Olympic National Park does not disappoint. Kudos to our National Park Service for maintaining this magnificent space. Upon my arrival at the entrance to the park, 3 deer ambled out of the brush and were munching on grass or berries. I literally went slack-jawed and fumbled for my camera. I was wide-eyed in wonderment. A park ranger was on the little road they had just crossed and waved as she turned onto my road with a knowing grin – city person here. I told the park attendant at the gate that I was grateful for the the on-cue entrance of the deer. She said, “Oh yeah, we called them just a few minutes ago and told them to get down here.” A great start to my adventure.
Hurricane Ridge is an 18 mile drive up to 5200 feet elevation, starting the journey at sea level. It’s a two lane road that winds its way up. The scenery is breathtaking, and yes, I looked. I was on the inside edge all the way up which was comforting – and you will understand my note of this if you read my Yellowstone post. Somehow, coming into this park was quite different for me than being in other natural environs. I felt a complete calm, a peaceful easy feeling if you will. It felt like coming home, though I’ve never been here before. It was not a familiarity. It was a harmonic vibe. I experienced the majesty of this wondrous place as I drove, up and up. There are lots of turn-outs and car parks so you can let faster traffic pass, and yes, I let them play through. I imagined their hurry was because they were hikers anxious to get to the trailhead. More pleasant than assuming they are all jerks. The overlooks called me to stop and take photos of Kodak worthy views (the camera maker, not the rapper). Mt. Baker was on full display this crystal clear day. Topping out at nearly 11000 feet it is perpetually snow-capped. How beautiful is that? I really need a better camera…but hopefully you’ll get a sense of the spectacularness of the view. Captions can be seen by running cursor over pics.
At the top of the ridge I was treated to a wide open alpine meadow with unobstructed views of the mountains to the south and on the other side, the Straits of Juan de Fuca to the north. Now, c’mon. This is really good stuff!
I sat and ate half my picnic lunch looking out over Mount Olympus and the 4 glaciers that rest atop that place. Locals I talked to said they have receded over time. Seeing it, for the first time “up close” was inspiring. How long have these mountains and glaciers sat there, patiently waiting for me, for us, to gaze upon them, climb them, revel in their permanence on the planet. Of course there was a time they never were and will be a time they won’t be. My pea brain can’t think in those terms, so I’ll just marvel at their brilliance. I could have sat for hours, but my hike awaited. Now hike is a relative term for me. Aging knees don’t handle rising elevations or rough terrain. A walking stick might help. I stick to the accessible paths and it was a couple miles all inclusive that I walked. I went through the meadow, up a bit on another trail, and around a bend I talked to a ranger who was hoping to point out Olympic marmets, but they weren’t coming out of their hidey-holes. Sorry, no pics from me, so follow the link to see them.
Come walk with me. The meadow is drying as fall is upon us up here where it’s significantly cooler than at sea level. Its slopes go a few thousand feet down (no walking there) and a few trees dot the area. As we approach the ridge it becomes more forested and I see the trail to go up to a much higher look out point. I go a bit up the path, but recognize I’m not at capacity for the whole trek and leave it for others to take. Around a corner I spy the winter ranger station to rescue skiers who flock here for sport and fun. Uh, not quite my speed. I can see the people climbing to the upper point, where I didn’t and I wish them well. Moving along, a vista opens up – the other side of the sunny meadow. Looking out I see the Straits, Port Angeles, and on the other side, Victoria, BC. My eyes can see the structures in Victoria. Sadly, my camera doesn’t capture it well. Yes, I can see Canada from my hike! Hover for captions on pics.
I feel like Heidi – this is my meadow and I’m at home. I have a healthy respect for nature and the wild, but no fear was present. Now how could I be afraid when I spy a deer munching away next to the lookout point? I can imagine a wonderful gathering in this meadow, celebrating being alive and having fun. I’ll speak on my vision another time.
Along the way are benches to sit and just soak it up. I have my journal with me and write down my impressions, some of which are provided here. Now, I am going to admit to an action that some may find heretical to being in a National Park because, well, you should just be in nature right? At the top of the ridge is an incredibly strong cell signal. It is too beautiful to pass up, so I sit on a bench away from the other people in order to be respectful, and face-time with a friend – who is an avid outdoorswoman. I know she will love it. I pan the phone 360 degrees in hopes she gets a sense of what I am experiencing. Then that deer that was munching near the lookout point comes sauntering over and passes within five feet. No pic, because I’m letting my friend have the experience too. Off into the woods goes the deer to some unseen life and home. This is not like seeing deer in the Wisconsin Dells amusement park as I did as a child. This is real and awesome!
Ending my conversation I continue the trail and end up at the parking lot which is now full of other tourists, eager to see this place. I hope you enjoyed our walk. Now I gotta go eat the rest of my lunch!
I couldn’t resist a T-shirt that says it all. I can attest – it is Good for the Soul. Namaste.