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It's huge!


Ocean Shores pond


Kalaloch Lodge, near Forks


Lake Quinault Lodge


Olympics view


West coast, Olympic Penninsula


Dandylions, Sequim Bluff

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 EAT and stay STAY

Near Forks
Kalaloch Lodge www.visitkalaloch.com 866.525.2562, (pronounced Klay-lock) Fair Warning: No TVs or phones, limited cell access. This rambling 1930s lodge overlooking the ocean shares little resemblance to what may have been a more charming past. The lodge’s Kalaloch Suite has terrific views and strives for rustic ambience, as do the other lodge suites, all dated. The dramatic lobby fireplace is now unlit in the gift store. Most bluffside ocean view cabins are cozy and appealing with small kitchenettes and wood burning stoves, but duplexes featuring brick fireplaces are more akin to 1970s apartment units than their wood or log-paneled brethren. Motel-like units are in the Seacrest Building. Pets OK. from $110. Fair Warning: housekeeping too, is not stellar, but smashing ocean vistas make up for disappointments. Besides, there’s no other lodging on this stretch of splendid beaches except for camping. Enjoy the view and beach access and don’t be surprised to see eagles perched on a nearby windblown spruce or raccoons parading across the decks of the dining room.

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.

Lake Quinault
Lake Quinault Lodge www.visitlakequinault.com 800-562-6672, Fair Warning: No phones. No TVs, except Lakeside rooms. Indoor pool & sauna. Pets OK. from $113. Built in 1926, the lodge tries to sustain its former rustic appeal with comfy wicker and overstuffed furniture. Indian designs on beams in the lobby acknowledge the Quinault Indian Nation, the original inhabitants of the area. The rustic 1923 Boathouse is a great place for families and the top floor Beverly Suite treetop escape has forest, lodge and lake views. The contemporary three-story annex is more motel-like than lodge, but the setting on the lakeshore with handy access to trails makes up for lack of woodsy ambiance.

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.

play PLAY

Twilight! Yes, grab the kids and explore famous Forks http://twilight.inforks.com and find locations at www.forkswa.com

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.

www.northwestsecretplaces.com and www.olympicpeninsulawaterfalltrail.com (24 trails including Hood Canal, the northern Sol Duc area, Crescent Lake, the coast, Hoh and Quinault rainforests.)

Lake Quinault
Rainforests are mystical places full of mists, mosses, legends and wildlife. A drive around Lake Quinault (some gravel with pot-holes) will take you to elk meadows and short trails to giant trees including the famous Sitka spruce, an exquisite Maple Glade, and a massive kinda spooky 1200-year old weathered cedar (climb up a hillside through seeping springs via rustic steps and tree roots). In fall, big leaf maple show off colors amidst Douglas fir, hemlock, and western red cedar and Roosevelt bull elk rut and bugle challenges.

Fair Warning: storms have devastated some areas: trees down, campsites no longer on riversides as rivers change channels scouring landscape....

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