Adventure Log: Lake Quinault

February 14, 2023

Winter adventures are carefully planned. Sort of. I choose a place, look at my calendar, and lay the weather forecast over it; then pick a day and cross my fingers. I keep checking the forecast, because it changes daily. (Even hourly, but by then I’ve committed.) It’s not like I’m hiking—a walk at best—but because a day trip is as much about the drive as the destination, I don’t go in the rain.

Last Tuesday’s forecast at Amanda Park on the ocean side of the Olympic Peninsula, across the lake from my destination, was imperfect, but it was the best of the week. And it remained steadfast. That icon with the cloud and the sun: Partly cloudy? Mostly sunny? Mostly cloudy? Partly sunny? Who knows what it means, but not raining. (There was a snow flake icon Monday night, so a bit of mystery of the good sort.)

Tuesday morning I get reports from friends of a snow smattering 60 miles north of me, and five miles south, but at my house . . . fog—and not the bright, sun’s a-comin’ kind, but damp. I feel cheated.

I leave the house just ahead of official sunrise. Half an hour west, there’s snow! For the next 35 miles it’s beautiful; just enough for frosting on the grass and trees, none on the pavement, except when I wander off the highway from Elma to Montesano in search of a photo op, then from there onto a narrow side road that may or may not have been icy. (I was not successful at finding place to photograph the sun sparkling on fields and lighting up snowy hilltops.)

Just before Aberdeen, the snow is gone. I’m hopeful there will be more when I get away from North Bay and farther inland from the ocean. There is! Briefly. And then again, sparkling in the sun under azure sky! I picked a stellar day. Life is good.

Just beyond the Olympic National Forest boundary, the snow is gone. Damn. But the sun is shining, and I’m headed to a favorite place: the Historic Quinault Lodge, where President Roosevelt (Franklin) had lunch in 1937. It rained during his Peninsula tour, but driving south toward Aberdeen and Hoquiam after lunch, the sun shone through as the road bisected miles of “raw and ugly clearcuts.” According to a young reporter, Roosevelt said to the congressmen accompanying him, “I hope the son-of-a-bitch who logged that is roasting in hell.” (I have to wonder where he thought the stick-built lodge he had just enjoyed came from.) Nine months later he signed the bill creating the Olympic National Forest.

Did you read The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood? Siddalee used the phone outside this merchantile and stayed at a cabin down the road.

I retreated to the table by the fireplace to write several times when I was caring for my mother. I drove the two hours, arriving at nine, and was home in time to cook dinner. (And I didn’t care if it was raining back then.)

The story I was writing then is between covers and professionally published. A book of family history during World War II (which entailed transcribing excerpts from 1600 handwritten letters) has been self-published into a 500-page book and distributed to family and a few others. I did some of that book in this room too.

(A couple asked me to take their photo in front of the fire; shades of meadow roving at Paradise!)

This table, this window, this view, this fireplace, this room have held and sustained me and my writing. And before that, the restaurant served me and my mother when I visited from across the country and we stayed here. (It’s no longer open for lunch during the week—a post-covid development. Good thing I brought mine.)

Today, looking out over the lake to frosted trees on the hilltops, I’m transcribing the stories my father and his siblings wrote of growing up on their Michigan farm in the early 1900s. They’ve been typed before, and may or may not reside on a floppy disk somewhere. It’s tedious and I don’t make much headway. (I have since discovered, and oh my gosh, so much better than the speech-to-text app on my phone, which is crap! I can use it to transcribe my mother’s cassette-taped stories too!)

My plan for the day includes a loop hike in the rain forest. I decide on the middle length loop beginning with the mile-long Lake Shore Trail from the lodge to Willaby campground, where I also retreated during mother care. The linking trail passes under the road and into the rain forest. I anticipate about a three-and-a-half mile hike before the two-hour drive home.

I start out after lunch and quickly discover the trail is a mess! I expected blowdown in the campground, but this is a surprise. I’m stumped as to the origin of the debris that covers sections of the trail for nearly the entire mile. They are old logs, and big. There’s no evidence it washed up from the lake (and besides, it’s a lake, not the Pacific). There’s no sign that it came from the inland side of the trail. It’s like it fell from the sky.

There’s finally signage warning of trail damage, but it’s only about a small washout. There’s been nothing anywhere about the debris.

The trail rises above the lake and is finally free of debris just before the campground. I did it.

The campground is a bit strewn with blow-down, but other than two small trees on a picnic table at the boat launch, not terrible.

It took me a full hour to walk the completely flat mile, picking my way over and between logs. I decide I’ll just walk along the creek under the road and return the lodge on the road. If the trail is this bad along the lake, who knows what I’ll find in the forest. But . . .

. . . there’s a huge tree across the trail, the enormous rootball on the other side of the creek where it stood—until recently—for decades. Hikers come from the other side, climbing well above the trail up and over the trunk, picking their way through the branches. Not happening for me. I turn around and head to the campground entrance to the road.

I wish now I had asked at the ranger station about the debris. A Washington Trails Association trip report from November indicates “some driftwood debris from flooding events.” It’s more than “some” now, but flooding events is really the only explanation. A complete visible lack of its path through the scrub between water and trail not withstanding. Nature is mystery. I will be eager to return in the summer to see if it’s cleaned up. Maybe it happens every year, but it looks like a mammoth task that will surely require heavy equipment. And how will they get it in there? Human problem solving is also mystery, but that has happened here before: when the original hotel burned down in 1924, and the current lodge was built two years later from foundation to occupancy in fifty-three days.

There may or may not be snow at home mid-week! And there may or may not be sun after that. Where to next?

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4 thoughts on “Adventure Log: Lake Quinault

  1. I’m fascinated by all of those logs! At the back door entrance to Flaming Geyser Park, dozens of giant logs showed up there too. I think it was part of a flood plain project but I really don’t know. I’ll have to dig deeper. 

    I still haven’t been inside that lodge and every photo you post and every word you write makes me think I should move it up the list. Nice to think a place can sustain a person through so much. It looks inviting for sure, especially as snow is creeping back into the forecast and the wildness that is March awaits. Thanks for the romp. I’m loving your winter adventures. 

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The logs are just so weird. Well, IMO, you should go! My 9-yr. FB memory today was of snow here. We have been cheated this year. There was a bit in this week’s forecast, but last I looked it was gone, along with sun on Thursday, the day there’s nothing on my calendar.


  2. Oh goals, thanks for leading the way. I will get there, but maybe I’ll wait a while. Thanks for the trip report and lovely photos. So glad you got enough dusting of snow to sparkle things up. As for forecasts, not holding my breath…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, wait a while. It’s only 45 minutes to the cool beaches from there too. Had I known my rain forest hike was going to be thwarted, I might have gone to Ruby Beach and checked out the parking area improvements that kept it closed all summer. You might want to stay there; but it is spendy. Do you have a camper? I can’t remember. There is the campground at Quinault (Willaby) and one at Kalaloch on the ocean. Both the sun and the snow part of this week’s forecast seem to have vanished, for now at least. Back to boring.

      Liked by 1 person

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