IN LAST WEEK’S episode of the Olympic Peninsula summer driving guide, we embarked on a westward journey down U.S. Highway 101 across the Elwha River and beyond to the mountainous freshwater fjord that is Lake Crescent, where we drove above the crystalline blue water of the lake beneath a mountain of rotten rocks with big, scary cracks in them.
While I have never personally witnessed a rock fall off Mount Storm King onto Highway 101, I have been assured by those who have that it is an awesome sight of nature.
The reconstruction of the road includes drilling holes in the cliff face and bolting the rocks together with long, steel rods. It is a Herculean effort that we hope and pray will work.
While most of the summer visitors to our emerald vacation wonderland are content to endure the rigors of construction delays and the rough road around the lake with patience and good humor, others tempt fate by seeking an alternative route to the northwest corner of our fair state. They drive state Highway 112.
It reminds one of Jim Clyman’s warning to the Donner Party about avoiding that California shortcut.
Despite dire warnings, tourists think Highway 112 is a shortcut to anywhere.
It starts out nice enough, luring you deeper into the hinterland through forests, green meadows and tidy farms until you arrive in the town of Joyce, home of the most significant cultural event on the Olympic Peninsula, the Joyce Daze Wild Blackberry Festival.
You can have your Irrigation Festival and Lavender Festival, but the irrigation ditches have been piped and eating lavender anything is like washing your mouth out with soap.
Joyce Daze celebrates one of the most delectable food items put on God’s green Earth.
By wild blackberries we are not talking about the watery, seedy, invasive imposters that grow conveniently along the side of the road.
No, we are after the little, wild blackberries that seem to grow in greater abundance the further you get from the road.
Native Americans gathered blackberries for millennia before the coming of the Europeans, who added sugar and a flaky crust that melts in your mouth like a little slice of heaven with a scoop of ice cream.
The Joyce festival makes the Skunk Cabbage Festival look like two monkeys fighting over a jug.
You’re better off stopping in Joyce for blackberry pie than driving down state Highway 112, a road the locals say was engineered by a drunken cat-skinner following a bull elk in the rut.
Driving some sections of this scenic highway involves negotiating a series of curves that remind one of a ride in an amusement park where you end up where you started.
Please keep in mind that driving Highway 112 can provide an excellent opportunity to determine just who in the car is susceptible to car sickness.
If someone wants you to pull over suddenly because they are ill, that is unfortunate, because there are very few places to pull over on Highway 112, no matter how bad you really have to.
Remember to obey the speed limit on Highway 112, even if it is only 25 miles an hour in some sections.
That is because if you drive any faster the bumps in the slumping road will give you an experience much like riding a bucking bronco.
Be alert for landslides on Highway 112.
While the local beaches offer the visitor a treasure trove of agatized fossils just waiting to be found, being covered by a landslide on Highway 112 offers the visitor the opportunity to actually become a fossil.
Just remember, you were warned.
Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.
He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal [email protected]