Ok, it's not because of the hot mess that is Twilight fandom surging upon the Olympic Peninsula that I miss Lake Quinault. I promise.
I remember going there, to Lake Quinault Lodge, at Christmas 2003 for a friend's wedding. Winter was a magical time to visit this misty, foggy, snowy rainforest. Somehow when I'm there, all the snow and cold is fun-- it seems like a grand adventure instead of an icy endurance race (like it was in DC-- somehow less magical...). Happily, the friends I was with weren't particularly hardcore about the cold and enjoyed a fireplace and warm drink as much as cold weather hiking.
I've also been there in May, when there's so much deep lush green it's hard to believe it's not a fairy wonderland. There are species of fungus that are just now being discovered-- it's that packed with life.
Driving to Lake Quinault is a treat in itself. If I were in charge of naming a town, would I be so bold as to call it Humptulips? But someone in Washington was, and I love that. (Someone also named a town Forks, but maybe you already knew that...)
The beach that we stopped at was wide, wide, wide. There were people on ATVs rushing up and down the shoreline, and there was so much shoreline that I don't remember hearing them-- just seeing them.
And then turning into the Hoh National Forest, driving into that mysterious beautiful dark place, where the turnoff to Lake Quinault is a brief break in the towering trees. It's incredible, enveloping, clean, dark, lovely. Arriving at the lodge, there's a friendly feeling from the staff -- you're not alone in the wilderness.
And food-- very good. I'm coming from the Bay Area, where being a food lover is as commonplace as breathing. The fresh salmon is such a treat, but don't limit your palate-- the berries and mushrooms are so flavorful. I didn't have a bad meal when I was there, and that includes salmon burgers from the general store across the street.
I just can't wait to go back-- now with my two young daughters. It will be a different experience, but I'm hoping just as fulfilling.