The moment I set foot in Sequim Bay State Park, I wondered aloud, "Why don't I come here more often?"
Like the Dungeness Spit, Hurricane Ridge or those lumbering, fickle beasts that roam the valley (elk, not politicians), the bay park is one of those local natural treasures I tend to forget.
I stumbled - literally - on the park the other day during an early-morning run. I was schlepping myself south down the Olympic Discovery Trail when I jogged past park campsites, the amphitheater and along some half-beaten trails. At 6:30 a.m., I must have beaten the camper crowd to their morning stretches. And though the hum of nearby U.S. Highway 101 already was becoming much more than a hum, I found myself drawn back to a place I'd been just once or twice in my seven-plus years on the peninsula.
Making a return trip a few days later with my wife, I found even more nooks and crannies in and around Sequim Bay State Park that make it a great spot for a quick day visit or a close vacation spot for locals and out-of-towners alike.
Open year-round from 8 a.m. to dusk, the park boasts 92 acres settled between the highway and Sequim Bay. While campsites take up most of the land, the park features a modest set of trails in the park's core, providing a little walking room for the RV crowd. We spotted a hiking trail signpost and dove in.
With just a couple of hours of sunlight left on this midsummer day, the short hike was perfect. A few yards from the main road put us in lush undergrowth and a respite from the rare, harsh summer sun. A small creek gurgled in the afternoon heat as we traversed the damp and moderately undulating hills. Cedars, Douglas-firs, a variety of ferns, grasses and wildflowers lined our path and, despite some echoing of camper hoots and hollers, the greenway felt like a perfect bit of peace among what turned out to be a typically full campground.
Making our way out of the forest, we decided the hike was too short and we meandered to and fro. This way took us to the Interpretive Center, open most days until 9 p.m., and that way took us past the pay station where the friendly park manager Steve Gilstrom and staff were helping a visitor. Yet another path led us by horseshoe pits, while another led us to the aforementioned Olympic Discovery Trail, where it jogs unevenly through the park by a combination of road, trail and something in between. (Small, blue indicators atop wooden posts mark the ODT throughout Sequim Bay State Park.)
The park also boasts a boat launch and almost 5,000 feet of saltwater coast. We lollygagged toward the shore and snagged a seat on a park bench and watched the waves roll in. Most of the action was at the campsites, however; at a stretch of RV-ready sites, one family had put up a sandwich sign-style marker, warning passing motorists of their young and obviously restless campers. Another contingent of visitors covered a string of picnic benches with sleeping bags, coolers and hair care products.
We ambled north through a highway underpass toward the park's ancillary features: a well-worn softball diamond, soccer field and basketball court.
My wife recounted the story of a youngster struck while trying to cross the highway here, a sobering account that gave us pause. (The youth was 5-year-old Samuel Prichard of Port Orchard, struck on July 6, 1996.)
Once through the underpass, we found the fields empty, the only movement being two boys on the basketball court unsuccessfully throwing a soccer ball toward the rim.
Seems most of the campers this weekend were more interested in making s'mores and conjuring ghost stories than anything else.
And even though many of the sites seemed awful close to one another, it reminded me of the simple pleasures of camping in the Pacific Northwest: trees, campfires, water, sometimes a little bit of sun, and relaxation.
Considering the cost of a tank of gasoline, my wife and I decided this would be a perfect place for a "staycation,' a bit of heaven just down the road.
Sequim Bay State Park
The park provides two kitchen shelters without electricity, plus 20 sheltered and 15 unsheltered picnic tables. Facilities can be reserved. The park has 60 tent spaces, 16 utility spaces, three restrooms (one ADA accessible) and three showers (two ADA accessible). In the hookup loop, a few sites can accommodate RVs up to 45 feet. Dry camping areas can accommodate RVs up to 30 feet. The park features are two loops of forested, dry, camping sites, some very near the water.
A daily watercraft launching permit costs $7; trailer dumping permits are $5 and are available at the park.
How long: One mile of trails, plus beach access
How hard: Easy to moderate
How to get there: Take U.S. Highway 101 south of Sequim about three miles; state park is on left. No day pass is required.
Notes for campers
Costs - Standard campsite, $17; full utility campsite, $24; partial utility campsite, $23; primitive campsite (bikers, hikers, etc.), $12
Second vehicle costs - $10 per night unless it is towed by RV
Maximum people at site - 8
Length of stay - 10 days maximum (20 days between Oct. 1-March 31)
Check-in time - 2:30 p.m.
Check-out time - 1 p.m.
Quiet hours - 10 p.m.-6:30 a.m.
To reserve a campsite: 888-226-7688
Michael Dashiell is sports editor at the Sequim Gazette. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.