Olympic Park Greats: 6-4

DSC01190Last 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.

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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).

DSC01113Once 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)

DSC01111We 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).

2011 10 24_0586eYou 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

DSC01085After heart-pounding hikes, it’s nice to relax back at the lodge.

DSC01215If you ever head into this part of the country, I’ll put a plug in for Lake Crescent Lodge. I LOVED it there. It’s on this mountain lake surrounded by forested mountains.

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The lodge itself is pretty swanky, and my little place had a sweet view out to the lake.

DSC01217Ahhhhh! Too bad I couldn’t sit here forever.

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.

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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).

DSC01331When 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.

P1020266Some 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.

DSC01357One 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.

DSC01130The 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.

Char Signature

35 thoughts on “Olympic Park Greats: 6-4

  1. Well, it looks like a wonderful place for a holiday. A writer’s retreat for sure. Isn’t it weird though how some of those mountain roads are so narrow. Years ago we went to the Jenolan Caves and as we were heading down I said to my wife, what happens if a bus comes up. She said we’d probably have to reverse all the way up to let the bus through. When we reached the bottom, there were buses galore. Glad we didn’t encounter any on the road. Thanks for the continuing tour of Olympic Park. I’m looking forward to the next bit. 🙂

    • It’s my nightmare to run into another big car on a road like that. If I was driving, I’d probably just stop, get out, and hand my keys over to the other person and tell them to back up my car. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that on a mountain road. Good thing I wasn’t driving. And yes…Washington would make a good writer’s retreat–but bring your rain jacket and be prepared to be a bit chilly.

  2. Looks and sounds wonderful! The road thing made my heart pound more than the deep barking noise thing though, but then of course I wasn’t there to hear that scary grouse…er, I mean bear. The last two years we’ve gone for a week away to a Greek island, first Zante, and then Corfu, and on both, when we went on excursions, we had scary bus rides to get to the places, with sheer drops at the side – not as high up as what you’re describing, but ultimately, is there really much difference between crashing down 300ft or 1000ft? And of course those bus drivers there are experienced and confident, so they don’t go slowly! Mostly I shut my eyes around the bends.

    • Yikes! Buses on narrow roads would be bone-chilling (or bone crushing if they crashed). I’m glad we both lived to tell our stories.

  3. Your family is so cool and adventurous. I love it. Great pics. My family is going to Orlando soon. In the June heat. That’s as adventurous as I get…

    • I’m glad you think it was a bear too. It makes me feel not quite so wimpy to think it was a bear instead of a grouse.

  4. I think it was a bear mimicking a grouse in an attempt to trick its intended meal into thinking there wasn’t any danger around. Or Bigfoot. Bigfoot might have pretended to be a grouse/bear so you would be scared away and wouldn’t see him. 🙂

    • You, my dear, just solved the riddle. Of course you’re right. It had to be that! I only wish I could have thought that clearly at the time so we didn’t feel so confused and scared for out lives (although we still probably would have been scared for our lives at a bear mimicking a grouse)

  5. Wow Char, so glad you weren’t attacked by rabid grouses! Or Big Foot!

    Good advice to not play chicken with a logger. They’ll win every time.

    Those trails look beautiful. That’s my idea of a perfect vacation!

    • Now a rabid grouse wouldn’t make me sound so wimpy. Anything with rabies is crazy scary. Big Foot actually doesn’t scare me because I think he doesn’t want to be found, so he doesn’t attack people or we’d know for sure he existed when all these hikers started disappearing. Hope you get to go here someday. It was fun.

  6. What a great time you must have had, Char! I sometimes hear those sounds in the bush and it’s usually something as frightening as a grouse! We have birds called Curlew that make a sound like a child screaming – they mostly call out at night and it can give you a big fright if you don’t know what it is 😀

  7. Love reading about your adventures in the woods of Washington. It’s the next best thing to being there.

  8. Oh, I’ve heard audio of a grouse and it’s quite loud and scary, so I believe you! Good to know about that 9-mile hike and the life-threatening car ride to get there. You’ll never find me heading that way!
    And thank you so much for sharing pictures of where you stayed. That place looks absolutely beautiful!!! Since I said I want to take my kids to Olympic Park one day, I’ll definitely check that place out. I’m so glad we’re leaving for our green vacation soon because you’re making me salivate.

    • It was amazing! All of us in the family are in different camps on the bear/grouse. My kids are certain it was a bear. My husband and I don’t know what to think because we never saw a rustling bush or anything and kind of think a bear would have shown itself. Who knows. I go back and forth between what it could have been. It was a scary freaky sound though.

  9. Pingback: Olympic Park Greats: Top 3 | Joy in the Moments

    • A bear-bird maybe. A pteradactyl like bird–something definitely more ferocious than that picture of a grouse I put up.

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