When you travel to the same place often, to visit family, it is important to have ritualized outings and to sprinkle in some new experiences each visit to keep things fresh. We are lucky, my in-laws live on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington and it is always fun to travel there.

We have our list of musts, which includes over-the-top breakfasts at the Oak Table, swims in Lake Crescent, visits to Lavender Farms, maybe a day trip to Victoria, British Columbia and walks on the Dungeness Spit to name a few. This summer we had a longer visit planned and decided to explore some spots farther from our home base in Sequim.

We drove a few hours to Neah Bay, home of the Makah reservation, to visit Cape Flattery the northwesternmost point in the contiguous United States. Neah Bay and the Makah people were in the news a few years ago as traditional culture and environmentalists clashed over whale hunting. As we drove on the winding route, through fishing villages and remote outposts — often hugging the coast — I cursed not bringing some binoculars as I was determined to see a whale. It was a pleasant drive; we stopped to buy fresh baked goods from a pop up organic baker in a trailer, smoked salmon from a roadside seller and took in stunning views of Canada and the Strait of Juan de Fuca at various turnouts.

As we got to Neah Bay it started to rain, adding more atmosphere to the somewhat spooky ambiance. Undeterred — we had rain gear — my husband and I set off for the short walk to the tip of Cape Flattery. The kids were moaning and decided to stay in the car with the iPad and snacks. This irked me but I decided to let it go, pick my battles and enjoy the wet, misty walk alone together.

It was a magical little trip on a mostly beautiful boardwalk, doable for most, but certainly challenging for some. We got to the point and a Hobbit-like land and seascape revealed itself. Caves, enchanting bushes and unique mystical and misty views at every turn. There are many viewing spots, benches and railings each offering a different and spectacular angle on this special place. We gazed out over the water — me desperately searching for a whale — contemplating the power of nature and soaking in the subtleties of this memorable spot that has been a spiritual place for many peoples over many centuries.

On the return trip we ran into our boys. The iPad battery had died and they’d eaten most of the snacks and realized this was their one chance to visit this sacred point. I was overjoyed, but wet, and so we let them explore on their own. They returned about 40 minutes later and were so excited to have made the decision on their own to make the effort. My older son was so smitten with it, he keeps my image above of the sea and islands as his screensaver.

Back in town, we were hungry and wound up eating our picnic in the car because of the rain. All visitors to the Makah reservation must pay $10 for a recreation permit and the privilege/right to visit the land.

The Museum at the Makah Culture and Research Center was a wonderful afternoon activity. The museum interprets and houses 300-500 year-old artifacts recovered from the Ozette Archaeological site. In the winter of 1969-1970 a storm caused a mudslide, exposing hundreds of perfectly preserved wooden artifacts. A hiker contacted the Makah Tribe, then the Tribe worked with Washington State University, and in April 1970, a few months after the initial storm, excavation of the Ozette Archaeological Site began. The museum is quite somber and well organized; it tells the riveting story of the town, the people and the excavation.

On the drive home, we took a detour to see Lake Ozette, but it was late, we were soggy and the hike to the coast seemed like too much as the sun was setting. Next time we’ll sprinkle in this hike for sure, maybe even a small backpacking trip. This time, however, we were content, munching on our organic “stogies” purchased earlier, talking about the unusual day we had shared full of history, nature, respect for native cultures and family time.

Filed Under Adventure Travel, British Columbia, Budget Travel, Canada, Culture, Driving Trips, Family Travel, Hike/Backpack, Museum, Olympic Peninsula, Pacific Northwest, Sequim, Washington, art, wildlife


Leave a Reply