Monday, June 26, 2017

Hall of Mosses

Olympic National Park

I am ending this segment on Olympic National Park with the highlight of the trip:  A walk through the Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rain Forest.

I travel to find magic in the world and this is a place where magic exists.  The minute you walk across the bridge you enter an ethereal world with so many shades of green, it defies description.  Jade.  Olive.  Chartreuse.  Emerald.  Sage.  The English language seems suddenly hampered.  Blue-Green.  Yellow-Green.  Sea-Green.  Pea-Green.  Words fail me.  As do my photographs.  They cannot properly illustrate the vastness of this forest.  Or the creepy feeling that these moss-laden limbs are the arms and legs of fantastical creatures that follow me home . . .

in my dreams.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Homage to the Kalaloch Cedar

Olympic National Park

"Big Cedar Tree" is labeled on the official park map that the ranger gave us, so how could we not stop?  We were surprised that we were one of only three cars in the parking lot.  After all, the turn-out was just off the busy 101 loop, north of the Kalaloch Lodge.

This Western Red Cedar, we learned, partially collapsed in a violent storm three years ago.  Even so, it is considered one of the Olympic Peninsula's Big Eight.  After seeing it, I can understand why.  It is still majestic.
Nearly 80% of the trees in the Olympic National Park will meet their demise in the raging storms that blow through here in the winter months.  Even the giant ones.  This cedar made it nearly 1,000 years before it fell.  That fact alone sends shivers up and down my spine.  1,000 years!  As a sapling, it lived during the time of the Anasazi cliff dwellers.  Leif Erikson was landing on the other side of the continent.  Other European explorers would follow three hundred years later.  By then it was just a youngster.
Did ancient Native Americans find refuge underneath it?  Did it wonder at the first tourist in a Model T?  Did it get word of war and revolutions and industrial marvels?  1,000 years of history!  We are considered lucky to witness a hundred.

The Kalaloch Cedar would reach a height of 175 feet and a diameter of nearly 20.  Even though the wind cut the tree in half, it will continue to live as a nurse for other giants.  Its red roots and burls are still an impressive sight.

Many people make seeing all the Eight Giants a priority when they travel here.  I saw only two this trip:  This one and the Sitka Spruce along Lake Quinault.  I have now put the Alaska Cedar,  Engelmann Spruce,  Coast Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Mountain Hemlock and Grand Fir all on my Bucket List.  It means I will be returning to this forest many many times during my short 100 years of life!

And that's fine with me.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Trail to Marymere Falls

Olympic National Park

"What?  You haven't hiked to enough waterfalls?"

Now it was my turn to be incredulous.  As if . . . 

But then he laughed.  "Just kidding."

And so we set out on this lovely trail to yes, yet another waterfalls.  This trailhead is located at the Storm King Ranger Station by Lake Crescent.  It's an easy two mile round trip hike, but just enough of a challenge to make it interesting.  You hike through an old-growth forest of conifers, maples, ferns and moss before going up and up and up to a deck overlooking the falls.

Nope.  No way I'll ever get tired of walking to a waterfalls.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hurricane Ridge and the Olympic Mountains

Olympic National Park

We realized we had been in Olympic National Park for three days without getting a good view of  Mt. Olympus or any of the other Olympic Mountains for that matter.  And that, my friends, is the irony of this massive national park.  We saw plenty of trees, beautiful beaches, rivers and waterfalls, but no mountains.  Where the heck were the mountains?

Well, unless you are a bulked-up mountain climber with the stamina of an Arabian Horse, there's just no way you're gonna get up close and personal with this mountain range. They are too far away and surrounded by miles and miles and miles of old growth forest.  To get to them, you must first hike about 17 miles into the center of the park.  If you want to summit, you are looking at a 7,000 foot vertical climb.

But, don't despair, there's always the road up to Hurricane Ridge Ranger Station.

  So that's exactly what we did.

The drive is steep--a windy, scary 5,000 feet steep.  From Port Angeles, it takes about an hour or two to get to the ranger station at the top, especially if you stop at all the turn-outs along the way to gape open-jawed at the views like we did.   But, hey, we wanted mountains.  We got mountains!
Don't ask me which one is Mt. Olympus.  Couldn't tell you.  And because the Big Guy has an East Peak, Middle Peak, False Peak and West Peak, even some of the mountain climbers who summit aren't sure they actually reached the right one at 7,980 ft.  "Does it matter?" I asked my travel buddy.  "I mean they're all Mt. Olympus Peaks, right?"

He looked at me with such incredulity that I immediately regretted the question.  I went outside and watched a lone deer munching on the grass.  The poor deer looked lost.  And a bit dim-witted. I could relate.
 I bumped into a female forest ranger and asked more stupid questions.  I couldn't believe there was still so much snow up here, so much in fact, that the few hiking trails available to us pedestrian travelers were still closed.  I was bummed.

"The snow should melt by mid-July," she said.  She went on to say they had a lot of snow this past winter and that's why the mountains look so glaciated.  "Don't be fooled though," she said.  "All that snow will be gone by fall.  If you come back then, you'll see just how shrunken the glaciers have become."

My travel buddy and I didn't quite know what to do with ourselves, so we sat in our van and had a snack while pondering the state of the world.  Before us was a magnificent view, but we were oddly depressed.  The mountains seemed beyond our reach as was our understanding of what was happening in the other Washington.  Our president pulled out of the Paris climate agreement only a few days earlier,  He said the deal put constraints on the coal industry and was a "draconian" burden on the United States.  What planet does he live on?

Not here.

"I'm sorry for sounding like Trump," I said.

He laughed and suddenly all was right with our world again.

We talked about returning to Olympic National Park with backpacks.  Maybe not to mountain climb (even he  acknowledges the super-human effort to summit) but to immerse ourselves in a world that is disappearing at an alarming rate, a world that our leaders aren't even aware of.

So, yes, make the effort to drive up to Hurricane Ridge if you find yourself anywhere near this amazing national park..  Because soon, very soon, such views will no longer exist.

Monday, June 19, 2017

First Beach Drama

Olympic National Park

I have to laugh at the names.  First Beach.  Second Beach.  Third Beach.  It's amazing that over the years no one has resisted renaming them.  Good enough, I guess.  Only Third Beach is located within the boundaries of Olympic National Park.  The other two are on the Quileute Indian Reservation.

First Beach is by far the most popular because there's a parking lot right there with restaurants and lodging nearby.  No need to walk in.  As beautiful as the beach and sea haystacks are though, the people got on my nerves.  I witnessed a teenage girl having a temper tantrum and a little boy making obscene gestures at me and then laughing.      

   The upside is the birdlife at First Beach. We saw dozens of bald eagles and cormorants.  There is a marina close by and the birds hang around, hoping for a hand out.  You don't even need binoculars.

We stayed just long enough to see the birds (and to feel sorry for the parents of those unruly kids) and then we high tailed it out of there.  Later, over dinner, we talked about how lucky we were to still be in good health and have the energy to hike into more secluded spots.

And oh yeah . . . that our two boys are all grown up!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Third Beach Serendipity

Olympic National Park

Serendipity.  I love this word.  It means discovering something wonderful by accident.

My well thought out itinerary had us driving out to Rialto Beach and hiking up to the rock formation called "Hole in the Wall", but when we got there, the road to the beach was barricaded.  Closed for paving.  Now what?  Skip the beach areas?  Move on to Hurricane Ridge?

We looked at the map and decided to "re-calculate" as Miss Garmin is always doing when traveling with us.  We backtracked and took the southern portion of  Road 110 to what was blandly called First, Second and Third Beaches.

Man, oh man, what a stroke of luck.  I am so happy that road to Rialto Beach was closed.

We stopped at the parking lot of Third Beach, having absolutely no idea what it was all about.  There were only a few cars there so we shrugged and said, "Sure, why not?"

A lovely trail, only about a mile and a half long, took us through a rain forest and then descended abruptly to the beach.  We gasped when the view of the ocean burst through the trees.

It seemed like a movie set.  Sea stacks in the distance.  A waterfall at one end.  A rocky point studded with trees at the other.  A beach strewn with weathered driftwood and . . . . get this?  River otters playing in the surf.  Disney himself couldn't have dreamed this up!
Not only that, but we had lucked out with the weather.  Normally the beaches of Olympic National Park are shrouded in mist and fog.  Not today.  Today was warm and sunny.  I even had to put on sunscreen.
We lingered here for a couple of hours before heading back.  Had lunch.  Took photographs.  Dreamed about returning with backpacks for an overnight stay.  There are primitive campgrounds along the beaches here, but the only way to get to them is by foot.

I can't believe I'm even contemplating such a thing.  Me.  Whose idea of camping is a hotel without a formal dining room.

You do have to scramble over a field of logs before reaching the beach, which is a bit unnerving.  But oh so worth it.  This place is pure magic.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Rust in Piece

Roadside Double Takes

Found along South Shore Road
Quinault Lake, Washington

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Quinault Lake Spruce

While driving east on the South Shore Road of Quinault Lake, we saw this sign.  How could we not stop?

There are many such champions in the Olympic National Park area.  When rainfall is measured in "feet" rather than "inches" the Douglas Firs, Cedars and Sitka Spruces just keep on growing, growing and growing, competing with the Redwoods and Sequoias down south.  All these giant trees continue to cause a sense of awe in both me and my travel buddy.  We will never get tired of seeing them.  We cradle our tiny human bodies in the curves of their roots and look up with admiration.  These trees are the guardians of our planet.  They will outlast us all by hundreds of decades.

There is a sign claiming this Spruce is the "World's Largest".  It is 191 ft. tall and about 1,000 years old.  There are other Sitka Spruces in the world with more volume, but seriously . . . I'm beginning to realize none of these facts matter.  

All of these giants are truly magnificent.