Friday, July 19, 2013

Olympic National Park

DAY TWENTY-FIVE (July 17, 2013): We drove from Shelton, WA up along the Hood Canal - which is more like a lake than a canal - a beautiful drive, with the water on our right and the Olympic Mountains on our left,  and then over Route 101 to Port Angeles, WA and into Olympic National Park.

Along the way we stopped at a place for a rest stop and ice - it had a very unusual ceiling, as you can see:

$ bill ceiling
Port Angeles is very commercial, and the signage into the park was not great so we made a few missteps before we found the visitors center. But soon we found ourselves at an incredibly beautiful spot - Hurricane Ridge, high in the Olympics. An immediate attraction for Mimi were two very tame black-tailed deer grazing right by the parking lot. She got a photo an so did I.

The very tame Black-tailed deer
We went to a ranger's talk at the visitors center,  on the plaza overlooking the range of mountains, including Mt. Olympus (c. 7900 feet). The talk was on four of the unique species of animals found in the park, or what are called endemic species.  The Olympic Penninsula is a unique ecosystem which has been geologically isolated. The Olympic mountains are not connected to the Cascades or the Rockies - they were created by completely different geological events millions of years ago - involving, as I understand it, the thrust of submarine basalt formations into the coastline which caused the uplift of the mountains. Anyway, the result is that even today, there are plants and animals found in Olympic National Park and nowhere else in the world, and conversely, species common in other parts of Washington and Oregon are not found in O.N.P. The four animals we learned about were the Olympic Marmot, the Olympic snow mole, the Olympic Yellow-Pine Chipmunk and the Olympic Mazama Pocket Gopher. The ranger had examples of each which had been "stuffed" which she could hand around and we could hold (in the case of the marmot, it was a pelt).  The lives of each of these species is quite remarkable because of the length of the winter and the depth of snow. For example, the marmot hibernates for about 7-8 months, which leaves very little time to breed and  raise young. The Snow Mole, on the other hand, burrows extensively underground and lives an active life all winter long living on worms and insects.

View from the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center plaza

Ranger displays a Marmot pelt
 After the talk we took a hike up a trail. By this time it was late in the afternoon and we had not had much to eat. The climb was pretty steep and I started to get light-headed. So I stopped, Ellen and Mimi went on ahead a ways, and then came back and we all went went back to the car and headed down to our next accommodation, which was a Rustic Log Cabin on Lake Crescent. It took a while to get to that, and we went through the little town of Joyce, WA, just outside the park, which had a charming old country store and, fortunately, gasoline, which we needed and would not find in the park for the next day or so. When we got to our cabin we were thrilled. What a spot! It overlooked beautiful Lake Crescent, and it had two queen beds plus a twin bed in a separate room, which Mimi chose for herself. It also had a bathtub - the old claw feet type - we didn't use it, but it was neat to have it there.

Our cabin at Lake Crescent

View from our cabin
We had noticed there was to be a campfire talk across the lake at 8pm, at Lake Crescent Lodge, so we went over, ate a snack out of our box of food while sitting on a big stump, and went to the campfire. A very friendly older ranger invited Mimi to tend the campfire, which she did happily and diligently, putting on new logs regularly. The talk was highly entertaining - the ranger told four stories about "wild and wacky" things that humans had done in the park (both rangers and tourists). Three were true, one was false (made up by the ranger), and we had to vote T or F. One involved a grouse that  jumped up on a ranger's shoulder and pecked his head while he was trying to clear a trail. The grouse was restrained by being wrapped in a bandanna and put into a knapsack. A second involved a young man wrestling with a cougar and living to tell the tale, with only a bite on his finger. A third involved a woman going off trail to offer an ice cream sandwich to a deer, being called back by a ranger, falling into a hole and having the deer snatch the ice cream. The fourth involved one set of hikers bringing chickens on the trail meeting another set who had a baby bobcat in a baby carriage. We voted: T or F? Mimi was asked by the ranger to tally the votes on a piece of paper. The group of twenty or so people voted all the stories "true" by a narrow margin. It turned out that one, two and four were T, three was F. It was fun.

Mimi assists the ranger
 We drove back to our cabin and after we were all tucked in, Ellen read a chapter from a book we have been reading aloud - Homecoming, by Cynthia Voight. It's about four children abandoned in a mall parking lot by their mother. They have to fend for themselves, led by the older sister, Dicey, who is fourteen, as they try to find some family members they have only vague knowledge of. It's been pretty gripping!

DAY TWENTY-SIX (Thurs., July 18): Our cabin included an all-you-could-eat breakfast buffet in a lovely dining room in the lodge, overlooking the waterfront.

Breakfast in the Lake Crescent Lodge
 After breakfast we rented a paddleboat and went out on the lake. Mimi had sort of gotten up on the wrong side of the bed, but after the paddleboat ride she got her swimsuit took a dip in the lake, and that put everything to rights.

Paddleboat on the lake

We then drove an hour and a half to the Hoh Rain Forest part of the park. Olympic N.P. actually contains three distinct zones - the subalpine area at Hurricane Ridge, the rain forest, and the wild and pristine coastline. The trail into the rain forest along the Hoh River is awesome. Huge Sitka Spruces (standing and fallen), mosses, ferns, nurse logs (i.e., decayed logs that support new growth)  -- wow! We had been told by my son John about the "one square inch of silence" and we knew it was somewhere above the Hoh River. The OSIOS is a project of Gordon Hempton, a soundscape recorder. He is trying to create a place where there is no human sound - no airplanes overhead, no distant traffic noise, no chainsaws, no nothing. He has chosen a spot in the Olympic National Park. There is actually a spot, a mark on a log. It turned out to be about 6.5 miles from the visitors center -too far for us. Plus, it is "off-trail." It is in a wilderness area. The ranger said Gordon was a friend, but the OSIOS project had caused problems for the park - thousands of people wanting to find a remote location. "It's like trying to create a perfectly clean spot and asking thousands of people to go and touch it" he said. Sort of a paradox. So we gave upon finding the spot, and instead walked an hour into the Hoh Rain Forest, went to a spot alongside the river and sat and had our own fifteen minutes of silence. That was wonderful.

The Hoh River Trail

Mimi measures a spruce

Our spot by the Hoh River

Ellen gets a "grass facial" 

A "Nurse" Log


When we came back we drove to the third zone - Ruby Beach, right on the Pacific Ocean. What a spot!  It turned out to be the perfect place for Mimi to fly her kite. Lots of open sand and lots of wind. She had a great time. It was early evening, the sky was beautiful, the ocean sparkling, the beach littered with huge old weathered logs that had been washed up over the years - centuries!

Ruby Beach

Mimi flies a kite
 We came back through Forks,WA which turned out to be the place where a fictional vampire series of novels takes place - the Twilight Series  by Stephanie Meyer, starring Bella Swan, a series well-known by Mimi, who has read just about every young-adult fictional work there is. We stopped for food at Sully's in Forks and Mmii had a "Twilight punch" (strawberry lemonade). I guess the strawberry suggests blood.

After that it was a fairly easy - and lovely - drive to Sequim, WA where we are at the Sundowner motel. Friday we go to Victoria BC.

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