Olympic National Park. If you are from the Pacific Northwest, you know what I am talking about. If you don’t, click on the link and land on the homepage of this beautiful national park. While living in Seattle, we did a whole lot of camping and saw some amazing nature, but this park was our default camping getaway when we had some days to spare and it remains my favorite.
Unfortunately, we never made it to Cape Flattery, the northwestern tip of the US, because the tip is actually not part of the National Park but part of the Makah Indian Reservation and there is only one dead end street going there. When my friend asked me if I would have time to go camping for a couple of days while visiting Seattle, I knew immediately where I wanted to go. As it turned out, she had not been there herself. I guess lots of people simply skip it while visiting the peninsula, which is really a shame.
So, next time you go to the Olympics, take a right after Port Angeles and follow the 112 along the Northern coast of the peninsula, making stops at Port Crescent and Clallam Bay. The views are well worth it. Don’t forget to buy some local smoked salmon in Clallam Bay at the house on the corner. Then drive to Neah Bay and visit the Makah Museum.
The museum will show you in under two hours the ways of the Makah tribe, from their incredible whale hunting, the longhouses they lived in, to their kids’ toys. The museum displays the archaeological treasures they found digging up the longhouses on Lake Ozette who were covered by a mudslide four hundred years ago. The museum by itself is already well worth the trip. But while you are here, drive up to the Cape Flattery trailhead and put on some good shoes if it has been raining. Then take a hike. And enjoy. You will not be disappointed. The views are simply spectacular.
For my other readers with no plans to go to the Pacific North West anytime soon, there always is West of Here, a book by Jonathan Evison. The book is of course not nearly as good as the real thing, but it will give you the same vibe as driving through the Olympics, with its rugged coastline and rugged people. All Evison’s characters are simply trying to survive, forging their way like the Elwha River, just trying to stand their ground against the forces of nature so much stronger than themselves. I guess it comes from the wonderful transforming quality of the Olympics, turning all humans into trivial little creatures with trivial concerns and worries. How I missed that feeling.