13. Ghosts of the Forest

Published on 24 September 2022 at 20:08

© 2022 Robert Sickles

Intent on getting into nature and far away from the city, my girlfriend Michaela, who had recently moved from suburban Los Angeles, pleaded with me to take her for a drive into the mountains. We were both new to the Pacific Northwest and didn’t really know which way to go, but there was clearly a mountain range to the west, so we found our way to a Puget Sound ferry and sailed over to the Olympic Peninsula. Driving past Sequim and Port Angeles, we finally turned onto a paved road which ran for many miles into the foothills of the Olympic National Forest. I pulled to the side to look at a rushing stream. “Not far enough!” she insisted. I found a gravel lane that turned into a narrow and degraded remnant of an old logging road.  We drove until the forest was so thick our old Dodge van could go no farther—giant ferns, stumps and fallen trees crowded around us. “Okay,” Michaela beamed, “This is good!”

Stepping out of the van, it was amazing to enjoy the silence and sweet cool air. We spread a blanket, had a picnic and sat quietly, listening for ravens, smiling and just feeling good together. We played with fern fronds pretending we were dueling, she juggled fir cones, I climbed on a gigantic tree stump, and we admired the shafts of light cutting through the immense branches overhead. I tied pieces of yarn on the ends of slender branches and tried to teach Michaela fly casting off the hood of the van into a green “pond” of trillium plants. Pretty silly, we were, and enjoying ourselves very much.

After an hour or so, I was just about to remark how profoundly remote this spot was, when a mature couple appeared walking from the dense woods, slowly making their way in our direction. They looked as though they were out for a Sunday stroll in the park. At first, I thought maybe they were in costume for some kind of retro wedding event. Their clothing was old fashioned, neatly pressed and dapper. He in a light-colored suit, a wide-brimmed Panama hat and polished brown shoes, she in a long flowing summery dress, a wide bonnet tied with a scarf. She carried a little umbrella and used it like a walking stick, though neither of them seemed to stumble on the rough path with its deep-cut ruts, fallen limbs and mossy rocks. I remember they were wearing identical small horn-rim sunglasses, remarkable to me since the forest was very shaded.

As they passed by us, Michaela and I remained perched on the hood of the van. We let dangle our yarn-string “fishing lines,” not knowing what to do and hardly believing our eyes.

“Fine day,” the man nodded as he looked in our direction from about 20 feet away, and he touched the brim of his hat. The pair smiled sweetly, acting as though neither they nor we were out of place.

I was baffled, replying, “Yes, fine day.”

Michaela and I watched them glide down the trail until they disappeared around a bend. We looked at each other in wide-eyed amazement. She spoke first, slowly, “freakin’ weird!”

Without much discussion, Michaela and I drew similar sketches of what we’d seen, so I felt it was not just me seeing things. If we could have a chat today, I bet we would remember it in very much the way I describe it. Let’s just go ahead and call it an encounter with spooks of the forest.  The very solid-looking and speaking kind!

There couldn’t have been a road, campground or settlement in the direction from which the couple came, the National Park loomed more rugged and steep with every mile. A dressy wedding or costume event in the deep forest, on a Spring week day? That doesn’t seem likely. When we drove out of the forest, I saw no trace of them or any likely place they might have come from or gone to for miles. Except…

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention… right before we turned onto the old logging road, we had come upon abandoned and crumbling buildings in the middle of the forest. Later I learned it was the remains of the Olympic Hot Springs Resort, a mountain retreat started in the early 1900’s. There had been a fire in the 40’s and it was closed in 1966, falling into ruins a few years before we were there. It was a surreal scene of badly broken buildings and overgrown sidewalks and patios surrounding steaming pools of water. Not a soul was there but us, and oddly, there were no signs or barricades, not even “Danger Keep Out.” We tried to imagine what this eerie place was and what had happened to it—I couldn’t tell if a singular catastrophe struck or if it was just the way old buildings look when they collapse from rot. We viewed it from the other side of a large creek—the outer walls were smashed, curtains flew from broken windows and wallpapered and furnished rooms hung out over the creek’s edge. We weren’t brave or foolish enough to cross a rickety bridge and go in closer.

The property is currently within the Olympic National Park. I understand the old pools are still there, but the other physical remains of the resort have been cleared—only a sign tells of its former existence. The road we drove on now ends 5 miles back at a trailhead, requiring a hike up to the hot springs.

I’ve visited haunted hotels and mansions, and been on a tour of a ghost town, but have never seen any place creepier than that resort’s decaying remains. I know some of my readers live on the Peninsula and maybe know of the Resort and its demise, and could share their own ghost stories with me, I'd be happy to read them and maybe add them to this page. Are there any intrepid ghost hunters out there who would hike in and investigate the place? Be on the lookout for a lady and gentleman gliding through the woods!

 

Update 9/30/22: Three acquaintances who have lived on the Olympic Peninsula for part or most of their lives wrote that they remember going to the resort either when it was open, or seeing it as I did after it was falling down. To bad, no ghost sightings. But did anyone find that old logging road and push deep into the woods?

 

The Olympic Hot Springs Resort as it looked in a better time. I found only one photo of the buildings in a collapsed condition, but it was much farther along in decay than when we saw it in '69.

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Comments

Ed
a year ago

I’m enjoying your blogs, Bob!

Keep writing.

Kathy M
a year ago

Wonderful story! Haven't heard of the speaking, rather solid looking ghosts, but I believe!

Camille Fastle
a year ago

Awesome!!

Dave
a year ago

Very interesting story. I know the place. You might say "I've been there, but didn't do that". It probably was history buffs from Port Townsend on a history experience. Dave

Barbara
a year ago

Hi Robert. Just back from said Olympic National Park and the Dungeness Spit in Sequim. Agree about the silence, the smells, the peace but alas no ghosts. Except for the downtown devastation from Covid lockdowns on small businesses. That was ghost enough for us.

Mary
a year ago

Oh my goodness! What an experience! 😲😱

jack
a year ago

Woo-hoo Bob! A bona fried ghost sighting. I've done my share of Washington logging road rambles too, but no ghosts in the ruined logging shacks we found.