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Olympic Peninsula.

If there is a single place where the romanticized images of the Pacific Northwest merge into reality, it is on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Mist-shrouded mountains soar above moss-draped rain forests. The ocean thunders onto beaches strewn with derelict drift logs. Indians fish on rivers that once can thick with spawning salmon. On the fringe of wilderness forests, chain saws whine and logging trucks rumble, echoing the bitter disputes of the 1930s when timbermen and conservationists clashed and a grand park emerged from the conflict. Today, 1,420-square-mile Olympic National Park is the wild heart of the region. Slightly larger than the state of Hawaii, the peninsula is a place of stunning contrasts. The glacier-saddled heights of 7,965-foot Mount Olympus annually receive 200 inches of precipitation, making it the wettest spot in the conterminous United States. Yet 40 miles northeast of Olympus, Sequim (say Skwim) receives only 17 inches, making it the driest coastal area north of Southern California. West of the Olympic Range, the temperate rain forests see anywhere from 80 to more than 150 inches annually. The natural and cultural riches of the peninsula are most abundant on its north and west flanks. Following U.S. Highway 101, our looping peninsular journey begins at Port Angeles (see map opposite)--a jumping-off point you might head for if the Olympics beckon you beyond Puget Sound on a clear Seattle day.

A well-rounded visit requires at least three days, for you'll want to see the peninsula's three distinct environments--high country, seacoast, and rain forest--with time for a side trip to an Indian reservation. We offer suggestions for packing the most into a short stay.

June through September are the most comfortable months for traveling. Prepare for climate extremes: a warm jacket or parka for mountain and coastal hiking; rain gear with a hood or hat and a water-proof camera bag for forest rambling.

June visitors will see the rain forest at its greenest: mosses wear a new emerald coat; fern fiddleheads unfurl; bigleaf and vine maples leaf out; new growth sprouts on Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, and hemlock. Shady forest floors are bright with the white blossoms of bunchberry.

Summer daytime temperatures average in the mis-60s. Showers are frequent, hot spells infrequent. High country: up to Hurricane Ridge

Dotted with some 60 glaciers, the jagged, geologically young Olympics can be traversed only on foot. But the 17-mile drive to Hurricane Ridge can quickly acquaint you with these mountains and the national park. from Port Angeles, the park road leads to the visitor center at Pioneer MEmorial Museum (open daily 8 to 5; free). Exhibits and films will introduce you to the area's natural history; staff can answer questions about trail and weather conditions. Free maps are available.

Continue up Hurricane Ridge Road to the lodge (light meals only). From there, a 1-1/2-mile nature trail leads to 5,757-foot Hurricane Hill. Clear-day views rank among the West's best: glacier-crested mounts Carrie and Olympus, and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Vancouver Island. Stately subalpine firs punctuate the meadow; as snow recedes, glacier and avalanche lilies pop up, followed by purple lupines and other wildflowers.

The ridge road brings hikers close to alpine heights without having to walk all the way up. Since snow rarely leaves the mountain trails before July, only experienced hikers attempt them before then. About 1/2 mile from the lodge, an unpaved road turns southeast, following the ridgetop for 8 miles to a dead end at Obstruction Point, where several trails begin. The 7-1/2-mile trail to Deer Park meanders in and out of alpine and subalpine zones (native heather blooms in June and July). Wherever you hike, be sure to carry your own water. If you plan to go overnight backpacking, you'll need a free backcountry permit, available at visitor centers and ranger stations. Rafting on the Elwha River, rowboating on Lake Crescent

For a look at the region's riparian life, consider a raft trip on the nearby Elwha River. Rivers Northwest runs year-round 2-1/2-hour trips between Lake Mills and Lake Aldwell. Cost is $15 for adults, $12.50 for ages under 13. With space available, the firm will take summertime walk-ins at the Elwha Resort at the south end of Lake Aldwell on U.S. 101. For reservations, call (206) 842-2824.

Just before U.S. 101 curves to meet Lake Crescent, a paved road heads due west to the lake's Piedmont shore. Sheltered by Sourdough Mountain and Mount Storm King, this area can be a pocket of sunshine. A good choice for a cabin or campground with hookups il Log Cabin Resort, 3-1/2 miles from the turnoff. For reservations, call (206) 928-3245.

U.S. 101 hugs the south shore of the lake for 10 miles. Side roads lead to cedarshingled Lake crescent Lodge (50 rooms, dining room, boat rentals) and the Fairholm visitor Service Area (camping, groceries, boat rentals).

This summer, construction is planned for the narrow two-lane roads around Lake Crescent. One lane will stay open for Travel; lines of cars will alternate on a stretch of sevveral miles. Some days, you may be delayed an hour or so. Hot springs retreat on the Soleduck

Just west of Fairholm, a paved road heads 14 miles up the forested Soleduck River valley to Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. En route, there are plenty of designated spots to camp or picnic and numerous trails.

The newly remodeled resort offers swimming and soaking in pools filled with naturally heated (100[deg.] to 104[deg.]) mineral water. Cost for a day of bathing is $3. There are cabins, motels rooms, and a restaurant. For reservations, write or call the resort at Box 1355, Port Angeles 98362; (206) 327-3583. Meet the Makah at Neah Bay

Ten separate tribes, made up of just over 6,200 Indians, live on the Olympic Peninsula. The fishing town of Neah Bay--home to some 1,500 members of the Makah Nation--offers a good opportunity to glimpse the life of one tribe.

From Port Angeles to Neah Bay, the most scenic route is U.S. 101 past Lake Crescent to Sappho. From there take Burnt Mountain Road to Neah Bay.

State 112 snakes along cliffs overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Along the way and in Neah Bay, you'll see hand-lettered signs that read Carver, Baskets, or Art. If you're interested in Indian art, stop. You'll probably cross a cedar-plank walk to the door of a modest house; after a knock and pause, you'll meet the artist or a member of the family. State your business and you'll likely be invited in to look at beadwork, ceremonial masks, or baskets. Prices are firm.

As the road turns into town, you'll see the Makah Cultural and Research Center. Its handsome displays include a replica of a cedar longhouse, authentic dugout canoes, and artifacts from the Ozette archeological site. The adjoining gift shop sells top-quality carvings and basketry; prices are a bit higher than in other places, but these are one-of-a-kind objects. The center is open 10 to 5 daily from June 1 to September 15. Admission fee is $2, $1 for seniors and students.

The tribe will celebrate Makah Days beginning on Friday night, August 24. Festival events--traditional dancing, salmon bakes, canoe racing, art sales, and carnival rides--will continue through Sunday night.

If you follow Front Street west out of town, it runs onto an 18-mile unpaved loop around Cape Flattery. At the top of the loop, there's a parking area, and a sign points to Land's End Lookout. A sometimes muddy 1/2-mile trail leads to the northwesternmost point of the contiguous states. From the sheer (and unrailed) cliff, view is awesome: waves pound the black rocks of the cove below. Coastal exploring at Ozette or La Push

Form Cape Flattery all the way south to Kalaloch, the shoreline is either national park or Indian land. From the picnic and parking area at the north end of Lake Ozette, a 3-mile boardwalk trail traverses marsh and dense forest on its way to beaches at Sand Point and Cape Alava. Ocean-carved rock formations are numerous and dramatic.

Check tide tables at beach ranger stations and information kiosks. You don't want to find yourself backed up to a rocky cliff at high ride, facing the roar of incoming waves. And stay well away from logs touching water.

In the fishing village of La Push, on the Quileute Indian Reservation, you'll find rustic lodging and ready access to Second Beach (tidepools, near-shore sea stacks.) For ovenight camping permits, stop in at the Mora Ranger Station, on the spur road north of La Push. Ask about rangerled walks on nearby Rialto Beach. Inland to the rain forests

If the three major rain forests (Hoh, Queets, and Quinault), the Hoh is most accessible. From U.S. 101, a paved road runs 19 miles to the park's Hoh Rain Forest visitor center. Walk the gentle trails through the Hall of Moses.

In the rain forest, look for nurse logs. In this soggy climate, when a tree falls and begins to decompose it becomes an ideal growing medium for conifers like cedar, fir, hemlock, and spruce. Over time, the nurse log rots away, leaving a row of trees with oddly buttressed bases.

From the ranger station, the Hoh River Trail traverses lush rain forest for 12 miles to Olympus Station (camping). This is the favorite approach route of experienced climbers who want to ascend Mount Olympus.

River-runners familiar with other Western waterways will find rafting through a rain forest a much different experience. Icy and milky with glacial silt, the Queets River flows full between banks overhung by outstretched limbs of bigleaf maple and black cottonwood, their branches dangling with moss.

Through summer, Zig Zag River Runners will lead 6-hour raft trips on the Queets. These gentle floats are for leisurely sightseeing: osprey and eagles swooping for a fish, or a black bear catching its lunch. Cost is $40 to $60 person; groups can arrange midweek floats; for reservations, call (206) 382-0900. To Kalaloch and Lake Quinault

Kalaloch (Klay-lock) offers access to an 18-mile-long beach (surf fishing). You might dine or stay at picturesque Kalaloch Lodge (52 units; 206/962-2271).

After crossing the Queets River into the Quinault Indian Reservation, U.S. 101 bends east. Some 30 miles from the coast, you'll come to Lake Quinault. On its south shore, Lake Quinault Lodge retains the rustic elegance of half a century ago. For reservations, call (206) 288-2571.

For rain forest trail information, ask at the Quinault Ranger Station directly east of the lodge. Getting on and off the peninsula

From the Seattle area, the most direct way to reach Port Angeles is to take the state ferry from Edmonds to Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula, then cross the refloated Hood Canal Bridge ($2) to the Olympic Peninsula.

Another option is to ferry over to Port Townsend from Keystone on Whidbey Island, with bridge and ferry connections to Mulkilteo on the mainland.

For Washington State Ferry information, call (206) 464-6400. Washington residents outside Seattle can call toll-free: (800) 542-7052 or 542-0810.

If you'd like to continue on to Vancouver Island, the Black Ball ferry links Port Angeles and Victoria. Boats make three daily runs across the strait until June 14, four thereafter. For fares and schedules, call (206) 457-4491. Accommodations aid, driving advice

Lodging is limited, so plan ahead. The Olympic Peninsula Travel Association publishes a good directory with map. For a free copy, write to the Chamber of Commerce, 1217 E. First St., Port Angeles 98362; (206) 452-2363.

For park information, write to the Superintendent, Olympic National Park, 600 E. Park Ave., Port Angeles 98362, or call (206) 452-4501.

There are tent and car camping facilities on county, state, Forest Service, and private lands. For campsite guidance on the peninsula, call (206) 452-4501, ext. 230. Stick to mapped roads. Logging roads may look enticing, but they can be dangerous, and log trucks are surprisingly speedy. Before driving deep into park or Indian lands, where service stations are scarce, it's wise to fuel up.

Best all-around guidebook we've found is Exploring the Olympic Peninsula, by Ruth Kirk (University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1980; $8.95).
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Title Annotation:Washington State
Date:Jun 1, 1984
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