It was Wednesday and we had already spent a day in the rainforest, a day at Lake Crescent and a day in the Sol Duc River valley. We were saving the beaches to visit once the backpackers returned, and they were due to arrive Wednesday evening. So what did we decide to do on Wednesday? Why of course we chose to visit another rainforest, the Quinault Rainforest in the southwestern corner of Olympic National Park.
The difference between the Hoh Rainforest and the Qunault Rainforest was fifty miles and the weather. It was 68 miles from Forks, WA to the Quinault Ranger Station making this the longest drive to any area of the park during our one week stay. We woke up to cloudy skies and light rain on Wednesday, and these conditions would endure through our entire day in the rainforest and our return trip. The wet weather probably gave us a truer taste of rainforest conditions than the hot ninety degree day that we enjoyed on Sunday.
We began our Quinault visit by stopping at the ranger station beyond the eastern end of Quinault Lake. Here we began a self-guided hike on the Maple Glade Trail, but after completing less than half of the circular loop, we detoured on to the Kestner Homestead Trail. This trail continued for another mile or so and led us through an old ranch area with four or five out buildings. These were the remaining structures of a homesteading family that eventually sold out to the National Park Service. The entire hike was probably around 1.5 miles.
We left the ranger station and drove east on the gravel North Shore Road. I noticed a relatively short hike to Irely Lake on the map and also on the one page flyer that listed and and described hikes. The precipitation shifted back and forth from fog to mist to drizzle to light rain during our entire visit. After a fairly lengthy drive on a gravel road we finally reached the trailhead for Irely Lake. I knew nothing about the prospects of fishing, but I did not want to hike for 1.2 miles and find rising fish and not have fishing equipment, so I wore my frontpack and carried my fly rod and reel just in case. Three backpackers arrived while we were preparing to hike, and they were heading to Three Lakes. One of the backpackers told us that he read that fishing was good at Irely Lake, so this raised my hopes.
The trail was more uphill than down on the way out, but we eventually found a sign that pointed to a spur that went up a hill to the left to Irely Lake. As we crested the hill and walked to an overlook, we came to the realization that Irely Lake was dry! I felt quite foolish standing in a dry meadow with my fishing rod and net.
We quickly made the return hike and reversed course to a place where we crossed the Quinault River on a bridge and drove a short distance east on Graves Creek Road. I was interested in getting a closer look at the North Fork and East Fork of the Quinault River, and we found a small pullout on a high bank that overlooked the confluence of the two branches. The water in both forks was a deep blue hue similar to the Hoh. At this point the precipitation took the form of a dense mist, and we could see thick clouds hanging in front of the mountains in the distance. I’m sure this was the prototypical rainforest view. I could only imagine wading into the ice cold blue flows of the Quinault River and casting for fresh steelhead. The thought of fishing for powerful steelhead in these smaller rivers compared to the wide and brawling Deschutes River actually appealed to me.
We ate our lunches in the car and enjoyed the comparatively dry cozy comfort of our shelter from the rain. After finishing lunch, we made the long drive back to the turnoff to the Quinault River valley and then retreated along highway 101 until we reached the Pacific Coast at Kalaloch. From looking at the map, it appeared that Kalaloch was one of the more developed beach areas with campgrounds and a lodge. We were both feeling quite chilled from the damp weather, so we stopped at the lodge and enjoyed cups of tea and coffee. After we warmed up, we braved the soggy elements and took a brief stroll on the beach where Kalaloch Creek enters the Pacific Ocean. This piqued our interest in spending more time on the coastal beaches, and we looked forward to the arrival of Joe, Amy and Dan so we could make our plans.
After departing the beach we drove back to Forks, and as we entered the fringe of the town, we stopped and took photos at the visitor center including a photo next to the Forks, WA sign. Apparently this is a requirement of all Twilight fans. When we returned to the Forks Motel, it wasn’t long before the trio of backpackers arrived, and we grabbed a warm dinner at the Pacific Pizza restaurant. More Olympic adventures were in our future.