H and I ran up to Olympic National Park a few weeks ago for some much needed walks through rain forests and along the Pacific Northwest beaches.
It was the end of summer up on the Olympic Peninsula and the light had begun that slow, inexorable move towards longer wavelengths while leaves were just starting to turn from verdant green to shades of yellow, potentiating the warmer tones. The idea was to take advantage of one of the treasures of the National Park Service with series of multi-mile hikes far away from roads through remote parts of the Olympic National Forest and Pacific coast to see rivers, trees, ocean and wildlife. The goal was also to travel light, despite a day pack and some bear protection, yet I still wanted pictures. It seems Fuji’s X-Pro 1 is never far away from hand these days, so that camera came along for the trip. There were a couple of panorama shots made with the iPhone, but for the most part, these images come out of the Fuji camera.
The Pacific Northwest can be stunningly beautiful and always seems to evoke memories of an artificial world that held my attention for many an hour. Interestingly, the trip coincided with the 20th anniversary of Myst, a groundbreaking creation by Robyn and Rand Miller. So many of the hikes and walks we took were evocative of that atmosphere I originally felt exploring the worlds of Myst. Tim Bray has a writeup here with a wonderful quote: “Sometimes when the sun is up and nobody’s around I go down there and sit on the wood; no sound but the lapping of the waves and the creaking of the ropes that hold the boat. And if I’m reminded unsubtly of a twenty-year-old videogame, I’m unashamed.”. This is a pretty good assessment of the memories and I too am pleased with those ghosts, particularly when quietly walking through woods, miles away from anyone else listening to the sounds of trees moving, water flowing, birds calling and leaves falling.
The Pacific Northwest is also a biologists dream with more species of vertebrate and invertebrate animals than one might expect and a phenomenal diversity of plants and fungi. Perhaps my brother in law could leave a comment on which species are which from the fungi family. He would have loved these hikes.
Not all the hikes we took were back into remote bear country. In fact, there are even a couple of short paths relatively close to Lake Quinault and the Lodge there that are well worth visiting. One of them is perhaps one of the finest 1.8 mile gentle walks in the National Park Service that is also handicapped accessible, the Kestner Homestead Trail. Its an amazing, flat walk through some of the most beautiful, sylvan woods you’ll ever see. Well worth a little drive up from the Lodge.
The Lake Quinault Lodge and immediate surrounding communities seemed like they would have been a good base of operations for many of the hikes we did, but we had a beach house down in the little village of Seabrook as we also wanted to spend time oceanside. Had we more time, it might have been nice to split time between the Lake Quinault Lodge and Seabrook, but as it was, our schedule was a bit tight. Were we to do it again, we’d stay in the Lodge for some of the longer hikes possible around Lake Quinault and up into bear country to cut down on some of the time driving.
But this trips lodging was spent down in Seabrook, a delightful little planned village on the coast of Washington. I could totally see buying a place here if we lived in Seattle as the perfect weekend get away. Not too far away, yet distant enough to let one reposition your mind some.
Right on the beach, just across the road from Seabrook you can walk for miles up and down the Pacific coast, looking for shells, sand dollars and even go clamming. Fresh clams you dug yourself, with pasta and a nice white wine after a day on the beach would be a mighty fine treat for anyone.
We also made a point to explore some of the other more remote and rugged coastal areas with amazing small stone beaches and rain forests that come right down to the ocean. I had hoped to see otters, and perhaps some large whales but we did see salmon, sealions and dolphins swimming just offshore. Tidepools are also around in the Northernmost parts of Olympic National Park along with petroglyphs from American Indian societies that colonized this land long ago.
Looking forward to getting back at some point…