Beyond Twilight: The Olympic Peninsula for Families

I’ll admit it: when I got invited on a media tour of the Olympic Peninsula, my first thought was not about exploring this emerald Shangri-La. That was my second thought.

My mind initially turned to a certain vampire named Edward who has turned a nondescript logging community in the heart of the Olympic Peninsula into an international destination. I was thrilled when I heard his hometown Forks was a part of the trip. An even bigger bonus was the opportunity to explore this land that boasts the best of both worlds-where mountains and sea collide to form an idyllic recreational playground for families.

A special shout-out to Twilight author Stephanie Meyer for not choosing to set her best-selling books in Kansas.

I relish any chance to travel solo but during my trip to the Olympic Peninsula, I longed for my children. How they would love playing with life-sized Harry (from the Hendersons) at the Rain Drop Café after rafting in the Hoh Rainforest. How they would dance in the gazebo at Kalaloch Lodge overlooking the Pacific Ocean. And I envisioned them squealing with glee as our boat took flight, seemingly soaring across Quinault Lake.

Cradled between the Pacific Ocean, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Hood Canal, the Olympic Peninsula is a fantastic haven for families and I certainly missed mine.

Twilight Tourin’

Before Twilight (B.T.), Forks was a one-light town most would have overlooked. After Twilight (A.T.), tourism has increased 100-fold as Forks has become host to vampire- and werewolf-loving fans of all ages.

Annette Root recognized this need and opened Dazzled by Twilight, a store with every Twilight card, shirt and souvenir imaginable. This summer, it will move to a new location with a rainforest setting that was created by a Hollywood set designer.

Dazzled by Twilight also offers an area tour that I may-or-may-not confess to loving. I just may have taken loads of pictures as we cruised by Bella’s, Jacob’s and the Cullins’ houses. Surely I was not tempted to order a Vampire Shake at Three Rivers Resort, also known as “The Treaty Line.”

And when we visited La Push beach–home to a gray whale migration route and innumerable bald eagles–I definitely did not catch myself looking for Jacob among the local Quileute Indians. Special thanks to my tour guide Travis who made me proud to be a middle-aged fan of Twilight.

Whether I publicly admit to it or not.

Though entertaining, Forks was not the highlight of my trip. The Olympic Peninsula is the home of Olympic National Park, which boasts three eco-systems: an old-growth rainforest, glacier-capped mountains and the pristine Pacific Ocean. ARAMARK manages three of the area’s most family-friendly and affordable lodging properties.

Sol Duc – The Hot Springs in the Rainforest

Our first stopover was at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, an excellent hub for hiking and fishing in the Hoh Rainforest. The rustic cabins are spacious and the hot springs provide a memorable respite. My dinner at The Springs Restaurant was delicious but dessert was the highlight: marionberry crisp with lavender ice cream.

The lowlight was sharing it with my travel companions.

There are oodles of great hikes for families and not to be missed is the nearby 0.8-mile trek to Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park. This easy trail winds through emerald-green splendor to the thundering falls–the area’s crown jewel.

I was so entranced that I recruited a few others to hike “Lover’s Lane,” a 3-mile trail that lead back to the resort. Aptly named, we wove through a forest of swooning flowers, sparkling greenery and the embrace of Vine Maples, Hemlock Spruce and Cedars.

Kalaloch – The Lodge on the Ocean

Whether you stay in a cabin with a wood-fueled fireplace or a guest room in the Main Lodge, you will have one thing in common: breathtaking views. Kalaloch Lodge is perched on a bluff mere steps away from the ocean’s balm and connects the Pacific breakers to the towering coastal firs.

While the scenery may be distinctive, the local nomenclature is not. Our day was spent a few miles away exploring the tide pools at Beach Trail #4.

This is not to be confused with Beach Trails #1, 2, or 3.

Ranger Pat Shields gave a fun and interactive tour of the area’s sea creatures that included delicate sea stars, predatory anemones and miniature crabs. My group later stopped at Ruby Beach, a magical stretch of shore with views of Destruction Island’s lonely lighthouse, towering sea stands and epic beachcombing explorations.

That evening after dinner at Kalaloch Lodge, I walked down the weathered stairs to watch children play in the surf. As the sun slipped behind the ocean in electric steaks of neon color, they appeared to be in slow motion. Their squeals of delight were the only reminder that time had not stood still.

Though in those precious, fleeting moments I almost wish it had.

Quinault Lodge – The Lady on the Lake

Built in 53 days back in 1926, Quinault Lodge is located in the wettest place in the Continental U.S. and receives an average 12 feet of rainfall per year. It also stands sentry over glacier-fed Quinault Lake, a 5-mile-long turquoise jewel in the Olympic National Forest. I uttered only one word when I walked onto the picturesque grounds: “Whoa.”

And yes, I am the epitome of profundity when faced with postcard-perfect panoramas.

Family activities abound and include kayak and paddleboat rentals, numerous hikes that could include a stroll along the lake, or simply kicking back in one of the many Adirondack chairs to admire the view (and believe me, it was that great.) To cool down on a hot summer afternoon, head across the street to The Mercantile and order a mango sorbet ice cream cone.

The lodge offers two area tours (boat or land) by Roger Blain, a retired ranger and wealth of knowledge. His family-friendly excursions provide fascinating insights into the Quinault Valley, also known as the “Valley of the Giants.” We took a short hike to the world’s largest Sitka Spruce tree and noted other nationally recognized Hemlock, Douglas Fir, and Western Red Cedar giants.

During our 30-mile drive around the lake, Roger also pointed out a few waterfalls that were included in the Olympic Peninsula’s new Waterfall Trail. He let us silently marvel at the moss that dripped off the trees like icicles and mocked me for photographing Bunch Creek Falls from the car.

In my defense, it had started to rain.

Not that I can complain. That was the only time it rained during my five-day visit to the notoriously wet Olympic Peninsula. It made me suspicious of all the complaints about the sky’s near-constant deluge. I concluded these claims are a conspiracy to keep the rest of us away from this emerald treasure.

Unfortunately for them, I already caught a glimpse of the secret cache.

Note: This article was originally published at the popular Web site, Travel Savvy Mom.

Twilight Tourin’ and Other Olympic Peninsula Highlights

It’s only taken me a week and a half but I’m finally updating you on my Twilight/Olympic Peninsula trip. I wrote about it for Travel Savvy Mom so be sure to check out my great pictures and fascinating commentary (BWHA!) of one of the most hauntingly beautiful places on earth. Even though it was the perfect trip I wished my kids were with me the entire time.

Shocking, I know.

First, the journalists:

Diane Bair (L)–The woman has written for more magazines and guidebooks than my children have had tantrums (meaning: A LOT). Whimsical voice, beautiful and almost inspired me to wear lipstick the whole trip.
Diane Schostak (in pink) –Executive Director of Olympic Peninsula Chamber. She was a hoot, wealth of knowledge and LDS seestah. Don’t ask her about the Stetson she’s wearing.
Harriet Baskas (back middle)–I learned not to be fooled by her petite stature. Loved this fireball who writes for MSNBC and USA Today. Her passion? Airports. Yes, some people actually like them.
Ranger Pat Shields–Tide-pooling guide. Spoke with a cool New Yorker accident. Wears sexy rubber boots.
Jennifer–Known as “Mudslide Mama” on the famed travel site Traveling Mamas. She was so delightful I tried to convince her to room with me at BlogHer. But then she ditched me upon finding out I like to spoon.

Really, who can blame her?

Some of my favorite places on the trip:

Quinault Lodge, the true wettest place in the United States (for details go to Travel Savvy Mom).

And Kalaloch Lodge overlooking the Pacific Ocean (for even more details go to Travel Savvy Mom).

Romantic, non? Most romantic of all was Dazzled by Twilight, a store in Forks that would thrill Edward (or Jacob) loving fans.

Our tour guide Travis was a riot and took us to places such as Bella’s house:

We also saw Charlie’s police station, Dr. Cullins’ parking spot at the hospital (yes, they even have a sign), Jacob’s place and the Cullins’. There was a sign on the whiteboard that Emmett was out hunting Grizzly Bears.

Which explains why the Grizzly is practically non-existent in the Olympic Peninsula.

We hung out with the bald eagles and Quileute Indians at La Push:

And we had lunch at The Treaty Line a.k.a. Three Rivers Resort.

(With Harriet who is pretending not to know me).

Sadly, I did not order a Vampire Shake. Even though I really, really wanted to.

For more of my favorite moments, be sure to head over to Travel Savvy Mom.

Just in case you missed my not-so subtle references. :-)

Not to be forgotten is my visit with Sandra, one of my dearest childhood friends. I hadn’t seen her since 1991.

Here is us now at Alki Beach in Seattle. Minus the big bow and even bigger bangs.

But rest assured in a world full drama and change, there is one constant: there will always be my big hair.

I’m baaaaack….

And busy.

Olympic Peninsula was a blast (details forthcoming; picture taken at Kalaloch Lodge overlooking the Pacific Ocean). I arrived home late Thursday night, did laundry, and hopped in the car the next morning. Destination: The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

All was marvelous. Well, except that my parent’s car died in the valet and is getting towed to a dealership this morning. All six of us had to cram into my car to come back to Denver. We will then have to drive 3 hours round-trip to pick it up in Colorado Springs once it is fixed.

Really, do you think any trip ‘o mine could go smoothly?

In other news, the Mile High Mamas redesign is finally complete. Swing by and say “Hi!” I promise to do the same to you once my crazy life of travels and hosting calms down!


This Mommy Blogger’s Tour de Colorado!

Psssssst, I’m not really here right now. I am currently living it up on the Olympic Peninsula with some other travel writers.

And Bella.

And maybe Edward will make a surprise appearance.

Delusions aside, here’s something that is not: I just unveiled my family’s Tour de Colorado. Wanna see all the fun destinations we’ll be visiting this summer? Check it out at Mile High Mamas today! Why? Because I’ll be taking you along for the ride.

Chat soonly,


My Reward for Surviving the Year of the Plague a.k.a. 2009


This will be the summer of staycations! Our little foursome just got back from Boulder and will be hitting Colorado Springs/The Broadmoor, Steamboat Springs, the Crested Butte Music Festival, Devil’s Thumb Ranch, YMCA of the Rockies and Beaver Creek.

It will be a veritable Tour de Colorado!

Something else I’m excited about is a trip I’m taking to the Olympic Peninsula. Without the kiddos. The area is the perfect family-friendly travel destination and I’ll be delving into a plethora of activities that includes a Twilight tour, outdoor adventures, arts and culture, northwest history and culinary tourism.

Best of all I will be hooking up with Sandra, one of my dearest childhood friends whom I haven’t seen in 20 years, when I am in Seattle.

I leave in two and a half weeks. Oh, and did I mention I will not be dragging the kids along?

Because nothing says “Family-friendly vacation” like leaving the kids at home. :-)