To the uninitiated, Washington's Olympic Peninsula might seem a daunting netherworld of 300-foot-tall (90-meter) trees, Dr. Seussian sea stacks, and a whole lot of rain—11 feet (three meters) a year in the soggiest areas. But to locals like bassist Eric Judy of resident rock group Modest Mouse (see "The Playlist," below), it's just a big, unkempt backyard. And according to kayaking guide Tammi Hinkle, late summer is the yard's "secret season": Daytime temps hover in the 80s, rainfall lets up, and national park visitors pack up and go home. In other words, it's time to hit Highway 101 and, as Modest Mouse recommends, "float on."
DAY 1: Hitch a ride across Puget Sound on the Seattle-Bainbridge Island Ferry (departs every 50 minutes on weekdays) and watch as skyline turns to sky. After landfall, head to Adventures Through Kayaking, Inc., four miles (six kilometers) west of Port Angeles, for a half-day tour of animal-packed Freshwater Bay. Keep an eye out for orcas, sea lions, gray whales, and seals as you paddle seven miles (11 kilometers) through protected waters. Peel off the wet suit, drive back to Port Angeles, and get a room at seaside Red Lion Hotel. Nearby Bella Italia restaurant serves up a spicy cioppino (seafood stew).
DAY 2: After confining yourself to a car, then a kayak, stretch your legs on an eight-mile round-trip to Deer Lake within Olympic National Park. Starting near Sol Duc Falls, a 60-foot-tall (18-meter-tall) cataract 42 miles (68 kilometers) west of Port Angeles, the trail threads a narrow, fern-lined canyon and climbs 1,500 feet to the subalpine meadows around Deer Lake. Afterward, drown your barking dogs with a 104-degree (40-degree Celsius) soak at the Sol Duc Hot Springs, then continue on to Lake Crescent Lodge, where shoreline cottages come with fireplaces and outdoor seating. At day's end, settle in for seafood chowder and a black currant-and-Madeira glazed elk rib rack at the lodge's "certified green" restaurant.
DAY 3: The tangled forests on the western slopes of the Olympic Mountains are all but impenetrable—save via the rivers that carve through the woods. Get a daylong scenic tour, run a few Class IIIs, and hook a 15-pound (7-kilogram) steelhead with guide Gordon Gracey, owner of Fishing Northwest Guides & Outfitters. But since Gracey practices catch and release, you'll have to go to the Quileute Indian Reservation, 11 miles (18 kilometers) west on State Route 110, to try the local specialty—sweet smoked salmon. Stock up, then make camp at nearby Mora Campground, set oceanside in a stunted spruce grove.
DAY 4: Each year, massive storms drop more than 200 inches (508 centimeters) of rain and snow atop 7,965-foot (2,427-meter) Mount Olympus. They've created some 60 glaciers within the park and feed an iconic stretch of temperate rain forest on the mountain's windward slopes. En route to Seattle, make a pit stop at the Quinault Rain Forest and hike the four-mile Quinault Loop Trail through giant firs, spruce, and cedars. Soak it all in, rain included. You'll have plenty of time to dry off on the 144-mile (232-kilometer) return trip to Seattle.
DO: SeattleBainbridge Island Ferry ($13; www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries);
Adventures Through Kayaking, Inc. ($69 for a half-day guided tour; www.atkayaking.com); Sol Duc Hot Springs (www.northolympic.com/solduc); Fishing Northwest Guides & Outfitters ($175 for a daylong fishing trip; www .olympicpeninsula-fishing-guides.com); Olympic Raft & Kayak ($69 for a half-day guided trip; www.raftandkayak.com)
EAT: Bella Italia (www.bellaitaliapa.com); Lake Crescent Lodge (www.lakecrescentlodge.com)
SLEEP: Red Lion Hotel ($160; www.redlionportangeles.com); Lake Crescent Lodge ($203 for a Roosevelt Fireplace Cottage); Mora Campground ($10; 360-565-3130)
Modest Mouse bassist Eric Judy, 30, grew up in the tiny town of Issaquah, Washington, three hours from Olympic National Park. His suggested soundtrack for a weekend Olympic road trip is, in a word, eclectic. It also proves that rock stars get misty-eyed listening to George Winston just like mortals do.
Celtic Fiddle Festival "Belle Catherine/Le Step À Ti-Phonse"
Up-tempo and dynamic—hit the gas.
Animal Collective "Leaf House"
The Beach Boys of Brooklyn.
Muzsikás "Khosid Wedding Dances"
Fiddler on the Hungarian roof.
Bill Morrissey "Barstow"
Boston troubadour on cruise control.
Iron & Wine "Passing Afternoon"
Nick Drake for the 21st century.
Llan de Cubel "Xurde Wyn"
Spanish mountain music.
George Winston "Rain"
Hoven Droven "Syen"
A modern twist on fiddle-driven Swedish folk.
Waterboys "We Will Not Be Lovers"
What the 1980s really sounded like.
Joanna Newsom "Sadie"
Björk with a harp and without the swan dress.
Photo courtesy of Dana Erickson
Find out about more adventure travel options in the September 2005 issue of Adventure.