|By Michael Higgins, Chicago
TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jul. 8, 2007 -
Lake Quinault Lodge,
Tell people you're vacationing "west of Seattle" and some might be puzzled, or wonder if that means Japan. But there's an entire peninsula across the sound in northwest Washington State. And it's like few places in the world.
Olympic National Park has snow-capped mountains, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs and rocky coastline. But most impressive is that it lies in the heart of a rare temperate -- as opposed to tropical -- rain forest.
That makes the park a kind of green-on-green wonderland. Douglas fir trees tower 250 feet overhead. Tree trunks are virtually covered in mossy fur. Big leaf maples are draped in streamers of moss. Ferns sprout from the forest floor, which is spongy with pine needles.
There are camping opportunities, of course. But for those who want a more comfortable home base, the aging but elegant Lake Quinault Lodge -- in the southwest section of the park -- is an excellent choice.
The lodge was built in 1926. President Franklin Roosevelt's visit there in 1937 helped persuade him to sign the bill that created the national park. With the lodge's broad lawn overlooking a serene lake and the surrounding forest, it's not hard to see why.
The main building is red brick with mossy wood shingles and a wide porch. Inside, the lobby has wood paneling with hand-painted western designs, comfortable brown leather couches and chairs, and a large brick fireplace with antlers hung above the mantel. Pictures of Roosevelt and the early days of the lodge decorate the interior, and you can find a framed copy of the menu on the day of Roosevelt's visit.
Boating, fishing, bird watching and hiking are the main activities. There are 16 hiking trails around the lake. They range from an easy half-mile rain forest tour to a 20-mile trek up into the mountains.
The area averages 12 feet of rain a year. Summer is far less rainy, but be prepared.
The lodge is a pleasant 3- to 3 1/2-hour drive from Seattle or Portland. It's also only about 35 miles from Washington's rugged Pacific coast, where visitors to the beaches near Kalaloch, Wash., can find sea stars and anemones clinging to the rocks during low tide.
The lodge is one of three properties operated by Aramark in Olympic National Park (the others are Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort to the north and Kalaloch Lodge on the western coast).
CHECKING IN: We pulled into the lodge's circular drive and checked in easily.
ATTITUDE: The staff was unhurried and considerate. When our non-smoking room smelled smoky, the front desk courteously gave us another room.
ROOMS: Lake Quinault Lodge has 92 rooms, including vintage 1920s rooms in the Lodge and Boathouse. (Some have fireplaces, private balconies or patios, claw foot tubs or tub/shower combinations, satellite TV/VCR players and refrigerators.)
The Lakeside rooms are separate from the lodge itself. They are accessible for people with disabilities with a ramp that goes to all three floors and picture windows low enough for someone in a wheelchair. Some rooms allow pets.
My wife and I had Lakeside room 423, which had satellite TV/VCR, a desk with a coffee maker and brochures, a king-size bed, but no refrigerator. It was clean, large and basic. There was a dresser and an area with wood hangers for hanging clothes -- but no closet, per se. No robes or ironing board. The room had a small balcony with a view of the lake through mature trees.
BATHROOM: Our room had a modern tub/shower combo with sink outside of the bathroom. There was a hair dryer and a dispenser with name-brand soap, lotion, shampoo and conditioner on the wall.
KID FRIENDLY: The lodge is geared toward adults and families looking for a low-key outdoor vacation. For rainy days, there is an indoor pool, a selection of VHS tapes and a game room with a Ping-Pong table. The spacious lobby is a hangout for all ages to write postcards, play board games, solve the ongoing jigsaw puzzle or just watch the fire.
ROOM SERVICE: None. The lodge restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and there is a general store across the street. There are limited restaurant options in the area.
PERKS & PEEVES. The biggest perk is the location. The lodge is on a pristine lake and a short drive from the coast. The lodge offers a list of activities, including nature hikes with a ranger and boat/kayak rental. Trail and hiking information are available next door at a ranger station.
There are no telephones in the rooms, and cell-phone reception is unreliable. Most rooms don't have televisions. There's Wi-Fi in the lobby if you bring your laptop.
BOTTOM LINE: Rooms range from $80 to $210 depending on the season and room. Tax rate is 11.3 percent. We booked a "Trio of Treasures" package and got a reduced rate for one night in each of the lodges run by Aramark in Olympic National Park, letting us complete a loop around the entire peninsula. Our Lakeside room was $132.66, including tax. Most common areas of the lodge and the Lakeside rooms are handicap accessible. Wheelchair accessible trails are well marked. The "Trio of Treasures" package is no longer available this year, but will be next March 30-June. 1; other packages are available. 800-562-6672; www.visitlake quinault.com
IN THE WEB EDITION
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