July 27, 2008
A visit to a lavender field has long been on top of my girlfriend’s wish list. Hokkaido or Provence come to mind when I think of lavender but these places are too far to generate any real consideration. As a result, “lavender field” has been put aside indefinitely along other faraway destinations.
I can’t even recall how I find out about Sequim, the self-proclaimed “Lavender capital in North America” (though I don’t think it has many competition), but I was genuinely surprised to find out lavender fields are only a day trip’s distance from Vancouver. I looked up online and printed out the names and addresses of several of the bigger lavender farms in Sequim.
I had an early 6:00 am start in a very wet morning and picked up the rest of our group, then headed south towards the border. We made it past the custom at 7:30 due to a short queue at the border control. If we arrived later in the day, the time to cross the border would be at least two hours.
For a change, instead of driving all the way to Seattle like usual, today I took a right on I-5 at Exit 230 near Burlington, continued onward until reaching the end of WA-20 to Keystone, then board the ferry to Port Townsend in Olympic Peninsula. The 70km one-lane WA-20 70 km to Keystone took an hour and a half to cover.
The ferry crossing took 35 minutes and the fare was $12 per vehicle. We arrived Port Townsend at around 11 am, and hunger and fatigue started to kick in. With so much time on the road already, we decided to head to the lavender farms first. After another 40 minutes drive, we arrived Sequim and the little Sunshine Lavender Farm, located along side US-101.
Light drizzle turned our walk in the field a drag, but the farm is tiny enough that we could cover the whole ground in 20 minutes. I was only satisfied with a few shots taken by my 50mm lens because of the poor light.
After a quick look at the farm’s shop, we moved on to the next farm, Purple Haze Lavender Farm.
This farm is quite a bit bigger than the first one. Here we found out that there are several types of lavender, with different flower shapes and colours. Perhaps because the local lavender festival was over just one week ago, there were no other people in sight. This farm also did not take long to cover and we left for the next farm after half an hour.
The first two farms were downers, but the final farm we planned to visit, Jardin du Soleil Lavender, justified my effort to drive all the way from Vancouver. Jardin du Soleil Lavender is more than double in size than the previous two farms combined. Each lavender field was labeled according to its type. Blossoming in the field were more than a dozen different type of lavenders, each with slight but noticeable variation in colour and shape of flower. For a price, visitors could harvest some lavender in the field with help from the farmer workers.
This is my second visit to a lavender farm. Compared to the touristy counterparts in Hokkaido, Sequim’s are much more down-to-earth and tranquil.
Olympic National Park
After a longer than expected lunch at a roadside restaurant that served poor food and poorer services, it was already 3 pm. My companions wanted to head back to Vancouver so we could still make it in time for a late dinner in Richmond, but because I was the driver, I forced my way to a short detour to Olympic National Park.
I had done some research on the park in case we still had time left after visiting Sequim. For a quick visit, the Hurricane Ridge trail is the only option. Olympic National Park is composed of three main ecosystems: the mountains, the coastline, and the rain forest. The premier attraction is the Hoh River Rain Forest at the west side of the park, but the Hurricane Ridge does not sound too bad an alternative, especially in summer time when wild flowers are supposed to be in full bloom along the trails.
A heavy fog completely engulfed everything not long after we passed the entrance of the national park. I had never seen such heavy fog before, where visibility was reduced to no more than a few metres. I continued to ascend at a snail’s pace, but the sensation of making sharp turns on an uphill road in a heavy fog was strangely enthralling.
The fog eventually subsidized. For the first time since entering the park, we could see where the road was leading us. Soon after, we reached the parking lot of Hurricane Ridge Information Centre.
As the name Hurricane Ridge would suggest, the gale was strong here, even in the heart of summer. Maybe because of the cool summer in the Pacific Northwest so far this summer, not many wild flowers could be seen along the trail.
A layer of thick clouds had covered up much of the famous view of Mt. Olympus, but the sky cleared up for a few seconds just before we turned our back to head for our car. The rolling mountain range was a sight to behold, and worthy of a short detour from Sequim.
Unfortunately, we were stuck at the decrepit Port Townsend for two hours because the 6:30pm ferry was full. A little surprising because we had not seen that many cars or people along the way, but it was a Saturday night nonetheless.
The town had one main street with some interesting looking old buildings, though much of them were abandoned. In fact, the town was awfully quiet. The three of us were the only people walking on the street on a Saturday evening even when the nearby ferry terminal was in full capacity.
We had dinner at a surprisingly good Thai restaurant. I had very low expectation when we walked in – the reasonable price was what led us inside, but the food was better than most Thai (actually it was more like a Southeast Asian fusion) places in Vancouver.
Our visit to Olympic Peninsula was concluded by a dramatic sunset as our ferry departs for Keystone. As I was reminded once again, Pacific Northwest is the most beautiful place on earth.
My day ended after midnight, when I was finally home after a 14 hour driving day.