August 2-5: Olympic National Park

Trip Start Jun 02, 2011
Trip End Sep 25, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Olympic National Park, Day 1 - Hurricane Ridge

We drove west from Fort Worden to Olympic National Park on HWY 101.  Our first stop was at the northeast part of the park, near Port Angeles.  We drove 17 miles into the park along a road called Hurricane Ridge.   It was a steady, winding climb up the mountain, but the road was in very good condition.  It was very scenic, but because there were so many lush trees, the views were often obstructed.  Compared to the other parks, this was a key difference.  Once we approached the top, the trees started to thin out and the views were really great.  We were able to view Mt. Olympus along with many of the other snow capped peaks off in the horizon. 

Once we parked, there were several hikes around Hurricane ridge that offered great views. To the north, we were able to view the Straight of Juan de Fuca through the mountains, which is where we camped last night.  To the south we could view the string of mountain tops. As we walked, we once again encountered snow, in some places still quite deep.  We were climbing over mounds and sliding down in my Teva sandals!

Because of all of the trees, observing wildlife is much more challenging because the animals all have so much more cover.   The only animals we saw, and there were lots of them, were black tailed deer.  We saw several spotted babies, which the girls really enjoyed.   It was very beautiful with many wildflowers blooming at this time.  What we found cool was that just as the snow melts, you could observe how the surrounding ground almost immediately turns green with grass shoots.  The summer months here are so short, so the vegetation only has about a 2 month life cycle before snow comes again.

After we hiked the ridge, we drove back down and camped outside the park at a KOA.

Olympic National Park, Day 2 - Sol Duc Hot Springs

(Entry by Katelyn)

Today we first went to Madison Falls.  It was awesome! Once we started the hike, I said it looks very much like a rain forest.  Just then I heard Emma screaming because she fell off of a really big tree stump.  So, back to the RV!  Once we got back, Emma cleaned her cut and we went back outside.   She was so brave!  We went back to the trail so we could see the waterfall.  The hike was not very long or hard, but it was so cool because it was so green and everything was covered in moss.  This was my favorite waterfall so far because we could go right up to it.  I was the first one to go down to the water.   I hopped on stones to get to a fallen tree stump.  On the stump we took pictures.  Then I became really daring and walked down to the deep part of the waterfall.   I climbed on a medium size rock that was very slippery.  It was so cool because the water could touch me.  On the rock I got some pictures taken of me, and then Madison came and we took some more pictures.  After this, we started to head back.  When we got back to the RV I said "this was so awesome I wish I could do this every day!"   I had such a great time at Madison Falls!

Next, we went to Marymere Falls.  Here we went on a ranger led hike where we talked about water, nature, trees, and life.  We slowly walked to the falls.  Once we got to the falls, we leaned a little trick called the 'Waterfall Effect.'  If you look at the fast flowing water in 1 specific point for about 30 seconds and then move your head to the right to look at a new spot, then you will see the wall move. We then climbed to a higher spot where we could see the waterfall from a birds view.  It was nice, but not as impressive as Madison Falls!  Then we hiked back to the RV.  I did not like this hike as much because it was not as pretty, but I did like that it was ranger led.  I had a great day today.

Olympic National Park, Day 3
- Hoh Rain Forest

This morning we drove south into the park to an area called the Hoh Rain Forest.  We were excited to hike here because it is such a contrast to the snow covered mountains we have been seeing.  An area is classified as a rain forest if it gets over 10 feet of annual rainfall, and this section of Olympic National Park gets an average of 12 feed of rain per year.  Most of the rainfall accumulates in the winter month, making the summer months quite pleasant.

We learned many other facts about the north pacific rain forests:  they have a temperate (versus tropical) climate, there is a constant rotation between old and new growth, old/dead trees act as 'nurse logs' to facilitate new growth, and the leaves and moss create a layered canopy that blankets the area.  Thus, the temperature in the forest is quite cooler than the outside temperature. The forest was extremely green as we walked through due to a combination of the heavy ground cover, the overhead canopy, and the green moss that covered almost everything between the canopy and the ground.

In addition to the rain forest, we saw an number of elk resting along the Hoh River as we drove into the forest.   We saw a large group of female elk that were too far away to get clear pictures, and then we saw 2 male elk that were quite close.  I was able to get some pretty clear pictures, although they were laying down the entire time we saw them.

After several hikes in the rain forest and elk tracking, we continued our trek south to a third area in Olympic Park called Kalaloch.   Kalaloch is located right on the Pacific Ocean, and it offered our first direct view of the Pacific.  It was a beautiful day, so the girls thoroughly enjoyed going down and playing on the beach and touching the water.   After we ate dinner we attended a ranger program on the 'Water Wilderness' and then walked down to the beach to watch a spectacular sunset.  It was just a perfect day and night to be on the beach!

Olympic National Park, Day 4 - Tide pooling

(Entry by Madison)

Today we woke-up and went tide pooling.  We went with a Park Ranger.  It was the same Ranger from last night who was really energetic.  When I got down to the tide pools I was really happy because I got to see sea stars.  I thought they were really cool because when they eat they work to pry open a mussel for 2 days.  When the finally get it open they actually push their stomach out and slurp the mussel inside.   Who ever head of such a gross thing?

I was wondering how a sea star reproduces, and learned that they don't lay eggs and don't give live birth.  I learned that they send out tiny particles from their body into the ocean, and those particles meet-up with new particles from another sea star. They join together, and that is the start of a new sea star!  I was also wondering why the Ranger wasn't calling the sea star a starfish, and I learned that because the sea star does not have any bone, while fish do have bones, that the name has been changed. For the same reason they have changed the name of jellyfish to jellies.

After we talked about and examined the sea stars, we learned about anemones.   Anemones are green or pink animals.  They have a dark green outer shell and a light green middle.  When I touched the outside it curled up.  I saw some anemones that had green tentacles sticking out, and I asked the Ranger why this was.  She told us that they are sticky and they use them to stick their prey.   After they stick their prey, they bring the animal back into their middle where they can eat it.  If it is in a shell, they will suck out the inside and then drop the shell.  Their main diet consists of snails.

We continued to explore the beach of a while and look at other creatures like a sea otter, hermit crabs, and birds.   After we were done, we decided to go play at another beach.  We wanted to build sand castles, and we picked a spot about 10 feet away from the water.  After about 15 minutes we saw that the water was rapidly coming up.  So, we moved a little farther away and had Katelyn build a dam while I built the sand castle.  We finally finished after 1 hour of hard work, and my Dad told us it was getting to cold and windy for us to stay on the beach.

We went back to the RV and got showered off and then started our drive to Mount Rainier.  I fell asleep on the ride, so that is all I remember from the day!
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Xiu on

The pictures are amazing! The colors of the sunset are so beautiful.

wendy on

I just love your blog. I love the descriptions of the place you went and now I want to go there too! Evan and Danielle love your trip too!

mcgovern on

Thanks for the feedback, Wendy. Tell Evan to keep an eye out for our Yellowstone post and the Grizzly photos, because they were close! We are each going to do a ranking of our Top-10 individually and then get a consolidated view once we are done the first it will help you plan your trip!!

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