Around Olympic National Park, Day 1

The third week of July, a friend and I decided to make the loop around Olympic National Park, which occupies the heart of the Olympic Peninsula and is encircled by U.S. 101, which makes a horseshoe at its northernmost reach.

Neither of us had done the route in a long time — not since my nine-year-old car was brand-new, to be precise. The weather at home was hot, so the idea of heading to the coast was very attractive, too.

The only problem was making reservations for a place to stay, since the whole loop is about 360 miles, which is a very long day if you’re actually going to stop and walk around anywhere. Olympic National Park is a popular tourist attraction, plus Forks, which is a good midpoint stopping place, is still a favorite of Twilight fans, so this took some finagling with less than a week’s notice. After a few calls, though, we finally ended up reserving a room about fifteen miles outside of Forks. I’ll tell you a bit more about that in a bit.

We headed out fairly early, and, after picking up what I always think of as an insta-picnic at a Subway in Aberdeen, added some north to our west.

The road from the south to the coastal section of the park is mostly an endless progression of farmed forest and clearcuts, but once in the park itself, things improve drastically. We drove past Lake Quinault, and stopped briefly at Kalaloch, but our first goal for the day was Ruby Beach, where we ate our picnic then walked down to the beach itself.

Seastacks and creek estuary at Ruby Beach.
Seastacks and creek estuary at Ruby Beach.
Cobbles at Ruby Beach, some flat enough to skip.  Or to stack.
Cobbles at Ruby Beach, some flat enough to skip. Or to stack.

It was pleasantly cool and cloudy there, which was terrific after the heat inland. The short trail leading to the cobble beach was a bit difficult for my friend, who has some mobility issues, but she made it. And the views were well worth it. We had fun trying to skip stones into the water, too. I used to be good at that, but I’m not anymore. Not enough practice, I guess.

A rather odd — I’m not sure what to call it — was interesting, too. But I have pictures, so I’ll just show you.

What someone with way too much time on their hands did at Ruby Beach.
What someone with way too much time on their hands did at Ruby Beach.
More mini-cairns.
More mini-cairns.
And more.  This was only a very small part of the display.
And more. This was only a very small part of the display.
And more.   I'd be willing to bet over a thousand of these rocks were stacked like this.
And more. I’d be willing to bet over a thousand of these rocks were stacked like this.

Literally hundreds of the cobbles were stacked up like this, all over the place. I have no idea who did it or why, but it was kind of cool.

Then it was on to the rainforest. The rainforest along the Hoh River thoroughly creeped me out the first time we visited here when I was a kid — I always felt like something was going to reach out and grab me. But now I appreciate it much more, although I still like the Carbon River rainforest on Mt. Rainier better. I’m not sure why.

Emerald green moss at the Hoh Rain Forest.
Emerald green moss at the Hoh Rain Forest.
Looking up into vine maple leaves and huge evergreens.
Looking up into vine maple leaves and huge evergreens.
Trees in the rainforest grow huge.
Trees in the rainforest grow huge.
This will give you some idea of the scale of these enormous trees.  And don't they look like they could reach out and grab you?
This will give you some idea of the scale of these enormous trees. And don’t they look like they could reach out and grab you?

The rainforest along the various rivers running west from the Olympic Mountains to the ocean is very rare. Most rainforests are tropical, but this rainforest is in the temperate climate zone. It’s very beautiful. My friend and I got out and walked the shortest of the trails, the one called the Hall of the Mosses, which I think she might have considered to be a bit too long. Still, as you can tell from the photos, it was well worth the time and the energy to walk it.

By then it was getting to be late in the afternoon, so we drove on through Forks, which, if it weren’t for Stephenie Meyer, would just be another everyday western Washington logging town, and to our motel, which, as I’d figured, was basically a hunting lodge in the off-season, with all that implies (and some — the TV remote from heck — it doesn’t). Still, it was a place to sleep, and the attached restaurant was running a special on ribs, which we both chose. I haven’t eaten that much meat at one sitting in years.