Trekking Through the Olympic Peninsula Area
During the summer months there are few places as superlative as the Pacific Northwest. Everything is lush and green from its continuous supply of moisture. When the sun breaks free of the overcast skies it opens up a world of contrast full of depth, color and splendor.
I was born in the Seattle area and have spend my fair share of time in and around the state, however I had never been west of Port Angeles. When I set off for my adventure of the Olympic Peninsula area I had no agenda and just went where the wind took me.
I first found myself in Port Gamble, which is such a darling little town. I understand Port Gamble to be owned by one entity and all the the homes and businesses are leased to its occupants. The town is immaculately maintained…all the homes and buildings are colorfully (but tactfully) painted, each with their own distinct personality. For such a small community, Port Gamble has a lot to offer its visitors…from a community center right on the bluffs of the Hood Canal, to spacious parks, wedding venues, a museum to cute shops and stores like Dauntless Books or the old General Store. It seems nearly ever week there is something going on in Port Gamble…from ghost walks, Medieval Faire, bike races and runs, Civil War re-enactments, music festivals and more.
After Port Gamble I found myself in Sequim where I had a lovely cup of coffee right in the heart of downtown at Hurricane Coffee. If you’re not familiar with Sequim, perhaps you’ve heard of Dungeness Crab—Dungeness Bay in Sequim, WA is where the shellfish got its name. The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to go hiking and exploring…they also have some nice camping facilities.
Sequim has grown quite a lot since I had last been there and seems to be a thriving community with one-of-a-kind gift shops, murals, antiques, galleries and intriguing restaurants ranging from four-star establishments to roadside stands. Sequim is also very well-know as the lavender capital of North America, where they have a huge annual festival.
After Sequim I made my way to Port Angeles where I had lunch at a really nice place called, Toga’s (it’s in a beautiful old house with a great patio). I had a very traditional, Pacific Northwest Crab Sandwich on deliciously toasted ciabatta bread. If you want to go to Victoria, B.C., Port Angeles is where you’d pick up the ferry. The ferry ride is a mere 30-40 minutes and is very reasonably priced. I didn’t stay all that long in Port Angeles, but hope to go back again in the next couple of weeks as I’ve found a wonderful B&B I’d like to stay…the George Washington Inn.
I made my way along highway 101 to Crescent Lake. Once there, I turned down a road that took me to the east side of the lake…while the drive was nice, I was looking for the Crescent Lake Lodge, which happened to be on the other side of the lake. Nestled at the base of the mountains, Crescent Lake is long, lush and rich in history. The Crescent Lake Lodge was built in 1914 and was a basecamp for enjoying the park while experiencing the charm of a turn-of-the-century resort. By 1937, additional cabins were constructed next to the lodge concurrent with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous visit. Roosevelt stayed in one of the lake cabins and studied the area. He was so impressed by the beauty of the Olympics and surrounding forests that it led to his decision to create the Olympic National Park in 1938. The vast and varied landscape of the Olympic National Park includes a temperate rainforest, radiating mountain range, large lowland lakes, wild rushing rivers, tidelands and saltwater beaches.
After looking at the map, I thought to myself, “I want to make it all the way to the most northwestern point of the contiguous U.S. (Cape Flattery, WA)” I’ve been to two of the most extreme corners of the U.S., this would make three of the four, with only Lubec, Maine to go. Funny thing is, I’ve been extremely close to Maine, but was across the border into Canada. I spent several weeks in Nova Scotia many years ago.
On my way to Cape Flattery, WA I found an amazingly secluded beach to set up camp, it was just N.W. of Clallam Bay. The day was spectacular, blue skies were shining and I was extremely excited about this spot I had found. After I got camp set up, I started on dinner, which included an ice-cold beer. There were plenty of logs around to make myself comfortable on while watching the sun fall into the sea. To my surprise, someone had left some nicely cut wood nearby for me to make a fire with. I soon found comfort inside my cozy REI bag and drifted off to sleep as the lull of waves crashed upon the beach.
I woke to a typically foggy coastal morning. After getting some breakfast and packing up, I headed toward my new found destination. It soon began to rain, however it did not dampen my spirits. The drive from where I camped to Cape Flattery was a depressing one…this part of the coast is very run down and lacks any sort of typical coastal amenities. Once I reached the Cape Trail trail-head my enthusiasm was revived…walking through this lush rain forest was just magnificent. The hike to the most northwestern point of the contiguous U.S. was around a half of a mile—even though it was raining it was a very enjoyable hike, especially once I reached the end where several observation areas presented themselves…the views are spectacular. There is a lighthouse off in the distance and I wondered how people go to and fro…as I far as I could tell there was no clear access to the shore to hail a boat.
Stay tuned for more stories on the Olympic Peninsula area…