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Guest: Olympic Peninsula
rocks at dusk, Kalaloch Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic Coastline. Photo Credit: ARAMARK Parks and Destinations

A Northwest Coast Thanksgiving:
Looping the Olympic Peninsula

By Sarah Wyatt

Meet Our Guest Writer

Sarah Wyatt is a freelance travel and outdoors writer. Wyatt has been a freelance writer for 12 years, with work appearing in Fodor's, Outdoors and LowFares.com.

 

t's almost Thanksgiving time to admit that not everyone wants to spend three hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic making their way to Grandmother's house for yet another meal of cold turkey and canned cranberry sauce. Veteran road trippers see a different opportunity: four days off to explore some spectacular byway that offers great views and outstanding cuisine.

U.S. Highway 101 runs north-south through the states of California, Oregon and Washington. Known at some points as El Camino Real (The Royal Road) due to its Spanish trading past, it merges at some points with State Route 1, called the Pacific Coast Highway. It is one of the most scenic routes in the United States and a favorite of road trippers, who come from near and far to cruise along the western edge of America.

One of the most dramatic stretches of Highway 101 is at its northern terminus, in northwest Washington, where the road makes a loop around the Olympic Peninsula. Here visitors can buy lavender grown the traditional French way and visit coastal villages where fishermen still sell their daily catches dockside. Its natural wonders are punctuated by many historic sites and coastal towns offering good food and lodging.

Ruby Beach at sunset, Olympic Loop, Washington
Ruby Beach. Photo Credit: ARAMARK Parks and Destinations

The Olympic Loop offers a host of choices to explore the northwest corner of the Pacific Northwest. Much of its landscape is as it was when Capt. James Cook explored the region in 1778, with coastal roads weaving past jagged cliffs and serene, island-flecked bays. Over one 15-mile stretch, the route travels through a section of wild Pacific coast protected by Olympic National Park; another million acres of parkland lies within the circuit of the loop. Thanksgiving week is a good time to visit, with holiday temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to lower 60s.

Visitors often travel the loop in the counter-clockwise direction, beginning north of Seattle at the Edmonds ferry. Departing on Wednesday before noon, travelers should be able to avoid Thanksgiving lineups at the terminal. The 20-minute voyage west across Puget Sound disembarks at State Route 104, which merges into Highway 101 approximately 25 miles northwest.

Before reaching the Olympic Loop, the road passes by Point No Point, a headland located at the point where Admiralty Inlet meets Puget Sound. In 1855, a peace treaty ending the Indian wars in the Washington Territory was signed at Point No Point. Over a thousand Native Americans between the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound signed the treaty in the presence of Isaac Stevens, the first governor of the Washington Territory. A bronze plaque commemorates the event. Adjacent to the Point No Point lighthouse are 1.5 miles of publicly accessible beach that offer dramatic views of Mount Rainier, Mount Baker and Whidbey Island.

About four miles west on the Olympic Loop, past Sequim Bay, is the inland town of Sequim, known for its dry climate and lavender farms. Averaging just 15 inches of rain a year, Sequim has become a hot retirement spot in the region. Diamond Point on Discovery Bay, near Sequim, has views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Protection Island. To the west, New Dungeness Spit, a 6-mile flat spit barely visible from a distance, is one of the largest natural spits in the world. Capt. George Vancouver named it New Dungeness because it reminded him of Dungeness Point on England's southeast coast, where a light has guided mariners since around 1600.

From Sequim, some visitors take a side trip up to Hurricane Ridge, in the Olympic National Park. It's just a short drive and, at an elevation of almost 5,200 feet, it is a popular place for autumn sightseeing. This year, motorists are required to carry chains on portions of Hurricane Ridge Road beginning the week before Thanksgiving; call the park for more information (360-565-3005).

Lake Crescent, Olympic Loop, Washington
Lake Crescent. Photo Credit: ARAMARK Parks and Destinations

The route continues west to Lake Crescent, a good overnight stop for Wednesday. One of the deepest lakes in Washington, this picturesque glacier-carved lake offers boating and fishing along with diverse hiking trails.

Marymere Falls near Lake Crescent
Marymere Falls. Photo Credit: ARAMARK Parks and Destinations

Waterfalls in the area include Marymere Falls, a one-mile walk from Storm King Ranger Station at Barnes Point, and Sol Duc Falls, one of the most photographed spots on the peninsula, which is a mile walk from the end of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road. Nearby is Lake Crescent Lodge, listed as one of the best places to kiss in the Northwest. The Lodge’s seasonal dining is exquisite, with Dungeness crab cakes, French onion soup, baked wild salmon and elk rib rack among the offerings.

Continuing south on the morning of Thanksgiving Day, the route takes you from Lake Crescent to Lake Quinault, a 2.5-hour drive that includes that dramatic stretch along the Pacific Ocean. About halfway, in Forks, the Sol Duc River and the Bogachiel River merge into the Quillayute River, before they head to the sea. The nearby coastal land was aptly named Kalaloch (pronounced “clay-lock”), or “land of plenty,” by the Quinault Indians. It is a remote and peaceful place where visitors can enjoy beachcombing, fishing, hiking and exploring.

the forest around Lake Quinault
The Quinault Rainforest. Photo Credit: ARAMARK Parks and Destinations

Built in 1926, Lake Quinault Lodge is a rustic, historic retreat and the perfect place to spend Thanksgiving. The Lodge’s $27 Thanksgiving buffet features roasted acorn squash bisque, poached salmon, cider and honey-brined turkey with cranberry pesto. Save room for the white chocolate bourbon pecan pie, the Lodge’s signature holiday dessert. If you need a pick-me-up after the feast, just put on some walking shoes and head out the door. Over 250 miles of hiking trails are located in the Quinault Valley, and 15 miles of them are within walking distance of the lodge.

Heading east on Friday, your destination is Alderbrook Resort and Spa, a luxury property located just off the loop on the scenic shores of Hood Canal. The resort will already have its halls decked for the Christmas holidays with more than seven miles of lights adorning the property and a 50-foot holiday tree set up on the waterfront lawn. The resort’s “Under the Mistletoe” package commences the day after Thanksgiving. Upon arrival, guests will be greeted with a bottle of wine and a $50 dining credit for The Restaurant at Alderbrook. A Saturday morning walk along the shores of the Hood Canal, a glacier-carved fjord home to eagles and ospreys, salmon and seals, is the perfect conclusion to this Thanksgiving holiday and a nice nod to the Christmas holiday season.

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FEEDBACK FOR PATTI

I enjoy your newsletters -and particularly Patti Nickell's article about the 'Pudding Club' in the Cotswold's. An old friend of mine is taking a holiday there this year and plans to try their Jam Roly Poly and Spotted Dick - amongst many!

--- John & Maggie - UK

FEEDBACK FOR JULIO

The way I read this article, you stayed at the "Breeze and Waves". Do you have any pictures of the cottages, and would you recommend to some first time visitors to Caramoan?

--- Richard Simons, Stockton, CA

Hi Richard,

Breeze and Waves was still under construction when I stayed there in Feb. 2010. It should be finished by now. You can see pictures of the resort on this page. We got to stay in one of the small cottages in the picture. I'll recommend it to budget travelers but you might want to look at other options. We chose it because of its location right by the beach. You can try other resorts in the Caramoan town proper (you have to get a ride to get to the beach and the jump-off point to go island-hopping but it's a relatively short distance). There are also two higher end resorts located on a cove and very near the islands: Gota Village Resort (unfortunately there is something wrong with their website right now) and its twin resort Hunongan Cove. Caramoan is a relatively new tourism development so resorts are just now being built.

You can go to this site for a good list of choices for accommodations in Caramoan.

I should add that it might be good to go to Caramoan (and almost anywhere in the Philippines) during the dry season from December to May. June to November are the typhoon months and sometimes typhoons will still come during early December.

Julio

* * * * *

Hi, I'm planning to go to Caramoan this coming May. Would you know the number of Breeze and Waves Cottages? Thanks!

--- Ann, Manila, Philippines

Hi Ann,

Breeze and Waves' phone number is 0908-2911072. Look for Freddie. Hope you have a grand time at Caramoan!

Julio

FEEDBACK FOR WENDY

For Nature's Playground: The South Island of New Zealand

Hi Wendy,

In winter, Heritage Heights Apts. now offers free shuttle service to and from Queenstown 24/7 to guests without cars. We own a 7-passenger 4-wd Toyota Highlander used specifically to taxi guests up and down the hill during winter months. We also run advance purchase winter promotions which include a 4-wd rental.

If any of your readers head over this direction, I will enjoy extending Heritage Heights hospitality!!

Cheers

--- Ailey, Owner, Queenstown, NZ

* * * * *

New Zealand text and pix top drawer! Almost as good as making the trip. ( but one still wants to. . . ) Full of useful detail. Only trouble with the website: It's tough figuring out which feedback goes with which article, and the more there are, the tougher it gets!

--- Ken W., Camarillo CA

Thanks Ken..."álmost" is right, you really have to experience the South Island firsthand. Granted this piece is long, but still all I can think about is how much I left out! I agree abut the relevancy factor re the feedback--it can be confusing...sometimes I have a "Wait a minute...what?" moment myself.

Thanks for writing,

Wendy

* * * * *

Okay Wendy, from now on whenever you book your travel, please reserve space for me. I will carry your luggage, bring you cold drinks, massage your shoulders, and change the film in your camera (oops, I guess you don't have to do that anymore). Wonderful ideas and recommendations. Can you get to New Zealand from Boston in less than a week?

--- Carl A., South Easton, MA

Ha ha ha Carl, you're quite the comedian! But you'd be surprised how short that flight feels. I suspect Qantas isn't the only airline who's figured out that 3 movies, 2 full meals, lots of snacks and a complimentary travel pack (eye mask, warm socks and neck pillow) equals a quiet, well-behaved cabin. It really isn't bad. Just fly direct--pick the shortest flight w/ no lengthy layovers and you'll be fine. Re: signing on as my Super Sherpa...why not? I think you know I seldom travel in anything less than Party mode. There's just that pesky background check...

Thanks for writing,

Wendy

For Excellence Riviera Cancun:

Wendy, I truly enjoyed your info especially since we leave in a week to celebrate my 50th Birthday. Was it necessary to make reservations at the restaurants? Was there a dress code for the restaurants? What would you recommend not missing while there? Was the spa experience worth it? Did you travel away from the resort while there? Thanks,

--- Kim P. Fuquay, Varina, NC

Hi Kim.

Sorry for the delay in responding...you had heavy competition with the holidays. Reservations at Excellence restaurants are not necessary and you will not find a wait. The dress code is basically no bathing suits and flip-flops...with a decided a mix of atmospheres. Mostly the open-air beachside spots are super casual, the rest slightly more formal. Truly, as long as you are clothed, I don't think you'd be turned away anywhere, though most people seemed to enjoy dressing up at night...I suspect more for their own pleasure than any sense of decorum.

The spa experience was worth it, though my favorite part wasn't the actual massage. The precursor was a 45 min. or so rotation from sauna to a series of (kind of wild) water jets which was very different and very cool, not just for women. In its' entirety, and with the serenity of the beach/champagne/strawberries, it was memorable.

We did not travel away from the hotel this trip, but the hotel is very helpful in arranging day excursions to fit your desires and you do not have to book these until you arrive.

Have a great time!

--- Wendy

FEEDBACK FOR NINO

I enjoyed Nino's contribution, since we all read about the frightening terrorist attack. Having travelled somewhat through India years ago, I am continually impressed with this country and the gentle spiritual aspects of this nation. Some day I look forward to going back. Nino has encouraged me. Thank you!

--- Yoka Y., Westlake Village, CA

FEEDBACK FOR RUSH & CHUCK

Dear Mr.s/counselors Brown and Koro,

Thank you for a very informed and succinct article on motorcycle accidents and the law. It inspired me to think about getting a motorcycle, but not have an accident. But, if I do I am now well informed with the basics of what to do providing I do not perish in the accident. Any tips about that too?

--- Unnamed

Dear Rush and Chuck,

I wish I had read your article before our camping trip the Friday prior to President's Day.

My wife and I were in a car accident on our way to a camp ground. We were "rear-ended" and the impact caused our car to crash into the car in front of us. The contents of the truck that we were riding scattered onto several lanes. It's a miracle our two dogs decided to stay inside the car. My wife and I were shaken up badly but despite the mess, I was still able to walk out of the car. I got the license plate of the driver in front of me but, to my surprise, after reviewing the little damage on his car, he then sped off. I didn't know you could do that! The driver who hit me from behind gave me his information and then he too left the scene without saying good 'bye. When the police arrived all I had to go by was the little information I had jotted down which I hope was truthful. What if it was bogus? What if I had written the plate number incorrectly? How would that affect my insurance? What if we were unconscious, who would have written down all that information?

I do have one suggestion if you are injured in an accident. The police asked if my wife wanted an ambulance to bring her to the hospital but we declined the offer. I remembered when I rode an ambulance years ago that it was not a comfortable ride. I was strapped to the stretcher and there were all sorts of medical equipment dangling noisily above me. As long as you are able, it is a more relaxful ride inside a car. Besides, isn't there a fee for ambulance service?

--- Dave S. of Pasadena, CA



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