If otters were my must-see, Olympic National Park was Justtwomorethings’s.
She wanted to go when she did her road-trip last year, but ran out of time. Olympic National Park is a couple hours outside of Seattle, so we rented a car and drove out. You have to be careful with the GPS, as the shortest route (but no necessarily the easiest or cheapest) is to pay for your car to go on a ferry, so make sure you have the defaults avoiding ferries if you want to give this a pass.
Justtwomorethings: I wanted to see the temperate rainforest. Later I also learned that the park has some of the most diverse collections of ecosystems in the country, going from seashore to mountains to yes, the rainforest. Most of the roads only go around the park, so to get into it and see it, you have to hike, and I did want to get some healthy exercise in during the trip, considering we normally pig out on vacations.
Olympic National Park is big. Really big. And they made a concerted effort to keep it as pristine as possible, so there are the absolute minimum of paved roads. A map is essential, as to get to different parts of the park you frequently have to drive out and then back in at a different entrance. I did find it interesting that different parts of the park had distinctly different flavors.
Hurricane Ridge, on one of the higher park elevations, was very piney and had sweeping vistas of mountains (some still snowcapped!). Surprisingly, we saw the most animals here, including a mama deer with two late fawns.
Justtwomorethings: You can see Canada from parts of the trail. Given the time of year, we also got to see a lot of the fragile mountain flowers, which bloom very, very briefly during the sliver of warmth they’ve got in the summer.
Lake Crescent, on the other hand, was rather eerie. It looked very primordial, like a mashup of Miyazaki landscaping with a dash of Tim Burton’s twisted trees. Also lots of ferns on the ground. The Lake itself was wide and windy, with little cabins along the shore (which you can rent if you book early enough)
Finally, the Hoh Rain Forest (I didn’t even know that N. America had rain forests) was dense and very mossy.
Speaking of mosses, there also is a section called The Hall of Mosses:
Food in the park was pretty unremarkable–eats are not what you come to this place for. However, there was an interesting place called Jig&Lure that doesn’t not charge sales tax–because its rolled into the actual price of the meal. They did provide a handy little pie chart that supposed shows how the cash you fork over gets 100% distributed back into the local community, which interested my business person brain.