Kestner Homestead Trail: Short, Easy Hike near Lake Quinault

Busy Reader Highlights

  • Easy.
    At only 1.1 miles long, the Kestner Homestead Trail is also very flat, making this a great selection for those looking for a relatively easy walk.
  • Great for lovers of nature and lovers of history alike.
    The main attraction of the trail is the Kestner Homestead historical site, but getting there also takes you through a beautiful stretch of temperate rain forest.
  • Low-stress for those unused to the wilderness.
    Though hikers should always be mindful of wildlife (mandatory legal disclaimer), this trail starts near a well-visited ranger station and ends close to a road with a small house beside it. The trails around Lake Quinault tend to be rugged and to take you far away from civilization, but the Kestner Homestead Trail is about as safe as it gets.
  • It’s literally right next to another short, easy trail.
    A few yards from the Kestner Homestead trailhead is the trailhead for the Maple Glade Nature Loop Trail.
  • You can do this trail guided or unguided.
    The park rangers lead tours along the Kestner Trail, stopping at spots along the way to share educational talks on important points. You can also hike it alone on your own time (this is how I did the trails).

Leisurely Reader Discussion

Getting to this trail is easy. Simply park at the ranger station (location embedded below) and you’ll see the clearly marked trailhead. There’s a restroom in the parking lot as well. The rangers at this site have always seemed particularly friendly and relaxed. It’s such a quiet location on the sparsely-populated North Shore Road of the Lake Quinault loop, and an easy-going vibe resonates there.

At the trailhead a bridge crosses Kestner Creek (which was almost completely dried up when I was there in July 2019) and takes you into a hall of gigantic hemlocks, maples, and spruces, most of them covered in thick, shaggy coats of moss. There are also impressive sword ferns and skunk cabbage. It feels like stepping back into the age of the dinosaurs.

You follow this flat, well-maintained trail until it reaches a wide open area with the remnants of the Kestner Homestead. A crab apple tree stands out front with some rusting farm machinery. The primary attraction of course is the old house, barn, and work buildings. The front door of the house is locked but other than that the stuff is there to be explored freely.

This is apparently a good spot to view the Roosevelt elk (the area I’ve had most luck in finding them is shown here), but I didn’t see any while there.

From the homestead, the trail loops back towards where you started. Before you get to the end of your circuit, you can switch over onto the Maple Glade Rain Forest Trail where they intersect, or you can continue on your way back to the parking lot.

Either way, have fun and enjoy the Kestner Homestead Trail.

Happy nomadding, friends.

Frog Invasion at Irely Lake

I long ago lost count of how many times I’ve hiked the Irely Lake trail just outside Lake Quinault, Washington, but during my latest visit I witnessed a something I’ve never seen there before. Swarming along every step of the path was a great, hopping, flopping multitude of frogs. Baby frogs, to be exact.

Yes, baby frogs as far as the eye could see, my friends.

I’m sure this must be an annual occurrence, but when I told a ranger about it the next day he was as unaware of the phenomenon and as fascinated at hearing the news as I was in experiencing it. He was also unaware that Irely Lake was almost completely dried up. This is one more thing I’ve never witnessed before in all my excursions up that path.

Dried up Irely Lake
This entire flat area is usually filled up with Irely Lake.

To my memory, the lake’s always been filled up to the woodline, giving little shore-space. On this day, however (July 12, 2019), the lake had shriveled down to a little pool in the middle of a muddy flat—a muddy flat also swarming with baby frogs.

The little buggers made the hike very slow-going. I had to tiptoe along the entirety of the trail and pause several times to let a particularly big cluster of baby frogs leap off into the sword ferns growing alongside the trail.

When I reached the dry lakebed, another hiker (the only other hiker I encountered that day) said he’d encountered a mountain lion on the trail. He seemed an experienced outdoorsman. I don’t doubt his account. For me, though, there was no mountain lion (though I did encounter one a few years ago in that same area)—there were only the baby frogs.

One of my favorite things about nature is how nothing is ever the same from one day to the next. You can hike the identical stretch of woods every morning for a year, and every morning you’ll see something slightly different. Sometimes, you’ll see something spectacularly different. In this particular case, I’ve hiked the Irely Lake Trail dozens of times and this was the first I ever saw the swarm of baby frogs.

Though they slowed my progress, the frogs made every foot of the trail a pleasure. It was a privilege to witness that spectacle of nature, and the frogs made for a hike I’ll never forget.

The Irely Lake Trail has a funny way of surprising me. For a modest mile of hiking trail, it’s sure given me plenty to write about.

http://nwestnomad.com/travels/washington-places/strange-conversation-at-irely-lake-olympic-national-park/

It’s the same reason why I maintain that Lake Quinault and the surrounding rain forest are the best spots in Washington. A part of me wants to keep quiet on that and keep Quinault under-visited, but another part of me wants to share that amazing place. There’s no place I’d rather spend a long weekend or a vacation than in the Lake Quinault area. I made that conclusion long ago, but the place never stops strengthening its case.

Frogs, my friends. Baby frogs. A whole multitude of them. I’m grateful I decided to do Irely again that day. Dang near missed it.

Keep nomadding, friends.

Dungeness Spit to Dungeness Lighthouse

I didn’t know where the Dungeness Spit led to when I started walking it. I was just taking a weekend to explore Sequim, staying at the Seqium Bay Lodge (which is remarkably spacious and clean for the price, by the way).

On my second day in town, I cruised the back-country roads aimlessly for a while, got some books at the Seqium Library book sale, and  happened upon the Dungeness Spit.

I parked, paid a whopping three dollars, and started walking…and walking…and walking…

It turns out that the Dungness Spit is five-miles long. You get a good view of the spit as you descend down to the coastline, but (for me, anyway) it was hard to gage how long it actually was.

Stack of rounded stones in foreground with Mount Baker in background.
Some people complain about these rock stacks in natural places, but I find them pretty cool. Here they made for a neat visual.

The grade of the Dungness Spit is level but made a bit more challenging than a typical five-mile-walk by the sand and cobbles, which shift under your feet as you go. I hiked back during high tide and there was still plenty of room to walk, though the angle of the walk becomes more extreme as you’re forced towards the middle of the spit.

I have no idea, however, if it’s always safe to hike at high tide, and anyone going there should check that out for themselves. There are some enormous pieces of driftwood on the spit, and I imagine it’d be a bad day to get caught out there when one of them slammed into you.

There weren’t a great deal of people on the Dungeness Spit as I hiked. I’m not sure if that’s normal, or if it’s because I was there in October when the weather normally isn’t suitable for a long walk. I got lucky, because the weather was perfect.

Things to Do at Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

As it turns out, the Dungeness Spit leads to the Dungeness Lighthouse. The lighthouse and its grounds are maintained in their originals state as a historical site, but the lighthouse is also still functional. Volunteers stay in the guest quarters and give free tours. They’ll take you to the top of the lighthouse tower.

One thing I’d want to say as a heads up to anyone thinking of making the trip is to remember that the Dungeness Spit is completely exposed to the elements. I imagine the walk would be somewhat miserable on a blustery day, unless you’re the sort of person who enjoys getting blasted by the elements that way (and if you are shoot me a line because we’d get along just fine).

This is definitely a trip I plan on doing again. It’s a nice walk with some beautiful views. You’ve got Sound and mountains surrounding you in a circle as you go.

It’s one of those experiences that makes me love the Pacific Northwest. The Dungeness Lighthouse joins Point Robinson Light as my favorite lighthouses in the state of Washington.

Things to Do at Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

Tucked away smack-dab in the middle of the Olympic Peninsula Loop, Lake Crescent is one of the most beautiful destinations in Washington—a state FULL of beautiful destinations. I visit Lake Crescent often (and often make a dual trip of Lakes Crescent and Quinault), so I figured I’d put together a list of things to do at Lake Crescent.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and people with boats will almost certainly come up with a radically different itinerary. This is just my perspective as a guy who prefers to keep the earth under his feet.

#1 Things to Do at Lake Crescent: Storm King

For intrepid hikers, Storm King is a must when you visit Lake Crescent. It’s my favorite hike in that area, and one of my favorites in the entire state.

From the top of the trail you get an awe-inspiring view of Lake Crescent and the surrounding area. Be warned, though, my friends—with courage, endurance, and grit, you must EARN this particular view.

Mean, Mean Mount Storm King: Path to Stunning Views Littered With Bodies of the Broken and Dejected

#2 Things to Do at Lake Crescent: Marymere Falls

It’s with great shame that I admit my inability to find any of my pictures of Marymere Falls, though I’ve visited the location more times than I can count. I’ll shoot out to this location every time I visit Lake Crescent.

My lack of falls-photographs does, however, give me an excuse of the tunnel on the trail to the falls. I call it the Hobbit Tunnel, though far as I know it has no official name.

Tunnel through stone wall leading to Marymere Falls.

I think the reason the tunnel always brings Lord of the Rings to my mind is because “Marymere Falls” sounds like something from the Shire to me, and because…well…this tunnel looks like a Hobbit tunnel.

Marymere Falls is a much easier hike than Storm King, and it really is a must-see for visitors to Lake Crescent. The Washington Trails Association covers it well here.

#3 Things to Do at Lake Crescent: Jeez, Just Chill and Enjoy the Lake

Many of these sorts of blogs go for outrageous, death-defying adventures. That’s all fine and good, but sometimes I feel like people get too caught up in chasing what will look cool on Facebook, rather than doing something that’s simply relaxing and rejuvenating (what crazy concepts in this modern age).

Bird perched in a tree.
Just BE…like this bird I found in a tree on the shore of Lake Crescent.

Lake Crescent is beautiful. Period. You can just relax on the shore and look out over the water and enjoy the simple pleasure of being alive. It’s okay to just…BE.

I still remember the first time I drove around a bend on 101 and caught sight of Lake Crescent. It pops up out of nowhere after a long drive through thick woods and high mountains.

The glacial water’s got a stunning shade of blue you won’t find in many other places around the country.

Personally, it’s natural beauty was, and IS, enough for me. My favorite times of each trip usually end up being just sitting on the shore and contemplating the beauty.

#4 Things to Do at Lake Crescent: Eat at Granny’s

Roughly 10 minutes east of Lake Crescent is one of the best-kept secrets of the Olympia Peninsula Loop: Granny’s Cafe.

Especially after a hard hike up Mount Storm King, Granny’s burgers and milk shakes are unbelievably good. This place is an absolute gem.

Granny’s Cafe near Port Angeles, Washington: One of the Best Places to Eat on the 101 Loop

Send Me Your Tips!

If you’ve got any more suggestions for things to do at Lake Crescent or just want to share your experience, please drop me a line or leave a comment. I’m always ready to learn something new!

Peace out, fellow travelers.

Enjoy the Northwest!

Skagit River Trail at the North Cascades National Park Visitor’s Center

The North Cascades are truly an awe-inspiring sight. The rugged landscape is so raw that it can be intimidating for some people, and many of the trails are too difficult physically and mentally for beginner hikers. The smooth, easy 2-mile-long Skagit River Trail, however, proves that the difficulty of a trail doesn’t always correlate with its overall quality.

The Skagit River Trail starts at the parking lot of the North Cascades National Park Visitor’s Center. I’ve got the location pinned to the map at the bottom of this post, if you’d like to see it. If you just park in front of the center you’ll find an outdoor station with a map showing how to get to the trail head.

I hiked the Skagit River Trail on the same trip during which I did the Diablo Lake Trail, and while the Skagit doesn’t have views anywhere near as grand as Diablo Lake, I have to say I enjoyed it more. Really, I can’t pinpoint why. That little stretch of woods just has a very soothing, relaxing energy about it.

The Skagit River Trail is short, and much of it intertwines with portions of the Newhalem Campground, but the woods are still nice and silent. They have a sort of homey feel about them.

In a couple places, the trail leads out into the Skagit River. The wide tree canopy blots out the sun and, while I’m sure there are periods where the sun hits the spots, I don’t think they’d make realistic sunbathing areas. I could be wrong, though. I went there in the early morning.

Either way, the view from the shore is beautiful, with the Skagit at your feet and the soaring North Cascades in the distance. I definitely plan on hiking this little trail again next time in the area. I’d also like to check out the Newhalem Campground, as my guess is that that spot makes for some terrific sleeping.