Pacific Coast Highway (a.k.a. 101) in Washington. The dramatic beauty of America’s most western route is a tribute to the nation. Diverse, eclectic and dramatic from north to south to the road provides a journey for the senses. Circling the Olympic Peninsula HWY 101 weaves through cool hunter green forests draped in clouds. Communities provide nourishment for the body and wilderness within steps of the pavement provides nourishment for the spirit.
Hike, bike or walk around Port Angeles. The City Pier is home to the Fiero Marine Lab and the start of the very popular 13-mile Waterfront Trail loop. This unique trail is an easy ride that is ideal for family adventures. It weaves along the waterfront area and ends up at Ediz Hook. Also along the waterfront Valley Creek Estuary provides a peaceful and calming walk as well as an opportunity for visitors to learn about the salmon and waterfowl indigenous to the area. The Olympic Discovery Trail to Sequim offers an easy to moderate 24-mile round trip bike excursion. There are hundreds of hiking options ranging from gentle to powerful.
Feel the raindrops forming. The Hoh Rain Forest about 20 miles off HWY 101 is a place for the senses to behold. The large old-growth trees cloaked with moss and the thick blankets of ferns that line pathways create a surreal atmosphere. If it is possible to feel green then this is the spot. It is a place to experience the quiet sounds of the forest and taste the cool moist air. Along the three short trails from the visitor center moss, lichen and ferns camouflage inhabitants. Spiders weave entrapments and birds provide the chorus of nature. Docents at the Visitor Center often proclaim to vacationers, “This isn’t the end of the world, but you can see it from here.” (Hoh Visitor Center (west side) 1(360) 374-6925)
Experience diverse ecosystems. Olympic National Park is remarkable because of its shear size and incredible diversity. The Park area includes three distinctly different ecosystems spanning rugged glacier capped mountains, more than 60 miles of Pacific coastal wilderness and magnificent stands of old-growth trees within a temperate rain forest. Hiking within the Park is an ecological thrill for the senses. Rain gear is required to experience the lushness of the place and still be comfortable. Moss drapes and huge nurse trees stand among rotting logs and treat visitors to more shades of green than can possibly be described. The Visitor Center houses the park’s major exhibits, along with a small theater/auditorium, children’s activity room. (Olympic Park Visitor Center 3002 Mt. Angeles Road, Port Angeles, (north side) 1(360) 565-3130 or www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm)
See the world’s longest spit. Dungeness Spit is located at the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca north of Sequim. The Spit is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System and credited with being the world’s longest natural sand spit, extending more than 5 miles into the Strait. It provides a natural shelter for the bay, tidal flats, and surrounding estuary. Created by the forces of the wind and water on eroding soil, it is a work in progress. Locals claim that it has grown about 15 feet per year for the past 120 years.
Find Lewis and Clark. Overlooking the mouth of the Columbia River in Ilwaco, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Fort Canby pays tribute to the Corps of Discovery 8,000-mile adventure. Exhibits portray medical treatment, food, entertainment, discipline and the contributions of the Chinook and other tribes to the trip’s success. Sketches of the explorers and artifacts collected on the expedition are displayed, and a multimedia presentation depicts the highlights of the journey. In addition to the interpretive center, the 1882-acre park provides 27 miles of ocean beach, miles of hiking trails and two lighthouses to visit. This section of the coast is often called the “Graveyard of the Pacific” because it is where Baker Bay, the Columbia River, and the Pacific Ocean meet creating one of the most treacherous river bars in the world. Discovery: This is a reliable spot for whale watching. (Fort Canby State Park, Ilwaco 98624 or 1-360-642-3078)
Explore history at Fort Vancouver. Nine reconstructed buildings mark the original site of the Fort. Costumed interpreters create a sense of another time in history. A 15-minute video explains the history of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver and the developing culture of the Pacific Northwest. The fur warehouse, carpenter shop, dispensary, Chief Factor’s house, kitchen, bake house, blacksmith and Indian trade shops provide demonstrations and activities for visitors. The Vancouver National Historic Reserve demonstrates the complex relationship between humans and the Columbia River. (Fort Vancouver National Historic Site 612 East Reserve Street, Vancouver, 98661. 1-800-832-3559 or 1-360-696-7655 or www.nps.gov/fova/index.htm)
Go fly a kite. One of the world’s longest beaches – 28 miles of continuous sand that frames the Long Beach Peninsula was once used as a stagecoach route from Ilwaco to Oysterville. Today the same stretch is used for kite flying enthusiasts. It is the logical spot for The World Kite Museum. The Museum includes displays and exhibits 2500 year-old history of kites from Japanese giants to traditional English and American Sport. From time to time they provide workshops and demonstrations for visitors. Discovery: Each year the area hosts The Washington State International Kite Festival, a grand aerial spectacle. (112-3rd St. Northwest, Long Beach, 98631. 360-642-4020 or www.worldkitemuseum.com and kitefestival.com)
Shuck oysters. Willapa Bay Oyster House Interpretive Center exhibits the story of the 150-year history of oyster farming. Housed in a replica of the last oyster station, tools of the trade and stories of the earliest settlers are among the displays. Artifacts include a dinghy built in the late 1920’s. Visitors are invited to watch a short video of the oyster industry and Willapa Bay ecosystem and why it is the ideal place for oysters. Discovery: Just outside there is access to the bay without trespassing on private property. (273rd Place, Nahcotta, on the south side of the Port of Peninsula breakwater. 1(360) 665-4547)
Sip cranberry tea. Cranberries adorn almost every American table at Thanksgiving time. Many of the garnet-colored berries start out in Oregon. Visitors are welcome to take a tour of a working cranberry farm, complete with bogs and berries. Get a first-hand look at different varieties of cranberries, irrigation systems, and how crops are planted and cultivated. Spring is for planting and October for harvesting but any time is teatime. (Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation 2907 Pioneer Road, Long Beach, 98631. 1(360) 642-5553, www.cranberrymuseum.com)
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