A trip to the coast for stormwatching is a lesson in coming prepared (with other things to do).
KALALOCH, Jefferson County — The weekend forecast: low 50s with a 79 percent chance of showers for both days. My first thought: perfect.
Sunny skies had thwarted my last attempt to visit Kalaloch Lodge, which in winter and early spring is an ideal stormwatching destination on the Olympic Peninsula. This time, I wanted to trade Seattle’s drizzle for the coast’s more dramatic weather. I crammed a bag with “performance” garments — a fleece jacket, rain shell, wool socks, hat and waterproof hiking shoes. My roommate did the same, and we hit the road with our two dogs in the back seat. Most of Olympic National Park is off-limits to dogs, but the lodge and some nearby beaches permit them on leash.
Kalaloch Lodge is a salty, shingled two-story affair on the peninsula’s west coast that sits right alongside Highway 101. Behind the back deck, the land falls off sharply to where the muddy Kalaloch Creek runs into the Pacific. On this rainy Saturday, the sky, ocean, and beach stacked up in layers of pale browns and grays, with misty evergreen silhouettes framing our view.
The lodge itself has a handful of rooms, but most guests stay in one of the cabins lined up on a cliff facing the ocean. None have Internet, television or phones. The “Bluff Cabins” are closest to the edge and have large windows with unobstructed views of the surf. Ours, a small wood-paneled studio with a queen-sized bed, a futon and a kitchenette gave me a jolt of summer-camp nostalgia. The tiled floor was an anxiety-free touch for travelers with damp and sandy dogs, but made me wish I had packed cozy rubber-soled slippers.
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On Saturday, a dog-loving employee at the front desk directed us to the more-deserted stretch of beach — a short walk north on the side of the highway, then left into the woods on a gentle hiking path. Getting onto the beach required scrambling over slippery, bleached-out driftwood. We did not see any evidence that a storm was coming any time soon, but the dogs were cold, and we were hungry, so we headed back.
At the lodge’s restaurant, we scarfed down cups of thick New England clam chowder (very good, $5.25), and fried fish ($15) and clam strips ($10). We peppered our waitress with questions about nearby attractions and other options for dinner, only to learn that the nearest was Quinault Lodge, a hotel operated by the same company as Kalaloch, but 32 miles away. What about Forks, the town best known as the setting for the popular “Twilight” vampire books for teens? Her face twitched a little at the idea that we might drive 36 miles in the opposite direction for a meal there, so we let it drop.
Back in our room, we read and waited for the weather. I tried researching our next move, but we couldn’t get signals for either Verizon or AT&T for our smartphones and laptop. What did people do before the Internet? My guess is they took a lot of naps.
At some point in the night, I heard a rumble of thunder. My roommate, a lighter sleeper, reported that the storm stayed in the distance. So much for stormwatching.