Monday, August 25, 2008
Olympic National Park
. . . after spending the day on Mt. Rainier I decided that it was time to move on to Olympic National Park. I had not received much sleep and was extremely tired as I drove through the washington countryside, so much so that I determined that it was too dangerous for me to be driving as my head was bobbing up and down as I was fighting to stay awake. I pulled off on the side of the road the first chance that I had and slept in my car for a good half an hour before continuing on my journey.
I arrived on the Peninsula and began driving on hwy 101 north on the eastern side. I pulled off on the side of the road in order to explore the shoreline as the rocky and wooded slopes dove into the sea. To my amazement I discovered a bald eagle in the treetops just above where I had parked. I got a few less than spectacular photos of the bird, but it was still cool to see it. I ended up camping just outside of Olympic National Park and the next day I was driving up the mountains within the park, arriving at the highest point that one may drive to within the park. It was truly a beautiful scene and there were many "friendly" deer up at the top. As a matter of fact, one of the deer seemed like a model, posing for all of the cameras. While the scene was spectacularly beautiful, it did not compare with the likes of the Grand Tetons or Glacier National Park. If the mountains here could not compete, then I thought it was high time I checked out the forests and the western coastline. My drive to the northwest corner of the peninsula was nothing short of amazing. The rolling hills, wild flowers, forests, and of course the ocean made for a spectacular drive winding along the coast.
I finally arrived late in the afternoon at a lake that is three miles from the coast. There is an awesome hike that one may take from the lake to the coast (3 miles), then along the coast (3 more miles) and back to the lake (3 miles). Unfortunately, I arrived too late in the day to hike the triangle, so instead I simply hiked to the coast and back. This was one of the coolest hikes that I took on my entire trip. What made it so amazing was that the hike is in a rain forest. The vegetation was thick and a wonder to behold. It felt like I was hiking through a jungle in Africa or South America (not that I really know what that would be like, being that I have never been to either of those two continents). And just when I thought the scene could not get any better, the coast appeared. It was a wondrous view and I was kicking myself for not getting a backcountry camping pass in order to camp on the coast itself (next time I am certainly going to do that). The dense forest creeping along the rocky coast with the famous haystacks out in the sea was breathtaking. I was in my own paradise, soaking up the beauties of nature and feeling a deep sense of Gratitude for God's amazing creation.
The evening hours were fast fading by time I began the three mile hike back through the rain forest to the lake. The shadows were long and the forest as dark as could be without it being night. It actually made for good photography as there was no speckled light to provide too great a contrast between light and shadow. By the time I returned to my car the last rays of light dissipated and I was left trying to figure out where I would stay for the night. All of the campgrounds were full and I drove further south in search of something. There was nothing available--even the hotels were sold out. It was another homeless night of sleeping in the car. . . I found a parking lot at the beginning of a trailhead at which to park and hoped that no ranger or police would come by as there were signs that forbade sleeping in cars or camping in unmarked campgrounds. I literally had nowhere to go.
The next morning I explored more of the Olympic coastline and headed into another area of the rain forests, exploring a trail that lead to some ancient mosses growing all over the rocks and trees. It was truly a splendid sight, and while Olympic National Park cannot compare to Glacier and other parks as far as mountain ranges are concerned, there is no other park that I have been to that can compete with the forests of the Olympic peninsula and the coastline is awe-inspiring. This is truly a location that all should visit. Even if you do not like hiking, the hikes that are available are flat and easy for anyone who is interested in exploring this amazing landscape. . .