We asked Paul to write a guest blog post about our time spent on the Olympic Peninsula. Four days of mountains, hikes, whales, and of course, several late nights of board games.
From Paul: Coffee, fog, grunge rock, craft beer, rain, flannel, forests and mountains…these are the words and images that come to mind when I think about the Pacific Northwest (or “PNW” to those in the biz). Well, I came, I saw, I drank, and I’m happy to report this is indeed an accurate representation of the region. The flannel has largely been replaced by expensive synthetics from REI, and Nirvana and Pearl Jam has been supplanted by, uh, newer acts, but the heart and soul of the PNW remains a liberal, outdoorsy culture that revels in cool bars and cozy coffee shops, mountain bikes and Subarus.
No discussion of the PNW, or more specifically the Olympic Peninsula, would be complete without making mention of the weather. Here’s the deal: there’s gonna be moisture, either in the form of rain, fog, snow (rarely), or just a layer of cool dampness on everything you touch. It’s what makes the Emerald City (Seattle) and the Emerald Isle (Ireland) share the same green-hued landscape. Most mornings we woke up to a thick pea-soup fog that enveloped everything in a chilly embrace of moisture. As we moved about, driving west to the Pacific Ocean and then making our way back east through Olympic National Park, the fog would regularly come and go like the tides in and around Puget Sound. It would be thick and smoky in some valleys, wispy and ethereal in others. As we traveled from near sea-level in Port Angeles and climbed to the snow-capped Olympic range, the fog started as a thick blanket of liquefied air and slowly transitioned to barely visible traces of moisture and then gave way completely to bright sunshine. It was startling how quickly that transition came about with just a few hundred feet of elevation change.
At lower altitudes, water dripped off the trees even though it hadn’t actually rained in several weeks. This seemed to create a perfect environment for life to thrive. Olympic National Park, especially at low altitudes, is like a greenhouse of epic proportions. Verdant vegetation is everywhere, and even in late October, everything is alive and bright and happily churning out oxygen in abundance. Nothing but unspoiled natural beauty in every direction, especially up.
The Hoh Rainforest, for example, is an ancient cathedral of natural life, with Sitka Spruce trees that were growing 500 years ago, way back when Henry VIII was on the throne in England and the Rolling Stones were just starting to play small club gigs.
Throughout the entire Olympic Peninsula, along with the strange combination of cold yet tropical weather, along with the pristine natural beauty, along with the countless logging trucks that ply the roadways, there seemed an overall sense of wild remoteness. Being so close to the major metropolitan areas of Seattle and Tacoma, it was surprising that the whole area seemed so devoid of people. On our hike out to Cape Flattery, the farthest Northwest point in the continental United States, we saw the same number of hikers on the trail as we did whales in the ocean at the dramatic cape: 3.
Incredibly, and this is shocking in the PNW, I’m pretty sure I saw more logging trucks than Subarus. Gas station bathrooms still require keys attached to foot-long lengths of sawed-off broomstick. I’m telling you, just a wild remote land. Overall, the Olympic Peninsula is a stunning and wild natural playground. It gives the impression of a region where Mother Nature still holds sway, and we are just visitors there to catch a glimpse of her grandeur.
And maybe enjoy a locally brewed craft beer while we’re at it…