Washington's Olympic Peninsula

 One of My Favorite Places 

 

In between the metropolitan area of Seattle and the Pacific Ocean is a large and beautiful land mass, the Olympic Peninsula.   Looking due west from Seattle one can see the sun set over the Puget Sound and over the Olympic mountain range, which comprises much of the peninsula.   These mountains have glaciers and are snow peaked all year.  In the winter they are very white!  


But on the west coast along the ocean is a rare temperate rain forestthe only others like it are found in New Zealand, and southern Chile. The valleys run away from the coast and catch the rain, lots of it, 145 inches, more than 12 feet, every year. The Olympic range to the east protects the coastal areas from the severe weather extremes.

The rain forest temperature does not drop below freezing, and summertime highs rarely exceed 80 degrees.  The ocean, rain forest and mountains, all within 30 miles, are a geological wonder of nature.  
The Washington coastline is a long, remote, sandy beach beneath rugged cliffs. There are a few places where one can actually drive onto the beach and ride horses.  But most of the beach is only accessible by foot and steps.  Much of the beach is covered with huge tree trunks and logs. These drift logs have floated down the rivers from logging sites in the national forests.  Beyond the beach in the ocean are huge rock piles—“seastacks”—
the results of years 
of erosion.  

The undertow is very strong, as the water gets deep very quickly.  “Dillon, holding hands is a good thing!” says mother/daughter, Lori (above).

Because the waves are gentle and the beach is wide there is small and very fascinating wild life everywhere. Tidal pools collect small fish, mussels and jellyfish.  In the coves are seals, sea birds, eagles and sea lions.

Kalaloch Lodge is one of the only places to stay along this long stretch of beach.  From here one can walk the beach for 10 miles to Ruby Beach climbing on rocks, gathering mussels and just escaping. 

      

Inland is the temperate rain forest. The most popular way to enter to forest is through the Hoh River Forest, where there are gentle, interpretive trails.  A mile or so into the park begin the hikes into the mountains and glaciers.  This is a great place to go backpacking and car camping.  There are many short hikes into the forest to visit the unusual.  This giant conifer (left), a cedar near Kalaloch Lodge, is over a thousand years old and still alive.  It is said to be the oldest tree on the Peninsula.  The forest floor is covered with ferns of many varieties.  Everywhere is moss hanging from whatever it can find to climb on (see picture further up).

The northern side of the Peninsula hosts three popular trails, Sol Duc, Hurricane Ridge, and Deer Park.  Sol Duc lies next to the Hot Springs (which are now a large concrete pool heated by the earth).  Hiking Sol Duc is very special.  Halfway up the two-mile hike you find  huge Douglas Firs everywhere.  Even my west coast son, Barney, was impressed. 

Much of this forest is endangered old growth.  And the reward at the top of the trail is this deep gorge and falls.

Hurricane Ridge trail is a long drive to the top of the range, where you can see views of a glacier.   Even in summer up there one can have a snowball fight. There is also easy hiking access to the mountains.

Deer Park is not for the faint hearted.  The drive is a dirt road (two directions) and very narrow. At the top is a small campsite with running water!  There are deer everywhere and snow and sunsets Lots of memories . . .

 


P.S. There's a great web site at  www.olympicpeninsula.org that tells you even more about this wonderful area!

 

Harriet H. Ahouse | Independent Travel Consultant
Vista Travel, Inc.
10 Rogers Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142
617-621-0100 (main) | 617-588-4246 (direct)
888-567-9406 (24-hour service)
e-mail: [email protected]