As the Tree Falls by:Lydia Kelly
A trip to Washington State is not complete without a trip around the Olympic Peninsula. From its early days, Washington has been known for its vast forests and the lumber industry. Until the 1940s the seemingly endless supply of trees dominated Washington's economic development, with mill towns and lumber camps springing up throughout the state.
As technology improved and demand increased the supply of lumber began to dwindle. Clear-cut logging razed acres, leaving the damaged forest with little chance for regrowth. While the government stepped in and established forest reserves in an attempt to protect the valuable lumber resources, this didn't help to rebuild the forests that were already destroyed.
Some efforts were made to replant and conserve forests for sustained yield production, but this didn't solve the problem of the habitat being decimated by the forestry industry. In order to preserve some of the natural forest, President Theodore Roosevelt set aside 615,000 acres of forestland in 1909, establishing the Mount Olympus National Monument.
Much of the Olympic National Forest has been set aside to preserve the endangered Spotted Owls, and this forestland is the oldest and most beautiful in Washington State. However, the struggle for balance in the logging industry continues to this day.
A journey along the Olympic Peninsula takes visitors through history and into some of the most valuable forests of America. Starting at Aberdeen you travel to Hoquiam, home of the Polson Museum. This extensive collection of Gray's Harbor history features a large collection of logging memorabilia and historical artefacts. You can stop for the night at Hoquiam Castle, the meticulously restored Victorian home of lumber baron Robert Lytle, owner of the first electric saw mill on the west coast.
From Hoquiam you will pass by young forests planted to repair the ravages of clear-cutting, until you enter the Olympic National Forest. Don't miss the Hoh Rain Forest Nature Trail, to experience this lush old-growth forest, hung with dripping moss nourished by 140" of rain each year.
As you travel along the US101 you will have a lovely view of the Pacific. Several unspoiled beaches line the ocean, making for a pleasant stopover for lunch and a swim. After lunch, try stopping at Den's Wood Den where you can enjoy chainsaw wood carvings and other local wood crafts. When you reach Forks, a classic logging town, consider visiting the Forks Timber Museum to view antique logging equipment and other memorabilia.
For an enjoyable overnight, try the historic Lake Crescent Lodge. You can have a comfortable place to stay as you explore the Olympic National Park's sights such as the 90' high Marymore Falls, part of the Moments in Time Nature Trail. Here President Roosevelt stayed, enjoying the beauty of the forest while he made plans to create the Olympic National Park in 1938.
From the Lodge you can continue along the coastline to Port Angeles. After enjoying the sights of this busy port town, continue on to Dungeness Valley and the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. Set upon the world's longest natural sand spit, this refuge is home to a variety of wildlife including harbour seals. Enjoy the many outdoor activities such as hiking trails, boating, and beaches along the reserve. In Sequim stop in at the Dungeness River Audubon Centre and learn about the peninsula's valuable natural resources.
As you travel onwards, a short detour takes you to the 2,804 foot Mount Walker Observation Area, with its great views. Driving along the western shore of Hood Canal to Hoodsport, you will many places to stop as you pass marshes full of birds, oyster farms, and towns with seafood restaurants.
The Olympic Peninsula is a national treasure, filled with state history and a wealth of natural beauty, including fern-clad rain forests, secluded beaches, alpine meadows, and the snow-crowned Olympic Mountains. It is well worth taking the time to travel its shores and personally experiencing the Olympic Forest.
About the author
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