Let's take a road trip!
Highway 101 runs the length of much of the coast of the Western United States. Mainly a commuter route in Southern California, Route 101 becomes coastal just south of the Oregon border and remains an incredible scenic drive up through Washington. The rocky coast of Washington State shifts the highway inland a bit, but fortunately there are some fun things to do when you can’t watch the waves.
World's (once) Largest Frying Pan
Just past Astoria, Oregon, is the little town of Long Beach, Washington, known for, well, a really long beach. You can walk along the beach and see some fun things, like a whale skeleton, but while you’re in Long Beach, don’t miss the World’s Largest Frying Pan! Ok, it’s not the world’s largest anymore…and it’s really just a replica of the real frying pan which was a favorite during the Clam Festival of 1941, but it’s still pretty awesome. It measures more than 9 feet across, and you can get an idea of the scale by checking the photos from the 40’s and 50’s that are in Marsh’s Free Museum across the street. The museum is worth a visit for the creepy stuffed critters and Jake, the Alligator Man. That weird looking sculpture next to the pan is, of course, the World’s Largest Squirting Clam.
Town of Metal People
Continuing on through the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge you’ll head into Raymond where you’ll drive through the Raymond Wildlife Heritage Sculptures Corridor. Dozens of three-dimensional metal sculptures depict somewhat whimsical wildlife and logging scenes designed by local artists. More sculptures dot the town, and there are plenty of walking trails if you’d like to get out of the car and stretch your legs a bit. The Willapa Seaport Museum (free, donation) has just about every nautical themed device you could think of including whale bones, figureheads, and a bust of Teddy Roosevelt. Like to stay on dry land? The Northwest Carriage Museum is right next door with some beautiful horse drawn vehicles, period clothing and artifacts.
From Raymond you can take the shorter 101 route to Aberdeen, or the longer, coastal 105 into Grays Harbor. As long as you’re here, stop and see the Westport lighthouse which, due to the changing coastline, now sits more than a mile inland. The grounds are free, but a donation is requested for the lighthouse tour. Continue along Grays Harbor to Aberdeen, where you’ll find a 20 foot tall chainsaw carving of “Charlie Choker”, the mascot of Grays Harbor Community College. Nirvana fans will want to visit the nine foot tall concrete guitar that commemorates, this, the birth place of Kurt Cobain.
You could consider a brief stop in Hoquiam for a photo with the giant carved grizzly bear statue and then head along 109 on to Ocean Shores where the gift shop beckons you in by inviting you to walk through a giant shark’s mouth to enter, but after this there aren’t a lot of roads. If you do take this route you’ll need to do some backtracking to get back to 101 which is now inland. When you reach Lake Quinault, you’re now a little more than a third of the way through the state.
Right on the edge of the Olympic National Forest, the little town of Quinault offers access to some spectacular hiking trails, and some of the world’s largest trees. The Quinault Rain Forest (wear a hat, it’s drippy) hosts the largest trees grown in their natural sites. Five of the largest Douglas firs, and the largest Western Red Cedar, Sitka Spruce, Yellow (Alaskan) Cedar and Mountain and Western Hemlock are found here, although some of them take some dedicated hiking to get to.
From Lake Quinault, 101 heads back west to the coast. As the road continues through the wildlife refuge, eventually you’ll start seeing ‘big tree’ signs. Yep, some little innocuous signs that you may as well follow, since you’re here anyway. A short detour off the highway takes you to the “World’s Largest Western Red Cedar Tree” which looks as if it’s seen better days. Maybe it’s alive, or maybe it’s a humongous stump, but hey, it was on the way.
Vampires and Lumberjacks
From here the highway turns inland again, dancing along the Hoh River before crossing it and putting your wheels on the roadway to vampires. The little town of Forks is doing it’s best to satisfy all the seekers of Edward’s stomping grounds; they even offer a walking tour map of everything you want to see from Twilight. A little too manly for that girly vampire stuff? Download the “Guy’s List” of testosterone laden activities including fishing, camping and surfing…really cold surfing… Outside the Timber Museum ($3) you’ll find a loggers memorial carving; a seven foot chainsaw-carved logger honoring the hundreds of loggers who have died on the job while working the Western Olympic Peninsula. Leaving the town heading north you’ll pass a giant wooden sculpture of a lumberjack that appears to be shot with arrows. It’s on private property, so keep your viewing spot on the street.
Ok, Forks isn’t on the coast any longer, but I couldn’t leave you in Hoquiam. Just past Forks you’ll need to make a major decision; do you take 113 up to the Salish Sea and head to Cape Flattery? Or continue along 101 through the National Forest and into Port Angeles? If you grabbed yourself a Twilight map from the Forks Chamber of Commerce, I know which way you’re going.