Wildlife sightings to dream about....

Trip Start Apr 20, 2012
Trip End Sep 01, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Monday, June 25, 2012

For, probably, the first time on this trip, Tim was up and out of the tent before Jess, and he and Eli had the stove going and a cup of hot tea ready to roll by the time Jess and Lily emerged from the tent after their sleep-in. Despite this gargantuan effort and considerable thoughtfulness, he was greeted with; "oh, thanks." A lovely breakfast was had in the cool ocean morning breeze and Eli and Tim had 'Egg McHeidmanns'; toasted bread with cheese and a fried egg. By 9am we were on the road and out to explore the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park. Our first stop after driving up the road was the Hoh Rain Forest. At this destination we explored the Visitor Center and went for a 1.5 mile walk through the rain forest.  Along the way we stopped at the Hoh River and took some time along the riverbank to throw some skipping stones and watch the crystal clear blue water roll by. We all seemed to be drawn to this river and walk by some unseen pull and magnetic attraction. After walking along the pathway and sitting by the river for a while, it dawned on us. This walk and environment is the closest to the New Zealand and, specifically the West Coast of the South Island, bush that we have yet been in. The wet environment, combined with the prolific ferns and mosses, made us feel very much at home. Isn't it interesting how, on a subconscious level, a simple walk can evoke and compel such strong links, emotions and connections. Anyway, after engaging in our favorite NZ river activity of throwing stones, we continued on our walk along the Spruce Nature Trail. After leaving the river, we cruised back through the spruce, cedar and Douglas Fir trees of the forest. We then had our next great animal sighting of this epic adventure; black tail deer. Not only did we see a doe jumping through the bush, we also then saw a spiker (a two year old boy) and after watching him browse for about 10 minutes, a mature buck walked out and along the trail edge. We were quite chuffed that our 'good luck' animal sighting was continuing as there were also meant to be Roosevelt Elk in this forest, but we had seen them in Redwood National Park and had hoped to see black tail deer. 
Next, we cruised on out of the Hoh rain forest and continued up Route 101 and around the Olympic Peninsula towards Port Angeles and stopped at Lake Crescent for a picnic lunch of ham and cheese and salami and cheese sandwiches.  This was a lake of crystal clear, dark blue water that we could see deep into from the road that travelled along the lakeside. All through lunch and the previous drive along the Hoh river we had been desperately looking for and hoping to spot Bald Eagles, as Tim had promised the Olympic Peninsula as our best chance to see the symbol of the USA. However, our luck seemed to have run out and we had not seen anything other than the turkey vulture, of which we had seen several thousand specimens in the last 57 days. 
It was now getting towards the middle of the afternoon and all and sundry seemed to be getting tired of the driving and touring. By now we were a couple of hours drive from our campsite and the general mood and consensus appeared to be to head back to the tent and home base. However, Jess said that it was up to Tim where we went next, and because he is perceived by some to "be driven", he decided to take the side road down to the small seaside town of La Push, where the Ranger at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center had recommended that we stop at the restaurant by the sea. This, despite the long detour, we did and when we sat down at the table, the waitress told the kids to keep an eye out the large windows as they might be fortunate enough to spy a seal or…….an OTTER! We had been looking for one of these since South Carolina and the Congaree Swamp. Eli had long been touting otters as his favorite animal and we had endured over 45 minutes of watching one at the San Diego Zoo. Well, all eight eyes were pasted to the plate glass windows as we ate our hot chips and enjoyed afternoon tea. Despite all the attention paid to the ocean harbor, we saw nothing in the water other than seagull after seagull…..Then, as if conjured up by wizardry and continued good animal sighting luck, Jess shouted out….."Look at that, it's a bald eagle!" Sure enough it was and not only did we see it, but it skimmed up and over the windows out of which we were looking and then proceeded to turn around the top of the restaurant and skim out over the water where it swung low and plucked some fish bits out of the water that had been dumped there by a fishing boat. We got a complete and unadulterated view of this whole episode which culminated with it winging its way across the water, dragging fish guts by its talons and being chased by a mob of seagulls as it landed in a tangle of driftwood and tree stumps in order to enjoy its meal in peace. WOW!!!! Tim and everyone were in 7th heaven as we had been talking about bald eagles for many weeks now. It was simply inspiring and made our day one of the best yet.
However, Heidmanns on Tour are never done, and after leaving the restaurant we decided to make our way a little further along the shoreline where we could see a more complete view of the bay. Tim and the kids went for a long, log balancing and rock skipping walk along the jetty that separated the marina and its little bay from the waves rolling in from the Pacific Ocean. Jess went partway, but due to a slightly dicky ankle, turned back and waited at the car. We went all the way (about 300 meters) to the end of the rock wall jetty where there was a small lighthouse and sat and watched the ocean for a couple of minutes. This was a complicated process of negotiating drift logs and  flat and pointed rocks in order to safely traverse the top of the jetty. We are proud to say that we made it to the end and back (well except for Eli twisting his ankle 5 feet from the car) without incident. It was sitting at the end of the jetty, when Tim shouted with glee and exuberance….."look Eli, I think, I'm not sure, no wait, yes, no, maybe, yes……IT"S AN OTTER!!!!!" Sure enough, we had the privilege of seeing a sea otter as it made its way around the far side of the bay, diving and surfacing, twisting and floating on its back and looking sweet as "a cuteypie"! This was way too good to be true and simply made Eli's day, week and maybe even year. It might even go some way towards explaining why Eli rolled his ankle just shy of the car as he was sprinting to tell Jess (Mum) what he/we had seen. We sure hope we haven't used up our good luck, but we do feel truly humbled by what we have seen and done so far on this trip. Words are not sufficient. In the words of Tim's Dad, Mark…."our sufficiency has been sufficuntified!"
Well, after these sightings and adventure, there is not much more to report other than a cruise back to our campsite, some bbq chicken over our fire, thanks to the overstayer who gave us firewood, and bed in the lightly sprinkling rain. Roll on Canada tomorrow.
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