Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Olympic National Park, Part 1

It is oppressively green. So said the Amazing Ms. D upon our arrival to Whidbey Island. I thought it was cute, if a bit of an overstatement at the time. Then I started my drive west from Port Townsend. I was headed to the town of Forks, WA, and the drive was going to take me across the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula, and the Olympic Forest National Park. Even on a cloudy day, the emerald green of the trees that lined the road made most of the drive feel like I was driving a pedal car down a long hallway.

Driving west along US-101 I passed between the Strait of Juan de Fuqua and the Olympic Forest. Sitka spruce, western hemlocks and other conifers dominated my view. On the hill-sides they carpeted the land as far as the eye could see, they towered over the road. There were breaks in this wall, in place where the road approached the water along Discovery Bay and Sequim Bay. This is not an empty area. If you are in the mood for some games of chance, you can stop at the 7 Cedars Casino in Sequim. Want to take a hike along the water? Take a trip up to Dungeness National Wildlife Reserve. My drive was too early for the casino and too wet for nature walk, so on I went.

One place that drew my interest was The House of Learning. The is a native American longhouse, built on the campus of Peninsula College in Port Angeles. It is the first longhouse built on the campus of a community college and is a center for education and culture for the school and six tribes in the area, a home to art exhibitions and music and dance performances and classes.

From there I drove a short distance to Olympic National Park Visitor’s Center. I always stop at the visitor’s center when I visit a state or national park. In addition to paying any entrance fees, I always find the centers to give great insight in helping me plan my visit. Also, they often have exhibits which provide a look at the history of the park. Unfortunately, the main visitor’s center was under construction. The rangers on staff were in temporary trailers. Still, they were very helpful. I explained that I was looking for places that I could drive to for photos. They got out the maps of the park and pointed out several places that I might find interesting. We discussed how the weather of the day might affect my choices and where I would find the most interesting views.

Their first suggestion was to drive up along the Elwa River. I bypassed the Madison Falls. It’s parking lot was full, and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to get a good photo. Instead I drove south for about 2.5 miles along Olympic Hot Spring Road. Just after the road crosses the Elwa River, there is a turn-off and parking area. Here I found a great view at water level, and took many pictures.

Looking north on the Elwa River

From the Elwa River, it was back to US-101 and on to Lake Crescent. I stopped here at the suggestion of a friend who loves hiking the trails. I took advantage of the restaurant at the Crescent Lake Lodge. I had a great chicken sandwich and enjoyed looking out at water. The mountains rise up from the lake, and the juxtaposition of the blue water and the green trees is just beautiful. The lodge has rooms and cabins available for those who want to spend a few days hiking the trails or canoeing the lake.

Road leading into Crescent Lake

Cabin at Crescent Lake
By Kms5333 (User KMS5333) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Lunch at the lodge

My view from the lodge

The rest of the drive to Forks passed around the National Park. The carpet of green continued to fill my view. I am sure that there are favorite places of some readers that I missed. There are more trails and rivers then I had the time to see on this trip. Instead road through the trees beckoned, and I drove on.


  1. The House of Learning sounds like a place I would love to visit. Your nature photography is wonderful. Beautiful photos make me feel like I was actually there. Dahlma

  2. You just gave me ideas for places to visit.