Washington State: day seven
11.07.2017 - 11.07.2017
From one national park (almost) to another
Lake Quinault, morning light
We woke at the Rain Forest Resort to lovely early morning views of Lake Quinault.
The Salmon House restaurant here, where we had eaten dinner, doesn't open for breakfast, so we drove the one mile to Lake Quinault Lodge, a historic lodge very much on the same lines as Lake Crescent where we had stayed a few days earlier. There we got breakfast in the restaurant overlooking the lake, with hummingbirds and other birds flitting around the feeders outside the window. The breakfast was a little disappointing (watery poached eggs, lukewarm potatoes) but the coffee good and the view lovely.
Hummingbird at Lake Quinault Lodge
Today's was to be the longest drive of the trip so we didn't hang around by the lake but set off south on Hwy 101 towards Aberdeen (birthplace of Kurt Cobain and of Nirvana). After several days exploring the rainforests, mountains and beaches of the Olympic National Park it was a bit of a shock to be back in an urban area, negotiating the traffic of city streets and main roads.
We didn’t stop in Aberdeen but instead headed east to Olympia, the state capital. Here we did stop for an hour or so, pausing to photograph the Capitol building before parking in the historic downtown area.
Washington State Capitol, Olympia
We had coffee in the fascinatingly alternative Burial Grounds coffeeshop which seems to epitomise Olympia's liberal attitudes ('Make America gay again', said the slogan on a cap on display, and 'Refugees and immigrants welcome', said a sign on the door). The coffee was good and the atmosphere laid-back and friendly.
In Burial Grounds
After our coffees, we took a walk around the streets in the immediate vicinity - 4th and 5th Avenues and their cross streets. There was some interesting architecture to see and photograph:
And some photo-worthy details:
In the small Sylvester Park there is a small monument marking the end of the Oregon Trail.
I have to say that when I'd read about this I was imagining something more substantial to commemorate such a significant period of US history - a sculpture of a covered wagon, perhaps, or a weary-looking Pioneer family, or at least a cast of wagon ruts like the real ones we saw some years ago in Wyoming. But no - what you see here is what you get - a smallish rock with a plaque on it!
Returning to the car we drove on eastwards. Just beyond Yelm we got our first sight of the majestic Mount Rainier. A bit further on, on Route 7, a church had helpfully provided parking and a marked viewing area where we could stop and take some photos.
First view of Mount Rainier
We also stopped briefly at Alder Lake, created by the Tacoma Water Project's damming of the Nisqualy River.
From here we continued to Elbe. This small town was founded by German settlers and their Lutheran church still stands beside the road and railroad tracks. It was built in 1906 and has room for just 46 worshippers – one of many churches that have been badged as “the smallest in America”!
Elbe Lutheran Church
The rail tracks are used by a scenic railway and are also the base for a collection of old cabooses which are used for tourist accommodation and also house a restaurant.
Railroad memories in Elbe
We had a light lunch in the restaurant (a shared appetiser of popcorn shrimp and fruit juices) before driving the couple of miles to the home of Dan Klennert, an artist who works with junk metal and driftwood to create some amazing and fantastical sculptures. I had read about the Ex-Nihilo sculpture park he has created here and knew it would be just our sort of roadside stop, which it was.
Recycled Spirits of Iron
Spirit of Iron horse
Dan Klennert calls his creations “Recycled Spirits of Iron”. We spent quite some time walking around the two paddock areas where the sculptures stand, and also enjoyed meeting Dan and his dog Lola. He told us how his passion for recycling old metal objects into art began, when as a mechanic he was first taught the skill of welding. Needing to practice he picked up some bits of discarded iron and turned them into a sculpture. More – many more – followed.
Dan is on a one-man crusade against today’s throwaway society, creating beauty out of objects others have rejected as no longer of use. On his website he says:
"My love is preserving older pieces of metal that contain some history and were made by the hands of man. I feel I'm giving new life to the tools and machines that made America what it is today."
In one of the paddocks
You can also go in the house where smaller items are on display and a shop sells related objects (kitchen implements, craft items etc.)
There is no charge to visit, by the way, but donations are invited and are definitely merited, in my opinion.
American robin among the sculptures
By now we were nearly at our accommodation for the night at the Copper Creek Inn just east of Ashford, but it was a little early to check in, so we stopped again in Ashford itself and visited a very good gallery specialising in North West art, with some lovely paintings, photos and pottery. We didn't buy anything, though a few pieces did tempt us. We also filled up the car with petrol (OK, gas!) as is advised before visiting Mount Rainier NP.
At an Ashford gallery
Then it was on to the Copper Creek Inn. This restaurant has a number of cabins and rooms providing accommodation close to Mount Rainier NP. We had reserved one of the latter, Jennie's Sleeping Room, which is advertised as being 'small' - very accurately! Any cat swinging would have to be limited to kittens, and even then done standing on the bed! It was OK for one night but if staying any longer you would quickly tire of having continually to manoeuvre around each other and having nowhere to put anything! On the plus side, the bed was comfortable and the free wifi worked well.
We had dinner that evening in the Copper Creek restaurant. There aren't any other options unless you want to drive into Ashford, but in any case we were pleased with our meals. While not pretentious, this place does a solid job it seems. My trout was beautifully cooked and the accompanying rice not bad, though it needed a bit more seasoning I felt. Chris liked his chicken pesto and good fries. All meals come with a salad which was fresh and had a nice dressing, and with a mini loaf of bread and their trademark blueberry butter. With a couple of beers each from a reasonable menu we were very satisfied with our dinner and with the $70 bill.