branches.

Back down at the base of the trail, we drove another three miles up the road beyond the peak. At the 12.5 mile mark we were rewarded with a great view (pictured above). Here you can see the upper Quinault River emptying into the eastern end of the lake with the mountains of the Colonel Bob Wilderness looming over the scene. The road continues further, but we turned back at this point.

So here are the complete instructions for finding Higley Peak:
1. Turn onto Prairie Creek Road from Highway 101. This road is found about 1 mile west of where the highway bends to the west near the lake's North Shore Road. Prairie Creek Road is a dirt road, but well-maintained (in August, at least).
2. On the lower part of the road, you will encounter two forks in the road. Bear to the right at each of them. The first fork is unmarked. The second fork has a sign for Higley Peak. There is sort of a third fork, where the road straight ahead is very faint, but it is pretty clear that the main road veers to the left up the first switchback.
3. At the 9.5 mile mark, you have reached the peak. Before this point, a hillside on your right had been restricting your view in that direction. At the base of the trail, the road opens up into a clearing with views to either side. A very pretty stand of trees laden with moss are to be seen towards the lake side to the south. Up ahead the road drops away (for about the next mile). Once you have identified the spot, you can find the trailhead to your southwest, hidden by the undergrowth against the hillside. Once you pass that initial undergrowth, the trail is easy to follow.
4. Continue another 3 miles along the road to the 12.5 mile mark for the best view - a view of the eastern end of the lake and the river valley.

You can find my complete picture album here:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Early Morning Bike Ride on the Beach to Moclips

First of all, you may wonder if bike riding works on the beach. I wondered that too, but then I looked at some old pictures of my youngest boy on the beach, and one picture showed a family with bikes in the background. So I resolved to try it.

There is a strip of hard, flat sand just above the waterline. If you stay in that strip, the ride feels just like riding on asphalt. If you stray too close to the water or too high on the beach, the sand gets soft and the ride becomes arduous.

On this ride, I entered the beach down the Analyde Gap Road at the north end of Pacific Beach and rode north towards Moclips as far as I could go. The interesting things to see along this ride were: the sun rising above the cliff and obscured by the clouds, a mixture of seagulls and crows on the beach, the many beach houses in Moclips, and a flock of sandpipers dodging in and out of the surf.

After two miles, I reached the Moclips River, which runs too wide and deep to cross. Here the sand grew soft, so I parked the bike and walked along the river. Across the river the cliffside is completely undeveloped - compared to Moclips where it is lined with houses. Dozens of old, decaying posts are set in the river and the nearby beach. It looked like this may once have been a bridge across the river. Nearby I found a boundary marker for the Quinault Indian Nation. The reservation evidently extends a bit south of the river. You ordinarily need a beach pass to visit the QIN beaches, but I don't suppose anybody enforces that rule here.

More pictures found at:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Road to Higley Peak

I've long been wondering where you can get a good view of the Olympic mountain range from the west or south side - as good as you get from Seattle or Puget Sound from the east that are just as distant from the mountains. I've found the spot, but it can only be reached in July through September, when the snow melts.

Sunday, June 22, 2008, we drove up the road towards Higley Peak, a small mountain on the west side of Lake Quinault. Just past the North Shore Road, where highway 101 bends and turns west, and then another mile further you turn right on Prairie Creek Road. This is a dirt/gravel road, which you will follow for 10 miles to the trailhead. The trail is just another half mile to the peak. Three to four miles in you come across two crossroads. Bear right at both of them. The first one is unmarked. The second has a sign pointing to Higley Peak Trail. There is a sort of third crossroads, where you need to turn left up the hill, but the alternative path straight ahead of you is fairly overgrown, so you are unlikely to choose that way. All the rest of the way the road is wide and clear to follow.

We attempted this trip too early in the year. At about 7-8 miles up and two short of the trailhead, we were stopped by snow. We also had to navigate several obstacles caused by small, fallen trees. Some we drove over, some under, and sometimes I had our teenage boys jump out and bend a big branch out of the way.

Despite the obstacles, we had a marvellous time. The road rises very quickly - quicker than you would guess, since you are mostly enclosed by the forest - and here and there you come out to a clearing with a marvellous view of the valleys below, the neighboring mountains, and the high, distant, snow-capped peaks of the Olympics. Even the teenagers with me were impressed by the beauty. Our five-year-old, James, saw each cliffside as a good opportunity to throw rocks. The older boys then started throwing rocks too.

Once we reached the snow, we trudged on another two miles, hoping to reach the trailhead. The snow was patchy - 2 to 4 feet deep for a few hundred feet or up to a quarter mile - wherever there was shade, and then long stretches of bare road where the sun could reach the road. We had a fine, sunny day - one of our few so far this year. Eventually, we found a sunny spot, ate our lunch, and scouted ahead a little further. At a wide open area with a great view on both sides of the ridge, we stopped - ahead of us was another long, dark stretch of snow. In fact, looking at the map later, I think we might have passed the peak and its trail.

I was worried about the five-year-old going back, but the road sloped downward gently, which encouraged him to keep moving. He played happily with fallen fir branches the whole way down.

We will try this trip again in late August, and hopefully we will spot the trail.

Check out the pictures of this trip at my website:

Sunday, June 8, 2008


Westport can be reached by an hour and a half, 55 mile drive. It's the last major destination I hadn't visited yet from Pacific Beach. I had my little boy, James, with me and we found lots to do:

I usually prepare my visits carefully with a map and a plan for what to see, but this trip was more spur of the moment. I drove on up into the town of Westport, expecting to see the famous lighthouse - tallest in the state, but we didn't see any sign of it. That was very puzzling. We found a tall, blue watchtower and I figured surely that we would see the lighthouse from up there. But, again, there was no sign of it. The view from the watchtower was great: down onto Westport's marina, over the harbor, and across the harbor to Ocean Shores.

Next, we went looking for a park to have our picnic. We found Westhaven State Park on the ocean. There was a whole crowd of surfers in wetsuits there, both coming and going. I counted 50 surfers out in the water at one time. However, the waves seemed to be too calm. Hardly any surfers managed to stand up on their boards. We picnicked on the 30 foot high clifftop overlooking the beach, giving a great view of the ocean, the jetty, and the busy beach (surfers and all their dogs running around).

After lunch, James played on the beach and up on the jetty. We saw a flock of pelicans fly overhead - the first I'd seen in the area. I also saw a sealion pop its head out of the water. After the jetty, James noticed the cliff again and decided this was a great place to throw rocks. On the way back to the car - I thought we were done - we came across a really steep 100 foot sand embankment leading down to a perfect crescent beach. This beach faced into the harbor. Some crazy teen girls were there rolling down the sand, so of course James wanted to do the same. He backed himself slowly down the hill and climbed back up. Then he climbed back down again because he noticed a more dangerous spot the girls were trying to climb. The girls only made it up with the help of their Dad who went down to retrieve them. I had to do the same for James.

We did finally spot the lighthouse in the distance from Westhaven. It was nearly hidden by tall trees. We drove around to the lighthouse, arriving just before closing time. The docent had climbed down, thinking he was done, but he climbed the 135 steps once again and gave us the complete tour.

The original 1898 light was lit by kerosene, which had to be refilled every two hours overnight. Every day the keeper would clean the lens and the windows. The lens mechanism floated in a bed of mercury - a great lubricant, but nobody knew at the time how dangerous it was to handle.

The lighthouse gives off a red/white pattern of light at a designated interval. Red/white means a safe harbor is nearby. The color plus the timing of the light could be compared to navigation charts to help boats identify the lighthouse.

Next, we drove down to Grayland and stopped at Grayland State Park - another sandy beach on the ocean. There were lots of cars on this beach, including an RV with lawn furniture set out and a kite flying. James fell over on the beach and was caught by wave, getting wet and sandy, so that was the end of our day. We drove the 1 1/2 back to Pacific Beach and stopped for shakes at the Humdinger in Hoquiam.

Check out the pictures of this trip at my website:

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Lake Quinault Loop Drive

Today, Saturday, May 31, 2008, we had unexpectedly fine weather. Mostly sunny and we all went around without jackets. My wife says it rained back home in the Seattle area. I had four boys with me: the twins, Austin and Konrad; their friend Scott; and little James - 5 years old next month.

This day we drove around Lake Quinault - an approximately 25 mile circuit. About 1/3rd of the time you are driving on narrow gravel roads. These are well-maintained without a single pothole - at least on this day.

Your first sight of the lake is at its western end from Highway 101. We started out on the North Shore Road for a clockwise circuit of the lake. Our first stop was for the Quinault Big Cedar. "Big" is an understatement. One might have said "ancient". The tree is barely alive - a few green branches can be spotted at the top. The outside of the tree is grossly gnarled and has lost all it bark - nothing like a young, straight cedar with the familiar strips of straight, red bark. The tree was entirely hollow inside. All five of us stood inside of it at once. Looking up within the tree you could see a patch of sky, so the hollowness extends clear to the top. It was a strange and fascinating sight.

On the way back to the car, the kids spotted a stream, and we played there for a while. The big boys climbed onto a large log fallen and suspended over the stream. Little James tries to follow them wherever they go, but the climb onto this log was a bit too challenging.

A few more miles down the road we stopped at the July Creek picnic area. One picnic table in particular has the finest view of any picnic table I know, with a commanding view of the lake and the hills behind. Directly across the lake you could just make out the historic Lake Quinault Lodge. There was a small beach here that the kids enjoyed.

Beyond the eastern end of the lake we stopped at the trail to the Kestner Homestead. The sign on the road says "Maple Grove Trail" and the ranger station is here (closed this day). This was a most enjoyable hike: flat, short (1.5 miles), and with varied scenery. The trail starts out by following a dry stream bed through the forest. The trees are mostly maples here, but this being the rain forest, everything was draped in moss. The kids found a way down to the stream bed at one point, and played among the rocks. Further on, you reach a bridge over the dry stream - some very old, very large maples are to be seen here. And then you come out of the forest to open farmland and the homestead.

The homestead was established around 1900 and the park service has recently begun to restore it. The grassy path, old wooden fences lining the fields, and the dilapidated farm buildings in the distance gave us all a sense of having stepped back into time by 100 years. Even the kids commented on it. The setting is lovely with forested, high hills in the distance and a peak of snowcapped mountains here and there. We found an old delivery truck, rusting away in place. The driver's cabin was entirely filled with vines. You could just make out some writing on the side: "local and long-distance" and a phone number. Beyond the old truck we settled into a meadow of tall grass for a rest.

After the homestead, the trail returns to the forest: maples and moss again, but even more lovely than before. The next noteworthy sight was a crystal clear pond, where a certain leafy green plant grew both below and above the pond surface. It was difficult to spot where the surface was - a kind of strange optical effect.

At least half of the drive around the lake leaves the lake and follows the Quinault River above the lake. We pulled the car over a few times for a fine view of the river and hills beyond it. Eventually, you reach a bridge and cross over to the South Shore Road. You'll pass three waterfalls visible from the road along this route.

There are many possibilities for hiking along the South Shore Road, but it was getting late, so we made just two short stops. We spotted a large sand bank in the river and the road widened just at this point, so I found a spot to park and we played down by the river. The boys threw rocks into the river, while I went off looking for a good vantage point for pictures. After that, they noticed a large rock - tall as a house - looming over the river, so they had to climb that and risk falling into the icy waters below. I helped James up after the big boys and we all found room at the top of the rock.

Our last stop was at the Lake Quinault Lodge for a drink. We found a picnic table behind the lodge and enjoyed our drinks, the sunshine, and the view of the lake. We had planned to rent a boat here, but it was too late in the day and the rental shack had closed down. Also, they didn't have a combination of boats that would work for one adult and four kids. We decided to go to Ocean Shores the next day to rent one of the electric boats that take up to 10 people. See:

The Quinault River Inn provides links to excellent maps that I used in planning our excursion:

Check out the pictures of this trip at my website:

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Tour the Ocean Shores Duck Lake and Grand Canal by Electric Boat

My kids had a blast in our electric-powered, rental boat from the Ocean Shores Electric Boat Company. We toured the extensive network of canals and lakes that run the length of the Ocean Shores peninsula. The route to Duck Lake and back was very beautiful with tree-lined narrow canals, expensive vacation homes, and unspoilt islands turned over to the wildlife. We saw seagulls and herons. Four year old James claims to have spotted an alligator. Thirteen year old Austin enjoyed steering the boat through 360s in the middle of the lake.

Proprietors Tom and Nancy Kimzey have life figured out: living full time on the water and renting boats to tourists in their semi-retirement. We had the nicest chat with them as we prepared for our trip. Their clean, modern boats seat up to 10 people. The boats include a CD player, radio, and picnic table. You can take them out in any weather. A canopy overhead screens you from the sun and plastic panels can be zipped closed on chilly days, but they still afford an excellent view.

See the Ocean Shores Electric Boat Company website at:

...and pictures of our trip at:

Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge and Migrating Shorebirds

We visited this wildlife refuge near Hoquiam, WA during the Shorebird Festival. Thousands of birds migrating between Mexico and Alaska stop by Grays Harbor to feed on its extensive mudflats. A mile long boardwalk - the Sandpiper Trail - brings you through a pretty forest and out to a wonderful view of the harbor, distant forested bluff, and the shorebirds. The peak viewing period is high tide during late April and early May. The trail is still a pleasant walk at other times of year. An organized Shorebird Festival brings out a crowd of birdwatchers during the first weekend of May. See:

More pictures at:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Point Grenville: The most beautiful place you never heard of

Point Grenville on the Quinault Indian reservation shelters two spectacular beaches and a collection of offshore seastack rocks that rival anything on the Oregon coast or north up in the Olympic National Park. The Quinault tribe keeps this treasure to themselves, doing little to promote tourism. However, you may visit by purchasing a beach pass. The beach entrance lies just seven miles north of Pacific Beach, WA.

The interesting thing about this landscape is the way it unfolds over a 2 1/2 mile walk from the beach entrance out to the point. (Note: You may also drive on this beach to shorten up the walk, keeping to the high part of the beach to avoid the clam beds.) At the entrance, you step out onto a wide, sandy beach with forested cliffs behind that are typical of the area. In the distance you can see a large promontory, marking the point, and two, large seastack rocks to its left. But these are as yet indistinct.

A little further along the beach you will reach two isolated, 50-foot high rocks high up on the beach crowned with trees and vegetation. One of these slopes down on the north side for an easy climb. At the top you can enjoy a bit better view south towards Moclips and Pacific Beach, out to the ocean, and north to the point. Someone has installed a rope to climb the steeper, second rock.
Continuing north, you begin to approach the point and the seastack rocks more closely and their details become visible. The two largest seastacks are topped with green vegetation. A flock of seagulls wheels around and settles on these rocks. Smaller rocks at their base kick up the sea spray as the waves crash into them. Then a surprise emerges: far out to sea beyond the point and hidden by these two large seastacks is a large rock with an arch in the middle of it.
As you reach the point, you pass some smaller rock formations, piles of driftwood (missing further south), and some rocks covered in barnacles and mussels. The shore forms a tight, half-circular bay here and the waves swirl around in interesting patterns.

Ahead of you is the point, a large volanic hill perhaps 200 feet high. This tapers down to a barrier about six feet high, and then the land rises again to meet the 100 foot high cliffs. The obvious thing to do is see what is over that short barrier. The anticipation builds as you approach it. It's an easy climb over the barrier, and then you hop down into one of the most stunning sights of the whole Washington coast.

You are standing in a narrow, semi-circular bay. An amphitheater, you might call it. On the other side of the barrier you were walking on sandy beach. Here you stand on volcanic gravel. Towering, 200-foot rocks mark the north and south boundary of the little bay. The rock to the north has an arch in it. Out to sea you get a closer view of the offshore rock with an arch mentioned earlier. All around you in this bay are small, offshore rocks between a few feet and 20-30 feet high. The water churns and boils in fantastic ways among these dozens of rocks and the volcanic cliffs echo the sound. I was here near sunset, which lit all the rocks up beautifully. I climbed a slippery, 20 foot rock to get the best view around the two points. I was trembling from the unsure footing, the vibrant crashing sounds all around me, and the sheer beauty of the scene.
On the long walk back to the car, I kept looking back at the sunset, which was prettier every time. I took a sequence of six or seven sunset pictures.

I can't recommend this visit highly enough. It's not to be missed.

You must buy a beach pass to visit the beaches of the Quinault Indian Nation. A day pass costs $5 per person or $15 per family. Weekend, weekly, and monthly passes are available too. I bought my pass at the tribal administration complex - building B - in Taholah, WA. Taholah lies at the end of highway 109. Look for the administrative buildings on your right - a collection of modern-looking buildings - after passing the church on your left at the town entrance. Passes are available on weekends at the police department. Ask for the map - a multiple page brochure on the area beaches.

Taholah itself has a marvellous beach, which I might have featured if I hadn't visited Point Grenville later in the day. You can park right by the river and beach entrance just beyond the mercantile (groceries and cafe).

It reminded me a bit of Ruby Beach north of Kalaloch. This is a rocky beach varying from large flat stones down to pea gravel. The Quinault River flows into the ocean on this beach. Across the river to the north you see two large rocks forming Cape Elizabeth. To the south you'll see massive piles of driftwood. These would have been spruce trees that floated down the river. Spruce trees grow up to 300 feet tall in this area. In the distance to the south you can see the north end of Point Grenville. I would have walked on several miles towards the point, but I had my little boy with me.

Your beach pass permits you to venture north of Taholah to Elephant Rock - a fantastic formation of multiple arches on the beach. However, this beach is reached by an eight mile dirt road and a two mile rough trail with bear and bobcats active in the area. The brochure says that the animals will "probably" run away from you. An Indian guide is available to accompany you to this area.
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(Vacation rental beach house built in 2007: great ocean view, short walk to beach, 3 king beds)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hoh Rain Forest and Kalaloch Beach 2

I wanted to see what the furthest practical day trip from our beach house would be, so we headed this day for the Hoh Rain Forest. I had a four-year-old boy with me, so we had to make lots of stops to keep his interest up.

We headed north on First Street, north on highway 109, and then northeast on the Moclips Highway. The Moclips Highway is almost deserted, but after 15 miles you reach the Quinault Fish Hatchery. My little boy had never seen a fish hatchery, so I decided to stop. It was a big hit. He was interested in the little hatchlings, the water tanks, big pipes - everything about the place. It made a good bathroom stop too. The hatchery is open to visitors only until 3:00pm.

Shortly after the hatchery, you join highway 101, which you want to follow north in the direction of Forks. We stopped near the Quinault Lodge for gasoline - the most expensive I've ever paid for - and snacks. Both of these would have been cheaper if I had waited to reach Queets.

After Queets the highway follows the coastline and gives you beautiful peaks of the ocean. I had already been to Ruby Beach, the most spectacular beach along this route, so this time I wanted to see a different beach. The other beaches are named South Beach, Beach 1, Beach 2, Beach 3, and Beach 4. Somewhere I had read about "Second Beach", so I decided to stop at Beach 2; although, I now think that Second Beach is another area further north.

Anyway, if you had never been to any other beach, Beach 2 would delight you. A short walk through a pretty forest brings you to the driftwood pile. After clambering over the logs you come out on the wonderful, wide sandy beach. This sand runs almost unbroken down to Ocean Shores 60 miles to the south and perhaps as far to the north. My son enjoyed playing in a little stream that issued out from the base of the driftwood pile onto the beach. After that, we climbed on the largest driftwood log I've ever seen: it was probably a Spruce that I learned later in the Hoh Rain Forest grow up to 300 feet tall in this area. A bald eagle flew overhead. I was too slow with the camera to capture it.

After prying my little boy away from this beach, where he might have played all day, if left to himself, we continued on to the Hoh Rain Forest. It's an 18 mile drive from the highway to the visitor center. Up to this point you have been able to drive at highway speeds, but on this road you slow down to 30 to 40 mph. It's a very pretty drive between a range of hills on the north and the Hoh River to your south. Admission to the park costs $15 per passenger vehicle.

We walked the 3/4 mile Hall of Mosses trail. First, you cross a very pretty brook with crystal clear water. The ranger said we might see some silver fish there, but we didn't spot any. Up in the forest the main attractions are weirdly moss-covered trees - a grove of maples were particularly heavily draped - and enormous Spruce trees that grow up between 200 and 300 feet from the constant rain. The trail follows one fallen Spruce log for 190 feet, which the plaque says was not all of its original height. My little boy enjoyed the short hike a lot.

On the way home we stopped briefly at Ruby Beach for the view, and then we reached home in time for the sunset. The distance from our house to the Hoh Rain Forest visitor center was almost exactly 100 miles. Driving time without stops in each direction was about 2 1/4 hours.

This is the furthest northerly day trip you would want to make from our house. Another 20 miles north you reach the town of Forks, but there's nothing to see in Forks. Another 45 minutes beyond Forks brings you to some further beaches and sights. You might plan to circle up that way after departing our house and finding a place to stay between Port Angeles and Port Townsend.

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(Vacation rental beach house built in 2007: great ocean view, short walk to beach, 3 king beds)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Copalis Rock and Copalis State Airport

Saturday, March 1, 2008: This was a magical day at the beach. I drove onto the beach at Roosevelt Beach Road - 4 miles south of Pacific Beach. Another two miles driving south on the beach brings you to a stream issuing out of the Iron Springs Resort. I chickened out and crossed the stream on foot, but just after I saw another car cross easily.

Copalis Rock lies a further one mile south of Iron Springs. It is an entirely isolated seastack rock. The next one of its size is found 20 miles north on the Quinault Nation reservation at Point Grenville. To the south, I don't know where the next such rock might be - maybe not until Oregon.

The weather had turned out unexpectedly pleasant - mostly sunny with just enough clouds to make the sky interesting. This picture shows dozens of seagulls flying around the rock. There seems to be a colony nesting there.

I continued south to see some further small rocks scattered about the beach, and then I noticed a windsock in the distance. I had read about the Copalis beach airport, so I continued on to check it out.

The airport consists of a windsock, two signs explaining that this is indeed an airport ("elevation 1 foot"), and a container labeled "Guest Book". The guest book was missing. There were no airplanes to be seen this day. However, online I read that up to 75 planes may visit on a sunny, summer day.

I continued a bit further south to the Copalis River. This marks the boundary of Griffiths-Priday State Park, which I had visited the previous August and enjoyed wading in the river. This walk answered the question I had in my mind of whether there was another access point back to the road in this area. There is not, the river cuts off the last possibility.

So it was a two mile slog back to the car into the wind, which had now picked up and turned chilly. Did I mention that I was barefoot? I didn't want to ruin my shoes in crossing the stream. My feet felt like icy bricks at times, but it wasn't so bad as long as I kept moving. The sun was setting at this time and I snapped several more pictures of the rock, sky, ocean, and setting sun.

See more pictures at:
(Vacation rental beach house built in 2007: great ocean view, short walk to beach, 3 king beds)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A January Weekend at the Beach

Last weekend I took four-year-old James and his cousin out to the beach house. We experienced all sorts of weather: snow, hail, rain, and sun. You hardly ever see an all rainy day at the beach. The weather sweeps through quickly and something new is just over the horizon.

We had a very pleasant, kid-focused day on Sunday. First, we met Grandmother and Granddad at the Shilo Inn's restaurant for a breakfast buffet. The restaurant has a great view of the beach, and - this being January - we got our pick of the best tables. The grandparents had driven out from Lacey - just an hour away.

Then we all drove down together to the Ocean Shores North Jetty - this is at the southern end of the Ocean Shores peninsula and bounds the north side of the entrance to the harbor. Behind the jetty is a wide, sandy beach. The sun came out just then for the next couple hours - it almost felt warm. Raquel played in the surf, running from the waves and ruining her canvas shoes. James preferred to dig in the sand bank at the back of the beach. The beach also has a sand dune the kids liked to climb. Its slight elevation also improves the view.

Next stop was the YMCA in Hoquiam for its indoor waterpark. There was a nice spot for the grandparents to sit and watch. The rest of us dove into the water attractions. We went first to the waterslide. James is an old hand at going down that alone. I almost had Raquel convinced to go on the slide - she has never learned to swim, but she backed out in the end. Raquel and James mostly played in the water-jet powered circular river and under the buckets that dump water on your head. James was tall enough on this visit to play in the river on his own.

I should mention the Humdinger. It's a 30 year old hamburger joint in Hoquiam on highway 101. The kids made me stop there each time we passed - they have wonderful, thick milkshakes or "polars" - what Dairy Queen calls "blizzards".

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Excursion to Kalaloch and Ruby Beach

Last Sunday we drove up to the Kalaloch Lodge and Ruby Beach. It's an hour and a half drive from our house. Google Maps makes you think you can drive straight through the Quinault reservation to that area, but it's not true. Either there is no road or the road is not open to non-tribal members. The shortest route from our house is to head north on 1st Street, north on Highway 109 through Moclips, and then turn right on the Moclips Highway. The Moclips Highway runs through the reservation and is almost deserted. You pass a few houses at its entrance, there's a fish hatchery, and that's it. You don't see any other sign of habitation. After 20 miles you reach Highway 101 - turn left in the direction of Forks and it will take you all the way to Kalaloch.

You are mostly in beautiful forest throughout this entire drive. Sections of the forest are very tall and grand where the National Park has protected it from logging. There's a memorable section leading into Lake Quinault where it looks like you are driving through a green canyon. I think the trees must be 200 feet tall on either side of you. On the other hand, the clearcuts give you a view of the wider area. At the east end of Lake Quinault there's a stunning view of the lake and the snowcapped mountains behind. In 10 years that view will be gone as the trees grow up. Near the entrance to Queets campground there's another clearcut that affords a wide view of the Olympic range.

After Queets the highway runs for 12 miles along the shore. This is one of the special places on the Earth. You drive through a windswept forest with frequent peaks of the ocean and beach. There are many offshore island and rocks, including Destruction Island with a lighthouse on it.

The Kalaloch Lodge sits on a very lovely site. It is perched on the edge of a cliff, overlooking a sweeping creek that has cut a canyon through to the ocean. Beyond the creek you see the beach and ocean. We were here in January. Most of the cliffside cabins were vacant and the restaurant was almost empty. We enjoyed a table next to one of the view windows - the best view from any restaurant you're like to see.

Nine years ago when our twins were four years old, we stayed in the cabins and played on the beach in August. At low tide the beach had lots of warm, shallow pools to play in. It was a perfect, safe environment for kids.

Seven miles north of the lodge is the fabulous Ruby Beach - pictured above. It has lots of interesting features: a creek, logs piled on the beach (including some very pretty red cedar logs), the windswept forest, seastack rocks offshore, lots of big rocks scattered in the surf, large flat polished rocks for skipping, and some sandy areas to play in.

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(Vacation rental beach house built in 2007: great ocean view, short walk to beach, 3 king beds)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

How We Got into the Vacation Rental Business

We started investing in rental houses - annual rentals - four years ago, when we moved within Bellevue, WA to a bigger house and kept the old one. On the advice of an agent and after reading a few books on the subject, we bought a further six houses in Snohomish, King, and Thurston counties and self-managed them. We sold the old Bellevue house after two years and concentrated on newer houses that require less maintenance and attract tenants more easily.

That experience prepared us for the vacation rental idea. First, I read an excellent book on the subject: "How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner" by Christine Hrib-Karpinski. This lady manages vacation condos all over the country with the help of local cleaning staff. She gives excellent advice, such as: don't buy a $3,600 sofa - buy a $1,200 sofa and plan to replace it twice - what will the $3,600 sofa look like in 10 years?

Then I started scouting out vacation rentals online, thinking mostly of Ocean Shores. Ocean Shores is a popular beach destination from Seattle, but it is rather ugly. Then in January 2007 I spotted a couple nice houses in Pacific Beach, WA. I was familiar with the area from family vacations to the Sandpiper Resort. It's a much prettier area than Ocean Shores. In May, my wife, little boy, and I spent a weekend at the Quinault Beach Resort, and I casually suggested to my wife that we take a drive up to Pacific Beach. In short order, we hooked up with the local, full time real estate agent, Jim Earp. He showed us the three houses I wanted to see, saving our house for last as the gem of the bunch. We loved it immediately. Within a week we made an offer. The house had been on the market for nine months, but not attracted an offer, so we got a good deal.

We were fortunate to find a very experienced house cleaner, Becky Gonsalves, who lives just three blocks away. She used to run a motel in town, so she has lots of cleaning tips. She serves as our eyes and ears out at the beach.

It's been a lot of fun owning and managing the house. We love the time we spend out there in between guests.

Stillwater School in Arlington, Washington

One of our group of guests coming up in February won a (nearly) free stay at the beach house through a charity auction for the new Stillwater School in Arlington, Washington. I found the director of the school on, where she posted a request for prize donations.

I didn't have any connection with Arlington or this school, but I thought I would give it a try as a bit of guerilla marketing. I offered a free off-season weekend or half price on a three day summer reservation. Everybody at the auction had a chance to see my brochure. Perhaps I'll get some summer reservations out of it. The prize winner added an extra day to their visit, so I made a bit of money that way.

They don't have much of a website yet, but you can track the progress of the school here: