Olympic NP

Mount Rainier was a blast, but I had to leave to go pick up a very important person to join me for the next little bit of my journey. My dad was flying into SeaTac then we’d be staying in downtown Seattle for the night. We had a GREAT dinner at Elliott’s Oyster House which of course included oysters! The waitress also suggested that we go to Lake Crescent while at Olympic National Park.

The following morning we woke up and headed out towards the western coast of Washington. We weren’t quite sure where we would be camping, as it was first come first serve. We started by driving through the beach campgrounds on the Pacific Coast but we were hoping we would be able to find one a bit further in the Hoh Rain Forest part of the national park. We ended up finding a site in the rain forest and it was perfect!

Even though, I’m extremely methodical and I have my way of doing things, it was really nice having an extra set of hands when setting up camp. The sun sets in Washington state MUCH later than in Southern California; it sets around 10 PM. With the sun setting later, it was still light out when we got finished setting up camp and were within walking distance of the Hoh Visitor’s Center.

There are two  trails that leave from the Hoh Visitor’s Center. We had time to do both of these trails before dinner. The first we went on was the Hall of Mosses. The moss covers the bigleaf maples, the Sitka spruce trees, and basically anything else that it can grow on including the fallen trees which become nurse logs with the plants that grow on it.

The second one we went on was the Spruce Nature Trail. This was a bit longer than the Hall of Mosses but just as breath taking. I personally hadn’t seen anything like this. The moss literally grows on everything. The National Park Service (NPS) builds railings to prevent the destruction of the natural environment and to encourage patrons to stay on the trails; the moss even grows on these.

If you haven’t seen something like this in person I would STRONGLY suggest visiting some part of the temperate rainforest. Pictures really don’t do it justice, but be sure to check out the rest of the pictures from the rainforest and this part of the trip through the link at the bottom of this post.

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HISTORY:

In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt designated Olympic a National Monument. President Franklin Roosevelt designated it a National Park 29 years later. It is also an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site.

There are three distinct ecosystems in the National Park. There are 70 miles of coastline, including sandy beaches, rocky coastlines, tide pools, piles of driftwood, thick groves of trees, and bushy overgrowth. The second ecosystem is the glacier-caped mountains including Mount Olympus with its largest glacier currently at 3.06 miles in length. The third ecosystem is the temperate rainforests including Hoh and Quinault.

Temperate rainforests differ from tropical ones in that they are made up of coniferous trees including Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, Coastal Douglas Fir, and Western Red Cedar, but still have the moisture of a rainforest. The Hoh and Quinault both receive an average annual rainfall of 150 inches. This moisture allows for all the moss and ferns to not only grow, but to thrive.

FUN FACTS:

  • Legend of the Raven
    • The raven was originally the most beautiful looking and sounding bird. At that time, humans we a part of the animal collective.  However, the humans needed fire, since they weren’t made to stay warm  throughout the winter, i.e., no fur or feathers. The animals all discussed the problem, but none of them could get up to the sun in order to retrieve some of its fire. The raven knew he was the only one able to fly high enough and be strong enough to get the fire. The raven took a branch covered in moss up to the sun which lit on fire and he was able to bring it down. Unfortunately, while he was up there, his beautiful feathers all got burned black and his voice got scorched from breathing the smoke, so his singing was never the same. All the other animals distanced themselves and wouldn’t let the raven enjoy the fire or be apart of the group. The raven asked the gods to turn him back to what he was before, but they wouldn’t as a reminder of what was sacrificed in order to give us the heat and fire we need in order survive.
  • A Memorable Warning
    • Mountain biking is not allowed in most national parks, and the ones that do allow it specifically say where it is allowed. It is NOT allowed in any part of Olympic. There once was a man biking through the park and off trails. At one point he took a break. It just so happened that he was taking a break in the same place that a young cougar was trying to establish his territory. When he started riding again, the cougar’s reflexive response was to attack. Luckily, the cougar was not full grown and the man had wrestling experience. He was able to fight it off and made it out alive. While the paramedics were working on him, a ranger came to speak to him. “So, you do know it is illegal to mountain bike in Olympic National Park, right?” Silence. “Well I think you have a memorable warning this time, but if you do this again I will have to give you a ticket.”
  • Mistaken Menace
    • There were two girls on a multi-day hike/camping through part of the national park. On their second day they started to hear something really weird which seemed to come from behind them on the trail. “3, 2, 1, Kaboom(explosion sound)” They ignored it the first few times but when it continued to happen the next day, they decided that it wasn’t the best for them to still be out on the trails with “3, 2, 1, kaboom” following them. They went straight to the ranger station to tell them about this really weird guy that was following them saying “3, 2, 1, kaboom” The rangers hadn’t heard anything about this and went out on the trail to see who, or what, would be doing that. While out on the trail they realized that it was coming from a raven up in the trees. Then they recalled that a few weeks prior to that there had been some mining with dynamite in the area. Ravens are skilled mimickers and will use  their mimicking to convince other animals that danger is near or approaching.

PEOPLE I MET:

The Smiths

The Smiths are from Birmingham, Alabama. They were on a two week trip doing a lot of sight seeing and enjoying nature. I realized how important my childhood was in starting me on this journey. I wouldn’t be doing this trip if I hadn’t gone camping and visiting the national parks as much as I did as a child. Anna, the daughter, said that she felt the same way because of her parents and what they instilled in her.

So I don’t have the south planned yet, but I do plan on getting more input on what to do in Birmingham and I will definitely try to see Anna in Waco, TX as well 🙂

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We knew we would be camping in the same place for our second night, so we planned mini day trips to see some of the areas we hadn’t yet seen. We started the morning heading to Lake Crescent Storm King Ranger Station (which was recommended by the waitress from the Oyster Bar). From the station we did the hike to Marymere Falls. This wasn’t the biggest waterfall or the best waterfall, but it was very mesmerizing especially with all the mossy growth. The hike up to the viewpoint was a bit steep and not the widest, but it was very satisfying.

After the hike we went to view the lake on the dock, which is where we met the Smiths followed by a quick lunch in the picnic area. As we were leaving the lake and heading towards the coast we saw a buck in the velvet (their horns still are fuzzy and new until they rub them on trees to get them shiny).

We decided to go to Ruby Beach for our coastal experience. We passed many berry bushes along the pathway down to the beach. The overgrowth makes it so you don’t see the beach until you arrive and the first thing that stood out to me was the driftwood, everywhere! People have taken the driftwood and created signs, bridges (to cross the creek) and art.

I have seen cairns in many of my stops so far, and this was quite similar, but this time, my dad and I stopped to make our own.

 

That night we went to a ranger program. The Olympic Tales included the legend of the raven and the destruction islands, native and invasive species, as well as cautious tales of a cougar and a mistaken menace (look at fun facts above for more information on these).

And of course, my picture of my Jr. Ranger badge and souvenirs!

NEXT TIME at Olympic: I would explore the north and eastern parts of the park more. I did not get to go to Hurricane Ridge area/visitors center and there are many hikes near there I would love to experience. I would also like to see the Hoh area during fall/winter.

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