THE TORONTO STAR Saturday, May 5, 2001

Seafood, rainforest and ancient history

Olympic Peninsula
has something for all

  By Ruth Lor Malloy
SPECIAL TO THE STAR

PORT TOWNSEND, Washington.
Live oysters you can pick up off the beaches pry open and eat on the spot for free. Clams you can dig at low tide, take to a fire, and steam. Meaty Dungeness crabs you can net yourself. The seafood doesn't come any fresher than those in Washington state's Olympic Peninsula.

It is also cheap, unless a game warden catches you. Of course you should get a license, carry a ruler, and learn about your limits. It's best to hire a guide or make friends with a local who is willing to share his or her favorite spots. The government web-site shows where the shellfish beaches are, but some places are better than others. It's exciting when a clam rake brings up butter clams big enough to eat.

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If you don't want to dirty your hands or get sand and salt water on your shoes, you can just go to a local supermarket during the October-through-April crab season. Crabs can be already cooked and taste just as good as in a restaurant. They're cheaper too.

 

 

If seafood is not your thing, the north Olympic Peninsula also offers a variety of mountain trails to climb, great tall timbers to uplift your spirits, and a stunning rain forest at which to marvel. It has a unique native museum, the result of a mudslide almost 500 hundred years ago, which while tragic, preserved thecontents of a whaling village for future generations, like in Italy's Pompeii, nature created a time capsule.

The Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park gets about four meters of rain a year, the most rain of anywhere in the U.S. Consider yourself lucky if the sun is shining. Take high-speed camera film. Strangely enough, a few kilometers away in Sequim, southeast of Port Angeles, it rains less than half a meter a year. The peninsula actually has three different climate zones.

As you approach the rain forest from the town of Forks, you see more and more dangling mosses hanging down from innumerable trees. Mighty virgin sitka spruce, hundreds of years old, rise up here to 90 meters, trunks straight as telephone poles. The Douglas firs here are too big to be Christmas trees.

The closer you get to the Hoh Rain Forest, the more moss you see, and the more you wince at the frequent bald patches of clear-cut land spoiling the forests. It's hard to look away from the moss, though. It's beautiful.

Once inside Hoh, you are in a Disney's cartoon movie, especially if there's a wind. You think of Snow White frightened by menacing tree limbs. You can easily imagine scary faces on gnarled trunks.

You drive through archways of trees covered by Methuselah's beard which hangs down six meters like over-fertilized horses' manes. Near the Interpretative Center is the Hall of Mosses, a vast cathedral of trees with moss on almost everything. You can hike through its one-kilometer loop trail. Here are thick carpets of nature's broadloom lying everywhere. Here great fallen "nurse logs" give nourishment to new spruce trees. Feather moss grows on rocks, its flowers ironed wide and flat. Occasionally you catch whiffs of cedar and pine. If you're lucky too, you might meet herds of grazing Roosevelt elk.

About 145 Km northwest of Hoh is Neah Bay with its Makah Museum. This now houses 55,000 artifacts from the doomed village of Ozette, a few kilometers away as the bald eagle flies, but a 90 minute drive. The museum is especially exciting because the culture of Ozette village was never contaminated by European influences, and the mud did a good job of conservation.

The actual site has now been reburied with little to see. Archaeologists from Washington State University excavated for 11 summers from 1970. The museum has perfect baskets, harpoons, cedar clothing, blankets of dog hair, and cooking pots--all at least 500 years old. Here you can see how the Makah people split tall cedar logs with stone wedges and stone hammers to make the walls of their long house dwellings. The planks are so even and long they looked like they were cut in a sawmill.

The museum also houses eight-man sea-going dugout canoes. These natives hunted whale and believe they have treaty rights to continue to do so today. Like the Inuit further north, they used seal-skin floats to slow down and tire the speared mammals, many of which were four times the size of their canoes. They were very brave people!

The archaeological site, discovered accidentally in the 1960s, "proved that the Makah used fishing nets and looms before the advent of Europeans. The government subsequently returned net-fishing rights to us," said Kay Parent who works at the museum and speaks Makah.

She gives out printed directions to Point Flattery, the western-most point of the contiguous United States. From the museum, you drive 10 km and then hike about 20 minutes, up and down hills, on boardwalks, and along well-constructed trails. There you get a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean, rocky crags, and caves large enough to hide pirate ships.

For a change, it would be good to spend time in Port Townsend. This little town was named by Captain George Vancouver in 1792 in honour of the English Marquis of Townsend who took command after the death of General James Wolfe at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

Port Townsend developed as an international seaport, reaching its peak in the 19th century. Sea captains and rich merchants lived on the bluff above the harbour. Water Street with its stores, was once for transients, sailors and prostitutes.
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Ruth Lor Malloy is a freelance writer based in Toronto.


Guidepost
It is easy to get to the Olympic Peninsula. There are direct car ferries taking 95 minutes from Victoria, B.C. to Port Angeles. From Seattle and the Washington state mainland, you can sail directly to Bremerton, Kingston, or Port Townsend. Horizon Air flies between Port Angeles and Victoria, and Port Angeles and Seattle. But if you want to get your own seafood or hike in the mountains, you do have to have a car or rent one.

You can get information about harvesting shellfish from http://www.wa.gov/wdfw/fish/shelfish/beachreg/   . The Makah Museum's Web site is: www.makah.com   . Information on the Hoh Rain Forest and Hurricane Ridge are on: http://www.gorp.com/gorp/resource/us_national_park/wa/hik_oly3.htm   ,
www.olympus.net/skiteam or www.hurricanridge.net.   . A helpful site for the Olympic Peninsula is: www.olympicpeninsula.com/index.htm . The Olympic National Park Visitors' Center is at 600 East Park Avenue, Port Angeles, 98362, WA. Tel. 260/452-0300.

You can get ferry schedules at 1-800-84FERRY in Washington, or 604/381-1551 in Sidney, B.C. or click on http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries . For Port Angeles, the Web site is: www.ci.port-angeles.wa.us.  For Port Townsend, it's www.ptguide.com.



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TIME TRAVEL: Makah natives used sea-going dugout canoes like this one to hunt whales off the cost of Washington 500 years ago. 

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A hall of moss greets visitors to the Hoh Rainforest

It was renovated in the 1960s as a tourist town and is full of charming old Victorian mansions, many converted now into restaurants or Bed and Breakfasts.

 

 



Port Townsend is seriously quaint and full of New Age stores, used book stores, antique and curio markets, and bake shops. It has a little museum. It has a functioning pulp mill near town, which sends forth white steam into the air, obscuring a view of snow-covered mountains. The place is otherwise a perfect weekend getaway from both Victoria and Seattle.

The closer you get to the Hoh Rain Forest, the more moss you see, and the more you wince at the frequent bald patches of clear-cut land spoiling the forests. It's hard to look away from the moss, though. It's beautiful.

Once inside Hoh, you are in a Disney's cartoon movie, especially if there's a wind. You think of Snow White frightened by menacing tree limbs. You can easily imagine scary faces on gnarled trunks.

You drive through archways of trees covered by Methuselah's beard which hangs down six meters like over-fertilized horses' manes. Near the Interpretative Center is the Hall of Mosses, a vast cathedral of trees with moss on almost everything. You can hike through its one-kilometer loop trail. Here are thick carpets of nature's broadloom lying everywhere. Here great fallen "nurse logs" give nourishment to new spruce trees. Feather moss grows on rocks, its flowers ironed wide and flat. Occasionally you catch whiffs of cedar and pine. If you're lucky too, you might meet herds of grazing Roosevelt elk.

About 145 Km northwest of Hoh is Neah Bay with its Makah Museum. This now houses 55,000 artifacts from the doomed village of Ozette, a few kilometers away as the bald eagle flies, but a 90 minute drive. The museum is especially exciting because the culture of Ozette village was never contaminated by European influences, and the mud did a good job of conservation.

The actual site has now been reburied with little to see. Archaeologists from Washington State University excavated for 11 summers from 1970. The museum has perfect baskets, harpoons, cedar clothing, blankets of dog hair, and cooking pots--all at least 500 years old. Here you can see how the Makah people split tall cedar logs with stone wedges and stone hammers to make the walls of their long house dwellings. The planks are so even and long they looked like they were cut in a sawmill.

The museum also houses eight-man sea-going dugout canoes. These natives hunted whale and believe they have treaty rights to continue to do so today. Like the Inuit further north, they used seal-skin floats to slow down and tire the speared mammals, many of which were four times the size of their canoes. They were very brave people!

The archaeological site, discovered accidentally in the 1960s, "proved that the Makah used fishing nets and looms before the advent of Europeans. The government subsequently returned net-fishing rights to us," said Kay Parent who works at the museum and speaks Makah.

She gives out printed directions to Point Flattery, the western-most point of the contiguous United States. From the museum, you drive 10 km and then hike about 20 minutes, up and down hills, on boardwalks, and along well-constructed trails. There you get a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean, rocky crags, and caves large enough to hide pirate ships.

For a change, it would be good to spend time in Port Townsend. This little town was named by Captain George Vancouver in 1792 in honour of the English Marquis of Townsend who took command after the death of General James Wolfe at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

Port Townsend developed as an international seaport, reaching its peak in the 19th century. Sea captains and rich merchants lived on the bluff above the harbour. Water Street with its stores, was once for transients, sailors and prostitutes.

It was renovated in the 1960s as a tourist town and is full of charming old Victorian mansions, many converted now into restaurants or Bed and Breakfasts.

Port Townsend is seriously quaint and full of New Age stores, used book stores, antique and curio markets, and bake shops. It has a little museum. It has a functioning pulp mill near town, which sends forth white steam into the air, obscuring a view of snow-covered mountains. The place is otherwise a perfect weekend getaway from both Victoria and Seattle.
----------------------------------------------------------
Ruth Lor Malloy is a freelance writer based in Toronto.

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