Washington State's Olympic Peninsula
Mount Olympus is at the center of a region dotted with thick forests, remote beaches, and rejuvenating hot springs. Let the games begin.
- Sol Duc Hot Springs ResortSol Duc Rd., 866/476-5382, visitsolduc.com, cabins from $125, open Mar. 15-Oct. 31
- Makah Cultural & Research Center1880 Bayview Ave., Neah Bay, 360/645-2711, makah.com, $5
- Birdhouses Etc.13753 Hwy. 112, Sekiu, 360/963-2770, open May 1-Sept. 15
Day 4: Sol Duc Resort to Seattle
Susan has had enough outdoor exertion. She hangs back with a book while I tool around in a little yellow kayak in Lake Aldwell, about an hour's drive from the resort. It's another crisp, blue-sky morning--somehow we haven't needed rain gear the whole trip--and the wind provides just enough chop to keep my paddling honest. I'm working up a little sweat even as my hands get cold from dipping in the 50-degree water.
The man-made lake is scheduled to disappear circa 2009, when two dams will be removed as part of the Elwha River restoration, but that doesn't make it any less appealing. I share the lake with just one fisherman, who is in an inflatable catamaran. I paddle out a ways for a view of the jagged white peaks of the Olympic range.
Arriving in the hub city of Port Angeles is jarring--has it really been just 48 hours since we last saw a fast-food chain?--but the downtown has quirky grit as well as tourist-friendly commerce. We replenish our caffeine supply and head to Sequim (pronounced squim), the self-proclaimed lavender capital of North America.
The gift-shop cottage atOliver's Lavender Farmappears closed, but soon Don Oliver, a gray-haired gentleman, emerges, explaining that the door is shut tight so his quail don't get inside. "There'd be white spots all over the floor," he says. A former lawyer and policeman, Don started the crop with his wife, Claudine, in 1999; they now have 10 different varieties and 2,100 plants. We're too early to self-pick (harvest is in July), so we instead buy jars of shaving soap and hand cream.
What better way to cap off 500 miles of driving than to let a boat captain handle the last leg? Though knockdown-strength gusts keep us off the deck of theBainbridge Island Ferry, the view of the Space Needle and the rest of Seattle's skyline is as pretty as the untamed beauty fading behind us.
- Bainbridge Island Ferry888/808-7977, wsdot.wa.gov/ferries, one way with car to Seattle from $11.25
- Olympic Raft & Kayak123 Lake Aldwell Rd., Port Angeles, 360/452-1443, raftandkayak.com, one-hour kayak rental $18
- Oliver's Lavender Farm82 Cameron Acres Ln., Sequim, 360/681-3789
Finding Your Way
There's nothing on this trip a normal car can't navigate, but certain bumpy side roads will be slow going. Renting an SUV for $20-$30 more per day is not a bad idea. Got an extra few days? Linger in Port Angeles, where you can drive up mile-high Hurricane Ridge for some hiking, go to Port Townsend and whale-watch in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, or ferry over to the cute city of Victoria, B.C.