Last month I finally realized my dream of visiting the Olympic Peninsula and walking through the Hoh Rainforest. (Mom, if you’re reading this, I know that technically I’d already been, but visiting a place as a toddler doesn’t really count, does it?)
It was absolutely worth the wait. I fully believe that I inherited my love of road trips from my grandmother, and spending a few days exploring the peninsula with her during my stay at her home in Bellevue was such a gift. It’s been hard to sit down and share it with all of you because there’s so much I could say and so much I want to remember.
When I think back about this trip later on down the road, I want to remember listening to jazz CDs and watching my grandmother bounce along to the music in the passenger seat as the Olympia traffic gave way to quiet highways along small logging towns.
I want to remember her laughter when I doubted her choice to have lunch at a place called the Rusty Tractor, and my surprise when we parked outside of the restaurant and it turned out to be wonderful. We ate yak burgers and the waitress tricked her with “rattlesnake eggs,” and we giggled about it for the next hour.
I want to remember driving through Aberdeen and neighboring Hoquiam and seeing all the boarded-up houses and bare storefronts, skeletons from when the lumber mills brought in enough money to sustain growth. When I was searching for a highway sign to make sure we were headed the right direction (we usually weren’t), I saw a house that was small but standing, with boards on the windows and a Bettie Boop sign on the front door, as if the owner had walked out of it in the sixties and never found their way home again. As I drove, I daydreamed about what happened to all of the families from the empty houses.
I want to remember driving through Ocean Shores, a peculiar hotel town with a welcome sign that would fit right in in Southern California, bright and mismatched against the rainy sky. Later, we stopped in at Sandpiper, a beachside resort I’d been to as a kid and should maybe remember but don’t. The nostalgia on my grandmother’s face was beautiful; here was a place we’d all been together, way back when.
I was amazed when we checked in to our room at Ocean Crest, enthralled by the fireplace and private patio that gave us an incredible view of the ocean. We drove around until we found beach access and spent an hour combing through the dunes and reminiscing about past treasures found while the salty breeze tangled our hair. After a dip in the jacuzzi, we ate an incredibly decadent dinner at the resort’s restaurant. We watched Sideways in our room and I watched the sparks in the fireplace and listened to the waves crash as I fell asleep.
I want to remember waking up slowly and having coffee and muffins in our room before driving through the forest to the beautiful Lake Quinalt Lodge to have brunch and good strong coffee. We walked, shivering but happy, along the lakeshore before we got back in the car.
I want to remember my joy when we turned off Highway 101 into the Hoh Rainforest – finally I was there! I want to remember the impossible amounts off moss and the way the trees tunneled over the road and how every turnout beckoned, promising an excellent photo. The sky was a perfect clear blue and the river ran with colors I’d only seen in Kauai. The sand at the bottom of the creek we stepped over was a beautiful steel gray and there were plants growing underwater, proving that even in this normally rainy environment they somehow got enough sunlight to thrive.
I want to remember passing through Forks and laughing at the Twilight-themed store on the side of the highway while snacking on Girl Scout cookies. I want to laugh about being so hungry upon arriving in our room in Port Angeles – which, while not as luxurious as our room at Ocean Crest, had a big window that looked out onto the harbor – that it took us a half hour to finally decide on a restaurant and get out the door. I want to remember bundling up to walk three blocks to a southwestern seafood grill where our waiter joked and flirted and we had seafood and grits and veggies and chocolate mousse and all of that with another great bottle of wine.
I want to remember walking, giggling, back up the hill to the hotel and playing Yahtzee until Grandma mixed up the dice cup and her wine glass and – quite confidently, mind you – shook Chardonnay all over the table. I want to remember falling asleep grateful and happy.
I want to remember enjoying the hotel’s continental breakfast and driving through the Sunbelt to Dungeness Spit, where that little family of deer crossed so hesitantly in front of the car. The spit itself, covered in giant driftwood and surf-smoothed rocks, was a breezy playground, perfect for our last bit of sight-seeing.
I want to remember being astonished by the bustle of Paulsbo – this was no longer the small town my father grew up in – and our happiness to be on the Bainbridge ferry headed for home. As Seattle got larger in the ferry windows, we settled in, readying ourselves for that last bit of traffic before we were cozy at home, dreaming of new adventures.