En route: Barn swallows fuss incessantly for their breakfast at Champoeg State Heritage Area, Oregon. We started — and ended — our camping excursion here, before and after making the great Olympic Peninsula loop. More about Champoeg in another blog.
On the Trail:
With all the intense heat and smoke assailing southwest Idaho this summer, finding relief meant relocating to cooler, softer climates. Our 25-day Olympic Peninsula jaunt couldn’t have come soon enough.
The odyssey began with a journey to the Hood Canal area, on the southeastern corner of the peninsula. Filled with lush forests, cool waterfalls and wide waterways, the region is relatively sparse with people, and a quiet vacationer’s dream.
We based ourselves near Hoodsport, at Skokomish Park Lake Cushman. This is a nicely-treed full-service camping area with hiking trails in deep woods right on the lake. There are several other campgrounds nearby.
Temperatures rarely climbed above 75 degrees in mid-July, with gentle breezes and many overcast days to keep things mellow. The deep, earthy smell of forest and river welcome you on the multitude of lightly-used trails. You can swim, launch your motor- or sailboat, and rent tubes and kayaks. Away from the campground, you’ll find numerous coves and secret segments of the 8.5-mile wooded lake in which to immerse yourself.
Staircase Rapids, just nine miles north, offer dramatic vistas of the North Fork Skokomish River as it swiftly tumbles through huge rock formations. Inside Olympic National Park, the river’s dramatic vistas and huge western red cedar, hemlock and Douglas fir trees along it can be seen on the loop trail that bears its name, along with many more hiking opportunities.
The Hood Canal region is home to the Skokomish (“People of the river”) tribe, which was originally comprised of Twana Indians who were devastated by smallpox after the arrival of Europeans in 1792. The largest of the nine Twana communities was known as the Skokomish, or big river people.
With Hoodsport as our base to explore the southern canal area, we visited the nearby communities of Shelton, Union, Belfair, Lilliwaup and more. We started with a short drive to the Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton (little-creek.com). You can stuff your face with crab and oysters in their Creekside Buffet or dine fine in the Island Grille or Squaxin Island Seafood Bar. At Creekside, I gulped down beautiful oysters Florentine and cracked crab til my fingers got numb.
In Lilliwaup, north of Hoodsport following Highway 101, you’ll come across the stinkiest place on the canal, and you’ll be glad you did.
More in my next blog.