As I start to write this blog entry, questions about the weather are of great interest. Supposedly one to three inches of snow are going to fall on the Seattle area, in the next hour or two. (As I post this entry, I can report, we received several inches of snow, which turned to slush by the next morning and was history after an hour of warm rain).
There was no speculation about the weather several weeks ago when we were heading north along the Washington coast to the Olympic “rain” Forest. Rain, sleet, hail, and snowflakes were in the forecast. Happily, while overcast, we had very little rain as we drove to our next campsite at Kalaloch.
We passed through thick groves of trees with umbrellas of moss, blocking the sunlight and creating a fairytale land below filled with gnomes living in hollowed-out tree trunks, industrious squirrels in pea coats who barter in pine nuts, and a couple of mean-spirited trolls. At any moment, I expected a plucky gnome to dash onto the road from behind a thicket of trees.
The boundaries of the Olympic National Forest meander, crossing over Highway 101 for a dozen or miles and then abruptly ending until you reach another patch of the forest. You don’t need to read the signs along the sides of the road to know whether you’re entering or leaving the forest. Decades of clear-cutting and harsh lumbering has turned what was once rainforests into scraggly strand of evergreens or miles of stumps with gigantic piles of dried branches and riffraff left by loggers.
The timber companies leave their apologies for the destruction they wrought by erecting signs indicating when they last logged and the date of their next pillage. While I recognize lumber is necessary for building houses, buildings, furniture, and much more, it’s ravaging of the land is heartbreaking.
The seas probably looks no different. If we could drive through them, we’d probably be aghast at the drop in marine life and the sea floor littered with refuse from society.
Happily, “Socialism in America,” more specifically, Woodrow Wilson who signed the National Parks Service Organic Act, and Franklyn D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), created a legacy, enabling common folks like Rich and I to enjoy the wonders in the Olympic National Park and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
As we approached the campground, we stopped at Kalaloch Lodge, a sturdy shingle-covered lodge built in 1953, but reminiscent of the types of improvements made by the WPA. It offers a spectacular view of Kalaloch, a strip of coast between the Quinault and Hoh Rivers. The name Kalaloch is a corruption of the Quinault term k’-E-le-ok, pronounced Kq–â-lā’–ȯk, meaning “a good place to land,” “canoe launch and landing,” or “sheltered landing.”
Because it was pouring when we visited the lodge, we didn’t stay long. A hop-skip-and-a-jump away is the Kalaloch Campground, which must have been built decades ago because there are no hook-ups (water, electricity, etc.) and the campsite are very small, most are designed for pitching a tent and parking either a car or truck.
Only a few spots can accommodate a motor home or truck and trailer, which together are no more than 21-feet. Our motor home is 28-feet long, but because it was the middle of the winter, we were able to drive around until we found a larger campsite, which also had the perfect view… out over the ocean!
By the time it got dark, many of the campsites in the “loop” were occupied with larger “rigs” having to partially park on the street. I kept thinking how the campground had looked fifty years ago when camp meant pitching a tent, unfolded tables and chairs, setting up a grill, and using ice chests for keeping food cold… and away from bears.
We knew there were bears in the area because up by the bathrooms were large metal chest with signs telling you to put food in the chests or lock in campers or cars.
To get down to beach, we walked just a few feet and descended down a steep wooden staircase, protected by a wall of tall logs lashed together. Until you get onto the beach, you can’t understand why the wall of logs is necessary. The waves seem no stronger than on other parts of the coast. The sand is smooth and soft. But then it becomes clear.
The flotsam and jetsam that have washed up aren’t ordinary. There are giant red cedar logs, the bases taller than me and more than hundred feet in length. Tangles of enormous branches and trunks, which have washed down rivers and streams from the Olympic forest are scattered across the beach, often making it necessary to step over a trunk or climb among the branches to continue walking along the coast.
While many beaches have ocean-washed pebbles, Kalalach has smoothed stones, some as large as cantaloupes; although, they’re more like flattened cantaloupes. Rich and I were both enthralled by the rocks, picking through the piles to find the ultimate stones to help create mini rock towers.
Below are what the rocks looked like after I watched and piled them up by the sink in out Mount Vernon We need to figure out what type of glue to use to make them into permanent rock towers for our garden and gifts.
Even though it was super cold outside and we’d see lots of rain the previous days, we were able to walk along the beach as the sun started setting the day we arrive. And the next morning was fabulous with intermittent blue skies and no rain! We spent several hours admiring the huge logs, picking up rocks, and walking around the park.
This summer, we’re looking forward to returning to the Olympic Forest. We’ll initially hike around the eastern side, and then head north to the coast, which is the drippiest area (one of the few rain forests in the United States). Supposedly, it’s so wet in the forest that even if it’s not raining, you get soaking wet.