Recently, my wife and I traveled to Bellevue, Washington (pop. 126,500) to visit her daughter and husband. Located just to the east of Seattle, across Lake Washington, Bellevue is a sparkling and pristine city filled with many parks and green spaces. But the real star of the show is neither Bellevue nor Seattle; that distinction goes to 14,409-foot Mt. Rainier, an active volcano that is part of the Ring of Fire.
Everywhere one goes, the sky is dominated by its presence. Seasoned residents seem to take the enormous mountain for granted, and, indeed, after a while we did too; that’s because most of the time, a thin haze tends to obscure it from easy view. But we had unusually clear skies for our entire visit, and every once in a while, there it would be, shouting out to us, “See me! See me!” To stand on a city street and see the monolithic image of that majestic snow-covered mountain in the background is nothing short of overwhelming, and no picture can ever do it justice.
While we were in Seattle, we took the opportunity to visit the Olympic Peninsula by car, and were we ever glad we did! The drive up the eastern coast of the peninsula was nice, but not particularly spectacular. It is bordered for most of its length on the east by the Hood Canal, which I surmise is sort of a branch of Puget Sound. Nice views, but nothing special. It wasn’t until we arrived in Port Angeles, which was our first day’s destination, that things got interesting. We took a side road off of Route 101 and were rewarded with brief glimpses of the lower portions of the Olympic mountains that whet our appetites. But we had no idea of what was yet to come.
Our overnight stay at the Olympic Lodge was delightful. It is the only really nice hotel in Port Angeles, and well worth the money. We chose a king-size room with a view of the golf course in the rear of the hotel, but after a nearly 200-mile drive to get there, the bed was the only thing we were interested in seeing.
The following morning, right after breakfast, we entered the Olympic National Park via Hurricane Ridge Road, which is an 18-mile road that goes from near sea level in Port Angeles to almost 5,300 feet at its terminus at the visitor’s center.
As we made our way up the road, each opening in the trees afforded us a better and better view of the mountains. At some spots, we could also see across the Straight of Juan de Fuca, which separates the peninsula from Vancouver Island. Mount Baker (10,781 ft.) is the dominant feature there, and can easily be seen on a clear day such as the one with which we were blessed.
When we reached the parking lot at the visitor’s center, we shut off the engine, rolled down the windows, and were enveloped in an incredible silence. We exited the car, and immediately we both began to cry, so overpowering was the sight of the mountains before us.
In mid-September, everything that appears white on the slopes is actually glacial ice. Mt. Olympus, the highest mountain in the range is 7,979 feet above sea level. What makes it truly impressive, however, is that it, along with its many neighbors, rises straight up from the sea. In fact, the whole Olympic range appears to have been placed as a group right down from the sky. God’s hand is definitely in evidence.
Route 101 pretty much encircles the peninsula, and as we headed west toward the coast, we were treated to a delightful drive around Lake Crescent, a glacial body of water that is about 10 miles long, with an average depth of 300 feet. It contains numerous species of freshwater fish, including lots of salmon. On this day, there was a stiff breeze in the air and a considerable chop on the water.
Heading down the coast, we stopped just inland at a little town with the unusual name of Forks, where we lunched at a restaurant called “The In Place.” Our server, a delightful young lady named Kimmy, bubbled over with enthusiasm as she informed us of the town’s notoriety. “This is where the Twilight Series was set,” she said with a smile, as we munched on a delicious sandwich of fresh Dungeness crab and shrimp with cheddar cheese on sourdough bread.
By the time we arrived back in Seattle, we were already planning our next visit to the Olympic Peninsula. There were so many things we missed seeing, such as the Hoh Rain Forest (one of the largest temperate rain forests in the United States), Shi Shi Beach, and the Salt Creek Recreation Area. But one thing we will never forget is that first moment when we stepped out of our car at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center and viewed the Olympic range in all its grandeur. That is an experience that will last us a lifetime.
NOTE – Joe Perrone Jr is the author of the Matt Davis Mystery Series: As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day (a 2012 Indie B.R.A.G. medallion winner), Twice Bitten, and Broken Promises. All four are available in paperback and E-book from Amazon.com. As the Twig is Bent and Opening Day are also in audiobook from Audible.com, with Twice Bitten and Broken Promises currently in production. If humor is your cup of tea, consider Joe’s rip-roaring, coming-of-age novel, Escaping Innocence: A Story of Awakening, set in the tumultuous Sixties, or A “Real” Man’s Guide to Divorce (First, you bend over and . . . ). Both are available in print, E-book, and audio book editions.
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