Olympic National Park, WA

Day 21 & 22 – June 29 & 30, 2016

Mileage June 29th – 78,316

Portland, Oregon/ Olympic National Park

As we started our trek to the Olympic National Park we gave thanks to the warm and open hearts of Gary and Kate who welcomed us to their home and offer us a safe place to park our tiny house and warm showers in the morning. We hope one day we can repay the generosity when they are in Vermont.

Most of the June 29th was consumed with the long drive north and west. Along the way we were in awe of the amount of lumber harvesting we saw, endless tracks of forest clear-cut and then other tracks in different stages of regrowth. It is clear that wood production is a major part of the local economy here. We are even surprised to see evidence of clear-cutting is present right up to National Park boundaries.

Finally we arrive at South Beach campground, the self-service National Park campground is close to full, but we manage to find a spot with awesome ocean views. After dinner we set out on a hike along the beach to see what we can find. The driftwood here is insane, huge trees are spread along the beach in big piles that dwarf anything we have ever seen on the east coast. Seeing these enormous logs smooth to the touch and laying in haphazard arrangements reminds us of the overwhelming power of the ocean. Along the beach we find sand dollars, a partially built cabin, and a sense of peace. Eventually the clouds move into shore and the temperature drops, sending us back to our home to finish out the evening with some reading and work on Jr. Ranger activities.

Mileage June 30th – 78,545

We started our day venturing north along the coast, stopping at several beaches, to see if we could spot Otters! At the first stop we are rewarded with tiny head popping up in the water in several locations. At first we believe we have been successful in our quest however, after closer examination we determine the little heads must be Harbor Seals, not Otters. Still fun and exciting to watch we think we even see a mother with her pup. As we scan the ocean surface Jenney and Logan spot some dolphins swimming close to shore. We are unable to snap a picture of the dolphins.

As we head to the next Beach a sign “Big Cedar”, and Kevin is hooked – “We need to see the Big Cedar!” We drive up the road, jump out, hit the trail, walk around some big tree that is falling apart, and head up the trail. There are some large trees on either side, but clearly we are headed to the Big Cedar. Eventually the trail just ends. No big tree in sight. So we turn around and head back, once close to the parking lot it dawns on us that the big rotten tree fallen by the trailhead must have been the Big Cedar.   Clearly this tree didn’t warrant a descriptive sign, I suppose at some point in the past it was obvious – but today is wasn’t obvious to us nor the six other people we encountered on the trail wandering around looking or a big tree.

The last stop in our beach tour was Rudy Beach and this beautiful location didn’t disappoint. Driftwood galore, sea stacks, sea creatures, and amazing views in every direction. We enjoyed climbing on the rocks, exploring yet another driftwood cabin, and completing the challenge of getting from the sand to the trailhead walking only on driftwood.

From the shore we headed inland to the Hoh Rainforest Visitors Center. We arrive just in time for the 2:00 pm Ranger lead nature walk with Ranger Lori. Ranger Lori shared with us she was from the South, a fact that was present in her thick accent. Look for the pic with Lori holding the bottom half of an Elk’s leg. She was a hoot, pulling several dead animals and parts out of her backpack. We were afraid to see what would emerge next. During our program we learned about temperate rain forests, the trees present in these environments, and the wildlife that call the Hoh Rainforest home. The group was very large – about 35+ people with several very small and at time uncooperative kids. All and all it wasn’t the best program we have ever attended, but it was entertaining. The talk ended about half way around a 1-mile loop trail, at which point Lori said we could head back the way we came or go around the loop. Most everyone selected to continue on around the loop. Pretty quickly we realize the tail diverged into a series of small trail loop systems cluster around the edge of the river. It was fairly comical to watch 35+ people wondering around in circles unable to find their way back to the visitor’s center. Again, not the best Ranger lead program we have attended but likely one of the most memorable.

Once back at the visitor’s center we started out on our real hike of the day, a close to 6 mile trek up and back on the Hoh Rainforest trail. Our end point destination was a beautiful waterfall feeding the Hoh River. A fairly moderate to easy hike with limited elevation gain we enjoyed our early evening time along the river in the temperate rain forest. On the look out for larger animals we were greeted with black slugs and a few birds. The waterfall was very cool and we enjoyed climbing up to the base of the larger section listening to the water and taking in our surroundings. Although we turned around the Hoh trail continues onward up into the glacier covered Olympic mountain range – in a few of the pictures you can see the snow capped peaks in the distance.

After a quick dinner in the parking lot (it was about 7 pm) we started our journey to Port Angeles, the stopping point for the night. Teryn quickly drifted off to a sound sleep. During this two hour drive we past the amazing Crescent Lake – there is just so much to see and explore around all the Parks we have visited, our only regret is having limited time. We settled in at the Port Angeles Wal-Mart. But before going to bed we need some provisions, so into Wal-Mart we headed. Jenney discovers reasonable Ben and Jerry’s prices. Having a hard time making choices we buy 3 pints of Talenti Gelato and 2 pints Ben and Jerry’s. We love having a freezer that will keep frozen treats at the perfect temperature on the road.