Summer Road Trip 2018, Part 11: Olympic National Park, The Drive to Lake Quinault
I woke up early, but this morning I didn't go back to sleep after my morning walk. I was moving to Falls Creek near Lake Quinault for the next three days.
Lake Quinalut is on the south end of Olympic National Park, about 4 hours away. I made reservations months ago on Recreation.gov but considered canceling while Ellie was still out of commission with a broken rear axle. I decided to make the drive to Quinault in Ansel. I wasn't doing Ellie any good in Port Angeles anyway.
I got my tent packed, hammock stuffed, and the campsite tidied. After organizing my things in Ansel, I was back on the road.
For Lake Quinault, I got back on US Highway 101 headed west. I passed back over the Elwah, along Crescent Lake, and over the Sol Duc River. I'd driven the same road 24 hours earlier but the drive was just as impressive the second time, Just watching the road through the windshield was beautiful.
A dense fog, probably smoke from the California wildfires, had moved into the area. The light had a diffuse quality, particularly in the distance. The soft light gave photos of Lake Crescent an amazing sense of depth.
I also stopped at Poel, a day use park on the shore of Crescent Lake. It was a gorgeous picnic area that looked like a five-star campground. Overnight camping in Pol is no allowed, but it's a beautiful place to have a picnic and relax in the shade. I got a few photos and continued on my way.
I stopped at the general store in Forks for a few provisions then continued south on US-101. I passed the turnoff for Hoh Rain Forest. It's an important stop, but I decided to return on my way down to Rainer, once Ellie's back on the road.
US-101 takes a sharp turn west just south of the Hoh Rain Forest turnoff. If follows the Hoh River out to the Pacific Ocean.
I entered the section of Olympic National Park that stretches along the Pacific Coast. I knew I was getting close to the Pacific Ocean but the sight of waves crashing on the beach took me by surprise.
I made it to the Pacific Ocean. Considering the breakdown, it felt like an accomplishment. I stopped to get a photo from the bluffs above the beach then stopped again at a beach access pullout. I walked out to the water and along the beach, taking a few photos before getting back in the Ansel to continue the drive toward Lake Quinault.
I stopped at a Kalaloch Ranger Station for a postcard and a park passport cancelation. Just past the town of Queets, US-101 takes another sharp turn east, heading inland toward Lake Quinault. I passed three roads I hope to check out tomorrow.
The first follows the Clearwater River watershed up to the Copper Mine, Upper Clearwater, and Yahoo Lake Campgrounds. The other two access the lower and upper Queets River.
Just beyond the Queets River is the turnoff for Lake Quinault Lodge and the Falls Creek Campground.
I stopped in at The Lodge for a beer and enjoyed the peaceful buzz of activity in the lobby. After my beer, I walked the lodge grounds. The Lodge is a handsome building on the shore of Lake Quinault. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and I walked around taking several photos.
The campsite was located only a quarter-mile down the road. The Falls Creek Campground and Lake Quinault Lodge are actually connected by a hiking trail, part of a trail network that encourages visitors to venture into the surrounding woods. Both are located in the National Forest adjacent to the National Park.
I found my site immediately thanks to some videos and pictures I saw on-line. I pitched my tent and zipped it shut.
I wanted a sneak peak of the south end of Olympic National Park, I jumped back in Ansel the headed east on Shore Road toward the Graves Creek Campground. It was farther than I expected. It took a while to get to the end of the pavement. It was an unpaved stretch of Graves Creek Road that actually crossed into The Park's boundaries.
Once again, I found myself astounded by the raw beauty all around me. Everything here looks like a garden.
Graves Creek Road went on for quite a while and I didn't see a single car pass in either direction. There were several interesting sections along the road. I stopped at what appeared to be a decommissioned Ranger Station to walk around and stretch my legs.
It was getting dark when I pulled into the Graves Creek Campground. The campground is situated on the bank of the Quinault River near the end of Graves Creek Road. Suffice it to say, this is a fairly remote National Park Campground. I'd imagine there's probably a good change of finding an open campsite here, even during high season. Campsites are first come, first served.
Graves Creek Road actually ends at the Grove Creek Trailhead, roughly a quarter-mile down the road beyond Grave's Creek Campground.
I made the drive back to Falls Creek in the dark. I cooked dinner, blogged it all, and went to bed.