Road Trip To The Olympic Peninsula
Words and Images by Emilee Morehouse
I was raised by vampires.
Or, at least, I was raised by a city famous for them.
It has always been hard to separate the facts from the fiction in the tiny town of Forks, WA. Settled between the Olympic Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, the people there spin tales larger than their last catch of fish. And with trees the size of skyscrapers, and giant elk herds roaming the highways, it’s not hard to see why the Olympic Peninsula is the perfect setting for a tall tale.
Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have a less traditional childhood than most. My family chose to live partially amongst the wilderness of the peninsula, while splitting time with our Seattle city upbringing. This decision has left me with an equal love and appreciation of rolling hills, and cityscapes. It also left me with a love of roadtrips. The three hour combined ferry ride and road trip to Forks happened at least once a month, in my family, for most of my childhood. The result? Long driving trips are like yoga to me - I always feel refreshed.
This past fall we decided to take a road trip to Forks. I hadn’t been back for years. With the hectic lifestyle that postgrad life brings, and other trips and work obligations, I’d lost touch with the town which had so many of my own memories woven into it. I’d spent the last five years traveling the world, but more than anything I wanted to be back among the evergreens that were as familiar to me as old friends.
One of the biggest checklist items that we wanted to do during our time on the Peninsula, was to visit the Hoh Rainforest. I hadn’t been to the forest since I was 14, and I needed the green to refresh my soul. There’s something about being out in the nature that raised you that takes you back to the time when you were a kid. It’s as if the trees encapsulated your youth, or at least the memory of it.
The Hoh Rainforest, for those of you who are wondering, is an actual rainforest. A lot of people don’t realize that it exists, or that it exists in all of its glory. But it does and it is magnificent. It's important to note that the Hoh is not the type of rainforest with Toucans and monkeys sitting in the trees. It’s more the type that looks like a T-rex from Jurassic Park will come crashing through the bright green moss that hangs like a curtain from each branch, at any moment. Luckily, our trip wasn’t interrupted by any prehistoric creatures. Although, at any moment, we half expected to see Indiana Jones cutting his way through the thick ferns.
The Peninsula is a land filled with stories; stories that stretch from the recently cinematic, to those that stretch back thousands of years. The Quileute Reservation is not too far of a drive from the city, and hosts one of my favorite spots for sitting and staring out into the ocean. The stories this tribe holds is something I think everyone should read into, and were always a favorite of mine growing up. When I was a kid we used to visit the beaches on the Fourth of July, in order to watch fireworks that were uninhibited by trees or city lights. This time, we went there to simply sit on giant driftwood slabs and listen to the sound of the sea. I could have sat there for hours.
I’ve always thought that oceans must hold some kind of magical power. Somehow, sitting on the edge of a country, looking out on endless miles of glistening waves always makes the rest of life’s problems seem so small.
It’s important to distinguish the difference between Washington beaches, and the Hollywood version you may be envisioning. You see, Washington state beaches are notorious for one thing: their rocks. While there are, of course, some sandy spots, you have a pretty good chance of ending up at a spot filled with miles of rocks rubbed smooth by the waves. I’ve always loved this aspect of the coast. When I was a kid I would spend hours searching for the perfect “dalmatian” rock (white with black speckles). I’d be lying if I said that didn’t happen on this road trip, as well. Some things never change.
I’ve always loved mountains and I think this comes from growing up on the peninsula. I’ve tried living in places that didn’t have mountains on the scale that the Pacific Northwest does, and it has always left me with feelings of loneliness. The Olympic Peninsula is a breathtaking example of the beauty mountains hold. And with the addition of the rivers, lakes and ocean it’s hard to imagine why I ever left.