Arriving in Port Angeles just a couple hours before dusk, we hurried up the road to Hurricane Ridge to
get an idea of what it looked like before nightfall. The road ascends from sea level (more or less) to an
altitude of about 5000 ft (1600m) and a forest road extends farther up in the summer. About halfway to
that altitude is this lookout. Unfortunately the cloud cover was rather low so we couldn't take photographs
much higher than this. The water is the Juan de Fuca Strait and if it were clearer, the hook shaped sand bar
known as Dungeness Spit would be visible on the right side of this photo.
Farther up it was snowing, windy, and the visibility became markedly worse. This view across a valley
to some of the mountain peaks was taken through a partial break in the clouds. There is a visitor center
at the top of the road, but due to worsening conditions and a lack of snow tires, we turned back before
that point. We spent the night in Port Angeles which is a quiet (at least in April) town where most things
close remarkably early and it's recommended that you like seafood. Actually, I had an excellent steak
but there were very few menu choices available around town that didn't involve seafood.
The next morning we began a counter-clockwise progression around Olympic National Park. Most
of the interior is not accessible by road, and those that do penetrate the park tend to be long, arduous
offshoots that end at a trailhead or a visitor center. One exception to this is the trail to Marymere falls
which leaves from just off US 101 in the northwest corner of the park. It's an easy hike to the falls, about
1/2 mile (1 km) each way. The mist from the falls recondenses in the moss and trickles back
down to the stream.
The bridge in the center of this picture is part of the trail as seen from the falls looking back. The trees
in this section of the park are enormous, although not as impressive as those we'd see later.
These pictures are particularly tall in an attempt to show the size of the foliage along the trail. It's still
rather hard to tell but as an example, the ferns in some sections of the forest were nearly as tall as we
After Marymere, our next stop was the Hoh Rain Forest. The Olympic Mountains create a rain shadow
by 'trapping' precipitation from the Pacific Ocean along their western slopes. As a result the eastern side
of the park is dry and tundra-like. The western part especially just above Hoh receives more rainfall than
any other location in the continental United States. Whilst hiking near Hoh we came across a pack of
grazing elk. They weren't particularly concerned about our existence and shortly went back to grazing.
This part of the park is strewn with a plant called the salmon berry which is a noted delicacy among
elk. It was raining on and off while were hiking in the Hoh area but the folaige is so thick that very little
of the water falls directly onto the forest floor. Some 12 feet (350 cm) of rain fall annually on this valley.
Mosses and ferns grow everywhere in Olympic. As Melanie noted, moss even grows on the asphalt in
little used sections of the parking lot. If you stop to rest while hiking, you might not want to sit in one
place too long.
The result is an incredible variety of shades of green. Even the bark of the trees tends towards green
due to the moss and lichens. Many of the trees are truly enormous, some of them topping 230 ft (70 m).
The tallest ones are douglas firs, cedars and spruce.
A unique ecosystem exists amongst trees in the rainforest. When older trees fall, the log becomes covered
in moisture, moss and mimics a small hothouse environment. This allows seedlings to grow atop the log.
Eventually as some of the seedlings mature you end up with a line of trees arched over the original log. That
log is known as a nurse log such as the one in this photo. Over time, the nurse log decays and the trees that
grew on, and then over and around it are left with an eerie archway through their roots.
This section of trail is known as the Hall of Mosses. The trail makes a cul-de-sac here at this
supposedly photogenic moss-covered tree. We obliged and took this photo but we also really
think the next picture is more impressive moss-wise.
There is quite a lot of wildlife in Olympic but our encounters were restricted to birds, elk, and
banana slugs. There are at least 5 mammal species endemic to the park - basically anything
with 'Olympic' in its name, such as the Olympic Marmot. Along with the Olympic Mountains, the
park includes a vast area of offshore wildlife refuge and a narrow strip of land along the shoreline.
This is Ruby Beach just a bit to the southwest of the Hoh Rain Forest. Deserted (except for the ravens)
while we were there it's a spectacularly wind-swept and barren stretch of beach. All along the Olympic Park
shoreline are huge piles of bleached drift logs like those in the foreground here.
Near the southernmost visitor center in the park, the beach is relatively flat and featureless, but towards the
north there are hundreds of rocky outcrops and islands. This area is once again known for pods of migrating
grey whales that pass within a few miles of shore. We probably don't need to mention that we saw none.
That would be Melanie in the hole in the rock. She's sitting there waiting for river otters to show up on the
beach. We heard from several other visitors that they're often seen running along the beach but we saw no
signs of them.
Perhaps the biggest difference between these beaches and those on the Atlantic that we are accustomed
to, is that there are rivers and creeks flowing across these beaches into the ocean. (There's one ahead of
Melanie in this view.) This makes it hard to stroll any distance along the beach. Intrepid explorers that we
are, we didn't let this deter us until after we had misjudged the depth of at least two of these crossings.
Unfortunately it was too cold to simply wade through the water barefoot. In the end we just waded through
the water in hiking boots. There is a fantastic trail along the oceanfront section of Olympic National Park
which runs along the beach, and occasionally across rocky headlands where currents are too dangerous
and tides too high. Alas, this trail is not a day hike and we didn't have time for it on this trip.
Here is an action shot of David leaping a creek before he later gave up
and just started wading through them. Melanie was secretly hoping he
would fail miserably and provide a more amusing photo. Oh well. Also
notice again the enormous piles of drift logs in the background. These become
very dangerous at hide tides when they start floating around and crashing into
one another. All of the pictures here were taken within a few hours of
We finished our trip in Olympia, the capitol of Washington state. This of course would be that capitol.
A suprisingly rural town for being part of the Seattle-Tacoma sprawl, it is yet another town on Puget Sound
that claims several distinct local seafoods. Also typical of the area it can claim several fine local microbeweries
as well. We feel it necessary to point out that we don't include 'Olympia' among these. The scaffolding on
the right side of the dome here is part of renovations to correct damage from the Februray 2001 earthquake
which was centered nearby. Allergy sufferers should beware of Olympia in the Spring. While the government
buildings are nicely landscaped they don't involve many flowers, but the residential areas surrounding it are
utterly awash in them. We were starting to wonder if there might be a town ordinance to that effect. The capitol
building was finished in 1928 and claims to be the last of the 'great-domed capitols' in the U.S. For the record,
the Oregon Trail of old ended in Olympia. So does this travelogue.