The Olympic Peninsula is a very special place on the planet and in the hearts of its inhabitants. Spectular Olympic National Park at the center of the Olympic Peninsula is the sole UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Great Pacific Northwest. This global treasure is crowned by the glacial peaks of Mt. Olympus, known as Home of the Gods. Its western slopes are draped by three rain forests. The Strait of Juan de Fuca on its north joins the international jewel to Canada. Hood Canal to the east is the gateway to Seattle and metropolitan Puget Sound.
The Olympic Peninsula received its "Olympic" pedigree in 1788, when British sea captain John Meares christened the peninsula's glacier-covered peaks with his inspired proclamation:
If that be not the home where dwell the gods, it is certainly beautiful enough to be, and I therefore call it Mount Olympus.
Since its English christening, the northwest peninsula has been recognized as an idyllic sanctuary worthy of a name inspired by the divine mythologies of ancient Greece.
What Captain Meares did not realize when he nominated the white-topped peaks as Home of the Gods, was that the native peoples, who inhabited the nearby coasts, had long revered the spirit powers of the same majestic mountains, which they called Sun-a-do, protector of the tribes.
Three short years after Captain Meares proclaimed the divine residency of the mountains, British explorer Captain Vancouver entered a notation in his ships log, identifying the land around Mount Olympus as Olympic Peninsula.
In the 1840s the forested land and snow-capped mountains were officially recognized by the young United States government as the Olympic Peninsula. In succeeding years individual peaks on the Mount Olympus massif were named by mountaineers for Greek, Roman, Germanic and Norse gods.
The names of Greek gods gracing the peaks of Mt. Olympus are Athena, Athena Owl, Aphrodite, Apollo, Aries, Circe, Hermes, Icarus, Pan and Poseidon. The Roman god of merchants, Mercury, is immortalized on his own peak. Germanic and Norse gods, whose name badges are pinned on Olympic Mountain peaks, are Baldur, Bragi, Freki, Frigga, Geri, Hugin, Loki, Munin, Steipner, Thor, Mimir, Valhallas, Valkyrie, Vidar, Vili and Woden.
One of the most powerful spirits for the native peoples was Thunderbird, whom they knew to live in the Lair of Thunderbird on Blue Glacier high atop Mt. Olympus. Their legends sing the praises of the winged god who swooped down from his lair to pluck a giant whale from the ocean and deliver it to a starving tribe on the coast.