Sunday, June 13, 2004

A Tour Around the Olympic

We just got back in from a Friday / Saturday tour of the Olympic peninsula. It was incredible; we started with a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island, which I admit probably lopped a good couple of hours off of our trip, and pointed the car west. Olympic National Park sits in the middle of the peninsula, and there aren't really any roads through it, so we basically circumnavigated the park. The Olympics and the surrounding area kind of remind me of Bavaria - snow-capped mountains, pine trees, blue lakes, mists. No Germans though. We stopped at a couple of places along the way yesterday, but ended up in Forks, the only town of any size (and I'm being generous when I use that terminology) on the far side of the park, last night. We ate killer seafood in La Push, a tiny town that is also a tiny Indian reservation for the Quileute Indians. It's much different than the rez in Oklahoma, since the tribe has actually been at this site for hundreds of years - in other words, they managed to keep their land, and they still fish the waters they have since before the Europeans came. There were some old black and white pictures on the wall of the restaurant of the Indians before they put up resorts and restaurants to seperate the whites from their money, and it was pretty nifty. There was a small beach there, and last night the rain stopped for a bit, so we walked around and got splashed by the incoming tide.

This morning, we hit the Hoh Rain Forest. The rain began as we were pulling out of the motel and didn't let up all day, so it lived up to its name. Driving past the logged areas was awful; I realized that the old growth forest is mostly gone, but it still looks wretched, especially since the roads are all designated in the atlas as "scenic," which, if you're a lumber baron or someone making money off it, they probably are. To a tourist, they make you want to drive faster and not look out your window, and certainly not stop. Inside the park, though, is a different story, and the rain forest was awesome to walk through - trees almost 300 feet tall, moss everywhere. We saw a couple of elk, a species native to the peninsula and rarely seen by visitors, which made the trip worthwhile. Liz and I picked up a National Parks Passport - it's this little book you get stamped at every National Park you go to, a really nifty little gimmick - so we can start a book of our own (I had one from Boy Scouts, but I lost it somewhere along the way).

I hate to admit it, but I'm really in love with our National Park system, and it's a fucking shame how underfunded it's been in the last ten years. The differences I've noticed at parks I've been to recently are pretty sobering, compared to how things were when I was going as a Scout back in the early 1990s. Things are in a state of disrepair because there just isn't the money to fix them. Instead of buying just one or two more cruise missles, maybe we should spend that money on our National Parks. It's a thought.

Anyhoo, after the rainforst, we drove south to Westport in search of fresh seafood, which apparently isn't in season quite yet, so we settled on some enormous prawns and Liz is cooking them right now. I had a great time catching up with her parents, but I'm currently in the computer room with the door closed - the first shot at any real privacy I've had in the last 48 hours or so.

It's about to end as I go to dinner, though.

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