By Christopher Hendrickson
The first thing Nate Salima did upon arriving at the Olympic Coast was assemble the rooftop tent he’d bought that summer. The second thing he did: finish his Logic Systems and Design assignment, due at midnight.
“It wasn’t about the destination, it was about the journey. But the destination was pretty cool, too,” Salima said.
That journey involved five students packing themselves and their bags into the cramped seats of Salima’s Volkswagen Touareg at 6:30 on a Friday night and setting off in the dark for a coastal campsite that none of us had ever been to.
The campsite we’d found was the last available spot in the Kalaloch Beach campground of Olympic National Park.
Aaron Roethe, a freshman, built a fire with wood we’d purchased at the only grocery mart open past 10 p.m.
“I woke up to having to move the car. In the dark, we had parked in the center of the campsite,” Salima said.
By 10 a.m., we were off exploring the beach. Jackie Chen, a freshman, and Galen Dailey, a junior, had both done some preliminary exploring the night before, but the view from the morning sun left us all breathless.
“For me the coast tends to put chaos in order,” said Dailey.
“Its disorganized elements (small pieces of sand, constantly changing tides etc.), have a way of coming together in a way that makes sense. When I’m around it for long enough I find myself able to do the same with stuff going on in my life.
I can re-center and gain almost outward perspective on things better after some time spent seeing that the disorderly can exist in an orderly way.”
Perhaps no greater testament to the wonders that the coast can display is found in the “tree root cave” at Kalaloch Beach. Decades of storms and coastal erosion have left this force of nature clinging to the sides of this cavern, with most of its roots exposed to the open air. Nevertheless, it has persisted.
The word Kalaloch comes from the Quinault word meaning “a good place to land.” The Quinault Tribe is native to the region surrounding part of the coastal stretch of Olympic National Park.
Quinault Lake, also named for the Quinault Tribe, was our last stop on the way out of the park. The lake’s serene blue waters sat as still as glass, reflecting the hills in the distance and the sky above.
It was sheer coincidence that Salima’s jacket blended in with the deep blue of the water.
Quinault Lodge, located on the eastern banks of Quinault Lake, is built as if out of the world of “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Its wooden exterior asks its viewer to overlook its distinction from the surrounding forest, all the while the white trim of its windows give testimony to its elegance.
“When I went to Yosemite this past summer, it was something like a religious experience,” Roethe said.
“Can we listen to your worship playlist on the way back?” Chen asked as we settled back in for the drive home. This weekend journey had come to a close, and while we had not recovered any hours of sleep, we surely left feeling restored.