This is Lake Crescent. It's located on the Olympic Peninsula, between steep sided mountains carved by glaciers. It is 624 feet deep, only five miles from the Juan de Fuca Strait as the crow flies yet contains not a drop of saltwater, and is so clear that you can see to a depth of 60 feet when the water lies still. Storm King, the mountain that forms its southeastern shore, is an ancient Native American god who was angered by fighting between warring tribes and smote them all with a cataclysmic landslide that split the lake in two.
As an early birthday present, I whisked Sal off to a four day getaway to the Olympic Peninsula. First, to Lake Crescent Lodge, where we stayed in a quaint little cabin no more than 30 feet from the lake shore. We dangled our feet over the dock, rowed a boat across the lake to Pyramid Mountain and back, took the self-guided walking tour through the old growth forest that surrounds the Lodge, read books in weathered Adirondack chairs, sipped hot chocolate in the Lodge's enclosed verandah, and spent the evenings curled up in massive chairs made from logs, playing Monopoly and Tri-ominoes and nibbling on the delicious treats we crammed into a cooler for three full days of meals. Fruit and veggies, cold cuts and cheeses and crackers, Sal's homemade rolls, homemade cherry-almond scones, homemade chocolate chip cookies, my own fried chicken and pasta salad. And beer, of course. Never forget the beer.
Our trip began Friday as we made our way to Olympia, then turned westward to explore the Olympic Peninsula, a first for us both. We made a leisurely way along the eastern edge of the Hood Canal, then glimpsed the Olympic peaks as the road turned inland. Closer and closer, and finally to Sequim, and then to Port Angeles. We didn't spend time there, but we plan to go back, with a sidetrip across the Strait to Victoria.
We arrived at Lake Cresent early Friday evening, with the sun shining and bright blue sky. The weather held for Saturday, too, so we had plenty of time outside. But of course the rains arrived, as they inevitably do, Saturday night and it came down in a ceaseless downpour all night, and all the next day. We left Sunday a little before noon and continued westward on our planned trek to explore the peninsula.
We had reservations for another Lodge, this one on the Washington Coast, but it was less than a two hour drive from Lake Crescent and we still had hours to kill before check-in, so we decided to take a side road north and far to the west, to maybe see the westernmost point of the contiguous United States, Cape Flattery.
Perhaps it was the heavy gray sky and the constant rain, but this was not a nice drive. It's beautiful -- thick forest and most of the way, right along the northern Washington coastline, only a dozen feet above the water. But the signs of human habitation here are...depressing. As if the people here have long since given up, and no longer care about the place they call home. The few little towns are empty shops with boarded doors and broken windows, economies far past saving, junk everywhere, and hardly any sign of human activity. It started to feel as if we were at the edge of the world, and it came with a deep-seated panic and disquiet. We turned around before we reached the end.
Back on 101, we continued to Forks. Yes, Forks. It's unavoidable if you're making the trip we were, and it's the last chance for a grocery store and (reasonably-priced) gas for more than 100 miles if you're headed south. The town itself is small but nice, and reminded me of a small Tillamook. The drive down their main street was lolarious, as expected, with every business either incorporating"Twilight" in its name somehow (my hand to God, "Twilight Campfire Wood") or proclaiming "get your Twilight [food/shirts/memorabilia/quilts(!)/gear/ etc.] here!" But god bless them for making the most of the tourist opportunity and hey, who can bedgrudge any fans a pilgrimage to their mecca? Whatever floats your boat, even if it's Twilight. (Although I srsly lol'd at the hotel sign on the way into town that said, "Edward Cullen didn't sleep here!" OH HOTEL MARKETING DIRECTOR I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE.)
We stopped at a local pizza place for lunch -- avoiding the Porto"Bella" speciality pizza -- and then next door to Thriftway for some ice and a few items to add to our food stores. Then we were on the road again through forests even more ancient than before, the rain clouds so low we couldn't see any of the peaks to our left. Unlike the Oregon Coast, 101 is inland for most of the drive so you can't see the ocean as you drive. Still very beautiful, though.
We decided to make the 20 mile side trip to the Hoh Rainforest. Well worth the drive and there are several places to stop and see something beautiful and amazing, like enormous, ancient Sitka spruce and Douglas fir. At the visitor's center, there are multiple trail options, both short and long, easy and hard. Unfortunately, it was late in our afternoon and the rain was coming down hard (and it was cold) so we didn't stay as long as we might have otherwise. And honestly, that side trip up north had deflated us both a bit.
Thankfully, Kalaloch Lodge, where we were staying for the night, wasn't much further down the highway once we made our back to 101. Perched right on a bluff that overlooks the ocean, we were in a genuine log cabin that faced northwest with an unobstructed view of the beach and water below. (It also had a picnic table right outside the door, which was one of the few times I wished it wasn't raining so we could sit out and eat our dinner with the ocean right there.) And although the weather made it too chilly to go down to the beach, it was perfect for curling up for a smorgasbord of goodies* while we soaked up the view just as we had the two nights before at Lake Crescent. Except this time, our cabin came complete with a wood-burning stove and split cedar logs and kindling. Thanks to Sal's superb firebending skills, the stove got so hot that we could crack the windows enough to hear the surf without getting cold. We fell asleep to the flicker of firelight and the steady roar of the ocean.
*(Both Kalaloch and Lake Crescent Lodges feature restaurants with terrific menus, which I'd love to try if we get a chance to go back.)
The weather did finally clear a bit as we were leaving Monday morning, long enough for me to snap a few more pics of the ocean, this time with blue sky and no rain-speckled camera lens. The rain stopped by the time we reached Humptulips (best. name. ever.) and we had sun for the rest of the drive home once we got to Elma. Thanks to our terrific neighbors, we arrived home to find the house still standing and the cats sleeping contentedly on their cushion by the dining room window, with only a bit of shredded paper on the floor as punishment for leaving them.
What an amazing, amazing trip. We haven't done a trip like that -- someplace completely unknown to us and somewhat isolated -- in a long time, now that I think about it, and even in just a span of three and a half days, it disconnected us completely from our daily life and routines. We've gone a little too long without a vacation together, especially without a recharging trip to the coast, and we were reminded why we try to get away every few months, even just for a weekend. How blessed we are that something so vitally important to us both is something we can do.
Happy Birthday, Sally. Every day with you is a gift.