Fangirling on the Olympic Peninsula

I’m the first to admit that I am not a history buff (even when it comes to cool people doing cool things), so I’m not really sure why I purchased High Divide: Minnie Peterson’s Olympic Mountain Adventures last summer. We were in an art gallery on the Jameston S’kallam reservation and it caught my eye, probably because I had recently done a route on the High Divide. Sure enough, when I got home I paged through the book a couple times but then set it down. It lived on my nightstand for almost a year, until I picked it up on a whim a few weeks ago and found myself surprisingly enthralled. Minnie Peterson was a pretty cool lady. She was bad-ass long before the word even existed. She was having adventures in the early 1900s that would still be considered bold and daring today.

I started doing some research and learned that members of her family still live on the Olympic Peninsula. Minnie’s grandson and his wife (Gary and Charlotte Peterson) own Peak 6 Adventure Store, while Minnie’s great grand-daughter followed in her footsteps and is an owner and guide at Rainforest Paddlers.

Around the same time that I was becoming a Minnie Peterson fangirl, I noticed a Washington Trails Association work party on the Duckabush. Tom and I hiked the lower Duckabush many years ago, and I hadn’t been back since. I knew the Duckabush had suffered some severe storm damage this past winter and figured that joining the work party would be a great way to revisit the area.

To top it all off, I stumbled across an article describing the One Square Inch project and the Quietest Place in the U.S., which apparently is located 3.2 miles up the Hoh River trail and marked by a small red stone. I was skeptical that the quietest place in the U.S. happens to be so close to a trail, but I figured it would still be fun to find the stone and sit in a quiet space for a little while (even if it wasn’t the quietest place).

I caught a mid-morning ferry from Edmonds to Kingston and headed for the Hoh River drainage. Along the way I stopped at Peak 6 and was thrilled to meet Charlotte Peterson in person! It turns out that Charlotte is an artist, and was in charge of selecting the artwork and photographs used in the High Divide. Charlotte also worked with the same authors on a book called “Women to Reckon With,” which of course I had to buy.

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Charlotte Peterson

I finally reached the Hoh River trailhead around 3 pm. I decided that in addition to the Quietest Place, I’d also go in search of some Really Big Cedars, as suggested by the Visitor Center.

Really Big Cedars? Yes please!
The Hoh River under stormy skies

The first 4 miles of the Hoh River trail are in excellent condition. No blowdowns, no brush, definitely no snow. Even on a Monday afternoon, it was a bit crowded at the start, but after mile 2 I only saw a few other parties.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it wasn’t completely obvious how to get to the Quietest Place. (Upon returning, I found specific directions on the One Square Inch website, which would make things easier. Or you can just wander around in the woods searching for the GPS coordinates like I did.)

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Walk under this tree and into the woods towards the Quietest Place.

The really cool thing about the stone is that even though there is a footpath leading you right to it, you’d totally miss it if you didn’t know what you looking for. It’s also great that no one has removed it yet. (Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the Jar of Quiet Thoughts – it wasn’t there when I visited.)

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The stone
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Easy to miss

The mosquitoes were biting so I didn’t stay long at the Quietest Place. But I did make sure to pause, take a few deep breaths, and enjoy the silence. I’m still not convinced it’s the Quietest Place in the U.S., but I really like what the One Square Inch project is about, and it was a fun little mini-adventure to track down the stone. I kinda felt like Marion Ravenwood, except without that pesky dude with the hat.

Once I was back on the main Hoh River trail, I went approx one more mile up the drainage in search of Really Big Cedars. Unlike the stone, they were not easy to miss!

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Really Big Cedar!

After the Hoh River, I headed out to the coast. My plan was to eat dinner while watching the sunset at Ruby Beach. Mission accomplished.

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The right place at the right time. Sunset through a sea arch.
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A little water never hurt anyone.
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That night I camped in my van at – where else?! – the Minnie Peterson campground! It’s a great campground: small and quiet, with big trees and private campsites. I shared the entire campground with just two other groups. Also, it’s FREE! All you need is a Discover Pass.

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Where else would I camp?

The next day I woke up bright and early to drive to the Duckabush trailhead. It was one of my favorite work parties so far, full of kind and interesting people. The crew leader was a tough lady named Charlie who I’m pretty sure would’ve been Minnie’s best friend had they both been alive at the same time.

I also got to chatting with a guy named Joe who recently lost his wife to cancer. You can read all about their story here. Despite going through such a terrible loss (and fighting cancer himself) Joe was generally light-hearted and friendly. He was able to identify a bunch of plants and patiently answered my ceaseless questions (“What’s this? What’s that? What about this? Can you remind of the name of this again?”) Thanks Joe!

Our job on the Duckabush trail was to help repair a rock wall that had collapsed over the winter. My main task was moving rocks from one place to another, which was oddly fun and rewarding. If you haven’t done a WTA work party yet, you should!! (And there are lots of other things to do besides moving rocks, if that’s not your thing.)

Duckabush trail conditions: smooth sailing to at least mile 3. No blowdowns, no brush, no snow. The rock wall we were working on is still passable – they’re repairing it now so that it doesn’t become impassable.

The Duckabush
Rocks and rigging
Hauling rocks

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