Spring has reached the Pacific Northwest. The year-round shadows of Washington’s evergreens are interspersed with fresh spouting leaves of maples and clusters of blooming rhododendron. The cold drizzle has started to turn to…well, warmer drizzle. It’s time to venture outdoors!
After searching for driveable destinations that we could enjoy no matter what the fickle Washington weather decided to throw at us, my family and I decided to head for the Olympic Peninsula. There, we had the chance to visit a historic lodge, view a lovely lake, hike and drive through a stretch of temperate rainforest, look at a really big tree, and even discover an unexpected World War II era connection.
Olympic National Park covers more than 1,400 acres of gorgeous scenery—from spectacular panoramas of the mountains to the north at Hurricane Ridge, to Pacific beaches, to river valleys cradling temperate rainforests.
For this journey, we headed to the south edge of the park, to Lake Quinault. Now, to be accurate, this technically wasn’t a National Park excursion. The lake itself isn’t part of the Olympic National Park—it’s administered by the Quinault Indian Nation—and the trails on either side of it pass through National Park Land, National Forest Land, Private Property, and Who Knows What Else.
We chose Quinault Lodge as a base of operations.
The current lodge is not the original structure, which dated back to the 1880s as a vacation destination and boasted floating dancing pavilion. That original “Log Hotel” burned down in 1924. The current lodge was raised in 1926 and boasts a beautiful lounge with thick wooden beams, a huge fireplace, comfy chairs and (I’ve been told) noisy radiators—atmosphere! The rooms in the Main Lodge do not have telephones, radios, or televisions. We wound up in the Lakeside Rooms, a newer addition touted as being more family friendly which did have a TV (not that we used it.)
The lodge is located near the lake with a wide, grassy lawn and a sandy beach with a swimming area. (As there was a mix of hail and snowy rain when we arrived, we stuck with the indoor pool on this visit.) It’s also right on the road that loops around the lake with many lovely trails to walk right out the door.
We enjoyed hiking trails and admiring cascading water both in the lodge area and along the south shore of the lake. We also had one nice elk sighting, but didn’t manage any pictures as they were having a leisurely graze in someone’s yard.
We did attempt one trail at the northern tip of the Lake, but after a mile it turned into a boggy morass. I imagine it would be a nice hike in the summer once it has had a chance to dry out. We contented ourselves with heading down to the lake shore and skipping rocks and wishing to see an otter. (No such luck.)
The temperate climate and ample water of the Quinault area allow for some pretty impressive trees; the valley boasts six “champions.” Just off the south shore road is a short trail to the world’s largest Sitka Spruce.*
At about 1,000 years old with a height of 191 feet and a circumference of 58 feet 11 inches, “Sprucy” was well worth seeing, though perhaps a bit too accessible to really enjoy. Even though it was the off season, there was a small line-up of tourists waiting for pictures with the tree which made it difficult to explore or spend more time than it took to take a photo.
Naturally, when travelling with a family of five, planning out food is a high priority. Normally I’m peanut-butter-sandwich-and-bag-of-apples sort of traveller—it’s easy to pack, inexpensive, the kids like it, and it doesn’t require hauling a cooler. This time around we decided to treat ourselves and enjoy the Lodge’s dining area, and THAT is where I accidentally encountered a little bit of World War II era history.
The Roosevelt Dining Room is so named because in 1937 FDR visited the lodge on a fact finding mission and had lunch. We discovered this after we selected the table at which he sat. It had a lovely view, and the food was delicious. FDR must have enjoyed the area too—nine months later, he signed the bill creating Olympic National Park.
Our return home and to daily life came quickly, but the kids have already been saying, “Next time we go to Quinault…” Whether there or elsewhere, I’m looking forward with hope for more excursions outdoors this year!
What about you? Have you had a chance to get outdoors this spring? Have you found any beautiful places or pieces of history?
Thanks so much for stopping by!
*Apparently there is another tree in Oregon that has almost as many AFA points and has been declared co champion. I’m rooting for the WA one to hold the title. Rooting! Hardee-har-har…