Located in northwest Washington, Olympic National Park is like no other place I’ve visited. After reading about the glacier-capped mountains, wild Pacific coast, and the temperate rain forests, I placed this destination at the top of my bucket list.
My husband and fellow adventurer, Herb, planned our trip to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary. However, he did not plan on Hurricane Irma’s arrival in central Florida, one day before we were scheduled to leave. Our flight to Seattle was cancelled which threw our itinerary off. When we arrived in Olympic on September 13, we relished our escape from the stress we experienced prior to, during, and after Hurricane Irma.
As we hiked the Staircase Rapids Trail, I felt like I’d walked into nature’s cathedral. Huge conifer trees stretched heavenward in their quest for light. The fresh woodsy scent of cedar permeated the air. The gentle ripples of the Quinalt River refreshed my tired body. The experience was like a dream. It was as if we’d suddenly been transported to another planet.
Little did we know, the beauty of Staircase Rapids was only a prologue to the wonders awaiting us.
The second day in the park we hiked to Hurricane Hill. This area is named for the seventy-five mile per hour winds which buffet the ridge. We joked about the name “hurricane.” Of course I had to send a picture of our location to my friends in Florida, with the comment, “Wish you were here.” Nothing like rubbing in our good fortune.
I struggled with the seven hundred foot elevation gain, but the views of the surrounding mountains were worth the climb.
Herb photographed a marmot in an alpine meadow. This little guy was very excited. We heard him sounding an alert to his marmot friends.
At the top of Hurricane Hill we met a gentle deer in a grove of trees. We were never this close to either of these animals. Herb used his telescopic camera for these images.
The mountain ecosystem of Olympic is in the center of 922,651 acres of wilderness. Highway 101 circles the perimeter of the park and few roads lead into the interior.
We stayed in all four of the lodges operated by the parks service. Our favorite was Kalaloch Lodge, located on the Pacific Ocean. We saw a beautiful sunset from the porch outside our room.
The beaches of Washington are very different from Florida. Few people swim in the freezing water. The shores are rocky and littered with dead trees. We were thrilled to arrive at Beach 4 at the right time to see the tide pools.
What a delight to witness a world that is usually underwater. I felt like I was trespassing.
These sea stars (starfish) and sea anemones reminded me of alien creatures.
Sea stars come in various colors and walk using tiny water filled tubes located under their arms. Fascinated, I could have watched the pools for hours, but as the tide was rising, we had to retreat from the rocks before water surrounded them.
Olympic National Park is home to one of the most spectacular temperate rain forests in the world. The Hoh Rain forest receives up to twelve feet of precipitation each year. Not only do trees compete for light, they compete for space. In the rain forest, plants grow on top of plants.
Various kinds of moss hang from the limbs of primeval trees.
Trees also compete for space on the forest floor. When one tree dies and falls to the ground, other trees sprout on top of it and absorb the nutrients from the decayed tree. These dead trees are called “nurse logs.”
When a nurse log disintegrates, the result is a very strange looking tree with a bend in it.
During our two week visit, I tried to learn the names of the giant trees which have lived here for hundreds of years. We saw the oldest spruce tree in the world.
And what about our anniversary celebration? Over dinner on September 17, we tried to remember how we spent our previous 39 anniversaries. We could only recall ten of them. I think we’ll remember this one.