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Olympic National Park, WA   08/20-22/08 (Day 677-679)
The Olympics

No, not the recent Phelps-fest in China (go Michael!). We’re talking about the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park in Washington where it’s (surprise! surprise!) raining—which at least makes sense in a rain forest.

Olympic National Park
Entering the temperate rain forests of Olympic National Park.

The hiking trails through the rain forest are all so tempting that we make like a local and just gear up and head out despite the rain. Part of the pull of the trails around Lake Quinault, where we’re based, is a series of much-hyped “Largest Trees in the World” that we are determined to check out.

Call us skeptics, but whenever we see the phrase “in the world” we smell hyperbole. So it is with one eyebrow raised that we head for the “Largest Sitka Spruce in the World.” She’s big—55’ 7” around and 191’ tall. Then it’s off to the “Largest Douglas Fir in the World,” which clocks in at 40’ around and 302’ tall according to the National Forestry Association which tracks such things.

Largerst Sitka Spruce in the World - Olympic National Park
This 191 foot giant dwarfs Karen, but is it really the Largest Sitka Spruce in the World?

The Lake Quinault area boasts other largest trees in the world (a yellow cedar, a Western hemlock and a red cedar), but we’ve had enough. The thing is, to get to these anointed ones you walk past dozens if not hundreds of other biggies and it feels so unfair to celebrate just a chosen few.

One evening the rain lets up so we drive the scenic loop road around Lake Quinault in search of a secluded and scenic spot for a picnic dinner. After pausing to let a herd of Roosevelt elk meander across the road and gawk at us curiously, we find a tree-ringed turnout on the edge of the water and settle in for a tailgate supper of hamburgers and grilled corn. It looks and feels so much like bear country that we half expect a dinner guest.

Speaking of food, the next morning we order sweet potato pancakes for breakfast at the Lake Quinault Lodge at the urging of our Lonely Planet Northwest Washington and Oregon guidebook which gushes that the restaurant at the lodge has the best food in the area—especially the sweet potato pancakes. And it’s no lie. They are sweet, but not too sweet. Hearty, but not dense. And the hazelnut butter served with them makes syrup completely unnecessary. They’re so good, we order them again the next morning.

Lake Quinault Lodge
The view of Lake Quinault from the dining room of Lake Quinault Lodge.

As delicious as it is, it feels weird and shockingly expensive to eat breakfast in a restaurant. Since we got into our Airstream we’ve been on a pretty strict diet of home cooked meals which means we’re healthier (weirdly, there’s no hazelnut butter in our fridge) and richer—we’ve saved a ton of money on food simply by ditching restaurants in favor of our totally useable kitchen (though the oven remains a virgin). Plus we can eat what we want when we want it.

All that cooking does mean a return to supermarkets (why isn’t there a Trader Joe’s in every town?) and we’ve got a regular schedule of dirty dishes to deal with, but wild salmon with lemon basmati rice and sautéed spinach at a fraction of what it would cost in a restaurant makes icky chain supermarkets and dishpan hands worth it.

One of the unique things about Olympic National Park is that it includes world class rain forests right beside world class beaches—though some of them have not such world class names. However, we are assured that the unimaginatively-named Beach 4 has fantastic tidal pools so we head there to check them out. Sadly, we arrive at high tide and all the pools are well under water. We do spot dolphins in the distance and wander the rugged tree strewn beach before moving on up the coast.

Beach 4 olympic national Park
Karen scans the horizon for dolphins on Beach 4.




** This isn't a normal photo gallery with a slideshow because this post originally appeared on our Airstream blog. **

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