3-Day Weekend in Washington State: Ocean, Rainforest, and Mountains

My husband Kent and I, residents of America’s fly-over Midwest, had come to take on three staples of Washington State’s Olympic National Park. Think very little wi-fi reception and a beach clogged with logs (La Push), a place where it rains 12 feet a year and just looks, well, eerie (Hoh Rain Forest), and lastly, a backdrop for Julie Andrews twirling on mountaintops (Hurricane Ridge). Our goal: experience the wonders of nature itself.

LA PUSH – The Ocean


We promptly checked in at the Quileute Oceanside Resort, the first business owned and operated by the Quileute Tribe. It features fifteen oceanfront cabins, motel units, plus a campground. There are no TVs in the rooms and cell service is spotty. (There is a room however, in the main office with Wi-Fi)

The sign in the lobby reads: We do not have televisions, or Wi-Fi in our units in our rooms in order to facilitate your escape from the chaos of the outside world.

The one hotel and multiple camping and RV sites are owned by the Quileutes. The desk clerk told us that visitors even come during the winter just to watch the rain pelt sideways.

by Wynne Crombie

As we strolled toward the beach, we were met by a sign that gave us cause to think: Evacuation in Case of a Tsunami or Earthquake. This was followed by other signs such as, Be aware of elk, coyotes, cougars and yellow jackets. Then finally came: By order of the Quileute Tribal Council non-tribal beach camping is only allowed with a paid camping permit. Well. The Jersey Shore it is not.

by Wynne Crombie

After we navigated the logs, Voila! We came across volumes of sand marked here and there by the charred remnants from the nightly bonfires.

That evening, we migrated back to the beach armed with marshmallows, Graham crackers and Hershey Bars. We hopped over the logs and built our fire. (You can buy the wood and a fire permit)) What better way to watch the incredible sunsets behind the rocks then munch on S’mores.? As we embarked upon our return to the inn, we ran into a problem…there were no lights at all on the beach so, how do you navigate all the logs in the dark? 21st century technology came to the rescue…we stumbled to the light of a Smart phone.

by Wynne Crombie

This tribal village has been home to the Quileute Indian Tribe for thousands of years. They are recreating their traditional skills and crafts while displaying a slower, more relaxed way of life. Native Indian artifacts are very much in evidence as are native names and art galleries.

Up for wild blackberry pies, prawns and prawns? We found these northwest treats to be mighty tasteful at the River’s Edge Café, 41 Main Street. (Right next to the totem pole)

by Wynne Crombie

The big sports here are rafting, kayaking, hiking and bicycling. Visitors can rent slips and moorings at the La Push Marina. One thing the Quileute Reservation doesn’t have is a casino. Can it be far behind?

HOH RAIN FOREST

After two idyllic days, we climbed back into our rental car for the 45-minute drive to see the Hoh Rain Forest. It rains twelve feet a year here. Hikes are mapped out for all levels of expertise. Since we are sort of the chocolate on your pillow type of travellers, we took on the 1.2 mile Spruce Walk to the Hoh River and back. The Visitors Center has a list of about five trails to choose from according to difficulty.

by Wynne Crombie

The Spruce Nature Trail is a good one for those who just want to sample a rain forest without much difficulty. It took seven of us, with arms stretched, to encircle one tree. Tree roots popped up from the ground so high, we could walk under them. It felt like being back in pre-historic times

by Wynne Crombie

Photography alert: check out the small clear pools of water on the forest floor, circled with ferns and finished off with a ray of sun.

by Wynne Crombie

As we made our way along the Trail, we heard the rushing water that was once part of a glacier. We had reached the Hoh River As we marveled at our accomplishment, as a group of serious backpackers just kept jogging by…

Photography Alert: Right outside the Visitors Center is a café table with two huge bears idly sitting. You too, can sit with them and have a beer or two.

by Wynne Crombie

[title2]HURRICANE RIDGE – The Mountains[/title2]
[section]Before beginning our 2 ½ hour drive up to the Hurricane Ridge Ranger Station at 5,242 ft, Kent and I checked in at the Park Headquarters and paid the $25.00 entry fee, good for a week. The Wilderness Information Center gave us information should we ever want to do some serious backpacking, such as, the use of bear canisters. (food containers supposedly bear proof).

by Flickr/Purple Puppy

The entire park is a National Heritage Site. The parking lot at the Summit Ranger Station was full, so cars (ours included) were held at the bottom. Fifteen minutes later, we were given the go ahead.

The two-lane paved road winds through incredibly dense forests. During the year this foliage, twisted by the onslaughts of wind and snow, absorbs staggering 112 feet of rain.

Every once in a while, we caught a glimpse of the Olympic peaks between the trees. Then the road opened to a vast meadow and an incredible 360-degree view of the Olympic Mountains.

by Flickr/Jeff Gunn

Even in summer the rugged peaks were dotted with snow. There was even a snow patch next to the Ranger Station picnic area.

Avalanche and glacier lilies were in bloom, alongside Queen Anne’s lace and lupine. A pair of deer had their heads to the ground munching on grass.

Three hiking trails branched out from the Ranger Station: Big Meadow, Cirque Rim and High Ridge. All were slightly sloped, paved and lined with wild flowers. We were not hikers, but how hard could it be? All three trails were less than a mile. You could even buy snacks. (For the more adventurous, there are serious trails and many camp sites, some open year-round.) Signs along the trails gave us information on what we were seeing, be it meadows, trees or wildlife. Sort of an outdoor classroom.

Animals like the gopher-like marmot, mountain goats and an occasional bear roam freely. (Hence the bear canisters) Signs repeatedly reminded visitors not to feed the animals

Regretfully, we headed down the 17 miles to Port Angeles for our third and final night.

Driving Times
(approx.)

  • La Push to Hoh 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Hoh to Hurricane Ridge 2 ½ hours
  • Hurricane Ridge to Port Angeles 45 minutes

Have some more time?
“From Hurricane Ridge to High Tea: an international event”. (this can all be done in one day. Come down from the Ridge (45 minutes) to Port Angeles. The ferry is right there to take you across the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Victoria, B.C. High tea at the Empress Hotel is a very special event. Although it is only eighteen miles from Port Angeles to Victoria, the ferry ride takes an hour and a half. (cost $16US…car and driver is $58.50 US)

About the Author
Wynne Crombie has a master’s degree in adult education. She met her husband Kent (of 50 years) in Berlin. She was teaching American 5th graders and he was with Air Force Security. Her work has appeared in:
Travel and Leisure, Dallas Morning News. Air Force Times, Italy Magazine, Get Lost (Au) Irish-American Post, Cat Fancy, Boys’ Life, Catholic Digest

Photos by:
Wynne Crombie
Flickr/Purple Puppy
Flickr/Jeff Gunn