The next morning, full of energy and optimism, we went to the Hoh Visitor Center to get our ONP passport stamps. And discovered that the visitor centers are only open Fri–Sun this time of year. It was now Monday morning and we had missed all our chances for stamps and souvenirs. Devastating.
And yet, somehow, life goes on.
We chose the Hall of Mosses trail for our rainforest hike. It’s a good hike, but this is definitely an experience that would have benefitted from some rain. Everything was dry from several days of no precipitation.
Near the start of the trail is a pond. At first glance it looks like any random bit of flooded woodland, but look closer and the perfect clarity of the water is startling. Little creatures swimming in it look like they’re levitating.
The rainforest itself is unlike anything I’d seen before. Bright and airy, but covered in strange mosses and symbiotic plants. It looks like an alien planet.
When I was younger, I used to love going to the zoo. I never got tired of walking around and looking at all the animals and the elaborate landscaping. Now zoos just make me sad. All I can think about is what empty, frustrating lives those captive creatures must endure.
That’s how I felt walking through this rainforest.
Like I didn’t belong there. That gravel path didn’t belong there. This entire vast region used to belong to these strange trees and mosses and now there’s just this little bit of park left for them, encircled by roads and human structures.
Like they’ve had their dignity and their privacy taken from them and now they’re just exhibits in a “tree zoo.”
Which brings me to the thing that bothered me most about the Olympic Peninsula and the Washington coast.
This rant was going to happen at some point on this blog. This seems like as good a place as any. <Grabs soapbox and clears throat>
From the time we drove onto the peninsula until the time we crossed the Astoria-Megler Bridge into Oregon, almost every business and tourist spot we visited was festooned with Indigenous-style art, totem poles, carvings, the whole works. From all of the very popular leaping-salmon depictions to hundreds of native-art-style Sasquatch paintings and totems (holy crap is Washington obsessed with Sasquatch), the ambiance was carefully crafted to make tourists feel like they’re walking on tribal land. Which was exactly how I felt, but in the worst possible way.
I dislike the term “cultural appropriation.” I think it’s natural and beneficial for different human societies to learn from each other and share their crafts and developments. But that’s very clearly not what happened up there. And yes, I know the entire country was founded on indigenous genocide from sea to shining sea. I’ve just rarely seen the spoils of a genocided culture so conspicuously on display as I did in Washington. It made me uncomfortable every time I ran into new examples of it. That is all. <Steps off soapbox and resumes tour of park>
We had reservations for that night at Lake Quinault Lodge, and some time to kill before check-in. We decided to go look at Ruby Beach.
This was our first experience with the wild northern beaches. I wish I had taken more pics here, but I was kind of overwhelmed by the absolute chaos of it. This is no serene SoCal beach, there’s nothing domesticated about it. It’s an untamed shipwrecker of a beach, the kind of shoreline that sailors feared. Big sharp rocks create a rough, dangerous surf far out into the sea.
The “driftwood” here is full-size trees. There are signs on Washington beaches warning swimmers that loose logs in the surf might knock them unconscious so riptides can drag them out to sea for the rocks to shred. These beaches have no chill. (Except temperature-wise. Northern beaches are very chilly.)
Cedar Creek wanders out of the forest here to join the sea. Every beach we visited on this trip had at least one river or stream emptying into it. Not such a strange thing; that’s what rivers do. But down in SoCal, water is too valuable to just let it escape into the ocean. I know there must be examples of rivers flowing into SoCal beaches, but I’ve never seen it firsthand.
Just down the highway, “Kalaloch Beach 4” is known for its tide pools. We were there at the wrong time of day for tide pools, but I’m glad we stopped to check it out. My favorite part of this beach is the path from the parking lot to the sand. There is an overlook at the top:
And then a staircase…
…to a wooden bridge…
…to a rock walkway…
…with a rope to help you climb down.
We didn’t really need to use the rope, but it felt like the thing to do.
Tangent: There’s a striking contrast between the outdoor clothing and gear I saw people wearing in Washington and what I’m used to seeing in Colorado. I don’t know if it’s the climate differences or just local trends. In Colorado, outdoor gear and garments tend to be more technical, with an emphasis on ultra-lightweight high-tech fabrics and designs. I hardly ever see big old-school leather hiking boots here, for example, but I saw them all over the Olympic Peninsula. At Kalaloch Beach 4, a man looked at Luke’s chartreuse Altras and asked him if he was from Europe.
The beach itself is unremarkable if the tide pools are underwater. We looked around and moved on.
A few minutes farther down the highway there’s a tree that’s had the soil washed away from its roots by a small stream looking for the sea. It’s kind of inspiring, this tree’s determination to survive.
Beneath the tree is a tiny cave containing a tiny waterfall and a tiny pool.
Did I mention there are wild berries growing all over the Pacific Northwest? They’re just everywhere. We were there too early in the season for any of them to be ripe yet, sadly.
It still wasn’t time yet to check into our room at the lodge, but the Roosevelt Room was open for lunch.
We had a really excellent meal there, and then killed some more time by going to look at the World’s Biggest Spruce Tree. It’s a massive Sitka. Elizabeth for scale:
When we got back from the World’s Biggest Spruce Tree, the lodge let us know that our room was ready and we could check in early. While Luke and Elizabeth settled in, I took all of our dirty laundry to a little laundromat that I’d seen on the way to the big spruce. Not sure why Lake Quinault Lodge doesn’t have its own laundry room, but it worked out anyway.
In the morning we had an amazing breakfast in the Roosevelt Room.
Afterward I explored the grounds a bit and followed a pretty trail along the shoreline of Lake Quinault, but we were all ready to move on.
Up next: the Oregon Coast!