Monday, July 17, 2023

Olympic National Park


View toward the Bailey Range from Hurricane Ridge.

Having visited the Hoh Rainforest at Olympic National Park many years ago, I wanted to check out the Hurricane Ridge area on this trip. Unfortunately we lost a good part of the first day because I hadn't realized we'd need to make a ferry crossing and had failed to reserve a spot when I made the hotel reservations. We spent about four-and-a-half hours waiting for a stand-by slot to open up, and even then only barely got on. 

By the time we made the lovely drive out to Port Angeles, the only exploring we wanted to do involved finding a good restaurant for dinner. We had to wait in line for that too! Fortunately we were able to spend the waiting time in the excellent Port Books & News, where I picked up a couple of the "staff picks" which seemed right up my alley (Whiskey When We're Dry, by John Larison, and The Golden Spruce, by John Vaillant).

The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center burnt down just two months ago, and the park was allowing only 170 cars to go up at a time. We were number 82 and quickly passed through the entrance. There would be a long line of cars waiting to get in by the time we left.

Going up high was such a different experience than the Hoh Rainforest. We had forested mountain vistas all around. On one of our short walking excursions at the top, we met a guy who told us he'd just seen a mountain lion chase some deer. I didn't doubt him, but my wife didn't believe it. However, when we stopped to investigate a creekside trail with a sign warning people not to hike alone because a mountain lion had been seen in the area, she waited for me to finish shooting pictures along the road so I could accompany her explorations.

We descended the ridge and drove over to the Elwha River to check out the lowlands. Winter storms had taken out part of the road, but we didn't have to go very far to find the small but excellent Madison Falls. We had seen some incredible forest on the drive between Port Townsend and Port Angeles (with nowhere to pull over and explore), and I held out hope for finding such a place without having to go all the way out to the Hoh. The Peabody Creek Trail next to the visitor center just outside Port Angeles was as close as we came, but it was fairly tame (and a difficult place to find compositions).

We had a very long drive home from way up there along the Salish Sea. Thankfully only Portland and the Bay Area presented any traffic nightmares. We spent a night half-way back in Ashland, Oregon, where we had dinner at a place called Sauce, where I was surprised to sit next to a table in this land-locked little town, famous for its summertime Shakespeare Festival, to overhear two guys talking  about surfing, specifically current events regarding the well-known John John Florence and his brother at South Africa's Jeffreys Bay

Over the course of our trip we spent 20+ hours enjoying the audio book version of Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver, which left both of us speechless and joyfully teary-eyed at the end. I get choked up again just thinking about how good that story was.

Look Ma, no clearcuts!

Roadside color on the way to Hurricane Ridge.

Roadside attraction, with very little traffic in the early morning.

Lots of orchids and paintbrush in the seeps.

Stout orchid along a creekside trail where mountain lions lurk.

These purple guys sprouting out of wet moss look like a cross between shooting stars and penstemon.

There was another patch of purple wildflowers (possibly Harebell, Campanula rotundifolia) near the top of Hurricane Ridge.

A couple of young women were doing radio-tracking along the Elwha River, and I wondered if they were tracking birds or mammals. It was neither. They were tracking bull trout. I hadn't realized they radio-tagged fish.

Madison Falls

Bigleaf maple along the Elwha River.

Just another sunny day on the Olympic Peninsula.

Leaves as big as dinner plates along the Peabody Creek Trail.

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