Nothing can quite prepare you for the feeling you get when standing on the edge of a 50-foot cliff overlooking clear, blue water, which you plan to jump into on the count of three.
Devil’s Punchbowl, at Lake Crescent near Port Angeles, is reportedly about 1,000 feet deep. Thrill-seekers jump in from heights ranging from 15 to 50 feet.
On July 28, my colleague Sara Miller and I were two of those people.
On the way, we stopped at Granny’s Cafe, off Highway 101, for lunch. We had delicious lunches of chicken strips, cheeseburger, garlic-parmesan fries and milkshakes; took the time to pet the goats and donkey around back; and got back on the road. We were on a mission and we wouldn’t be deterred. Even when it meant driving 20 minutes longer than expected to find the turn-off we were looking for. Even when we backtracked twice and nearly parked a mile too early along the narrow, winding road.
When we hesitantly drove past the “dead end” sign without any sure knowledge we were even in the right place, we finally found what we were looking for: a very small landing with a few parked cars and a sign with a familiar trail description. Even still, when we set off on our hike, we weren’t sure we were going in the right direction.
Finally, after a two-mile hike over rocky terrain (bring a water bottle), we rounded a corner and were greeted by the beautiful sight of the Devil’s Punchbowl.The Punchbowl is just a simple cove, really, surrounded on three sides by tall, rocky cliffs, with a bridge separating it from the rest of Lake Crescent.
First thing’s first: we jumped off the bridge, twice each. It was about a 15-foot fall. It wasn’t the highest jump I’ve made into water, but it’s been a while, so I was still nervous. Before our first plunge into the surprisingly warm waters of Lake Crescent, Sara and I sat on the top of that bridge for a minute laughing at each other and exchanging dares that the other go first.
After we hit the water, we couldn’t help but laugh at ourselves for being silly. Our hearts may have raced a little on top of that bridge, but the fall gave us an undeniable rush, and the water was just cold enough to feel very refreshing after our hour-long hike.Our first, and easiest, jump was a piece of cake.
Once we climbed out, we stared at the cliff, which suddenly looked 100 feet tall instead of 50, and wondered if anyone would ever really know if we didn’t actually jump.
Finally, I turned to Sara and said, “We need other people here so we can’t chicken out.”
Maybe 30 seconds later, a boat blasting out rock music approached Devil’s Punchbowl. Immediately after that, a family appeared from the same path Sara and I had trekked. Then another one followed not long after.
With the pressure we needed to finally make the climb, first Sara, then I, made our jumps from the rock.
Neither of us jumped immediately upon reaching the ledge. We both stood there, staring at the impossible distance between our feet and the surface of the lake, trying to psych ourselves into the jump.
Sara finally jumped when the music from the boat gave her the perfect motivating song (Van Halen’s “Jump”). I managed to do it after a kid at least a decade younger than me climbed up to a lower ledge and jumped without hesitation.
It was glorious.
After you manage to jump, in those moments you’re falling, you forget to be afraid. The air is rushing past you, and you have just long enough to register that, in a moment, you’ll be underwater. Then you hit, and you’re engulfed in beautiful, clear water. You go deep enough that the shock is gone by the time you break the surface, and you’re just smiling.
We were energized and elated and proud that we did what we’d set out to do.I even climbed up the rock and did it a second time — and that time, I didn’t hesitate.We were only at the Punchbowl an hour. We jumped from the bridge and the rock, and watched people from age 7 to mid-40s jump from various heights, always to the cheers of everyone else there.
We may have been a little nervous, but we both want to do it all over again. And we both recommend the trip to anyone with a tank of gas and a free day. There are even nearby campsites if you want to make a weekend of it.
When you make the trip — and you definitely should — just remember two things:
One, don’t think. Just jump. Trust me, you’ll be fine.
Two, don’t forget to stop at Granny’s Cafe on your way home for an ice cream cone. It’s tradition for everyone who’s made the leap.
A view of Devil’s Punchbowl from the bridge. In those moments after you jump, “the air is rushing past you, and you have just long enough to register that, in a moment, you’ll be underwater,” Michelle Beahm writes. Photo: Sara N. Miller / Staff
Above: Sara N. Miller, sports and outdoors reporter for the North Kitsap Herald, makes a 50-foot leap into Devil’s Punchbowl, a cove at Lake Crescent. Her co-worker, Michelle Beahm, said of the experience, “When you make the trip — and you definitely should — just remember … One, don’t think. Just jump. Trust me, you’ll be fine.” Photo: Michelle Beahm / Staff
— 187.8 miles (Bainbridge)
— 206 miles (Port Orchard).