Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lake Quinault Lodge: A Cozy Escape

Lake Quinault Lodge--not to be confused with Quinault Resort and Casino--almost screams relaxation. There is a cozy fireplace room with a tranquil view of the lake, calming music in the background, and a smell in the air that tries to snatch the tension right out of you. It's a cool place to visit.

The Tours

The lodge arranges for a few types of tours. I've been on the van tour and the boat tour, both of which are worth a smidgen of time. The boat tour takes you out on the lake, where a knowledgeable guide regales guests with the history of the lodge and its surroundings. The van tour features some tree-filled scenery around gives you some interesting facts about the lake and the forest. (Unfortunately, the tours aren't available year round.)

Fun facts:

  • The lodge took only ten weeks to build.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the lodge in 1937, shortly after which the Olympic National Park was created.
  • During prohibition, the site had a floating dancefloor on the lake where partyers could get their hands on booze.

The Rooms

The room you should choose at the lodge depends on the purpose of your visit. I spoke to the front desk manager, and she gave me a few pointers:

  • The Lakeside rooms are the best for families.
  • Couples will feel cozy in the fireplace rooms.
  • If you just want to soak in the experience of the lodge, stay in the main building.
  • Four-legged friends are only allowed in the boathouse.
Keep in mind that the experience at the lodge is pretty old school, and you won't find all the amenities you would expect at a modern hotel. For example, TVs and phones aren't in most of the rooms. Also, the building is old, so you might encounter some unexpected maintenance programs. Don't let those things stop you from going, though; treat it all as part of the experience!

The Service

The staff members at the lodge are for the most part friendly and eager to do what they can for you (my big brother works as a front desk supervisor there, and he is the best). They're also a great place to go for advice on getting the most out of the area. Most of them have explored the lake and the surrounding area and can point you toward the best hiking trails and scenic points.

When to Score the Best Rates

Can't wait to give Lake Quinault Lodge a try? Room rates hit the sky in the summer, so visit in the rainy season. Sure, you'll get wet, but you'll have the place practically to yourself and you'll save a bazillion dollars. Sometimes the lodge even has a two nights for the price of one special. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Escape From City Life in Quinault, WA

Nature makes me sneeze, but that doesn't mean I don’t appreciate tall trees, star-filled skies, and the quietude that comes with middle-of-nowhere locales. One of my favorite nature-rich places in Washington is Lake Quinault and the surrounding area. Here’s why:

It Isn't too Far From Home

Traffic gets me down, but once I get out of the chaos of city streets, I like road trips, and a three and a half hour drive from Seattle isn't too far for comfort. Plus, once you get off I5, the scenery becomes gorgeous. You drive through idyllic farmlands and lush stands of trees. Of course, the drive has a few ugly spots, too—like Hoquiam. I grew up in Hoquiam, but it is an overall unattractive little blip on the map with few merits.

It’s the Rain Forest!

No, it isn't a tropical rain forest like the Amazon, but the diversity of life is still mind-boggling. Keep your eyes open for black bears, cougars, black-tailed deer, coyotes, and many smaller mammals such as bobcat, beaver, river otter, and raccoons as you’re meandering about on the muddied trails ( And yes, it probably will be muddy, especially if you want to avoid the summer crowds and go in the off-season. The rain forest gets between 10 and 15 feet of rain every year. Bring your boots!

Another plus that goes along with visiting the rain forest is the trees themselves. I’m no expert on our tall wooden friends, but I do appreciate good old fashioned majesty. The towering tops of the evergreen trees could inspire any poet. Want to see some record breakers? The Quinault Rain Forest is home to the largest yellow cedar in the United States, the largest western hemlock in the world, the largest Sitka spruce in the world, the largest Douglas fir in the world, and the largest western red cedar in the world. If you want to check out the giants for yourself, you can pick up a map that shows their locations at the Lake Quinault Lodge.

Lake Quinault

The word “Quinault” literally means “wide spot in the river,” but this body of water is so much more than that. It is flanked by forest-carpeted mountains. In the summer you can swim in the lake, but I prefer to just look at it. It’s particularly breathtaking around sunset.

The Hiking

I’m not much of a hiker, but I could be convinced to become one. There are oodles of trails in the Quinault area, and I've only traversed a few, but I recommend the Pony Bridge Trail. It’s about two and half miles long and is a nice hike for people who don’t want a trail that is too hard. Be warned, though; to get to the trailhead, you have to brave a narrow road (which isn't always open) that has potholes for every occasion.

The Food

No, I’m not talking about scavenging for berries and nuts in the wilderness here. One of my favorite restaurants is right on the shore of the lake. Don’t hold back from visiting just because you notice the moment you step inside that the place smells old. The Salmon House serves up (you guessed it) salmon dishes along with other seafood and pastas. The blackened salmon is always a smart choice for your entree.

Save room for dessert. The chocolate tuxedo cake is pretty much bliss on a plate. Seriously. Try it.

Quinault is gorgeous, quiet, and a great getaway if city life is getting on your nerves. Enjoy!