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.

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