Day 3: Exploring Our Own National Park

We have spent so much time exploring our nation’s National Parks, but strangely, have spent little time discovering the Olympic National Park located right in our own backyard. Today we planned to rectify that, if even in only a small way.

It was cold and lightly raining this morning when we packed the car in Long Beach. We walked back to “Benson’s By the Beach” for a hot breakfast fit for a road journey into unexplored territory. By 10:15 we were heading away from the coast and traveling north on old highway 101. At 12:30 we made a quick comfort stop in Hoquiam and traveled on through thick forested lands with little population. Humptulips was a blip along the road, as was Neilton before we turned into the Olympic National Park’s southern most point of interest: Lake Quinault.

We had visited Lake Quinault once when the kids were little and we camped along the lake shore. But that was over 30 years ago. We wanted to take the time to reacquaint ourselves with the wonders of the area and just take a little time for absorbing the beauty. And, it was stunningly beautiful; more beautiful than I remembered from 30 years ago. The shocking surprise was while we were there the sun broke through the cloud cover and instantly turned the lake a vivid blue and the trees bright vibrant greens. We walked a little way down to the edge of the lake and marveled at the sights. Then we visited the lodge and inquired as to the possibility of securing a room there sometime in the future. For a Friday in the middle of June, there seemed to be precious few people around. It was such a different experience from any other National Park we have ever visited.

There was a room available for tonight, we learned, but we had already made plans to continue on to another spot in the park before calling it a day. Next time we will certainly be more alert to the possibilities when planning a visit. I would love to stay in this little piece of heaven.

Traveling on, by 3:00 we were pulling into the parking for the Kalaloch Lodge. The lodge sits on a bluff above the waves at a most gorgeous spot along the coast. We pulled the car right up the edge and parked, sitting several minutes in silence just soaking up the incredible views. Deciding we didn’t really want to move, I got our picnic out (leftover pizza from last night; grapes and sparkling water) and we dined in Nature’s Cathedral.

As my Driver rested for his midafternoon nap, I walked the area and halfway down to the beach. It was lovely in every direction. Other than the beach itself, the main attraction is a series of tiny individual cabins that can be rented for overnighters. Once again, we realized we knew nothing like this existed so close to home and we vowed we would soon return to stay longer. And, once again, although it was a Friday late afternoon and people were checking in for the weekend, there were very few people around. Nothing like other National Parks we have visited.

By just after 5:00 we were checking into the Forks Motel along highway 101 and thinking about our plans for tomorrow. As we settled in I decided I needed a longer walk and took off to explore the length of the town which is only about a mile long and perhaps four or five blocks wide. Little, but more than adequate. And our room for the night is far superior to where we have been for the past two nights.

My walk allowed me to canvas the area restaurants and we selected a local Chinese restaurant for a light, late meal of some soup and mushu pork. It was certainly fine and much better than expected, but could never measure up to our favorite places in the city. Still, their handshaved noodles could hold their own. We enjoyed it and were glad we took the risk.

So, another day of exploring and learning about what our own back yard has to offer. There is boundless grace and beauty that we must plan to come back and enjoy at length.