The 11th Fallstrom family reunion focused on an 8-month-old newcomer.
Eden Fallstrom is my great-granddaughter. Her parents are Blaine and Iaka Fallstrom of Portland, Ore.
Fifteen of us gathered in Port Angeles, Wash., the gateway to Olympic National Park, located on the Pacific Peninsula, 2½ hours northwest of Seattle.
For most of us, it was a first-time introduction to Eden. She was hugged, tossed in the air, closely observed as she rolled around on the floor. She went everywhere with us. Now and then she managed a quizzical smile, as if to think: “Who are these guys?”
Sharing leftover attention was another newcomer, Chelsea Smith, from my wife's side of the family. She is a Starbucks store manager in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Come with Eden, Chelsea and me on this adventure:
DAY 1: My daughter, Kristin, and I attend a getaway chicken dinner in my son R.B.'s home in Glendale, Mo., prepared by Betsy Fallstrom. Betsy, a kindergarten teacher, was unable to make the trip west because school had started.
DAY 2: The flight is St. Louis to Seattle, then a long drive, punctuated by fish and chips at Tides Tavern in Gig Harbor, a boaters' destination. The others straggle into Port Angeles and chow down on pizza. We have rented three houses. Kristin draws the mansion, fit for a king.
DAY 3: Driving the 17-mile Hurricane Ridge Road is a scenic treat similar to the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Twists and turns, hairpin curves, huge trees and snowy mountains. It's an all-day trip, followed by dinner at Kokopelli Grill. Of course, I order salmon.
DAY 4: Six of us start with a private boat tour from John Wayne Marina viewing seabirds, bald
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eagles, harbor seals, harbor porpoises and elephant seals on the Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge. Afterwards, the boat captain steers us to Las Palomas, a Mexican restaurant in nearby Sequim. In the afternoon, I accompany the women to a nearby winery for shopping. Dinner, fish and chicken, is prepared by Bryan Fallstrom and Chelsea.
DAY 5: On this rainy morning, we head to the must-see Hoh Rainforest, two hours away, in the Olympic National Park.
En route, we eat at Sully's Drive-In in Forks, a small community noted as the location for several scenes in the movie “Twilight.” Drenched with more than 12 feet of water a year, the rainforest contains hundreds of Western Hemlock, Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce trees, along with moss-draped Bigleaf maples. The dense, luxuriant vegetation is reminiscent of the Amazon jungle.
Olympic National Park is vast, with more than 900,000 acres of mostly wilderness, two other rain forests, numerous hiking opportunities and a coastal strip. There are no roads in the center of the park.
A farewell dinner is at Wild Fire, on the edge of Port Angeles and guarded by a metal giraffe. The sirloin is delicious. Back at the main house, R.B. receives a cake in honor of his upcoming 60th birthday.
DAY 6: The pleasant weather has ended, and it's raining as we leave Port Angeles for the drive to Seattle and the flight back to St. Louis. The drive is shortened by taking the Kingston ferry to Seattle. We're back in Decatur after 10 p.m.
CONCLUSIONS: More time is needed to explore the extremely huge area.
There were more visitors than I expected.
Although it is difficult to reach, Olympic National Park is worth the trouble.
If you're 62 or older, buy a lifetime pass for $10, allowing your carload free admittance.