Thursday, August 27, 2009

On the Edge of the Continent

Beautiful Lake Crescent
The Steeler Nation and driving under the fog.
Nanc and Jim at Cape Flattery with the lighthouse in the background.
Literally on the edge.
Outside the Makah Museum.
Following the cedar board path through the woods and then hiking the beach.
Ozette Island off the coast.
The Tidal Pool
Animals we saw along the beach. The raccoons were too quick.
Sol Duc Hot Springs

We have moved to Sam's RV Park in Clallam Bay, WA near the Northwestern most point of the lower 48. The drive here was spectacular beginning with the morning fog lifting off the water. We then drove through many miles of forest, several miles of which ran right along the shore of Lake Crescent, a large glacial lake in Olympic National Park. This lake is the deepest in Washington and the color of the water and sky were beautiful. Along the way we passed a house with a huge banner proclaiming "You're in Steelers Country," once again proving the Steeler Nation is everywhere.

This is an area where I am getting to fulfill my quest to go on roads that just end. The road to Cape Flattery, the most Northwest point, is a twisting turning two lane road along the Strait of Juan fe Fuca. It is well worth the drive and a short hike, as the point offers a wonderful view of the strait, the Pacific and Tatoosh Island on which sits the Cape Flattery Lighthouse. There were seals and many birds on the rocks and in the water. We just missed seeing gray whales that passed by before we arrived. We have now been to the opposite ends of the US as we previously visited Key West the Southeastern most point of the contiguous states. Surprisingly, as the crow flies they are less that 2900 miles apart.

Cape Flattery is on the Makah Indian Reservation that is the home of the Makah Museum / Cultural and Research Center in Neah Bay. The center houses one of the finest collections of precontact tribal artifacts in the US. The collection is from Ozette, a Makah Village that has been called the American Pompeii because it was buried in a mudslide nearly 500 years ago. The site remained buried until it was exposed by a Pacific storm in the 1970's and the archaeological dig which followed found that thousands of items had been preserved by the mud. Three of the five longhouses in the village were excavated and many items are exhibited to give a complete look at the way of life of these earliest Americans. The display also includes replicas of dugout canoes and a full size longhouse. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed. We did get to talk at length with Edward Claplanhoo, a Makah elder, about their culture. The Makah are ancestrally related to the First Nation people of British Colombia and not to any of the other six tribes on the Olympic Peninsula. Edward told us about his pet project, a veterans park honoring the nearly 300 Makah who have served in the US military from WWI to the present. This museum is a must see for anyone who travels to this remote corner of the country.

Another day we took a different road that just ends so we could go to another US extreme, the Western most point Cape Alava. Here we visited a second of the three distinct areas of Olympic National Park, the coast. After driving on a road where the one sign declared "No Warning Signs Next 21 miles," we arrived at the Lake Ozette rangers station. From there you can choose one of two three mile hikes to Cape Alava or Sandpoint on the ocean, or you can hike out one trail, walk three miles along the water and return on the other. The choice was really between a six mile out and back or a nine mile loop hike and we opted for the nine which was no simple walk in the woods. From the station to the ocean the trails wind through forest with some open prairie and are mostly on a boardwalk because without it the large amount of rain they get here would turn them into huge mud paths. The walk along the ocean must be done at low tide because two head walls jut into the water at high tide making them impassible. We were rewarded with great views of the coast but that portion is not for the faint of heart, as much of it is walking across rocks and kelp in the tidal pools. Where we stopped for a snack we saw many birds, seals, and families of raccoons and deer. It was sad but interesting to see what human items littered the shore. There was everything from fishing net to tires and a water bottle with Asian writing. This is a great place to see a wee bit of the longest undeveloped coast in the US.

On our last day here we decided to soak our weary hiking bodies at the Sol Duc Hot Springs in the park. This was an ideal place for me because they had four nature spring pools that ranged from 75 degree river water to 109 degree mineral water in which I think you could have cooked lobster. I chose the cooler ones and it was wonderful to lie in the mineral laden water and just relax the afternoon away. We have had a grand time on the Northwest coast and have enjoyed fabulous weather. We are next heading to the rain forest so we will see if the weather will lives up to the name.


MarkandRenita said...

So glad you didn't fall off the edge! What a great west coast adventure you two are having!

Art In The Sun said...

What a great photo of the two of you and those hot springs looked very inviting. We will have to add them on to our list of places to go. Sharon and Allan

Richard said...

Our list of places to go while we are out West gets longer with every one of your blog posts!
Richard and Valerie