On our last full day in Olympic, we headed toward Lake Quinault, near the southern edge of the national park. The rain was coming down steadily, but we’d dressed accordingly and wouldn’t let that deter us from exploring another gorgeous corner of the Pacific Northwest.
We decided to drive all the way around the lake before ending up at the historic Lake Quinault Lodge for lunch. Because of the weather and season, there weren’t many other people around. When we came to trail signs for the Kestner Homestead, it was time to bundle up and brave the wet.
What a magical spot, especially with autumn leaves blanketing the ground.
According to the Olympic National Park website, “Anton Kestner arrived here in 1889 and set about claiming his land under the Federal Homestead Act. He and his family lived on the North Shore homesteading the land for many years.”
Most of the buildings are fully open to visitors, and provided much-needed shelter from the rain. It definitely would have been an incredible place to live, but I can only imagine the work involved.
We were the only ones there, and the weather made the place feel a little eerie.
We spotted some Roosevelt elk grazing in a field in the distance and spent a while watching them. You can just make them out between the trees behind Andy.
From the homestead, we followed the Maple Glade Rainforest Trail, but it was too soggy to get my camera out. Hey, it isn’t called the rainforest for nothing! It was so lush and beautiful that we hardly noticed that we were soaked through.
Back in the car, we passed Bunch Falls just off the road, and I quickly pulled aside and darted out for a photo.
We also passed a national park sign and of course had to pose (well, maybe one of us was coerced. Guess which from the photos).
The road was unsealed for a quite a while, full of bends where you couldn’t see if anyone was coming. Hundreds of potholes made it feel like some sort of driving simulation game, where if you lose, you destroy your rental car. Thankfully, the two of us and the car all made it out in one piece.
Up next was the stunning Merriman Falls.
It was time for some lunch and a break from the rain at Lake Quinault Lodge. Like the one at Lake Crescent, it’s a grand old hotel, built in 1926 and complete with a very cozy lodge.
We had a delicious lunch overlooking the sloping lawn and lake, as our clothes slowly started to dry. Since we’d done enough soggy hiking for the day, we decided to make the drive back to our Airbnb and have a relaxing last evening in the rainforest.
We were up before the sun for our four and half hour drive down to Portland. On the way, we grabbed some hot drinks and went for a wander on another cleverly named beach, Beach 2.
Since we wanted to break up the drive, we stopped in at Lake Quinault Lodge again. The weather was a lot clearer than yesterday for a walk around the grounds.
The lake was giving Aotearoa, The Land of the Long White Cloud, a run for her money.
We had contemplated staying here when we booked our trip. Although it would be pretty awesome, we both were glad we picked our Airbnb instead. I think Lake Quinault Lodge would be better if you want to stay in one place most of the time, since it’s not as close to other areas of the park.
We couldn’t leave Olympic without a Bigfoot encounter…
Try not to be too scared!
After some hot chocolate by the roaring fire inside, it was time to say farewell to Olympic National Park and head for civilization again.
We’ll definitely be back! What an incredible place.
Luckily, we had another epic spot to welcome us to Portland, The Kennedy School Hotel. We dropped off our rental car at the airport and caught an Uber to our home for the next two nights. My friend from Oregon had recommended this unique spot in northeast Portland, where you can sleep in an old school! Here’s our room, an old classroom complete with chalkboards and everything.
Built in 1915, it was an elementary school until the 90s, when it was abandoned and bought by McMenamins, who converted it into an unbelievably cool hotel
You could actually spend your whole trip without leaving the Kennedy School, since it boasts a saltwater pool, restaurant, movie theater, brewery and multiple bars like the “Detention Bar.”
Just wandering the halls was cool, seeing the history of the building.
Of course we visited the restaurant and tried the beers as soon as we arrived. After a brewery crawl in town that night (finally made it to Rogue!), we came back and took a dip in the heated saltwater pool.
Just look at that brewery! I think we were in the right hotel.
On Wednesday, we had an awesome day exploring Portland, walking everywhere and seeing as much as possible, from the gorgeous rose gardens to the river and central city. We crossed huge bridges, ate Voodoo donuts, visited the largest bookstore I’ve ever encountered and saw lots of hipsters. Sometimes, it’s the right choice to not bring my camera along and just take it all in.
That evening, we met up with my friends from college, Phillipa and Pat, who now live in Portland. It was so awesome to catch up after so many years!
We truly loved Portland, and it’s probably our favorite city in the US now (sorry, Boston). We’ll definitely be back!
Up next, we head to San Fran, the last stop on our honeymoon. Get ready for lots and lots of bridge pictures.