Northwest NEWS

June 18, 2001

Features

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Lake Quinault Lodge continues to captivate and enchant visitors

by Deborah Stone
   Lake Quinault Lodge, one of the most beloved landmarks of the Pacific Northwest, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
   Designed by the architect of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone and built in 1926, the lodge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has seen its share of dignitaries pass through its doors.
   In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had lunch there; his visit, it is said, inspired the creation of the Olympic National Park less than a year later.
   Nestled in the heart of the Olympic National Forest, Lake Quinault Lodge is only a scenic three hours' drive from Seattle and makes the perfect weekend escape.
   Whether you're looking for a romantic getaway or a fun-filled vacation, this scenic destination will easily suit your needs. Over a recent three- day weekend, a friend of mine and I made our way to Lake Quinault, first stopping for a leisurely lunch at a café in Aberdeen, before heading into the Olympic National Park. Once we arrived at the lodge, we felt as if we had arrived back in time.
   With its rustic cedar siding, massive brick fireplace and cozy lobby, we were transported to the era of grand lodges. Period wicker and overstuffed furniture, wrought-iron chandeliers, lush ferns and Native American designs painted on ceiling beams give the lodge its rustic charm.
   We took note of the comfortable atmosphere inside, promising to savor it later, as the scene outside the windows quickly captured our attention and drew us outdoors. From the expansive lawn, carpeted in verdant green to the towering trees and the serenity of the storybook lake, the view from Lake Quinault Lodge immediately filled us with peace and a sense of calm.
   We collapsed into the readily available deck chairs, inhaling gulps of the fresh air, and took in this pastoral scene, both of us simultaneously remarking, "Ah, now this is heaven!"
   The lodge preserves this getaway ambiance by purposely not providing telephones, televisions or radios in its 92 inn-style rooms and this freedom from contact with the outside world is greatly appreciated by guests who come here especially to escape civilization. Each room has its own private bath and offers a homey charm, similar to the main lodge's décor. Some have lake views and others face toward the woods. There are fireplaces in specific rooms and larger suites available for families.
   Special accommodations for visitors with their canine companions are also offered in one of the lodge's annexes, commonly known as the Boathouse. A small indoor swimming pool (somewhat dimly lit) and sauna rooms were added over the years, as well as various indoor recreation facilities (ping pong and pool tables, video games), which are all located downstairs in the main building.
   This is the only unappealing area of the lodge and it didn't seem to attract many guests during the weekend we were present (perhaps during the winter or in bad weather, it would be more attractive to those seeking an indoor diversion).
   The emphasis at this destination is on relaxation and exploration, with the major action occurring outside amidst the natural wonders of the area's temperate rainforest. A variety of hikes for beginning to marathon hikers are available, covering 200 miles of lush and densely wooded trails.
   My friend and I laced up our hiking boots and headed out into this unique environment. We soon found ourselves under an emerald canopy of old-growth trees, surrounded by prehistoric ferns, curling vines, velvet mosses and lichens. Many of these trees are 500 to 1,000 years old and are home to diverse wildlife, which include elk, deer, cougars, marmots, black bear, squirrels, snowshoe hares, spotted owls and winter wrens.
   Although we did not encounter any large animals, we saw signs of their existence as we meandered through this spectacular sensory environment.
   An abandoned beaver pond, meadows carpeted with tiny wildflowers of every color imaginable, crystal clear streams, cascading waterfalls and nurse logs (fallen trees upon which seedlings grow) were all visible to us on these spectacular hiking trails.
   On another day, we headed along the shores of Lake Quinault to do part of the Quinault Loop Trail (a ten-mile trail that combines the rainforest with views of the lake).
   We spotted osprey flying over the lake and were told the area is home to this species of bird, as well as to a myriad of others.
   Later we enjoyed sitting by the lake, sipping wine and nibbling at cheese and crackers, compliments of the lodge during its wine and cheese tasting hour.
   Families with young and old children, couples and small groups gathered on the lodge's deck and sweeping lawn, some just sitting and chatting, others playing croquet and frisbee or frolicking with their dogs.
   When our stomachs began to do some serious grumbling, we headed to the Roosevelt Room, the lodge's dining room, and feasted on tasty Northwest cuisine (the menu features fresh fish and shellfish dishes, seafood pastas, chicken, prime rib, a variety of salads and scrumptious desserts - try the marionberry cheesecake or chocolate torte for the ultimate in decadence!).
   After dinner, most guests congregate in the lobby, as they are drawn to its crackling fire and cozy ambiance, perfect for curling up with a book, playing a game of chess or simply staring at the mesmerizing flames and the shadows of the evening.
   On the day of our departure, my friend and I squeezed in one more hike through the rainforest, trying to soak up all the magic of this enchanted place to store it up like a reservoir inside us.
   As we reluctantly headed back to civilization, we promised ourselves a return visit to Lake Quinault Lodge, but until then, we knew we had to be content with our memories of this special destination.