Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Aberdeen WA, Home to the Washington's Logging Industry

Having spent a week in and around the Olympic National Park, it was now time to head south, and explore the Washington Coast. My travels were now taking me to Aberdeen Washington.

Lumberjack Statue
Aberdeen is a small city of around sixteen thousand residents, sitting on the shore of Grays Harbor. Grays Harbor is a natural bay and protected bay that is 17 miles long and up to 12 miles wide. The first European exploration of the inlet was in 1792, led by Captain Robert Gray. Permanent European settlements were established in the 1870’s as the logging industry moved from east to west and began to grow in the area. Aberdeen and the neighboring towns of Hoquiam and Cosmopolis became the center of the logging industry during the early 1900’s with 37 sawmills at its peak in 1930. Unfortunately, the Depression took a toll on the lumber business, one from which it never fully recovered. Today, while timber is still important, the area also depends on commercial fishing, tourism and regional services for employment.

I stayed at the Guesthouse Inn and Suites, which is an inexpensive motel on the main drag through Aberdeen. I had a comfortable room in a place that was close enough to the center of town to make walking to restaurants possible. However, Aberdeen, like many older industrial towns, has a downtown that can feel very deserted, especially at night. But there is a move to bring people back to the area in the evenings by offering good dining choices. I can recommend two restaurants downtown. One is Amore Pizza and Pasta, which offer very good traditional Italian food. The other is Rediviva, which offers a modern foodie menu, but very well done. Rediviva also played a fantastic collection of songs as I ate. For an afternoon snack I strongly suggest Scoops Ice Cream. Located in a repurposed service station on US-101, they serve excellent coffee, ice cream, baked goods and other treats.

Home to the Museum of History - Joe Mabel [GFDL (  via Wikimedia Commons
While in Aberdeen I visited two places to explore the history of the area. The Aberdeen Museum of History, which is located in an old armory that has been converted into a combination museum and social service offices. The museum presents a comprehensive look at life in Greys Harbor over the past hundred and thirty years. Its collection includes three lovingly restored antique fire engines. There are also recreations of several store fronts including the train depot, a general store and an auto repair shop. There is also a tribute to Kurt Cobain, who was born in Aberdeen, and lived in the area before moving to Seattle and founding the band Nirvana. The staff, mostly volunteers, are extremely helpful and friendly, taking the time to give me a personal tour of the facility.

Mid 20th Century Class room

1894 - Class Rules

Classic fire truck

General Store

Add caption

My other visit was to The Polson Museum. This historic mansion is in the town of Holquiam, just to the west of Aberdeen. It is a 16-room building, built in 1924 for F. Arnold Polson and his new bride. Mr. Polson was the scion of the Polson Logging empire. The Polsons owned twelve logging camps up in the mountains, two sawmills in town and their own railroad line to bring timber from one to the other. The family lived here until 1965, when they moved to Seattle. The house was donated to the city of Holquiam in 1976 and has been a home to many donated historical items since then.

Polson Mansion

The first floor is a space used for exhibitions. During my visit there was a show of photographs of loggers from the 1960’s and 70’s, working at their jobs. Upstairs, the rooms are filled with the bric-a-brac of life. Clothes, dolls, high school yearbooks, newspaper clippings, and just about anything else you can think of. All of these are arranged in themed rooms. The grounds also have a rose garden and an equipment shed that is home to some classic pieces of logging equipment and railroad engines.

Butter Churn

Steam Engine undergoing refurbishment

Aberdeen is at the heart of the logging industry, and has been for over one hundred years. It is an interesting place to explore the history of Pacific Northwest. But the area has more to offer – Next week: visiting Grays Harbor – What lies beyond the town.

Note – Grays Harbor does NOT have an apostrophe. It did originally, but at some point, it was dropped. No one could definitively say when, or offer a reason why.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Olympic National Park Part 2 - Forks to Aberdeen

Hall of Mosses

The Olympic Peninsula is green. Some might say that it is “oppressively green.” This greenness is probably best exemplified by a trip to the Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic National Park. So, it was definitely a place to see as I drove south from Forks to Aberdeen Washington.

Doe at the Hoh Visitor's Center

Fawn following her mother

Having Breakfast

Hoh Rainforest is thirty-one miles south-east from Forks, about a 50 minute drive. It is one of the largest temperate rainforests, with an average rainfall of 127.8 inches per year. The dominant tree species are the Sitka Spruce and the Western Hemlock. They can grow up to 95 m (320 ft) tall and 7 m (22 ft) in diameter.

Western Hemlock - Menchi at the English language Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons
Sitka Spruce - By Roland Tanglao from Vancouver, Canada via Wikimedia Commons

 Perhaps the biggest draw in the Hoh Rainforest for the casual hiker like me, is the Hall of Mosses. Hiking this 0.8-mile trail (with a 100 ft gain of elevation) gives an excellent introduction to the interplay of the giant trees with the mosses and lichens that grow throughout the forest. Together, they create an otherworldly experience as you walk through. 

Curtains hang off of some trees as if they are weeping willows. Knots of moss gather on branches. If they weren’t such a life affirming green, you might think they were cancers, but in fact, the mosses do not harm the trees. Instead there are marvels of nature to look at around every turn of the path.

The Hall of Mosses is just one of the trails in the Hoh Rainforest. Make sure that you stop by the Visitor’s Center to get the latest information on trail conditions, camping and other important facts before you go into the forest.

Continuing south on US-101 towards Aberdeen, I made a pit-stop at Kalaloch Lodge. Part of the Olympic National Park, this shore-line section offers beach-front camping and lodging, a rainforest nature trail, and the Tree Root Cave, where the ground has eroded from underneath a tree, allowing people to walk under the roots.

From Kalaloch, US-101 turns inland and I arrived at my planned lunch destination. This day I stopped at the Lake Quinault Lodge. The Lodge sits on a hill and the restaurant overlooks Lake Quinault. This two-story wooden structure was built in 1926and it has a large lobby complete with a stone fireplace. My trip coincided with an FDR impersonator there to commemorate a trip to the Olympic Peninsula taken by the former president in 1937, a trip that played a key role in the creation of the Olympic National Park nine months later.

Quinault Lodge Lobby

FDR impersonator at Quinault Lodge

This trip, from Port Townsend, to Forks, to Aberdeen has taken me around the Olympic Peninsula and its National Park. It has given me an insight to a part of the country that is unlike anywhere I have visited. I have seen natural beauty unlike anywhere I have been and I look forward to returning one day, to spend more time in this unique environment.

Getting There:
Hoh Rainforest – Take US-101 south from Forks for 13 miles. Turn left onto Upper Hoh Road. Continue for 19 miles to the Hoh Rainforest Visitor’s Center.

Lake Quinault Lodge – Take US-101 south. Just past Amanda Park, turn left onto WA-9 for 1 mile, then left onto S. Shore Rd which will take you to the lodge.