We wanted to head back to the ocean after Yan’s Pacific Northwest Get-Together and our stay in Hood River National Forest, waiting for the fire situation to resolve while staying cool and non-smoky, so down the river we went, out through the Columbia Gorge and north up I-5. Seattle loomed ahead as we took a left on US 12 at Grand Mound, and westward past Aberdeen on 109 to the ocean. The I-5 corridor was hot, but the temperature finally dropped 10 degrees as we came out onto the bay and smelled the salt air again. A left on 115 toward Ocean Shores, and a mile down the road there’s our destination.
We were headed back to Quinault Resort and Casino, which we had visited in our seven month summer of slackitude on the Pacific Coast Highway back in 2012. Washington State doesn’t have the public lands tradition of the Oregon coast, but a casino is pretty close, and Quinault Casino’s RV parking area is far away from the casino building itself, allowing you to get a good dose of the beachfront vibe without all the casino bustle. It’s an elevated platform of crushed rock about five feet high looking out over the vegetated dunes toward the ocean.
Some of my fellow campers were complaining about how far it is to the beach, but casual observation will show that the parking lot is even with the treeline, where the last few evergreens peter out, and the grassy dunes begin. If the ground were stable further seaward, trees would be growing there, but the trees know better. Out on the dunes are these giant driftwood logs. They didn’t get there by themselves. Winter storms here are ferocious, and what looks like a back row seat in the calm summer weather is plenty close once the ocean gets going up here at 47 north latitude.
Since we were here last, the casino has really boomed, the parking lot is almost full on weekends, and they’ve instituted a $10 a night charge for Fridays and Saturdays, nuisance money, really, and free the rest of the week. The Quinault tribe has no allotment, but plenty of jobs for members at the casino. The casino revenue goes for social programs and the general betterment of the native community, so it’s nice to see them doing well. Despite the weekend crowds, it’s still sparsely populated during the week, with maybe a dozen rigs spread out over a quarter mile of oceanfront, enough elbow room for me.
This far north it isn’t sunshine and beach blankets, it’s cooler and foggy with a definite North Pacific vibe. It gets up to 70 once or twice a week, and very seldom goes above that. Plan on sunshine in the early afternoon hours and not much at other times of the day. Even with the months-long Pacific Northwest drought, it was always cool and moist, a welcome relief from our forays inland. No smoke, either – just fresh air coming in off the ocean.
We also got a winter storm while we were here. A low formed off the coast and spun by this past Saturday. I know a winter storm in August sounds fishy, but that’s what it was, sorta like the strange holiday season hurricanes that have been showing up in the Atlantic the last few years. It’s just weird weather these days. The barometer plummeted to 29.48, the winds picked up to 45 with gusts above 60, and all the Class As with their awnings out scrambled to clear the decks and batten down the hatches. We took the dishes down for the four hours when it was really blowing, and faced our Roadtrek into the wind to prevent the rocking, which was so bad broadside to the wind that it was making me queasy. This was the first rain in months here, and was badly needed, especially further inland.
When it wasn’t blowing or too foggy, we took walks down to the beach, watched the deer wander around the area, and caught a few rays when the weather cooperated. No pressure, no schedule, and a nice isolated setting to enjoy nature. Not too isolated, though – Sharon sent me on doughnut runs several mornings, because the casino had a nice breakfast setup, and there’s no need to be uncivilized with fresh doughnuts only a short walk away. It’s Sharon’s birthmonth, anyway, so she’s entitled to a little glazed goodness now and again.