From Vampires to Sasquatch
[Olympic National Park, July 19, 2018]
After three nights in Port Angeles, it was time to leave. Our plan for the day was to exlore the Hoh rainforest and one of the beaches on the west side of the park before overnighting at Lake Quinault. Driving directly to the lake was about 2.5 hours. We expected our detours to add another 3-4 hours to our trip.
I also thought about detouring to Cape Flattery, the northwestern-most point of the US, but that was going to add another 2 hours of driving. My friend Olivia had done it and said it was not worth the time commitment. If you don’t mind a longer day, it’s probably as close as you’re ever going to get to it.We left Port Angeles and headed west on Highway 101. This portion of it is quite scenic, with view of the Olympics on one side and Lake Crescent on the other. It was another gorgeous sunny day, although we knew we were headed for the foggy rainforests and beaches.
The Sol Duc Hot Springs, also within Olympic national park, were on the way as we were leaving Port Angeles. We weren’t sure what to expect there, so we asked the park ranger at the entrance station; she said it’s all built up and the hot springs are only accessible to resort guests. There are other natural hot springs in the area, but they are only accessible by hiking.
Also along the way was the town of Forks, WA, where the Twilight books were set. We checked to see if the movies were actually filmed here, but it turned out that Oregon got the honors. This did not deter Twilight fans – Forks and Port Angeles saw tens of thousands more visitors after the books came out. For the actual filming locations in Oregon, check out this blog post.
Our first actual stop along the way was Hoh Rainforest. It’s one of the largest temperate rainforests in the United States. The most popular trees in Hoh are the Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock, which is also the Washington official state tree. The entrance to Hoh is about 20 miles away from the highway, so plan on adding at least a couple of hours to your trip if you’re visiting it. The road took us into the forest along the Hoh river.
The western Olympic peninsula is the home of several Native American tribes, and a lot of the names around here come from them. One of the biggest tribes is the Quinault tribe (anglicized version of kʷínayɬ). Hoh’s name is rooted in the Quinault place name for it, /húxw/.
Once at the visitor center, we decided to do the Hall of Mosses trail, which showcases the best of the rainforest. It’s a short loop (1 mile) but also the most popular, so try to get here early to avoid the crowds. We got there around 10:30 am, just before the big rush. There were lots of downed trees around. The incredible amount of rainfall encourages the trees to grow tall but they don’t need an elaborate root system since all the nutrients are readily avaialable. Therefore, the trees often get uprooted by storms.
Although the spruce and hemlock trees are impressive, my favorite were the big leaf maple trees and their drapes of hanging moss.
Our second stop was one of the many beaches along the coast. Some of them are part of Olympic national park while others, like the ones around La Push, are on Indian reservations. After much deliberation, we picked Ruby beach because it was on the way and easily accessible. We checked the tide charts at the Hoh visitor center and realized that we’d be there around low tide, which is ideal if you want to explore.
These beaches are very different from your typical feet-in-sand beaches. They are not the kinds of beaches where you bring a chair and sit in the sun all day. They are wild and rugged, with sea stacks and driftwood everywhere. A sign on the path to the beach explained that trees get uprooted in the forest during storms, and the rain run off hauls them all the way to the beach.
Thanks to the low tide, we had clear passage up and down the beach. We were able to walk around quite a bit and get right up to all the sea stacks. I wished the weather were sunny, but in retrospect the foggy day we got was more the classic Pacific Northwest experience.
We got to Lake Quinault around 3 pm, and we were starving. Our room wasn’t ready yet, but it didn’t matter, as we enjoyed the view from the hotel patio while sipping on some wine. For lunch, we shared a Monte Cristo, which I hadn’t tried before. It’s a fried ham and cheese sandwich – kind of like the salty version of french toast.
The canoe and kayak boats available for rent on the lake shore looked quite appealing. We went down there and tried to get on the water, but it was too choppy with the afternoon wind and we ended up turning right back.
After a few hours of rest and relaxation in our awesome lakeview room, we went back to the hotel restaurant for dinner. It was our first big dinner in a while – on previous day we had late lunches and light snacks for dinner. The Roosevelt restaurant at the lodge has a lake-view patio, and we enjoyed watching hummingbirds by the feeders as enjoyed our meal – duck breast for me and steak for B. Dessert was so good, I only have a photo of an empty plate to show for it.
After our meal, we watched the sun set over Lake Quinault. What a beautiful end to the day!