Sunday, March 27, 2011

Olympic Peninsula Weekend

Lake Quinault sunset

How have we lived in Washington for over 3 years and not yet been to the Olympic Peninsula? Well, we rectified that this weekend. I got a Groupon deal for Lake Quinault Lodge, so we set out yesterday morning. This is one of those weekends where few of our plans came together, but we still had a great time.

Let me just say that the Olympic Peninsula is a great destination if you're looking to find peace in your soul. I mentioned in a recent post that my grandmother recently died, and I'm still reeling from that. My husband's been traveling a lot. We needed a quiet, restful place to regroup and reconnect. Lake Quinault was great for that.

Lake Quinault (our room is obscured by the tree)

Our drive took about 2.5 hours from Tukwila (we had to drop the dogs off at Petsmart for boarding first). Parts of the drive were quite nice. I especially liked going through Grays Harbor County, and Hoquiam in particular.

After driving through a seemingly endless stretch of evergreen forest, we saw signs for Lake Quinault. I think we arrived there sometime between 10-10:30. As it turns out, it was too early. Our room wasn't ready. So we walked down to the lake, just in time to see this:

Lake Quinault rainbow

We were the only two outside, so it was almost like the rainbow was there just for us. I felt it was a omen that we would have a good weekend.

But with a rainbow comes the rain, of course. Despite that, we hiked the Quinault Loop Trail through the rainforest. We came out of the trailhead soaked, but happy. The sun came out as we finished our hike, and we saw another rainbow form over Lake Quinault.

At that point, it was time to think about lunch. The Roosevelt Room at the lodge was a bit too rich for our blood, so we wanted to go somewhere a little more within our price range. I had read that the Quinault Mercantile right across the street had a cafe, but it was closed when we walked over there. And there was a sign pointing to the general store at Rain Forest Resort Village about a mile away. So we drove there, thinking we could get food. But that was just a convenience store. They sold food there, of course, but it was your standard pre-made sandwiches and bags of chips.

We ended up driving into nearby Amanda Park, where we had lunch at the Internet Cafe (otherwise known as I.C.). There was really no ambience to speak of, but the staff was nice and the food was simple and good. I had fish and chips and it exceeded my expectations. We noted that they served breakfast and headed back to the lodge to check in.

I had anticipated that we would take the rainforest tour that is available via the lodge. Part of the Groupon was for buy one, get one free admission. And their website says they offer the tour from 9:30 AM-1 PM daily and from 2-5 on Saturdays. So I wanted to take the Saturday afternoon tour. But I was told that they only offered the tour at 9:30 AM. So it seems the Saturday afternoon tour is no longer available.

We got our room key and headed up to the second floor to check it out. We had a lake view room, which I knew ahead of time. I loved the view. And the room was charming, with vintage details. There was no TV, but I didn't feel that was a problem. The only caveats: the walls were paper thin. We could hear EVERYTHING. We had a shower stall (I was hoping for a tub), and the water pressure was weak. But otherwise, it was very nice.

We rested for a bit, and then decided to go down the road a bit to see the world's largest Sitka Spruce. That was one of those situations where you end up being less than impressed once you get there. It was a huge tree, don't get me wrong. But it just didn't have the awe factor that I assumed it would have. That short hike to the tree and back resulted in sodden socks and shoes (lots of flooding on that trail), so back to the room to dry our shoes by the radiator. I am a former Girl Scout, so I should've been more prepared and had 2 pairs of shoes. I did bring extra socks, at least.

We had nothing else to do while waiting for our shoes to dry, so I ended up dozing off and Lance was playing around with his cellphone. Soon, dinnertime was upon us, so we put on our newly dry shoes and trudged back out into the rain. We walked a mile down the road to The Salmon House at Rain Forest Resort Village. We loved, loved, LOVED this restaurant. To say that they specialize in salmon is obvious, but neither of us ordered that. Lance ordered the chicken cordon bleu, which he thought was fantastic. I got the garden vegetable fettuccine, which was pretty much the best fettuccine alfredo I ever tasted. And we were seated at a big picture window overlooking the lake. What could be better? Especially since it stopped raining while we were eating and the sun came out.

It was dry as we walked back. And the rest of the evening was gorgeous, as is evident from the first picture I posted. That was our sunset last night. Glorious.

But between the end of dinner and the sunset, we spent some time in the game room at the lodge, where we laughed a lot over a couple games of pool and some very crazy games of ping pong. We were both exhausted - not just from the day's events - but from the past 2 months in general. Shortly after 9 PM, we were both asleep.

I was up before the sun this morning - not that I wanted to be. I had hoped to sleep in. But my insomnia didn't take the weekend off. Lance woke up shortly after I did, and we decided that instead of hanging around the lodge (where we had considered doing the rainforest tour this morning), we would instead drive up to Ruby Beach on the Pacific coast. Once we showered and dressed, we checked out and were off! Back to Amanda Park for breakfast at the I.C.

Afterwards, it was about a 40 mile drive to Ruby Beach. It was worth it. This was, for me, one of the highlights of our trip. The waves were tempestuous, crashing against the sea stacks, and the skies were foggy and gray. The beach was exactly how I like it. Simply stunning.

Sea stacks at Ruby Beach

From there, we headed south to Ocean Shores. No special reason, except we had time to kill, and we hadn't been there before. We had homemade ice cream at Murphy's and visited the interpretive center. We were probably in Ocean Shores for a little over an hour, and then we decided to head back toward home.

By the time we got to Hoquiam, we were ready for lunch. So we shared a pizza at Sasquatch Pizza, and then we were on the road again.

Two days wasn't long enough. I long to go back. But we're planning on seeing the northern part of the Olympic Peninsula before we move on to our next assignment (which is coming up soon).

My full set of photos is up at Flickr.

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