Sunday, August 7, 2011
Lake Quinault Lodge

   Fog lifts slowly from Lake Quinault, rising in a gray cloud. An emerald lawn stretches from the deck to the lake shore where row boats bob gently up and down in the waves. The deck of Lake Quinault Lodge is empty now, but yesterday afternoon, a wedding was held in the white gazebo on the west end of the lawn and we watched as the bride and groom stepped over a path of golden leaves through the grass to the deck where they greeted their guests.
   The Quinault Rain Forest surrounds the lake with tall cedars and Sitka and Douglass Spruce. The height of these tall tress, some growing to 200 feet, prevents sun from breaking through and keeps the forest shaded. At the edge of the lake, asters and daisies bloom. False Lily of the Valley and Oregon oxalis grow in the woods among ferns, salmon berry and devils club. Tree trunks are wide - some 4.5 feet in diameter or larger.
   A drive around the Lake passes Merriman Falls and Bunch Falls. At this point the road enters Olympic National Park which is a little confusing because Olympic National Park zigzags between private and Park properties. Lake Quinault Lodge is actually in Quinault National Forest, surrounded by residences and a few resorts. There are few services here and the area is very undeveloped. Houses are modest with moss growing on some roofs.
   Across the Quinault River Bridge and turning east is Bunch Fields, a popular grazing area for Roosevelt elk, the largest subspecies of elk in North America. They graze on grasses, sedges, Devils Club and salmonberry. Bunch Fields is empty today, but we do catch a deer far back in the trees, a fawn.
   Down the road a sign announces "Large Cedar Tree" at the base of a trail climbs through a forest of tall, tall cedars. It passes one huge cedar lying on its side and climbs a path bolstered by log steps and handrails. The "Large Cedar" is a twisted tree whose trunk is over 6 feet in diameter, broken off at the top. It's hard to tell how tall it once was. We are continually amazed at the size and age of the trees we see here.
   The drive north on 101 to the Hoh Rain Forest passes the Beaches 1 through 4 on the Pacific Ocean. The sky is blue now and clouds float by. The ocean hypnotizes, water stretching out forever. Wildflowers - yellow, white, lavender - grow along the highway. We cross the Quinault and Hoh Rivers, turning on to the road that leads to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. Light filters in between the tall cedars, maples, hemlock and spruce.
   There are several trails which begin at the Visitors Center and many backpackers use this as a starting point to the interior of the Park. The Spruce Trail leads to the Hoh River Trail through a forest of trees draped with moss. It reminds me of "Lord of the Rings.". The trail leads to the sunny river bottom edged by forest and then winds back through the woods to the Visitors Center. So far the weather has been perfect for hiking - 63 and either partly cloudy or overcast.
   We stop at Ruby Beach on the way back. Sea stacks - erosion resistant rocks isolated from the land by the sea - rise from the water as waves crash against them as the tide comes in. Along the beach we find caves carved into the rocks. Searching the waves intently through binoculars, I think I spot a seal, its head bobbing in and out of the waves.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2011