Notes on the Olympic Peninsula

Mother Nature is making up for last year by providing us with yet another sunny day. Today I had some time to read through the booklet in our cabin about Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades national and state parks. Here are some of the nuggets of knowledge I picked up.

The western side of the Olympic Mountains receives an average of 140 inches of rain every year. There are three reasons why the area is so wet:

  • Cool ocean currents
  • Prevailing westerly winds
  • The Olympic Mountains

On the Olympic coast, the greatest rainfall occurs during December and January, with daytime temperatures averaging in the 40s.

The top of Mount Olympus receives 200 inches of rain annually, while the town of Sequim (pronouced squim), located on the northeast side of the mountains, receives 16 inches or fewer in a year.

Almost the entire Olympic Peninsula is protected land as part of either Olympic National Park or Olympic National Forest. Highway 101 follows the edges of the peninsula, but there are no roads that cut across the full width of the peninsula. Spur roads off of 101 provide access at several points to interior areas, but the only way to get from one side of the peninsula to the other is by following 101 around. Some areas are closed in winter.

Several tribes have traditional ties to this land: Lower Elwha Klallam, Hoh, Jamestown S’Klallam, Makah, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Quileutae, Quinault, and Skokomish. They originally lived in communal homes called longhouses. They fished and gathered most of their food during the spring and summer. During the winters, which are mild near the coast, the women wove baskets and clothing from red cedar bark. The men carved dugout canoes and made ceremonial items from wood.

In 1788, John Meares, an English sea captain, named Mount Olympus after the mythological home of the Greek gods. Four years later Capt. George Vancouver made the name official when he entered it on his map and referred to the whole mountain range as the Olympic Mountains. Mount Olympus is 7,980 feet high. By comparison, Mount Rainier, in the Cascade Mountain range, is 14,410 feet high.

Throughout the late 19th century pioneers moved into the Olympic peninsula to fish, farm, and cut lumber. In 1885 and 1890, the U.S. Army came through the area to survey and scientifically document the interior. In 1909 President Theodore Roosevelt created Mount Olympus National Monument. In 1938 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill designating 624,000 acres as Olympic National Park. In 1953 most of the coastal wilderness was added to the park. The 1988 designation of Olympic National Park as a World Heritage Site protects the area by forbidding road building, mining, lumber cutting, hunting, use of off-road motorized vehicles, and other types of development within the designated wilderness area.

Three Things Thursday

It’s yet another good week for Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”

Olympic Music Festival

Last Saturday a group of us from Franke Tobey Jones drove an hour and a half out onto Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula for a performance at the Olympic Music Festival. The venue of the festival is snuggled into the grandeur of a forested, sparsely populated area.

Alan Iglitzin, a member of the Philadelphia String Quartet, founded the Olympic Music Festival in 1984. He originally intended the festival to be a summer retreat for the Philadelphia String Quartet, which had been the quartet-in-residence at the University of Washington in Seattle from 1966 to 1982. But the summer festival drew such large audiences that the festival quickly expanded from the three weekends of its opening season to the current twelve.

The Olympic Music Festival takes place in the refurbished barn of an old farm that Iglitzin purchased near Quilcene, WA. An extensive picnic area surrounds the barn, and many patrons arrive early and enjoy a picnic before the performance. Two listening options are available: seating on benches and bales of hay inside the barn, and outdoor listening (on your own chairs or blanket) on the grassy hillside adjacent to the barn. The outdoor seating allows families to bring children who may not be quite ready to sit still quietly indoors for an extended period. The atmosphere reminds me of Tanglewood in Lenox, MA, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

True Confession:

Last Saturday was a windy, overcast day with occasional sprinkles of much-needed rain. We did manage to eat our picnic lunches outdoors before the performance, but it was not a good day for photography. Therefore, the photos below are from our 2014 visit to the Olympic Music Festival.

1. The Barn

Barn at Olympic Music Festival
Barn at Olympic Music Festival

When Alan Iglitzin bought the farm near Quilcene, it had fallen into disrepair. He knew nothing about the farm’s history. But over the years he learned that the farm’s original owners were a Japanese American family who had built the farmhouse and barn to accommodate themselves and a herd of dairy cows. They also grew berries and other seasonal produce and for many years provided dairy items and produce to local residents.

When the U.S. entered World War II, the family was sent to an interment camp. After the war they were unable to regain the property, which passed through multiple owners but never again became a thriving, working farm.

In the 1990s Isamu “Sam” Iseri, the son of the family that had built the barn called Iglitzin and asked if he could visit his boyhood home. He and Iglitzin became friends. Sam died in 2004, but members of the Iseri family continue to visit their ancestral farm periodically.

2. Musician

For some, the festival provides the opportunity to speak to the young musicians.

Musician at Olympic Music Festival
Musician at Olympic Music Festival

3. Tractor

There are several reminders of the venue’s history as a working farm.

Tractor at Olympic Music Festival
Tractor at Olympic Music Festival