Insider’s Guide to Olympic National Park: Poet of the Park

Tim McNulty serves as unofficial poet laureate of the Olympics.

By Allison Williams July 22, 2011 Published in the August 2011 issue of Seattle Met

From the swamplands down in the draw, all the frogs you could ever hope to know are singing to each other.


IT’S A FAMILIAR TALE: Eastern boy hears the call of the wild, heads West, and makes his mark on the frontier. Only for Tim McNulty of Connecticut back in 1972, the Wild West beckoned in the form of Theodore Roethke, Kenneth Rexroth, and Robinson Jeffers—all poets who adopted the Northwest as their muse. Like his predecessors, McNulty found Western riches not in fame or fortune, but in literary circles. Nearly 40 years after he forwent graduate school to, in his words, “apprentice [himself] to the wild,” he has become a kind of poet in residence of Olympic National Park.

Pick up a park brochure in the Hoh Rain Forest and you’ll see McNulty’s work: “In the rain forest, thoughts intuitively yield to a slower and grander pace.” Or see his collaboration with peninsula photographer Pat O’Hara; he notes how suited the Olympics are to the lens: “Blowing mists, fog, that disappearance and reappearance of landscape—it seems to lend itself well to photographic imagery.” His self-taught environmental education led to Olympic National Park, A Natural History, an award-winning ecology tome.

Conservation journalism and teaching gigs followed, but despite penning a series of books about national parks across the country, he remains settled outside of Sequim, with the Buckhorn Wilderness and Olympic National Forest as his backyard. He wanders everything from paved nature trails to the backcountry, notebook in hand. “The Olympics are much more of a hidden secret” than other parks, McNulty says. “You have to do more work to where you can interpret them artistically.”

Show Comments