From: August 12 to August 19, 2017

Destination: Olympic National Park, Washington

  • Peaks and Paddling in the Pacific Northwest

    Can't decide whether you prefer mountains or beach, boats or hiking? Experience all of these - and more - as we spend a week exploring the beauty of Olympic National Park. Olympic National Park, one of the gems of the Pacific Northwest, is beloved for its spectacular scenery and amazing array of ecosystems. Often referred to as "three parks in one," Olympic National Park encompasses miles of beach along the wild Pacific Coast, the towering peaks of the Olympic Mountains, and an incredible variety of old-growth and temperate rain forests. In August, it's one of the best places in the country to visit! The temperatures are pleasant, some wildflowers are still in bloom, and the usually omnipresent rain abates for a while. On this adventure, we'll kayak and hike as we sample the best the park has to offer. Maximum group size: 12

  • The following itinerary is meant to be illustrative rather than definitive. We may follow it exactly or we may modify it based on weather, group energy, or new opportunities.

    Saturday,  August 12: Our trip starts today at our hotel near the airport at 5:00 pm. We'll spend some time getting to know each other, then head out to dinner in one of Seattle's famous neighborhoods: Alki Beach. If it's clear, in one direction we can see downtown Seattle across Elliott Bay; in the other, we can see the Olympic Peninsula, our destination for the rest of the trip. After a stroll along the beach and dinner, we'll head back to our hotel to sleep and prepare for our adventure ahead.

    Sunday,  August 13: The day begins with our journey out to Lake Crescent, highlighted by one of the most quintessential northwest experiences: a ride on one of the Washington State Ferries. The ferries are one of the lifelines linking the Olympic Peninsula to the rest of the state, and often provide good views of the Puget Sound and Cascade and Olympic Mountains. After the ferry, another hour and a half by van brings us to Lake Crescent Lodge, our home for the next two days.

    One of the interesting things going on in the Park is the historic Elwha Dam removal and restoration project. The two dams on the Elwha were built in 1913 and 1927, and without fish ladders they quickly decimated what had been a prosperous salmon run. After decades of mounting environmental concerns, along with inefficiencies that came from being older dams, Congress authorized their removal in 1992. In the last couple of years, after 20 years of study, planning, and partnerships between numerous groups, the dams finally came down, with the removal of the second one completed in 2014. This afternoon we'll see the already-profound impacts of their removal and learn all about it as we explore previously flooded areas. We'll eat dinner tonight at the Lake Crescent Lodge and afterwards enjoy the peace and beauty the area offers.

    Monday,  August 14: An early start this morning gives us time to hike to "Goblin Gates" - a dramatic set of rock outcrops that constrict the Elwha's swift waters. This wilder section of the river is above the two old dams, and gives a sense of what the Elwha was like before the dams were installed.

    After lunch,we'll get ready for an afternoon of kayaking on Lake Crescent. Lake Crescent is a deep, glacier-carved lake that has captured the imaginations of many - including President Franklin Roosevelt, who was so enamored of the area (including the Roosevelt Cottages at Lake Crescent Lodge) that he was inspired to establish the park in 1938. If you've never had a kayaking lesson before, you'll be amazed at how a few simple techniques can greatly improve your paddling. We'll also learn how to get out of your boat should you capsize (wet, but very fun - and an important skill to have if you like to kayak with a spray skirt on). If there's time and energy we'll then go for a paddle to explore part of the lake. Once back at the Lodge, we'll enjoy dinner in the old dining room, and have the evening to do as we please - stroll along the shore, chat with new friends, or curl up with a good book in an Adirondack chair by the lake. (2.5 mile hike with 500' of elevation gain; 2 - 3 hours kayaking.)

    ,  August 15: After breakfast, we say goodbye to the old lodge and head for the western side of the park. The west side is a land of water - of coastal beaches and copious rain. Today's hike to Third Beach is a classic Olympic beach hike, and begins with a 1.3 mile hike through relatively open (for the Pacific Northwest) forest. A short, somewhat steep descent brings us to the beach along Strawberry Bay, a long, grey-sand expanse bounded by steep headlands at each end. As we walk to the south end of the beach, we get a better view of off-shore seastacks; we'll also see lots of shorebirds, big and small. Those wanting a mellower day can turn around here and simply enjoy strolling the beach. For more adventure, we'll climb up and over Taylor Point to the next beach south. Climbing over headlands is always an interesting scramble, and Taylor Point is no exception; our ascent will have us using well-placed ropes (for a helping hand up steep slopes) and giant cable ladders (picture a cross between stairs and a ladder). Once up top, we'll traverse 1.2 miles through the forest, paying particular attention to the rooty, ankle-twisty sections; steep steps bring us down to the shore on the other side. If the tide is in, we'll use ropes again to go over a final small headland to a bigger beach. While the trails in the park are usually busy during the summer months, this beach is often less populated, and gives us the chance to see seastacks, kelp beds, and perhaps even an otter.

    Tonight we'll stay in Forks, a town with a Cinderella-in-Vampire-Clothes story. Forks, like many smaller towns in the Pacific Northwest, was economically hard-hit during the 1990s when the logging industry bottomed out. After years of slow decline and scarce jobs, an author who had never even been to Forks (Stephenie Meyer) used the town as her setting for a tale of life, love, and vampires that became an international sensation. Soon, the town was the epicenter for all things Twilight, and the subsequent books and movies have propelled the town to the top of the "must-see" list for tourists worldwide. This economic windfall has helped Forks recover somewhat, and now the town is a mix of Twilight shops, weather-worn restaurants, outdoor outfitters, and logging-related businesses. (Beach only: 3.6-4.6 miles, 300' gain. Beach and Taylor Point: 6 sometimes-rugged miles, 550' gain.)

    ,  August 16: The temperate rain forests of the Hoh River valley are a grandiose, almost meditative counterpoint to yesterday's cliff scrambling and ocean waves. As the miles go by on this flat, out-and-back hike through forests near the river, first the big trees - sitka spruces, cedars, maples - catch our attention. Then, the little details start to catch our eyes: mosses draped over huge branches. Red huckleberries juxtaposed against decaying nurse logs. Armies of sword ferns. You can go as far as you like today; the riverside near the junction with the Mount Tom trail (3 miles in), the grove of massive cedars at Cougar Creek (4 miles in), and Five Mile Island (5 miles in) all provide natural turnarounds. (Up to 10 miles, 300' of gain.)

    Thursday,  August 17: Today we leave the damp west side of the park behind and head back to the north side. While today's adventure isn't in the park itself, no visit to this area would be complete without exploring the saltwater shores along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We'll explore Freshwater Bay by kayak; depending on conditions, we may head east to the mouth of the Elwha River, where we can take in a new beach that's being formed from years of dammed-up sediment. Or, we might paddle west, along rocky shores and cliffs. Either way, we'll catch a glimpse of the saltwater soul of this area, complete with kelp forests and rocky intertidal areas teeming with marine life. If we're lucky, we might even see sea lions, seals, otters, or bald eagles as we glide across the green-blue bay.

    Tonight we head to Port Angeles, the small city sandwiched between the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This city, a gateway to the park and to Canada (via the ferry to Victoria), will serve as our home for the last two nights of the trip. (6-8 miles of paddling.)

    ,  August 18: Our last day in the park brings us to new heights, literally and figuratively. After breakfast, we'll drive up to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, which gives us a great first view into the heart of the mountains. From here, the views keep getting better as we drive another 8 miles along a ridge-top gravel road to reach the Obstruction Point trailhead; at 6100', we'll feel almost like we're on top of the world. Our hike starts with a gradual climb above tree-line along Obstruction Ridge, with breathtaking mountain views, wildflowers, and the occasional snowy patch along the way. From a high point of 6500', the trail drops 1700' in 2.5 miles down into Grand Valley. The reward for this steep descent is Grand Lake, a beautiful mountain lake nestled in a giant bowl. Another half mile brings us to Moose Lake, which is perhaps even grander; sharp Olympic peaks provide a spectacular backdrop to this gem of an alpine lake. We'll linger here as long as we can before we begin the climb back out. Along the way, we might hear the call of the endemic Olympic marmot while we soak up the beautiful views in every direction. (8 - 9 miles, 1700' of gain.)

    ,  August 19: Our journey home begins with another drive to a ferry, this time one that will bring us into downtown Seattle. Depending on ferry lines, we may have time to explore the charming town of Winslow (and get treats from the renowned Blackbird Bakery) while we wait. As we cross Puget Sound, if it's clear we can see the Olympic Mountains - and where we just hiked - from a whole new perspective. We'll finish with lunch in the ever-popular Pike Place Market, a favorite Seattle destination of locals and tourists alike. Pike Place Market has been a farmer's market since 1907, and today boasts 190 craftspeople and 100 farmers, along with more than 200 businesses - including the original Starbucks. With great views of the water and Olympics, and fresh local food, we'll celebrate our adventure together before we say our final farewells.

    If you want to stay and explore more of what Seattle and this area has to offer, you are welcome to depart after lunch (around 2 pm). We'll be within easy walking distance of many city bus routes and light rail to the train station and airport. Otherwise, we can have you to Sea-Tac airport by 3 pm; since summer Saturdays are busy with departing cruise passengers at Sea-Tac, we recommend you plan your flights for 5 pm or later.

  • $2395 for double occupancy (see this page for travel discounts). $300 deposit. Single supplement is $450 (Note: the single bedrooms share a bathroom 2 out of 7 nights).  You can read our cancellation policies here.

    Trip Includes

    • Two experienced guides (if there are more than 7 people)
    • Seven nights double occupancy lodging
    • All meals from dinner on Saturday through lunch the following Saturday, except for one dinner
    • One full day and one half-day of kayaking with local guides
    • All transportation once you arrive at our hotel near the airport, including two ferry rides

    Not included: Transportation to Seattle, one dinner, guide gratuities

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  • Common Questions

    If you’ve never traveled with us before, you may have some questions about how we do things and what you can expect. We’ve answered the most common ones below and are always available by phone or email to answer any others.

    How do I pay for my trip?

    You can make the deposit by submitting a secure form with your credit card information after filling out the registration form or calling us with your card information. We will send you an invoice for the balance due with your Predeparture Information 4 months before an International trip and 3 months before a domestic trip. You can get a 3% discount for paying the balance by check.

    What if I’m coming alone?

    The majority of women who travel with us come by themselves. If you want to pay a single supplement to guarantee your own room, or if you want to share a room with someone with whom you are traveling, you can indicate that on the registration form. Otherwise we randomly assign roommates and rotate every time we change lodging – it’s a great way to get to know different women on the trip.

    Can you accommodate special diets?

    It depends on both the trip and on your specific needs. With advance notice, we can accommodate most dietary restrictions or allergies on our domestic trips, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten intolerant. This is not always true on international trips, so please contact us in advance if you have specific dietary needs. We've found that if you are willing to bring some of your own snacks and a couple of items to supplement what is on the menu (peanut butter is always good!) and possibly have less variety than you are used to at home, then dietary needs usually are no obstacle. If in doubt about your specific dietary needs, especially if you have Celiac disease, please give us a call (877/439-4042) or send us an email.

    What if I have to cancel my trip?

    The amount of your refund depends on how close to the trip you cancel and whether it is a domestic or an international trip. You can read our cancellation policies here. We highly recommend travel insurance because cancellations are always unexpected; we will send you additional information about insurance when you register.

    Will my family be able to get in touch with me in case of an emergency?

    Yes, we always send out emergency contact information. On a few trips, because of limitations in communication, the best approach is to give them the office number and let us make the contact.

    What other information will you send me?

    When you register, we’ll send you a Trip Summary that includes the itinerary, travel information, and a packing list. Three to four months before your trip we’ll send you Pre-Departure information that includes detailed information on how to get to the trip starting point, pre- or post-trip lodging suggestions, suggested books and websites etc. Four to six weeks before the trip, we’ll send you a list of everyone who is registered along with their travel plans; and a Pre-Trip letter with the name of your guide(s) and how to contact them if your arrival is delayed as well as any other important updates.

    Do you help with pre-trip and/or post-trip hotel reservations?

    For international trips, if you want to stay at the hotel where we’re staying the first night before the trip, or at the hotel we’re staying the last night after the trip, we’re happy to make a reservation for you. Otherwise our PreDeparture Information will have hotel suggestions. Our travel agent is also happy to help you with this.

    How does the waitlist process work and how often do people cancel?

    If you are interested in a trip that is full, you should sign up here. If there is a cancellation, we send out an email to everyone who has expressed interest and ask them to respond within 24 hours. If more than one person is interested, we give the space to the person who has traveled with us before or in the order of being put on the waitlist. Frequently, even when we have a long wait list, it is the last person to sign up who is still available to go. Whether or not there will be a cancellation is completely unpredictable, although not uncommon.

    What is the role of the guide(s)?

    On every trip, the primary roles of the guide(s) are to ensure your safety and to make sure that, to the extent possible, you are having the trip you want. The guide(s) will also make sure that you know what is happening each day and what you need to bring to be prepared. On domestic trips the guide(s) will also likely be driving, preparing picnic lunches and sometimes other meals, providing skills instruction, and giving you information about the natural history of the area. On any trip where we partner with another company (which is most international trips and some trips that require special equipment), the AGC guide will work with the local guide to make sure that the trip is conducted in accordance with the AGC philosophy.

    What if I have more questions?

    Give us a call (877/439-4042) or send us an email. A Program Manager is assigned to each trip. Once you have registered, she will send you a registration confirmation letter that includes her name and email, and she will be your primary contact. Her job is to make sure that you get all your questions answered and that you feel completely prepared for your adventure.

    What if I'm the oldest/youngest/heaviest/least in shape/only single woman/only mom on the trip?

    You might be. Someone has to be the oldest/youngest/heaviest/least in shape person on the trip. And while the great majority of our trips have both single and non-single women, and moms and non-moms, sometimes they don't. But it doesn't matter if you're "different" in any of those ways - what you will share with everyone else is a desire to experience adventure in your life, and an appreciation of the joy and camaraderie of being in an all women's group.

Trip highlights

  • Hiking the outstanding diversity of Olympic National Park: sandy beaches and shore-side cliffs; giant trees in the ancient temperate rainforest; and snow-capped peaks and mountain lakes
  • Kayaking on Lake Crescent, a fjord-like lake, and also with the seals, seaweed, and saltwater in the Strait of Juan de Fuca
  • Staying at a national park lodge that has welcomed guests since 1916
  • If you're a Twilight fan, or know one: Staying in Forks, WA, the setting for the immensely popular Twilight books and movies

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