Cabin Fever causes dreams of escape and about traveling despite the current order to stay in place. But we can always travel in our minds. And today I’d like to take you to a place that you have probably heard of but maybe have never been to: an artificial lake in the middle of the Olympic Peninsula.
You better gas up your car and pack enough provisions when you start your trip – even though the map names a town close by the lake. Shortly past the town of Montesano, Forest Service Development Road 22, also known as the Wynoochee Valley Road takes you up the banks of the Wynochee River. It’s a paved road, and you will enjoy the stunning views of farm houses and gentle pastures along the way. Until you reach densely wooded areas.
Don’t expect to get any groceries at the town of Grisdale. It used to be a logging town, but all that is left of it today is a number of mail boxes and a sign that commemorates the once flourishing town. Opened in 1946, it was fully shut down in 1986 and razed in 1988. You can still see where the road into the town branched off. There is certainly no gas station at Grisdale.
A few miles farther, all in all about 30 miles from Montesano, you reach the Wynochee Dam. Shortly before the bridge, there is a small parking lot with a hiking trail map. If you have come early enough, you can hike all of 16 miles around the lake. I have to admit, the day we came it was below freezing, and I didn’t feel adventurous enough to walk even more than across the bridge over the river gorge in the icy winter air. It is well worth to go and see the the visitor center behind the bridge though (there is also parking), as it affords you interesting insight in the history of the dam’s construction.
The Wynoochee Dam was built only in 1972, and it seems Tacoma Power is operating the business. The dam is owned by the city of Aberdeen, though. Unfortunately, there is no way of walking the dam – it is off limits. If there are guided tours, there was no signage announcing it.
We drove a little farther to Coho Campground after that. What a wonderful recreational area in the summer this must be! It’s day-time use only, but it is inviting with picnic places, soft meadows, and the view of the surrounding mountains across the lake. I imagine people barbecuing and even swimming in the lake, sunning themselves on the shores, and just enjoying the remoteness of the place.
A little farther down the road is the overnight campground section for RV campers, tenters, and boaters. Indeed, there is also a boat launch. Not sure, though, how wide it is – if you travel in winter you run into closed-off areas more often than not. Still, imagine the sounds of summer on a densely forested lake, the colorful stripes of kayaks crisscrossing the water, kids in the shallow water throwing beach balls or learning how to swim.
Ah, let’s dream on and leave this beautiful retreat. You can travel either the same route back or a gravelly road called Donkey Creek Road to Highway 101 with an option to go visit Aberdeen or drive towards the beaches via Humptulips, or way on to Quinault, Forks, and ultimately, Port Angeles. Whichever you choose, the quiet of the lake will stick with you for a long time. Maybe YOU want to check out Lake Wynoochee one day when we may leave our homes again to travel and explore.