One thing about going to these places, is I tend to take way too many pictures. Again, however, this represents three days at the park, so you'll just have to endure.
Having lived in the Pacific NW for most of my life, I had not had the occasion to venture into the NW corner of Washington, where Olympic is located. For all intents and purposes, Olympic NP is one great big forest, with an interior mountain range that is very much off the beaten path, as well as different types of forested areas. Fortunately, the park, or at least the locations that serve the park, are within a days drive from the Portland area. My headquarters was to be Port Angeles, which is accessible from a couple different directions. I chose to head up I-5, then up 101.
I was in search not only of the natural amenities which the park offers, but also a trail or two that I could walk - comfortably. My first stop was, of course, the Visitor Center near Port Angeles – which by the way, was only a couple miles from my motel. Okay, yes, I stayed in a motel. The Visitor Center was also on the same road that climbed up to Hurricane Ridge – apparently one of the more popular, and accessible, locations within the park. And certainly one with a great view of the interior mountains.
A couple of trail heads were located at the Visitor Center, so I ventured onto one for a short walk. After about ¼ mile, I decided to head back, since I didn’t have my normal hiking gear with me, and I really didn’t want to put myself in harms way right off the bat, especially as the day was closing fast. So I headed back to the motel and studied the info.
The next day was a trip up to Hurricane Ridge. Needless to say, the view was great, and although there were potential views of Port Angeles and Victoria, Canada, the cloud cover was blocking most of it. But the clouds were below the ridge, which offered a different perspective.
One of the Park Rangers was going to be giving a trail talk shortly after I arrived, so I decided to tag along. Glad I did, as the information was very interesting. Did you know that there is a tree up there that looks exactly like the spruce we are familiar with? She asked us to first identify it, then touch the needles. In contrast to the spruce we are familiar with, which has a very stiff needle, these Alpine Spruce trees had a soft needle.
Must say, my lunch stop that day was one of the most picturesque I’ve experienced. Just down the road from the Hurricane ridge visitor center was a picnic area. There was still plenty of snow piled up along the roadside, but the tables were clear. I would estimate the elevation to be somewhere around 5,000 feet, so the view was great. Also, the fact that the deer and birds (see pix) were all around was neat too.
Another item of note was an observation made on a hike the following day. The trail was a nice one through the woods – relatively flat and a decent surface. Near the trailheads on the majority of these trails are signboards pointing out the do’s and don’ts and the “watch out for these” kinds of things. As this is the wilderness, there were posters telling what one should do if a cougar approaches. Comforting thought. At any rate, at some point on this trail I came across a paw print in the soft trail surface (see pix) that was NOT a dog – that I would estimate at about a 4” diameter. It was then that I immediately began looking for a stout walking stick with a pointed end! Of course, the time of day that I go walking on these trails is such that there are seldom any other people out there. Makes a person pay attention to little creepy noises and such!
The other areas of the park were interesting, and had a higher concentration of mossy growth, and large spruce trees, but all in all, pretty much another forest. Having spent a fair amount of time in the woods around here, the overall park experience was perhaps not as grandiose to me as to those who have not experienced the Pacific NW forests up close and personal.