August 24-28, 2014

Olympia National Park

Olympia National Park

We had an amazing 5 days near Olympia National Park. This park is truly magical and it is a soul-refreshing place. After driving through crazy Seattle and Tacoma traffic we were happy to settle outside the little port town of Port Angeles. Port Angeles has an awesome gastro pub, Next Door Gastropub,  in its downtown, so of course after the crazy drive we wound down with awesome food and beer. There is no better way to end a day!

Our first exploration of Olympia National Park was in the Hurricane Ridge Area. We stopped at the Visitor’s Center then ascended from sea level to 5,245 feet to the top of Hurricane Ridge. Our weather luck continued and this day was full of blue skies and sun. Thus the majestic glacier-capped Mount Olympus was visible. In addition, the local black tailed deer wandered in the open fields having their fill of the delicious mountain meadows. We decided to hike the 3.2-mile Hurricane hill to get even more panoramic views. To our pleasure we were rewarded with amazing views and wildlife. The views were from Mount Olympus to the town of Port Angeles to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and beyond. We walked with some local grouse; more black tailed deer, and then spotted the elusive and endangered Olympic marmot. Well, we first heard the marmot making its whistle noise, and then followed our ear to find him! It truly is life enhancing to experience the natural beauty of our national parks!

As some of you Twilight fans out there may know Olympic National Park and the small town of Forks played prominent roles in the hit movie series. We of course had to check it out! So our next adventure was to drive to the western side of the park and investigate the Hoh Rain Forest and the town of Forks. On our way there we marveled at Lake Crescent and shook our heads at all the logging trucks passing us. The boundary of the national park is very evident by the bare hills, robbed of their nutrients by decades of logging. On a positive note Hoh Rainforest is fantastic. It is one of the most spectacular examples of a temperate rainforest in the world receiving 140-160 inches of rainfall every year. We walked several short hiking trails admiring the old growth forests and the giants that live in them. It really feels like you are in a fairy tale dreamland. HUGE moss covered trees with bits of sunlight drifting to the forest floor. Then you look up and there is near threatened Northern Spotted Owl gazing back at you. Then you proceed to look down and a giant banana slug slowly wanders across your path. Then you turn a corner and a black tailed deer buck is grazing on the side of the trail. We each make eye contact then he continues to munch on the forest floor without a care in the world. MAGIC! Needless, to say we really enjoyed our hiking in the Hoh Rainforest. The only thing that was lacking was a sighting of the endangered Roosevelt elk. To our grateful eyes we spotted a herd of such elk on our way out of the park! Anyone who ventures to the American West coast should make a point to visit this majestic place.

Feeling spiritually fulfilled but very hungry we headed to the famous small town of Forks. There are not many restaurant options in this tiny town but we managed to find a bar and grill with delicious chicken wings. Then we made our way to the many famous Twilight locations. First it was the town Visitor’s center and Bella’s truck, and then it was Bella’s house, then the Forks High school, then the hospital and police station, then finally to the Cullen home. I enjoyed it, but Wade was rather bored with the whole situation. After walking amongst the forest, I have no doubt that vampires and werewolves inhabit this area 😉

Our third adventure included electric bike kits and destructing dams. Wade has been researching electric bike kits for weeks. In reality, we have been obsessed with electric bikes since our time in China. I don’t know why the United States is so far behind China in the electric bicycle/scooter department, but it is. Anyways, Wade found a relatively cheap electric bike kit to modify his bike, of course it was made in China, and as soon as it arrived he went to work. He was like a kid on Christmas morning! He gracefully installed his kit and he was on his way around the park. The only glitch was that the pedals had to be moving the whole time that he had the motor on. It is rather difficult to keep your legs moving at 20 mph! I convinced him to stop for the day and dragged him to another section of Olympic National Park.

This time we visited the Elwha Dam Area. The Elwha dam is now removed and in fact it is the largest dam removal in United States history. The Elwha River now flows freely from its headwaters in the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It had not done that for over 100 years! This removal project was undertaken to encourage the salmon to return to this river, thus restoring the ecosystem. Pretty cool, huh. So we explored the restored riverbed and walked a nice trail along the river in the old growth forest. This was another magical hike! We also hiked to a nearby waterfall, Madison Falls.

Our final day in Olympia National Park was by far the most difficult and rewarding. The day started out easily enough when we visited the local bike expert, Dread Pirate Tom. He owns a small bicycle shop and is very knowledgeable. Wade told him about his pedal problem and he knew how to fix it. The sprocket wasn’t turning. The only problem was that he didn’t have the right tool to fix it, because it was made in China. Thus he said it would take days to fix and cost more than it was worth. Wade politely asked for him to check again and low and behold he found a tool that would work! So $30 bucks later Wade had a working electric bike! Thanks Dread Pirate Tom!

So our last, most difficult, adventure began. We wanted to check out the coastal area of Olympia National Park so we drove 2 hours to the Ozette area of the park, which is on the Pacific Ocean. A park ranger had highly recommended the 9-mile round-trip Ozette loop. He said it was 9 miles of flat terrain with boardwalks and some beach walking. Sounds easy right? Well the first 3 miles were easy and very rewarding. We hiked through old growth forest, again gazing at the giants until we reached the beach. It was a very over cast day and the ocean was full of mist. You could probably only see 20 feet out. We took a break and ate our lunch marveling at the Pacific Ocean and the rocky beach. We even witnessed a black tail deer frolicking in the water and saw several seals. After enjoying our lunch we started the 3-mile trek along the beach. We imagined soft sandy beaches; we are after all East coasters. Well, the west coast beaches are frequently not that. This particular area of beach was rocky pebble at best and gigantic boulders and cliffs at worst. The beaches are also full of driftwood, which makes it beautiful but more challenging. So we walked over and under gigantic driftwood, meandered through and over boulders until we came to an impassable area of beach. The ranger had warned us that if the tide was high we would have to take the overland route. What he didn’t tell us was that the overland route was rope climbing up 90-degree cliffs and then rope climbing back down! Really? YES! Well, we made it and were glad we only had a daypack with us. We continued the remaining 2 miles going up and over, down and around all sorts of natural obstacles and up more overland rope courses. This was way worse than the obstacles in the Mud Crusade. So after 3 miles of this we were exhausted! We did however get to see some historic rock art along the way. That gave us a little energy back. Next we had to walk the remaining 3 miles back to the car. This leg of the race was easier than the beach section, but it definitely was NOT flat. We climbed up and down and up and down until we finally made it back to the car. Whew! Now that was an epic hike that will not be soon forgotten.

That sums up our time in Olympic National Park. As always we loved every minute of it (well mostly anyway) and will return again in the future! Until next time, enjoy yourself!