Olympic National Park

Monday 24-Wednesday 26 August, 2015

Crescent Lake at sunrise. Photo by Eric.

Olympic National Park was not in our plans for this trip. We'd been there before, and we wanted to go to North Cascades National Park, which we'd missed on our last trip. But wildfires closed the road through North Cascades. We considered Mt. Rainier, to which we had made a relatively brief visit last time. While the roads were open and the air breathable, the webcams showed a lot of haze. Not a good time to visit a park where the primary attraction is broad mountain vistas. So, we headed even further west, adding considerable travel time and distance, to the wonders of Olympic. It was as if we traveled from Mordor to Rivendell. Or, as Eric preferred, from Io to Europa.

Mountains from US 101. The road circles the Olympic Mountains in the center of the peninsula.

Crescent Lake

Crescent Lake from the campground above.

Our campsite.

I had made a reservation for a campsite at Crater Lake, which we turned out not to be able to use due to the smoke. We had planned to camp Sunday through Tuesday nights in North Cascades, but ended up not being able to go there at all. We couldn't get all the way from Spokane to Olympic after the convention on Sunday, so we had to spend the night in the Quality Inn in Olympia rather than camping. At last, on Monday, we were using all the camping gear that filled Sydney's back seat for the entire journey.

Camped next to us were Sandy and her 22-year-old special needs son, Jim. It was a pleasure to camp near them. They were from Everett, Washington, and Sandy was full of local information. She gave us a Washington State Ferry schedule, and we shared our extra firewood with her. It took Jim a while to warm up to us, but it was heartwarming when he did. They were both so pleasant. Walk-in camping means an annoying 15-m/50-ft walk with all of your heavy camping gear from your car to the site (in this case, a steep walk), but it usually eliminates the loud, Coors-can crowd and puts you in with a much more desirable class of camper.

It really was a very lovely campsite. Eric took a picture of it with the surrounding ferns.

Trees in the campground.

We had to take time to use the internet at the nearby Crescent Lake Lodge in order to make a ferry reservation for Wednesday. It would take far too long to drive all the way around the Puget Sound.

Eric took a picture of the beach at Crescent Lake Lodge.

Little girl at the beach. Note the dramatic colors in the water.

Madison Creek Falls

What with figuring out a new plan, stocking up on food at Trader Joe's, driving to the park, finding a campsite, and setting the campsite up, our one big bit of sightseeing on Monday was a brief visit to lovely Madison Creek Falls.

Eric took a detail shot of Madison Creek Falls.

My details of the falls. I love my new tripod.

Pond at bottom of Madison Creek Falls.

Eric proudly displays his Sasquan staff t-shirt at the falls.

Back to Crescent Lake

After the fabulous results I got taking pictures near dawn on our Fourth of July bike tour, I wanted to try it again to get some nice shots of Crescent Lake. Eric kindly accommodated me.

Crescent Lake.

The lake turning pink with the dawn.

Water in early morning sunlight.

Lake and rocks as the light got brighter with the rising sun.

Some of the hill on the other side of the lake fell off!

When heading back to camp for breakfast (yes, I took these pictures before breakfast), we noticed that the sunlight on the trees was particularly beautiful.

Eric took this picture of the sun through the trees.

Sol Duc

Olympic National Park has an area called Sol Duc, with a waterfall hike and a hot spring resort. Our campsite had no showers, but we were invited to use the ones at the resort, and we wanted to see Sol Duc in any case since we had missed it on our last visit to Olympic.

The ranger informed us that there was free entry to the park on August 25 in celebration of the 99th anniversary of the National Park Service. Eric took a picture of the sign.

The ranger also told us that the hot springs in the Sol Duc area were caused by seismic, not volcanic, forces. A fault runs through the area.

Eric took this picture of a hollow tree on the trail to the falls.

I think this is a different hollow tree.

Spanish Moss (actually a lichen), always dramatic in the sun.

The sun shining through the trees was so pretty.

Sun on moss.

As always in the Pacific Northwest, we saw amazing fungi.

Shelf fungus.

I posed for Eric on a bridge.

Sol Duc Falls.

The rushing water just below the falls cut this cleft through the rock.

The more still water above the falls reflected the lush greenery all around us.

After our short hike, we had a relaxing soak in the hot pools. The hot pools were actually hot enough for me, and the cold pool was too cold for Eric.

Eric took a picture of the large cold pool and the dramatic surrounding scenery.

He took a picture of me enjoying a hot pool.

The nice, relaxing time we had at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort paled in comparison to our last visit to a hot springs resort, the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. No competition.

Hurricane Ridge

We had much enjoyed the great vista from Hurricane Ridge on our 2010 visit, even though Mt. Olympus itself had been shrouded in fog. Today was a much more clear day (at least out on the Olympic Peninsula), so we went up to try to see Mt. Olympus.

Mt. Olympus was visible, but hazy. Eric was able to take better pictures with his little pocket camera.

Mt. Olympus. Photo by Eric.

When we had visited in 2010, the Olympic Mountains closer to Hurricane Ridge were beautifully snow-capped.

Eric's 2015 view from Hurricane Ridge. Oh, the drought.

Eric took a picture of dramatic basalt formations along the road back down from the ridge.

From one overlook, we had a very faint view of Mt. Rainier. Mt. Baker, below, was a little bit more clear from another one.

Although it was getting dark as we headed back to our campsite, Eric convinced me to make a stop at the Crater Lake Lodge to use the internet just to keep up my 267-day Duolingo streak. No e-mail, no Facebook, just Duolingo. We'd have to be disciplined. We were disciplined, and I kept my streak going. I had had a good excuse for losing it! I was going to be in a national park with no internet for a couple of days! Now, the pressure is on to keep it going indefinitely!

And, look, the perfect picture of Crescent Lake at sunset. We really didn't need to get up for the sunrise, did we?

We had a bike tour planned for Thursday and Friday, and needed to pick up the bikes in Anacortes before 18:00 on Wednesday. We didn't realize until we were out on the Olympic Peninsula that our only alternatives for getting to Anacortes were a 55-minute ferry ride or a many-hours' drive all the way around the Puget Sound. Driving all the way around the San Francisco Bay would be burdensome; the Puget Sound is much larger. Even with the ferry, it would take several hours to get to Anacortes. Eric also needed to do some work with a wi-fi connection. So, Wednesday would be primarily a travel and logistics day, and we would have only an hour or so to see sights in Olympic.

In 2014, after a 22-year struggle, the National Park Service removed two dams on the Elwha River, allowing the river to flow freely for the first time in over 100 years. I had read this momentous news in the magazine of the National Parks Conservation Association. This represents exciting progress in the development of our national park system, and it is shameful that it was so difficult to accomplish and that it took so very long after Congressional authorization for removal of the dams in 1992 for them actually to be removed. It will be some time before the Elwha restores itself to its former glory (especially with the ongoing drought), but the site where the dams were removed is a short, easy hike from US 101.

Eric took this picture of the recently-restored Elwha River.

I learned to identify this tree, the Red Cedar, on this trip. Note its distinctive bark.

Shelf fungus on the trail to the Elwha River dam removal site.

We spent our last half-hour at Olympic visiting the main Visitor Center and watching one of the Park Services' movies. My parents both love the Park Service's films, so I always see the movies when I visit the parks with them, but I usually figure that Eric and I should spend our time in the parks outdoors. The film was a mosaic of nature shots of the park, some of which were pretty incredible--a bird feeding its open-mouthed babies, an underwater shot of an eagle diving in and grabbing a salmon. It made for a rush for the ferry, but we really wanted to see it.

Having not intended to visit Olympic National Park on this trip, and still quite disappointed that we failed yet again to see North Cascades, we still enjoyed our visit to the sites we had missed on our previous visit to Olympic. The movie showed us that the waterfalls are typically quite a bit more dramatic than they are now under our extreme drought conditions, but they still look great to Californians. Someday, we will get to the unexplored territory of the northern Cascades.

On to Orcas Island.

Last updated: 27 August, 2015 by Eric and Beth Zuckerman