Day 5 of our journeys started early. After a quick, small breakfast from the hotel lobby, we hit the road for the Olympic Peninsula, the northwest corner of Washington State. We would spend our entire day in Olympic National Park/National Forest. I think we all agreed that this has been our favorite day so far, and it’s hard to top British Columbia.
Quinault Rain Forest // Lake Quinault
Our first stop was the Quinault Rain Forest, which surrounds Lake Quinault in the southeast corner of the park. The Shore Road loops 18 miles around the lake, featuring spectacular views, two waterfalls—the first of which was especially amazing, elk farms, several viewpoints, and lots of moss-covered trees and other flora unique to the rain forest.
While driving down Highway 101, we saw a sign that said “Big Red Cedar Tree”, so we veered off our intended course, curious to see what the big deal was. It was indeed an extremely big red cedar tree, and probably the largest tree I’ve ever seen. It was an amazing sight to behold. Part of tree had fallen down, but the rest was still growing strong. It’s hard to describe how big it actually was. I bet you could fit 20 people, or maybe even more, in its circumference. The pictures can’t begin to show the scale of it.
It turns out that when you’re in the middle of nowhere in Washington, you don’t exactly have a lot of food choices. However, there happened to be one restaurant within a 70-mile radius that was open, and that happened to be a few miles down the road from South Beach. We stopped at Creekside Restaurant for lunch, which is housed at the Kalaloch Lodge, which is right on the mouth of a river, where it empties into the ocean. The restaurant had almost no business because it’s the offseason for tourists, and we were the first customers, so we got the prime table with a beautiful view of the river and ocean. The view wasn’t the only thing that was beautiful. All our food was outstanding, and the most high-quality meal I’ve eaten in the middle of nowhere. I got a salmon BLT with a dill cream cheese spread on olive rosemary bread, and a small roasted winter squash salad with toasted spiced hazelnuts, feta cheese, and an apple cider cinnamon vinegarette. Mom got fish and chips, and a slightly larger version of the same salad. Dad got an elk burger from one of the farms we’d just seen, with a smoked jalepeño-bacon aioli and marionberry jam.
Tree of Life
Hoh Rain Forest
Next, we headed inland to the Hoh Rain Forest. This park of the National Park has many moss covered trees, excellent views of the the Olympic mountain range, the “Hall of Mosses”, and more. We walked a few of the nature trails, and even ran into a few wild elk roaming straight though the middle of the park! The park visitor’s center was closed for the season, so the park was relatively uncrowded.