We left the hotel at 9:20, which was probably the latest we got going the entire trip. There wasn't a breakfast place (well, the hotel had breakfast, but I'm sure it was a Full Dining Experience, when we wanted grab'n'go), so we stopped at the Seagate Lounge for coffee.
Lake Quinault, although it had its moments, was actually a little disappointing at first. We were stymied by the weather: Much warmer and drier than we'd been expecting. Also, for whatever reason, out on the first trail I got vertigo to the point where I had to be careful when I looked up and was occasionally staggering. I hadn't had breakfast, other than the coffee, so I'm sure that had something to do with it. Also, taking pictures involves lots of crouching down, leaning back, getting into uncomfortable positions, and then uncoiling from it all, so I'm sure that had something to do with it.
So we had to find a place to sit and have a picnic. We've learned to bring a picnic, which is something. We had a link of German sausage from the Ballard farmer's market, this great morel/leek Monterey Jack, and some crackers. After eating, I was less dizzy, but still kind of bobble headed (confused and querulous). We tried another trail, and that went pretty well. But there must have been a rough winter, because the trails were very exposed, and there was lots of fallen trees. We went to the world's biggest sitka spruce tree, which was, indeed, pretty massive. There are a number of "world's biggest" trees of different species in the Olympics, but that was the only one we specifically visited.
We tried walking along the lakeshore, but it was too sunny. However, Lake Quinault is quite lovely. I think most of the lakes in the Olympics were carved by glaciers in the last ice age, which leads to deep lakes with cold water and great shorelines.
Julie decided we should sit for a while, and we found a wonderful campsite, shady and right next to a waterfall. We aren't campers, but if we were, this is where we'd stay. It was also right next to the road, but the waterfall drowned out all traffic sounds. The stream itself had been "prettified" by the early developers of the resort, which had nearly destroyed its ecology. Now it's being nudged back into shape.
It was so lovely, we sat there quite a while. Just watching the water flow, being in the breeze, and drinking it all in.
By then it was mid afternoon, so we decided to drive the South Shore and North Shore Loop around Lake Quinault. That involved several stops, for Merryman Falls, and (I think) Bunch Creek Falls (neither of which are in the Waterfall Lovers Guide we have). The road followed the lakeshore, then some distance along the Quinault River. So we had to stop and get out and explore some of the gravelbars. It was pretty impressive to look up from the relatively small river and realize that in flood it would fill the couple hundred yards wide bed, and move enough water not only to carry the rocks we were scrambling in but the giant trees.
As is so typical of the kind of exploring we like to do, if you glance at a gravel bar, you think "gravel bar. Neat. Next." But if you go into it, and explore it, it opens up new vistas. All the different shapes of the rocks, the smoothness, the juxtapositions and arrangements. And to think of the water that moved and shaped them. Lifting and dropping, shifting and shoving. In the same sense that horizon lines can reveal the source of Mark Rothko's abstractions, the gravel bars of a river like the Quinault can show you the source of Andy Goldsworthy's rock arrangements.
Once we got onto the north shore section of the drive, it was time enough to keep going to push to Forks. The road was unpaved for a good chunk, so we had to drive slowly in any case. And the views didn't stop being stunning. We stopped at the north shore ranger station for another picnic before hitting the road to Forks.
There was a lot of road work back on 101, which delayed us getting to Forks. But we could see the ocean to our left, the sun was slanting beautifully through the trees, and we could talk about the day's sights and listen to the tape. At one of the traffic holding points, we were behind a car with the sticker:
FREEDOM ISN'T FREE.It was a Chevy Suburban.
In loving memory of [name]
USMC KIA IRAQ
5/25/85 - 8/20/06
By the time we got to Forks, it was almost completely dark. However, Forks itself was very lively. My first wife took a trip around the peninsula with her lover, and they reported feeling uncomfortable and unwelcome in Forks.
That's certainly changed. Every hotel and motel had the NO VACANCY sign lit, there were groups of people everywhere, traffic was fairly heavy. Shops had BELLA SHOPS HERE signs, the Chinese restaurant had a Jacob poster (I guess he's the token Asianesque vampire), there were flyers advertising Bella's Birthday party, there were TWO "Dazzled by Twilight" stores a couple doors apart. Forks was pretty much thrown away by capitalism, so I sure hope they're raking it in while they can. Even Sully's Burgers, the grimy diner across the street from our motel, had a "Bella's Burger". I don't know if there was something special about the weekend, or this was the regular level of tourism for Forks these days.
By the time we were rested, showered, and fed, we were ready to call it a night. Julie set the alarm for 7:30, over my objections. Saturday, we were to backtrack a little bit to the Hoh rain forest. I thought we might be rain forested out, but we weren't, and I'm very glad of it.