Last week I promised to tell you about my near-death experience in the Olympic National Park. It had nothing to do with this buck in this picture. He was quite kind and very accommodating though while I took his picture (so I decided to reward him by making him famous on my blog; ha!). But my near-death experience did have to do with wildlife.
So here I go…continuing with my Olympic countdown.
6. Heart-pounding Hikes
Every hike (big or small) in the Olympic forest makes you feel that you are in the middle of nowhere. Even the one mile hike by Lake Crescent Lodge to Marymere Falls seems like you’re in another world. It’s so dark and mystical.
I love short hikes that have give out big payouts. And this hike definitely did that. The trail winds along Barnes Creek through an ancient mossy forest and takes you to a beautiful little waterfall that makes you want to smile. My heart did not pound on this hike…but it did on the next one I’m going to tell you about.
Our first official day of vacation (being eager beavers that we are), we went on a long 9 mile hike high above the Elwha River to Humes Ranch. The drive to get there was hair-raising. It was a one lane dirt road with a sheer cliff on one side zigzagging up the mountain. We figured there were enough trees to stop us from crashing 1000 feet down to the river should we be run off by another car, but still…I didn’t want to crash and find out. My husband was a good driver (despite the cowardly passengers that closed our eyes and braced ourselves every time another car came the opposite way. Scary).
Once we got to the top and parked and started our hike, we had another heart-pounding experience. My daughters had gone ahead on the trail, but then came tearing back with sheer terror in their eyes. They had been hearing deep barking type noises and were sure there was a bear up on the hill (which is lush and has many hiding spots behind dead trees, living trees, ferns, boulders for bears to hide)
We didn’t believe them, until we heard the sound ourselves. And then we all were just as terrified (except my husband). He convinced us to keep going, but I don’t know if any of our hearts ever slowed down after that. We were sure a bear had been warning us away.
When we got back to the lodge and told the activities director what we had heard (at least our pathetic attempt to sound like it), she told us it had been a grouse.
This is a grouse.
I’m sorry. But what I heard (and everyone else) was no bird. It was deep and scary sounding. I’ve looked up bear sounds since then, and all I can say is that there was a big chance it was a bear and that I almost died. I promise NO grouse could scare me that bad. I guess it could have been Bigfoot. That is his country, and he’s way less embarrassing to have scare you than a silly bird.
But I am alive, and my brother grabbed a big stick after that to carry along with us (for a toothpick so the bear could clean his teeth after he ate us).
Anyway, besides almost dying, the trail was quite beautiful and thrilling. The drive going down was much safer because we had the mountain side when another car came up the hill (instead of the sheer cliff).
You could hike for months inside this park. There are hikes along tons of river, the coast, and up the mountains and even from the rainforest to a glacier (that’s a LONG one though; I’m not doing it). The one above is along the Sol Duc when I went in the fall in 2011.
Now on to my next favorite thing about Olympic National Park.
5. Relaxing Rooms
The lodge itself is pretty swanky, and my little place had a sweet view out to the lake.
But, once you relax for a while, you want to be out exploring again and appreciate the next favorite thing.
4. Tall Thick Trees
Tall thick trees = The Olympic Northwest. These trees out here are nothing short of amazing! They grow fast and tall, and thrive. You can’t see anything else as you drive because trees line both sides of the road and are tall, tall, tall.
I loved seeing the crazy logging trucks (beware of them; they go fast and will win in your car in any chicken contest on those winding roads).
When trees fall in the forest, new ones start growing right out of the old ones. Over time, the old tree disintegrates and provides nourishment for lots of other trees growing right on top of it. They’re called nursing logs, and the forests are full of them. So unique and fascinating.
Some of the forests are young (100 years or less), but even these had hundred foot tall trees and thick as can be (there are lots of alders in the young forests. The ancient forests have trees that are hundreds of years old and are draped with moss and are giants. Hemlocks, Douglas firs, maples, red cedars.
One of my favorite trees was the Madrona with its red bark. These grew right out of sheer cliffs along the steep mountains and were so beautiful. There’s one in the pasture below where my brother keeps his horses.
The forests on the Olympic Peninsula provide wood for a lot of the world. There is a lot of logging going on all over and it was interesting to drive by and see parts of a forest cut down and at different stages of regrowth. But I’m glad there are protected parts. It would be a tragedy to see more of those ancient forests cut down. It takes almost a millennium to regrow.
Well, I’m tired! What about you. I think I’ll save the last three for another post. Hope you’re having a WOOD-nerful week! Ha ha.
- Olympic Park Greats: 10-7 (joyinthemoments.wordpress.com)