Olympic Peninsula, Washington
The quietest place in the continental U.S. is reported to be one square inch in the Olympic National Park. How you can seclude sound one inch from another is a mystery. But it is quiet in the remote Quinault and Hoh Rain Forests where certain audible wonders still delight like the steady drip of rain, the rush of streams and waterfalls, the mewling of Roosevelt elk and the swish of eagle’s wings.
I have an indelible souvenir from the Olympic Peninsula: frostbite. Camping one winter in my twenties near Sequim. [more]
Sequim (pronounced squim like swim) lies north overlooking the Straits of Juan de Fuca in a “sun-belt,” the envy of any western Washington town. Sequim has the least amount of rainfall at about 16 inches per year, yet, a few hours south, the Hoh Rain Forest can average 140 to 170 inches a year. That’s wet.
The thing is, and perhaps this is the best thing about the Peninsula, there’s no easy way to get there. Port Townsend, the historic harbor town full of Victorian B&Bs, is about 60 miles from Seattle. But at the shortest — ferry to Bainbridge Island, cross the dramatic Hood Canal Bridge — it’ll take you two hours and you haven’t even begun to explore the Peninsula. Look at the map. It’s huge. Port Townsend at the northeast tip, Sequim and Port Angeles to the north, Forks, the rainforests and beaches to the west. Mountains in the middle. Remote and wild and wonderful.
Fair Warning: Limited locations below. All else to be updated.
Concessionaires run most of this country’s National Park lodges. Whether it’s the government or the caretakers of these properties, many of which are on the National Register of Historic Places, the intrinsic impact—the grand entrances and sweeping public spaces—have been altered, chopped up and divided to accommodate gift shops, check-in counters and even private lounges or offices. Shoddy renovation and minimal attention to décor or amenities is standard. The once beautiful, gracious lodges below are no exception. But after all, it’s location, location, location.
[ARCHIVES: Hey, Ever Been to Port Townsend?]
EAT and STAY
Kalaloch Dining Room serves breakfast (crunchy French Toast with
almonds and cornflakes – didn’t try), lunch and dinner. Fair
Warning: dinner reservations needed and early closing winter
hours. Wasn’t crazy about the food; great views.
The Roosevelt Dining Room serves breakfast (sweet potato pancakes! or Brioche French Toast with sliced banana, mascarpone cheese and candied walnuts & local blackberry compote), lunch and candlelit dinners (perhaps wild mushroom ragout appetizer, before a bronzed king salmon, with shitake and scallion won tons and lemongrass and ginger miso broth?). Lovely setting with lake views.
Hiking & Exploring: It’s amazing. It’s glorious. From remote beaches and secret rainforest glades to high mountain ridges, take the time. It’s worth it. Fair Warning: Maps and info at Ranger Stations, but hours are iffy, closed on weekends (except summer)! Trying to get information at lodges may get, “Gee I don’t know, I’ve only been here a month.” While hiking, watch for banana slugs; don’t forget your raingear and mosquito repellant.
Fair Warning: storms have devastated some areas: trees down, campsites no longer on riversides as rivers change channels scouring landscape....