The Pacific Coast and Southwestern Olympic National Park – Copalis Beach WA

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August 15th 2017
Published: October 10th 2017
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The Spaces Are Adequate but Nothing ExceptionalThe Spaces Are Adequate but Nothing ExceptionalThe Spaces Are Adequate but Nothing Exceptional

Copalis Beach Resort - Copalis Beach WA
As I travelled from Conestoga Quarters RV Park in Port Angeles WA to Copalis Beach Resort in Copalis Beach WA on Wednesday, August 9, 2017, I encountered another prolonged road closure on Pacific Coast Scenic Bywayalong Lake Crescent WA. After I had been waiting for 15-20 minutes, several cars approached me in the oncoming lane. Thinking the traffic was moving, I fired the engine and moved a couple hundred yards. Delayed again, engine off, fire up the Sudoku. Apparently, several drivers had become disgusted with the delay and abandoned the wait. I, and many others, had the sole alternative of circling Olympic National Park in a clockwise direction, which would take an additional two hours. Several “restless, rebellious revolutionary revulsion reversal” episodes occurred over the time I was waiting. The delay cost me nothing, but over-the-road truckers make about $.35 per mile, so a one-hour delay costs them about $20 and logging truckers are paid by the {Point A to Point B) load, so fewer loads per day means fewer dollars. Then, there are the service men who can’t get to an appointment expeditiously. They are usually paid by the hour, but their bosses bear the cost. Delays cost everybody, some more than others. Eventually, I arrived at Copalis Beach Resort without any further inconveniences and got to play a lot of Sudoku in the 60-90-minute wait!

One of the allures of the Copalis Beach area is the abundance of scenic byways. In addition to the aforementioned Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, there is the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway and the Cranberry Coast Scenic Byway. Differentiating one from the other is a hair-splitting exercise, but they all are interesting and unique.

My first tourist destination was the Polson Museum in Hoquiam WA, a National Historic Site. A century ago, the Polson name carried a lot of weight on Grays Harbor. Brothers Robert and Alex Polson, owners of Polson Logging Company, were among the Harbor’s first lumber barons. I started my journey in what once was Arnold Polson's 6,500 square foot mansion. Robert paid to have the house built as a wedding present for Arnold, his nephew and Alex’s son. The home, erected in 1924, was designed with twenty-six rooms, six bathrooms and four fireplaces. One unique feature of the home is that the 2-1/4-inch-wide hemlock floorboards are single-length (measuring 40 feet long in some parts of the house) and are visible to the sides of the carpet. The absence of end-joints makes for little creaking. The mansion originally stood next to Alex Polson’s more elegant mansion, now destroyed and the site of the museum’s Rose Garden. The Polsons lived in the mansion until 1965 when they left Hoquiam for Seattle. Widowed in 1968, Mrs. Polson donated the property to the city in 1976. It has been the Polson Museum ever since. A personalization feature is that each room contains a 1942 photograph of that room as it was furnished by the Polson family. Very unique and interesting.

Outside, one finds a 40-foot by 80-foot building designed to depict a century-old locomotive shed to convey the railroading side of forestry operations. Make no mistake, the museum is a local history museum but has a vast collection of unique logging artifacts, and yes, logging is a part of the local history. Indeed, one artifact is a one-of-a-kind – the Lamb Speedtrak manufactured by Lamb Grays Harbor Company. In 1906 the Hoquiam Machine Works was founded locally, incurred a name change in 1912 (for reasons I could not determine) to Lamb Machine Company and yet another to Lamb-Grays Harbor Company when the company took over the Grays Harbor Iron Works in 1928. At that time, Lamb was a major supplier of logging equipment in the rough mountainous landscape. Only a handful of Lamb Speedtraks were built, and the one in the museum’s collection is the only one known to remain in existence. The Lamb Speedtrak is a pair of “bladeless bulldozers” or “turretless tanks” that are independently operated and, with each able to turn on a dime, could remove large logs on the most serpentine of logging roads. Sitting atop the Speed Track is an impressive 25-foot diameter, 550-year-old Douglas fir. This “local history” museum far exceeds its moniker and is highly recommended for historians or “older boys who love big toys.”

My next stop was the Aberdeen Museum of History in Aberdeen WA. Aberdeen has a musical heritage with the likes of The Beachcombers (graduates of Aberdeen High School Class of 1959) and Kurt Kobain, Aberdeen-born but reared in a few nearby zip codes. The strong suit of this museum is the fire trucks, three to be exact. All are interesting but are representative of only a small part of the community’s history. This museum is nicely done but lacks any kind of uniqueness that would give me reason to recommend it to the average tourist.

I headed west and then south on the Cranberry Coast Scenic Byway until I reached the turnoff for Tokeland WA. I continued outbound on the peninsula and onto the Shoalwater Bay Tribal Reservation. I turned about where the road ended (nice maneuver) and returned to the Tokeland Hotel and Restaurant. I had read it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and wanted to check out the architecture. Unfortunately, the facility was closed. Tourist season, I don’t get it. Maybe Paul Harvey knows “The Rest of the Story.” According to the facility’s web site, “Bathrooms are within steps of each room and contain all the modern conveniences. Most rooms sleep two people, but we also have two larger rooms with queen-size beds.” What do queen-size beds accommodate? Four? Count me in! Historic, perhaps. Antiquated, definitely.

On Sunday, August 13, 2017, I headed for the Westport Maritime Museum in Westport WA. The museum is actually a a five-building complex in the Marina District of Westport. The main museum is housed in the historic 1939 Coast Guard station building. Most of the artifacts in this building relate to the U.S. Coast Guard and its duties, particularly life-saving. Another building houses the working first
A Skeleton of a California Sea LionA Skeleton of a California Sea LionA Skeleton of a California Sea Lion

Westport Maritime Museum - Westport WA
order Fresnel lens that was installed in the Destruction Island Lighthouse in 1891 and used there until 1995 when it was removed by the Coast Guard to be placed on display at its present location. The museum also offers exhibits on the maritime history of South Beach including models of sailing vessels, the Grays Harbor Light Station, area shipwrecks and the whaling and fishing industries. A small selection of non-maritime artifacts acknowledge the local importance of the cranberry industry and logging. Natural history exhibits include beach erosion, ocean currents and marine mammals. A very interesting outdoor exhibit (enclosed in glass) features skeletons of sea mammals. This nicely done, “middle of the pack” maritime museum is worth a visit, particularly if you’ve never seen a first order Fresnel lens. After the museum, Uncle Larry took a cruise around the marina district to savor the flavor of the commnity.

My next stop was the aforementioned Grays Harbor or Westport Lighthouse, also in Westport. An 1841 U.S. Exploring Squadron noted that Grays Harbor was the only harbor of importance between Cape Flattery (at the U.S./Canada border) and the mouth of the Columbia River (at the Washington/Oregon border) but also noted that accessing the harbor was fraught with danger. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Westport area had become a major logging center. In 1890 alone, there were thirteen sawmills at Grays Harbor that exported 60,000,000 board feet of lumber. Since a typical 2,000 square-foot house requires nearly 16,000 board feet of lumber, that amounts to 3750 2,000 square-foot houses. That same year, the harbor’s shipyards built nine steamers and three sailing vessels.

Congress approved $15,500 on July 7, 1884 for establishing a light at Grays Harbor; however, the Lighthouse Board realized that a small harbor light would be inadequate and ordered that $60,000 be added to the existing appropriation to enable the erection of a first-order light. Efforts were made to obtain title to the desired parcel on Point Chehalis, at the southern side of the entrance to Grays Harbor. The property owners were unwilling to sell, and condemnation proceedings had to be initiated. The circuit court decreed that $500 would be a fair price, and this amount was paid by the government on December 16, 1895. With title to the property secured, test borings were made at the proposed tower location and plans were prepared for the station’s buildings. The base of
It’s Only 135 Steps!It’s Only 135 Steps!It’s Only 135 Steps!

Grays Harbor (Westport) Lighthouse - Westport WA
the lighthouse rests on a twelve-foot-thick foundation of sandstone. The lighthouse walls, which are four feet thick at the base, are made of brick with a coating of cement on the exterior. A series of 135 metal steps, bolted to the tower’s walls, lead to the lantern room. Windows originally provided light for the interior of the tower, but to cut down on maintenance, they were cemented over when the station was electrified. Besides the lighthouse, the station was also equipped with a windmill, a water tank, a well, two keeper’s dwellings, two oil houses and a fog signal building. On June 30, 1898, locals gathered for the dedication and lighting ceremony of Grays Harbor Lighthouse.

Standing 107 feet tall, the octagonal tower is the tallest lighthouse in Washington and the third tallest on the West Coast. The light originally shone from a unique third-order clamshell Fresnel lens manufactured in Paris in 1895 and had a signature of alternating red and white flashes separated by five seconds. In August 1992, the Fresnel lens was turned off, and in its place, a smaller light was mounted on the lantern room balcony. Amazingly, the new light operates on a thirty-five-watt bulb
Two Versions of the Furford Picker/PrunerTwo Versions of the Furford Picker/PrunerTwo Versions of the Furford Picker/Pruner

Furford Cranberry Museum - Grayland WA
and can been seen nineteen miles with the white sector, and seventeen miles with the red sector. The lantern room still holds the original Fresnel lens. In 2004, under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, the Westport-South Beach Historical Society was granted ownership of Grays Harbor Lighthouse, and a five-year restoration plan was soon enacted. Without any of the other compound buildings remaining, I cannot highly recommend this attraction, but if in the area, you might as well get some exercise and get a close-up-and-personal encounter with a Fresnel lens.

My next stop was the Furford Cranberry Museum in Grayland WA. My overall objective as I travel around our country is to venture into an area and find out what influences have made the people of the region who and what they are today. In west central Washington, cranberries are a significant part of that answer. Julius Furford, who died in 1999 at age 91, invented the Furford Picker/Pruner that picks the red-ripe berries in the fall while pruning the vines at the same time. Right up until the time of his death, Furford was active in his two-man manufacturing plant. Built one at a time and made to last, the Furford Picker/Pruner underwent several developmental modifications until it was perfected in 1957. Some machines actively used across the U.S. and in Canada are 40 or more years old. In fact, Ocean Spray offered a $250,000 reward for a better machine, but, to date, nobody has collected.

In addition to the Furford Picker/Pruner, the Furford Cranberry Museum presents the history of cranberry farming in the Grayland area, portrays everyday life in the cranberry bogs of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s and showcases other early cranberry harvesting implements and processing equipment. In addition, the collection includes items that represent other facets of the community’s past such as historical displays related to logging, fishing and family life. My docent explained the difference between dry and wet harvesting. In dry harvesting, the Furford Picker/Pruner promptly picks the berries and precisely prunes the vines perfectly. In wet harvesting, growers flood the fields, and the berries float to the surface. All berries bought in the produce section of your local grocery store as fresh berries are dry harvested, whereas wet harvested berries are used for juice or are canned. I also learned that Ocean Spray is not a company per se, but that it is a farmers coop. Interesting. This attraction does not belong on the bucket list for every tourist, but it is fantastic for those into the unusual.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017 found me heading for Ocean Shores WA and the Ocean Shores Interpretive Center. Ocean Shores sits at the southern end of a peninsula, and I had seen signage for the turnoff for the community and for the Interpretive Center as I drove on US 101. A visit to the Interpretive Center would allow me to satisfy two curiosities with one drive. Ocean Shores is a modern, family-vacationing-friendly community vs. a quaint fishing village, and the Interpretive Center augments that endeavor by providing a great place to take children and feed their zest for learning. For adults, most other marine or maritime facilities are more rewarding. The most interesting exhibit, in my opinion, is an explanation of how Japanese crab fishermen inadvertently created the hobby of beachcombing. It seems that when they began using glass fishing floats on their nets (and inadvertently losing some), the wayward floats would reappear on distant shores. The craze had begun!

With the appetizer completed, it was time for the main course. I had the majority of the
The Well-Groomed Gravel Road Makes for Easy Passage with the Family SedanThe Well-Groomed Gravel Road Makes for Easy Passage with the Family SedanThe Well-Groomed Gravel Road Makes for Easy Passage with the Family Sedan

Quinault Rain Forest Loop Drive - Olympic National Park WA
day earmarked for the Quinault Rain Forest Loop Drive in Olympic National Park WA. Much of Olympic National Park is a rain forest, and, since I’ve never been to the Amazon, it intrigued me. I chose to travel easterly on the south side of the Quinault River and made my first stop the Quinault Rain Forest Ranger Station where I was assured the road was open (my sources disagreed on open vs. washed out). Part of the route is nicely paved and part is well-manicured gravel, but its entirety is passable in the family sedan. Driving through the rainforest, one becomes enveloped by massive trees that provide a tunnel for vehicular passage. Interesting and refreshing!

My first stop was Bunch Falls. This roadside fall is quite picturesque and rejuvenating, and it is definitely worth a ten-minute stop when driving the loop. Be careful during your extravehicular activities as the moss-covered rocks are quite unforgiving. The road alternated between the tunnel I described and occasional glimpses of the Quinault River – or should I say the riverbed as scoured by a much more swollen river than that which was presented during my visit. I crossed the bridge to the north side of the streambed and
These Are the Biggest Ferns I Have Ever SeenThese Are the Biggest Ferns I Have Ever SeenThese Are the Biggest Ferns I Have Ever Seen

Quinault Rain Forest Loop Drive - Olympic National Park WA
proceeded westerly toward US 101. Here I encountered massive ferns growing 3-4 feet tall that covered the forest floor. Unique. Soon, I was at the Kestner Homestead Hike trailhead where the literature tells the visitor one can, “learn about homestead life on this flat, self-guided 1.3-mile loop.” I thoroughly enjoyed the easy walk, and the buildings are interesting (and provide sufficient reason to make the hike), but kiosks and other tools to help me “learn about homestead life” were missing.

I next stopped at the July Creek Picnic Area where I visited the World's Largest Sitka Spruce, which is estimated to be about 1000 years old and is 191 feet tall. The area is a former campground that was converted to a picnic area after, according to the ranger, newly discovered hazards made longer term visits less safe. The completely-level 0.6-mile round-trip walk is very enjoyable. Good luck trying to get that massive tree in a single frame! My final stop for the day was at the Rain Forest Nature Trail. This trail is not an easy, level trail as had been the previous two trails; however, “Old Leather Lungs” made it with only a couple of “catch-your-breath” intermissions.
The Ranch Setting Is Serene and PicturesqueThe Ranch Setting Is Serene and PicturesqueThe Ranch Setting Is Serene and Picturesque

Kestner Homestead Hike - Olympic National Park WA
One of the allures I find about being afoot in nature is the myriad of aberrations nature has contrived and presented for our viewing pleasure. I cannot think of a hike in my past that offered a greater saturation of oddities than I found on the Rain Forest Nature Trail. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

I had a couple more activities planned for Olympic National Park, most notably the 3.4-mile (round trip) Hole-in-the-Wall Hike. A word of caution – keep track of the tides If you plan to hike through the Hole-in-the-Wall. The passage exists only at low tide. Make sure there is ample time to hike there, time to cross through the Hole and play for a spell, before returning through the Hole before the tide blocks your route. I had a tide table, and, with a rise-and-shine time of 6 AM, I could have made the 2-hour, 29-minute, 114-mile drive and arrived in time to make it to Hole-in-the-Wall by the time of low tide. If I have to set my alarm, the travel gods impose a significant pleasure points deduction. The shorter drive from Port Angles WA, the previous week, would have been only
The Deck Prevents Trampling Upon the Root SystemThe Deck Prevents Trampling Upon the Root SystemThe Deck Prevents Trampling Upon the Root System

Rain Forest Nature Trail - Olympic National Park WA
1 hour and 41 minutes or 67.5 miles, but the tide tables were not smiling upon me. As the old saying goes, “Timing is everything!” The hike itself sounds intriguing – driftwood along the shore, sea stacks along the coastline and tidepools teeming with starfish and anemones. Given that navigation over slippery rocks to get to (and through) the Hole-in-the-Wall is required, I decided to save the fuel, protect my feeble body and sleep in.

I had a nice time in Copalis Beach. I explored several scenic byways, learned all that a hay-bailing Midwesterner wants to know about cranberry farming, saw an “only one known to exist” Lamb Speedtrak and spent the better part of a day in the closest thing we can find to a rain forest in the United States. Given that my next stop was a two-week stay in Long Beach WA, I intentionally omitted a couple of activities in Aberdeen WA and Raymond WA so I would have attractions to visit on the “off days” on either end of the Washington State International Kite Festival. Stay tuned.

Additional photos below
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‘Twas Difficult to Get a Blue-Sky Day

Somewhere along the Washington Coast

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