Summer Road Trip: Olympic Peninsula

If you are just joining us we have been doing a summer road trip across the United States.  We began our journey in College Park, MD and have been on the road for almost two months now. As we left San Francisco on our way to Yosemite National Park, two images of the past come to mind.  First, if we were making the drive in 1962, we would likely see the nuclear ship Savannah accompanying us via the Pacific Ocean onto Seattle where we would learn about the latest in scientific achievement at the 1962 World’s Fair.

The nuclear ship Savannah passing under the Golden Gate Bridge en route to the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle

Second, we are reminded of William Least Heat Moon’s 1982 memoir Blue Highways, since we have taken the last two days to put down more than 800 miles from San Francisco heading north on the scenic, “Blue” Highway 101.  We consider ourselves fortunate to have taken in the surreal landscapes that this coastal highway provides.  As we get an early start this morning we are gradually closing in on a destination we have been looking forward to since our departure from College Park nearly two months ago, Olympic National Park.  We notice that we are beginning to get low on gas and that the next town is Humptulips, WA, a town of less than 300 as of 2010, fingers crossed that this small town has a gas station.

We roll into Humptulips and are thankful to discover that they do indeed have several gas stations.  After a conversation with one of the locals we learn that Olympic National Park is huge, more than 1440-square-miles huge!  With limited time we decide to take this gas fill-up and also pull out our laptop since this gas station has Wi-Fi and discover that the our National Archives Catalog has a film including a map that will help us plan our trip through Olympic National Park.  As we are about to leave our friendly local also informs us that Humptulips sits in Grays Harbor County and that Grays Harbor marks the southern reaches of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.  He further shares that as we leave this county the 101 will take us right along the coast.  

The sanctuary is a marine protected area that includes 3,188 square miles of marine waters off the rugged Olympic Peninsula coastline, adjacent to the Olympic National Park for most of its length.  Along its shores are thriving kelp and intertidal communities, teeming with fishes and other sea life.  In the darkness of the seafloor, scattered communities of deep sea coral and sponges form habitats for fish and other important marine wildlife.  In addition to important ecological resources, the sanctuary has a rich cultural and historical legacy.  Over two hundred shipwrecks are documented here.  In addition, the vibrant contemporary communities of the Makah Tribe, Quileute Tribe, Hoh Tribe, and Quinault Nation have forged inseparable ties to the ocean environment, maintaining traditions of the past while they navigate the challenges of the present, as depicted in this short film from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which will eventually end up here at the National Archives.  Finally, like Olympic National Park, which is in the top 10 most visited parks in the U.S., many people enjoy recreation in a spectacular setting in the sanctuary.  Recreational fishing, surfing, boating, wildlife viewing and photography – there is a little bit for everyone on the beautiful and rugged Olympic Peninsula.

Below are some photos of taken of map 18480 from the Series: Published Nautical Charts of Coastal Areas of the United States and Its Territories (370NAUTCHRT)

Olympic: The Incredible Wilderness, the film we watched while at the gas station in Humptulips, provided us with a great overview of sites that we can see from our car as we begin our journey inland into Olympic National Park.  The film describes the park with a route beginning in Port Angeles and going South-West which is the reverse of our North-East route, so it is not that difficult to just reverse the direction for our journey. 

We are filled with joy as we are finally embarking on our journey into the diverse Olympic National Park.  Our departure from the Olympic Coast takes us into a lush rain forest where we explore the Hall of Mosses.  With its short hiking trail of less one mile and our limited time this provided the perfect opportunity for us to stretch our legs and experience the park more intimately.  After our visit with the Hall of Mosses we are able to drive along the banks of Lake Crescent and then Hurricane Ridge where we were surprised to see remnants of the previous winter’s snow resting on the peaks of Mount Olympus.  We were also excited to spot an Olympic Marmot, which is unique to the middle elevations of the Olympic Peninsula!

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It has been a long day but we have been able to peer out over the vast Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary from the Olympic Peninsula Coastline and experience a significant amount of Olympic National Park.  Even though we know that we only scratched the surface of what there is to experience and explore having only left the confines of our car once for a short hike we are thankful to know that we can “visit” and learn about a number of the things we missed through several silent films from the Harper’s Ferry Collection–films that include: predators; flowers, trees and gardens; fish and birds and land animals; mountains; waterfalls.



We have finally made our way into the small town of Port Angeles where we have found a really cool bar and restaurant.  It is obvious that this is a close and tight-knit community given that this bar/restaurant has a tradition where friends buy food and drinks that are written on a blackboard as gifts for future visits from those friends.  After dinner we make our way to our hotel for a good night of sleep in anticipation of the next day’s adventure to Bremerton and Seattle.

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