Part One: The Peninsula and Olympic National ParkThis last weekend (May 31-June 2) Rod and I travelled all over the Olympic Peninsula and ended with me running the North Olympic Discovery Marathon. The first half of the weekend (Friday through Saturday afternoon) was Rod's birthday weekend, then from Saturday night on it was all about me and the marathon.
The Olympic Peninsula is in the northwest corner of Washington and it is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the North, and the Olympic Mountains and Olympic National Forest in the center. Much of the area is within the Olympic National Park. The park and surrounding areas include lakes, waterfalls, rivers, mountains, beaches and rain forest...a lot of scenery. The park also has several lodges, one of which we stayed at and three others we visited in our travels.
We left pretty early on Friday morning to make the rather long drive to our first destination, Lake Quinault Lodge. We had to drive south to Olympia and then head west to get on Highway 101. The whole drive took four hours, including a stop for lunch. Luckily there were no major traffic tie-ups on I-5, otherwise it could have taken much longer. We stopped in Aberdeen and had lunch at the Lighthouse Drive-In, which serves home-cooked fast food. I had a turkey club which included fresh roasted turkey on house-made whole wheat bread. If I went back I would just have a turkey sandwich--I didn't need the ham and bacon. I also had fries instead of salad as I was in the midst of my pre-marathon carb-eating regime.
Lake Quinault Lodge is a grand but rustic lodge built in 1926 along the shores of Lake Quinault. We stayed in a lake view room in the main lodge. There are also cabins and other rooms in the outbuildings. Of course I wanted the most traditional lodge experience! We arrived at 1:30 p.m. and our room was ready, so we were able to check in immediately, which was great.
That afternoon we decided to hike/walk the Lakeshore Trail, which starts in front of the lodge and loops about four miles through the forest, along creeks, waterfalls, and through a cedar bog. In addition to many, many trees and mosses, we saw numerous woodsy plants and flowers, including the beautiful (but less delcious than blackberries) salmonberry, which has bright fuschia blossom and golden or red berries. (Pictures from the internet as I didn't think to take any.)
As a (former) trail runner, I would describe the trail as wide single track, mostly runnable (and obviously walkable) with technical portions and some hills. It ends on the road in front of the Lodge.
We made a post-hike stop at the Quinault Mercantile for ice cream bars, then walked around the grounds and down to the beach. During the summer season they have lake tours (by boat) and also rent rowboats, but none of that seemed to be going yet.
For dinner we went to the hotel dining room, the Roosevelt Room, named after Franklin D. Roosevelt's visit in 1937. We had a lovely window seat with a view of the lake. We had already studied the menu a couple times in advance--the actual menu was a little different from the online version so we had to modify our plans a little. We shared a razor clam appetizer (razor clams lightly breaded and fried, I'll admit you have to be a Washingtonian to truly appreciate fried rubber bands!). Rod ordered bison meatloaf, which he enjoyed, and I ordered the only pasta dish on the menu, penne pasta with chicken breast, Andouille sausage, Olympia mushrooms, red onions, garlic, shallots, and a smoked jack cream sauce. I probably should have had the vegetarian version without the chicken and sausage, as to me the mushrooms were the highlight! I haven't had a creamy pasta sauce in a long time, and I'll admit, it was good. We also had salads and then marionberry cobbler for dessert.
Afterwards we went back outside to watch the sunset from the rainbow chairs. Once the sun dropped it became suddenly chilly, and we headed back inside.
Saturday morning we were up early for another light hike before breakfast. This time we did a loop including a portion called Trail of the Giants (the Giants are Douglas firs). The trail was about 3.5 miles total, but we inadvertantly added a half mile by missing the trail start and walking an extra quarter mile down a fire road before we figured out we'd made a mistake. This trail had some significantly muddier and even wet sections, and in one part we had to walk up a creek bed with water running through it. Unlike the other trail, where the hills were rolling throughout, here we did most of our climbing in the first half and then descended on the return.
We got back to the lodge a bit past 9:00 to have the breakfast I'd been looking forward to all week. Rod had an omelet, which was delicious, I'm sure, and I had...drumroll...sweet potato pancakes with hazelnut butter (that is butter with hazelnuts mixed in) and maple syrup, and bacon on the side. Best carb loading breakfast ever! The pancakes were like pumpkin pancakes, not like latke-style potato pancakes. So. Good.
After breakfast we headed out to resume our journey toward Port Angeles for the marathon. The road took us out to the coast where we stopped first at Kalaloch. We walked down to the beach and the ocean's edge. Then on our return we peeked into the resort cabins and visited the Kalaloch Lodge. This is another place we'd like to stay, either in a cabin or the lodge itself. This would be a place to visit in the off-season (when rates are lower), even in winter (if you're a weird Washingtonian that likes to go to the ocean in the winter weather).
Before turning inward from the coast, we stopped also at Ruby Beach for a view and some photos.
Back on the highway, we soon passed through Forks. Yes, that is the location for the Twilight books. Actually many of our sites on this trip included Twilight sights! I really enjoyed reading the books but I'm not a big fangirl, and I certainly didn't want to make this a Twilight trip. I did pick up a brochure in Port Angeles listing all the Twilight locations in the area, however. A lot of the Forks locations were right on the main road as we drove through. Generally speaking, though, Forks seemed like a rather depressed, run down town.
We did not make the detour out to LaPush (where Jacob lived).
Although we had a big breakfast earlier, I did not want to forgo lunch, since that would make me too hungry and prone to overeat at dinner. We had two options for lunch around 2:00--Sol Duc Hot Springs and the Crescent Lake Lodge.
Geographically speaking, Sol Duc was first so we made the 12-mile drive off the main road. This was the only National Parks location that we went to where they required a pass. So we paid $15 to enter the park (which did make our lunch a little more expensive). Sol Duc (which also calls itself Soleduck) is a popular (it seems) hot springs with a lodge and other types of accommodation (cabins, camping, etc.). The dining room was not open for lunch, but the deli had a good menu and you could take your food into the dining room to eat if you want. We chose to do so, as the outside seating was a little breezy and really, it was a little weird being around all the hot spring soakers. We had salmon burgers with aoli and homemade potato chips and it was quite good.
It was amazing how crowded the pools were and how people just kept arriving. Even as we were leaving there were lines of people waiting to pay their entrance fee to the pools.
Our last stop before Port Angeles was Crescent Lake Lodge. Crescent Lake is a huge, beautiful lake (shaped like a crescent). I was quite enchanted by Crescent Lake Lodge and now I really want to go stay there! The Lodge itself is a beautiful New England-like building (although it is a woodsy light grey-green in color, not New England white), and there are also cabins and lodging in other buildings. I would like to stay in a Lodge room, but in my searches for theoretical stays, I have yet to find a date where a Lodge room was available! The dining room menu also looks wonderful. I am mentally planning my visit now...although probably not until next year, as summer is the priciest season (and quite booked up already), and I'm not sure that I would want to stay in the winter. Although...the holidays? Lake Crescent Lodge is also much closer to Port Angeles (about 20 miles away), in case I wanted to do the marathon (or half marathon) again next year....
Somewhat regretfully, we left Lake Crescent for the final journey to Port Angeles. About half an hour later we arrived at the Red Lion Hotel, race headquarters and adjacent to the race finish area (which would be quite convenient for Sunday). Our room had a nice view of the water, and a fridge...which was useful for stashing a pre-purchased coffee for race morning (I like Starbucks Americanos with half and half, hotel room coffee doesn't do it for me). Lucky for me, Safeway with a Starbucks was only a few blocks away, so before dinner I walked up and got my Americano.
I flew through the race expo and got my bib and shirt. The race shirts are long-sleeved half-zip shirts, which is a nice change from the usual. They're ocean blue and have the race logo on the back, and also say "Boston Strong."
We ate dinner at the local Italian restaurant, Bella Italia (also known as the restaurant where Bella and Edward had dinner). I had a great salad with grilled pears and gorgonzola, and a rather spicy puttanesca-like spaghetti. (I took some away and actually I'm going to have it for dinner tonight, Monday, with spaghetti squash.) We also had dessert, a very intense chocolate torte.
All that was left for the day was to put out all my race gear and clothing, and try to get some sleep. The marathon didn't actually start until 9 a.m., but I planned to leave the hotel around 6:30 to catch the shuttle to the start.