Discovering Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park

Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park
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By Gerry Barker

Photos by Gerry Barker

As our ship, American Constellation, eases into Port Angeles harbor, it’s like we’re docking in a post card. Rising majestically on the horizon are the Olympic Mountains, framing the picturesque town below. It’s easy to see why the Spanish explorer who discovered the area named the harbor, “The Port of Our Lady of the Angels,” which later became Port Angeles.

Port Angeles, framed by the Olympic Mountains

There’s much to see and do in this region, and as part of a 10-night, Grand Puget Sound cruise on American Cruise Lines, we’ll spend two days here. One day is devoted to seeing Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia. For the other, we are taking an excursion to Lake Crescent Lodge in Olympic National Park.

If you love the outdoors, and the natural beauty you can find in America’s national parks, this is your kind of travel.

The park is about a 30-minute bus ride from Port Angeles, a city of some 20,000 (and the birthplace of legendary quarterback John Elway), which has evolved from a trading and whaling outpost to a tourism hub

Scientists have traced the formation of Lake Crescent to the last Ice Age, when glaciers carved a deep valley that filled with water. It is theorized a landslide some 8,000 years ago split the lake into two, forming Lake Crescent and nearby Lake Sutherland.

As we approach Lake Crescent Lodge, the lake shines like a jewel, surrounded by mountains and pine forests. It’s a bright and sunny day, and the lake’s waters glisten with iridescent colors. We learn from our tour guide, Rick, that due to the water’s low nitrogen levels, it is clear to over 60 feet, and is officially over 600 feet at its deepest (although one report placed it at over 1,000 feet). It became part of Olympic National Park in 1938.

Lake Crescent Lodge, built in 1915, offers the perfect basecamp to take in the lake and explore the area. Alas, that will have to wait for another day — we only have a few hours before the return bus ride. But that still gives us time to walk the nearby nature trail, and indulge ourselves with the drink that has become a local legend: Lavender lemonade.

Besides the natural mountain splendor, this region is also home to over a dozen lavender farms, and a byproduct of that is the lodge’s lavender lemonade. Although we don’t know the exact recipe, it seems to utilize lavender syrup to provide its distinctive, refreshing taste. Point me to one of those Adirondack chairs by the lake, with a supply of this, and I’m good.

The lodge, open seasonally from April to November, invites its guests to experience “turn of the century charm,” and that’s just what we find, from the large fireplace when you enter to the sun porch along one side, offering lake views. There’s also a restaurant, along with cottages and cabins for rent. Close your eyes and you can imagine Teddy Roosevelt relaxing by the fireplace, admiring the elk head trophy above it.

Near the lodge, our guide leads us to a nature trail that transverses an ancient forest — some of the trees are over 400 years old. It’s an easy walk that starts over a flowing river and ends by the shores of Lake Crescent. For these Floridians that spend a lot of time on Atlantic Ocean beaches, it’s a welcome change to be one with Nature among these giant trees.

While we wish for more time here, a big plus when taking a cruise is taking note of all the places where you want to return some day. This one is definitely on the list.

(Thanks to American Cruise Lines for hosting us.)


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