Tuesday, September 5, 2023

PNW Sprinter Rally August 10-13, 2023

So who doesn't love a rally.

Since we just took delivery of our built out van in March, this would be our first van rally.  We are no stranger to large group outings.  As a boater and happy members of Queen City Yacht Club, we've participated in multiple gatherings and we even chaired/hosted two large events (think 30 to 60 boats and 90 to 150 people).  

So not only were we excited to join and meet other van owners, we were willing to help out as well.  We volunteered to be ambassadors.  What is an ambassador at a van rally you ask?  Don't let people get lost.  Well, not just that, but that was a big one.  Also, some basic cat herding - it can be tough to ensure people move ontime when you have 23 vehicles.

The rally unofficially started on Thursday evening, August 10, at Schafer State Park just outside of Satsop, WA.  Our leader, Deiter, had reserved the group site.  Honestly, this was probably the best location in the whole campground.  Very large, open, grassy area that could easily hold 25 vans.  I believe we had 17 that night.  This our first time meeting other van rally members.  Their friendliness and hospitality was apparent immediately.  I'm now a fan of Bitchin Sauce! (highly recommend trying it). It's now a staple in our fridge.


On Friday morning we hit the road by 830am with a plan to arrive at Chance A La Mer Beach Access in Ocean Shores between 930 and 10am.  This is where we met up with the rest of the of the crew.  After a brief break for people to fuel up and use the restroom, we had a quick debrief and started to head out.

After corralling a few wayward vans (took a wrong turn), we were all headed north for Pacific Beach where we would drive on the beach for about a mile...pretty cool site to see 23 vans parked on the beach.  

After some cool photo shots, we headed north on the beach.  Well most of us.  One person got stuck.  Sooo, I got to use my traction boards.  Total time to deploy, unstuck said van, and store them back on the roof - about 5 minutes.  

Our next stop was a DNR day use area on the Clearwater River.  This spot was awesome.  Giant rock/sand bar easily fit our 23 vans and we could have fit another 20.  We spent a while here having lunch and soaking in the warm river water.  Another great time to meet up, admire our vans, and share stories.

So now things hit a few hiccups.  We first attempted to hit up Ruby Beach.  I was actually really looking forward to spending time on this beach in the Olympic National Park.  Even though it was a weekday, the parking area did not have capacity for our rally group.  There were less than 10 spots available.  So we continued north and had a pit stop in Forks for fuel.  After that we made our way to another beatiful NPS beach - Rialto Beach.  Unfortunately, there were even fewer parking spots at this location and each van had to perform 5+ point turn to leave.  We created a bit of backup (and may have miffed a few people behind us)...sorry. 

Next up was our place to hunker down for the evening.  We were originally set up to stay on a baseball field right off of the ocean in La Push thanks to the Quileute Tribe.  Unfortunately, the field got commandeered for heavy equipment being used to work on the jetty.  The tribe was able to find a piece of land for us with a local resident.  This would be our stop for dinner and the evening.  Let Happy Hour begin.

The next morning Steph and I decided to break camp about 90 minutes early and head back to Rialto Beach.  Glad we did.  What a beautiful location.  The forests goes right down to the beach, the surf is perfectly magical and beach is almost endless.  The islands are the topper.  We went for a 45 minute walk, enjoyed the amazing ocean sounds, the mist on the beach, and some cool driftwood admiring.

On Saturday we headed toward and around Crescent Lake.  This lake is stunning!  It's a pristine, very deep blue lake at the north end of the Olympics, and it's one of the clearest lakes in the country.  Unfortunately, there are very few turnouts along the lake and definitely none for 20+ vans.  Next stop is Salt Creek Recreation Area.  I have camped here and loved it (stay in the non-hookup part of the campground).  It also has an excellent day use facility with a ton of parking.  In the day use area (which is free), you can access the potable water, dump station, restrooms, and showers.  But enough about facilities.  Salt Creek has gun turrets (setup for protection of the Straits and shipping during WWII), tide pools, sea life (we saw an otter), beautiful beaches, a picturesque island, excellent surf, and lots of varied hiking terrain.  

After several hours here we staged/met on the Port Angeles Jetty by the US Coast Guard station.  Next we drove the vans through downtown Port Angeles to our next stop - a Hipcamp (called Roberts Woods) in the foothills above Port Angeles.  This 12 acre piece of land was acquired specifically to setup as a hipcamp - it has been the wife's dream and labor of love.  The hosts were lovely, very helpful, and just genuinely fun people to talk to.  They have around 6 individual campsites but they have wide open fields to accommodate large groups like ours.  They even have glamping tent cabins.  We had a very nice catered meal and a local folk band from Port Townshend playing classic favorites.  It was a perfect evening to sit out, enjoy the music, and later watch the Perseid meteor shower.

On Sunday, after some exercise (I ran and Steph participated in a group cross fit session), we all headed to Sean and Dawn's coffee bar and athletic club (The Coffee Box/Storm King Athletic Club).  We had a plethora of fruit, danishes, bagels, and beverages - they were great hosts and their businesses are very cool.  As the final gathering, this officially ended the rally.  Steph and I decided to do one more adventure.  We drove up to the top of Blue Mountain (almost 6k feet up).  You need to traverse along an 8 mile dirt road - this road was in outstanding condition, but it's steep, very windy, and at times narrow.  You were provided views into Canada, the Cascades, and the Olympics.  On the way down, I got to utilize 4WD Low - which worked great - it managed the van speed well so I used very little brakes.

And then we drove home.  We loved making new friends, learning about our vans (thanks to the Van Compass folks who were part of the rally - they were great - and yes, I had Momentum install the Baja Bracket), and seeing new sites.  Until next time.

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