Olympic National Park

Trip Start May 06, 2010
Trip End Oct 14, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Thursday, June 24, 2010

I went to Olympic National Park today.  My first stop was the Visitor Center here in Port Angeles where I picked up a map, talked to a ranger and watched a movie about the park.  The park includes glaciated mountains, temperate rain forests and coastal areas.  It was overcast and it didn't make sense to go to the Hurricane Ridge area with high overlooks since I wouldn't be able to see anything so I headed for the Hoh Rain Forest. 

It took about two hours to drive to the rain forest.  This drive is mostly outside the park and much of it is through areas that have been clearcut.  Every few minutes I would pass a lumber truck heading in the opposite direction with another load of trees.  Most of the areas being cut are no longer old-growth forest since they've cut nearly all of that except for what is in protected areas.  The areas being cut are basically tree farms that have previously been cut and re-planted.  I was told that you can see the outline of the park on a satellite photo.  I checked on google maps and you can.  There's an obvious difference that you can even see from space between the old-growth forests in the park and the areas that have been cut, which is pretty much everything else on the Olympic Peninsula.

My first stop in the rain forest was to see the Big Sitka spruce tree, which is right next to the road in.  Yes, it is a big tree but it really isn't that exciting.  There's also a short loop trail there, which I took.  That was more interesting but there's only the one really big tree in that area.

My next stop was the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center where I hiked a nearby loop trail.  It's a longer and more interesting trail than the one near the Big Sitka spruce tree.  It's in a denser part of the forest with a lot more large trees.  All of the trees are draped in epiphytes.  Mosses, spike mosses, ferns and lichens cover the branches and trunks.  The competition on the ground is so fierce that when a tree falls many seedlings will sprout on top of the fallen log.  As they grow their roots wrap around the fallen log to the ground.  When the fallen log finally disappears it leaves behind a line of trees often with a tunnel through their elevated roots.

I left the rain forest and headed for the beach.  I wanted to see tidal pools and the tide was already starting to come in.  I stopped at the first opportunity, which is Ruby Beach.  There were some interesting rocks around the shoreline and some tidal pools but it I thought there were probably better places so I continued heading south.  Before getting to another beach I came to the Big Cedar trail.  I stopped to check it out.

The Big Cedar was more interesting than the Big Sitka spruce.  There were several large cedars along the trail.  One of them had a very broad base with lots of interestingly twisted exposed roots, which I spent some time photographing.

I continued south to the next beach called Beach 4.  There was more living in the tidal pools than there had been at Ruby Beach.  After checking them out I headed back to the car.  I was almost out of daylight so I decided to call it a day.

On the way back I drove through the town of Forks again.  In the morning I noticed some shops with unusual names, such as Dazzled by Twilight.  I found out during the day that Forks was the setting for the Twilight books.  When I drove back through I noticed a number of tour companies offering Twilight tours and signs referring to the connection.

I'm going to go back to the park tomorrow and in the evening drive to somewhere near North Cascades National Park.
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