Driving a VW Bus to the Edge of the World

Glaciers, rainforests, & rugged coast on the Olympic Peninsula

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  • 10:50
  • 383 mi
  • $46

Created by James Barkman - July 27th 2016

Over a year ago, I zigzagged my rickety Volkswagen van 4,000 miles across the country from east to west, with a dirt bike and a couple homies stuffed inside. It was the ultimate bro trip, and the type of iconic adventure that I had been dreaming about since I was a little kid. The taste of life on the road caught me hook, line, and sinker.

I’ve been living and traveling in my van for about 2 years now, and the longer I spend on the road, the longer it seems to fuel my fire for the nomadic lifestyle. Kevin Bennett, who might as well have “Down For Whatever” tattooed on his forehead, was one of my co-pilots on that coast to coast trip, and after it had ended we vowed to make another. Now, exactly one year later, we planned to fulfill our oath and hit the road once again!

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4.2

Port Angeles, WA

Our destination this time? The Olympic Peninsula. Glaciers, mountains, rainforests, rugged coastline littered with enormous sea stacks, and hot springs... that’s enough to convince me to brave the long hours and miles required to reach this wonderland. You truly could spend a lifetime exploring everything the rugged peninsula has to offer.

I picked up my friends Kevin, Melissa, and Clayton from the airport and we piled ourselves and our gear into my rusty, trusty 1976 VW van. I dropped her into first gear, and with a parting backfire, we started our road trip.

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Holiday Inn Seattle Downtown

We spent the first night in Seattle in the Holiday Inn furnished for us, resting up and planning our route for the upcoming week. The Downtown Seattle Holiday Inn is conveniently located with a rad view of the Space Needle, a short walk to great coffee shops, and is a stone's throw from the Seattle waterfront and the iconic ferris wheel. It was nice to snag a shower at Holiday Inn before heading out the next day. A hot shower is a rare commodity when you live on the road, usually traded for frigid dips in waterfalls and rivers or cold-water surf sessions. Our short stay at Holiday Inn also provided me with a little time to diagnose and fix a couple issues with the van.

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Biscuit Bitch

The next day, after a tasty breaky at the Biscuit Bitch (they make massive, mouthwatering biscuit sandwiches and a killer espresso), we hopped on the ferry to Bainbridge Island, and headed into the peninsula.

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Sunrise Coffee Company

We cruised through Port Townsend, grabbed a cup of locally-roasted joe at Sunrise Coffee Company and checked out the shipyard.

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Hurricane Ridge

Our first official stop was Hurricane Ridge. Located near Port Angeles, the ridge stands 5,242 feet high, is usually cloaked in clouds of fog and gives an incredible panoramic view of Olympic National Park. Despite constantly threatening to overheat, the van somehow made it to the top. We watched the fog roll over the mountains and trees for a few hours. At times, the fog would become so thick that you could barely see 100 feet in front of you. Periodically, it would clear up revealing snow capped mountain peaks amid an endless sea of pine.

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Lake Crescent

Crescent Lake is about 20 miles outside Port Angeles. Plenty of opportunity for any type of water activities, such as boating, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, etc. We jumped off the dock into the freezing water, wowed the locals by busting out a few flips, and took naps on the shore.

Forks Washington is the area that much of the Twilight series was filmed in. A small, interesting town with a bit of a western feel. I highly recommend “Pacific Coast Pizza” and “The In Place” for a breakfast run. My van was running pretty rough at this point, and after much time and thought was put into diagnosing the issue, I picked up a new fuel pump at an auto parts store in Forks, busted out the toolbox and swapped it in 30 minutes flat.

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    Forks, Washington, United States

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1st Beach, La Push

La Push is an area on the coast, about a 30 minute drive from the town of Forks. Located on reservation land, it has remained undeveloped and untouched for generations. Thousands of wave-worn logs cover the beach, and enormous sea stacks rise out of the ocean like something straight out of the movie "Avatar". When most people think of going to the ocean, they think of sandy beaches with crowded boardwalks and concession stands. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s a place where the mountains meet the sea. Sandy beaches are traded for rocky, driftwood-littered coves and pine-covered cliffs.

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Cape Flattery

From La Push we headed up to Cape Flattery, the most Northwestern point of the US. Really feels like the end of the world. It can rain up to 132 inches per year, which has turned the area into a dense rainforest.

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Hobuck Beach Resort

From Cape Flattery, we hit up Hobuck Beach Resort. There's a sand dune area for recreational vehicle use. Of course, we unloaded my Suzuki DR350 motorcycle and took turns spinning donuts and ripping up the sand. I'm still picking sand out of my teeth. Totally worth it, though.

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Shi Shi Beach

Shi Shi Beach, only a few miles from Hobuck, is not for the faint of heart. With a 2 mile hike to the beach itself and another 2.5-mile walk to the end of the beach area, adding up to a 9-mile hike roundtrip, this place truly gives a taste of the rugged and wild Washington coast. Depending on conditions, this beach is often a great place to surf as well. Just watch out for great whites and rocks hidden under the water!

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Tempted to quit your job, buy a van, and hit the road yet? It’s been two years since I’ve done just that, and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Here’s to the open road and the new adventures it will bring!

James Barkman

22 years under the sun. Thrill seekin', dirt baggin', van dwellin'