The Olympic National Forest Park

The Forest is located on the Olympic Peninsula in the northwest corner of Washington State (the Evergreen State). The Olympic Peninsula is a unique geographic province consisting of five major landscape settings: temperate rain forest, rugged mountain terrain, large lowland lakes, cascading rivers, and saltwater beaches. A study in contrasts, the Olympic National Forest is a wilderness sanctuary where an unbelievable twelve feet of rain falls each year on the west-facing valley. Giant western hemlocks, Douglas-firs and Sitka spruce dominate the landscape while ferns and moss wrap the trees and forest floor. In these valleys, even the air is green – a truly emerald paradise.

Check-out the Olympic National Park Visitors Guide Page for all the general information and park regulations and also about outdoor activities availability. Since weather varies year round, we checked out the website for current weather conditions. Most of the park wasn’t yet accessible due to the extended winter season.  A major disappointment was turning back from the must-see jewel of the Park, Hurricane Ridge, with its view of the entire Olympics. They’d had a recent snowfall which added to the 14½ feet already there. There was no visibility and the road up was treacherous. The Elwha Valley is a beautiful drive along the rushing Elwha River. We stopped at the trailhead to Madison Falls which is just a 300-yard stroll to the 100 foot waterfall – not exactly what you call hiking, but definitely worth the stop.

Trailheads and other day-use recreation sites normally require a $5 fee per vehicle or recreation pass, such as the Northwest Forest Pass, Interagency Annual Pass, Interagency Senior Pass, Interagency Access Pass, Golden Age, or Golden Access Passport.

The Bloedel Reserve – A Northwest Treasure

The Bloedel Reserve, a public garden, blends protected native Northwest forests with sculpted landscapes. The Reserve’s 150 acres include a serene, meditative Japanese garden, densely carpeted moss garden of green tranquility (our favorite), rhododendron glen, bird refuge, formal English garden, and magically simple reflection pool. The Bloedel’s former estate home, a French country chateau-style mansion on Bainbridge Island overlooking Puget Sound, houses the Reserve’s library and visitor center. The library has more than 1,400 new and rare books on gardening, horticulture, landscape design, exploration, and Northwest history. Son of a prominent lumber company owner, Prentice Bloedel took an early retirement from the MacMillan Bloedel Timber Company in 1950 to devote the balance of his life to the creation of the gardens.

Baby boomers and their families will appreciate that Bloedel was a pioneer in renewable resources and sustainability. He was the first to use sawdust as fuel to power his company’s mills. He replanted clear cut areas, and started a company that marketed fireplace logs made from sawdust. He also was interested in the relationship between people and the natural world. Bloedel may have been ahead of his time in his understanding the therapeutic power of gardens and landscape. Watch this video to get a sense of the Bloedel Reserve and its founder in the words of his family and associates. This is a highly refined garden with its very different parts woven together into a single work of art. There is a light hand at work on the Reserve giving us the gift of being one step away from wilderness.

No reservations are required to visit. There are guided group and school tours and membership entitles you to many discounts and special events. Check-out the Bloedel Reserve website for fees and hours of operation.

These three – the Garden, Park and the Reserve – each with their different and singular esthetic and power, evoked emotions ranging from tranquility to exhilaration. We left knowing how fortunate we’ve been to enjoy these earthly Edens. If you’ve had similar experiences, let us know so we can share them with other boomers.