Posts tagged: Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park – Hoh Rainforest and Sol Duc Falls

By , July 31, 2010 8:17 am

Our second outing in the Olympic National Park took us to the Hoh Rainforest.  The is on the west side of the Olympic mountains, where the mountains push the wet sea air upwards, causing it to rain much more than anywhere else in the park.  Fortunately, we seemed to hit a good time in the year to avoid the rains and it was a beautiful, sunny day. 

IMG_2218

IMG_2169There aren’t any real scenic views or anything on the way into the park from the Hoh entrance.  The scenery is the forest!  The trees are HUGE and there’s a primeval feel to everything as you drive under that dense canopy.  Most of the ground is covered with water, mud or moss.  Ferns are also quite abundant.  We didn’t spot any dinosaurs, but I suspect there are a few wandering around in there somewhere. 😉

We stopped at the Sitka spruce, which is one of the first of the ‘giant’ trees that you’d encounter in the park.  It’s probably wider than our Jeep is long!  It’s big, old, and a bit gnarly looking.  I think it’s about 500 years old.

IMG_3322But, the real attraction is the visitor center at the end of the road.  Here you’ll find information on the rainforest and a few exhibits on the animals and plants in the area.  There’s also a small gift store, picnic area, restrooms and backcountry hiking permits.  Plus… trails!  There are trails for just about all levels, from 1/4 mile paved “kid friendly” trails, to multiple day hike-through-the-entire-park trials.

IMG_2193We went on the “Hall of Mosses” trail.  It wasn’t too long, but went through some of the old groves that we wanted to see (and we like moss).  The trail is about a mile and is relatively flat, although there are some fairly gentle inclines. The trees here are simply monstrous in size!  My poor attempts at describing them wouldn’t come close to doing them any justice.  There are a few pictures that give an idea of the size, but I’m not a good enough photographer or writer to really get the idea across.

IMG_2239

Our next stop was the Sol Duc entrance so we could see the trail and falls.  We decided to skip on the hot springs, as we’d heard that they’re not really that nice and are kind of commercialized (and we were there on the weekend).  I got the impression that it had been built up enough that it would be a stretch to call it “natural” any more.

IMG_2305I don’t know if the Sol Duc area is technically rainforest, as I think it’s far enough north to get a little shelter from the rains on the west slopes, but it’s still huge and primeval.  The trees are a bit different than the Hoh section and there doesn’t seem to be quite as much underbrush.  The trees at Sol Duc seem to be a brighter green and there were a fair amount of younger trees.  If you come to the area and don’t have time to see both Hoh and Sol Duc, it would be a tough to decide which to skip.  The trail is nicer at Sol Duc, but we only did the one.  There are a lot more trails at Hoh and a lot more species of trees there.  Hoh clearly has older trees, but there’s also a lot of dead stumps there.  Hoh is awesome, but there’s a feeling of “life” in Sol Duc that can’t be ignored.  It’s the kind of place where you wouldn’t be overly surprised to find a triceratops grazing on a patch of ferns just off the trail. 😉

Of course, the other thing that Sol Duc is known for is the falls. As with any decent sized river, there are generally smaller “feeder” streams.  You’ll cross a few of these on the way to the falls.  I always like these little streams because I can go rock-hopping and actually mess around a bit.  Bigger ones like the falls are kind of off-limits to anyone with the slightest bit of sense.

IMG_2316I only managed to get one decent picture of the falls (above), mostly because they spray up a water mist and my camera is afraid to get wet. ;)  There main trail crosses almost directly over the falls using a very stout footbridge (it would probably hold a decent sized truck easily).  This gives a great view right down the “throat” of the little box canyon than the falls have carved.  The amount of moss here (due to the spray) is ridiculous!  You could probably belly-flop on some of the rocks and be more comfortable than on some mattresses.

IMG_3346

Unfortunately, that pretty much finished our time IN Olympic National Park, but we also did a bit of exploring outside the park.  We’ll get into that on the next post!

Olympic National Park – Hurricane Hill

By , July 30, 2010 10:11 pm

IMG_2110

Our first real outing in the Olympic Peninsula area took us to the Hurricane Ridge entrance of Olympic National Park.  Hurricane Ridge has a number of scenic vistas and interesting areas, but the main point for those who don’t mind a bit of a hike is Hurricane Hill.IMG_3163

The hike to Hurricane Hill starts at the very last vehicle-accessible area from the entrance at Port Angeles.  The last section of road is extremely tight and windy.  A small class C RV might be able to make it, but I doubt event a 30-foot class A could manage it.  We parked at the bottom of the trail and proceeded to head upwards.

The trail climbs through fairly arid areas that can be a rather odd mix of snowfields, dry sandy soil, flowers, meadows and windswept trees.  To make it even more odd, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky (no shade) and it was quite hot.  We got pretty well baked on the trail.  Serves us right for not planning.  We didn’t think we’d do the hike, we kind of decided to attempt it at the last minute. :S

IMG_2124The hike is about 1.7 miles each direction and climbs about 700 feet.  The trail is dusty and rocky and was absolutely infested with bees for the entire trip.  A few signs at the entrance to the trail indicated that if we just kept moving when any of the flying critters investigated us, we’d be fine.  I guess they knew what they were talking about, as we didn’t have any issues with them.  Just be warned should you go in the summer.

IMG_3190Other than the sun, heat and bees, we really didn’t have any problems and it was well worth the effort.  The flowers were really surprising considering the terrain and weather conditions.  The views were spectacular and the hike wasn’t that hard until the very last section.  Note: If you are actually a real “hiker”, consider our description to be woefully tainted by the fact that we’re wimps and we don’t really hike.  A real hiker would probably consider this to be a gently sloping tourist trail. :S

At the top of Hurricane Hill, you can see down to Port Angeles and if it’s clear enough, you can see Victoria, BC across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It kind of feels like the top of the world!

IMG_2100The area is pretty much infested with chipmunks!  They’re not at all shy and they will pretty much be running around just about any rock you look at.  They were cute, but not very cooperative for the camera. 😉  Fortunately, that wasn’t the only thing we saw…

IMG_2130One of the things I’d been hoping to see on our trip to this area, but hadn’t really expected to see was a marmot.  We found one running around a meadow just below the peak!  They look like big groundhogs, just furrier. 🙂

We also went to Obstruction Peak, but it was a dusty unpaved road and the end wasn’t that impressive for us.  Half the trail was still covered in snow and we’d already done far more hiking than we’d planned, so we just took a look around and headed back home.

If you’re headed here, there’s a nice visitor center and some nice overlooks just off the main road.  But, if you’re really looking to see the area, expect to put forth some effort to do so.  It’s well worth it, but bring some water, a good hat and sunscreen or a long sleeved shirt. 😉

IMG_2147IMG_2137IMG_3215

Panorama Theme by Themocracy