Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Month in Northern Washington, Sept. 2014: Part III (the Olympic Peninsula)

 September 18:  We took the ferry to Pt. Townsend and then camped out in a lovely driveway, courtesy of our dear friends Caroline and Kate.  They have a beautiful second home in the hills, with a view of the Olympics.   

September 19:  We drove the truck to Port Angeles and took a short hike near “Heart O’ the Hills” campground -- the trail was called “Heart O’ the Forest.”  (Apparently, a moist climate causes gratuitous contractions.)  This was a true rain forest -- every inch was covered with ferns and mosses:

The leaves on this understory shrub were (no kidding) three feet long and a foot wide -- that's the tip of Felice’s pole in the bottom center of this shot:

That afternoon, we went back to Caroline and Kate’s -- and they arrived from Seattle with steaks!  Quite a nice change from ramen and lentil soups.

September 20:  We relaxed with Caroline and Kate on their deck -- Penny the GoldenDoodle looked at the camera, right on cue:

We then towed the trailer an hour west to Heart O’ the Hills campground and found a campsite near a creek.  That afternoon, we drove up to Hurricane Ridge -- it was yet another clear and warm afternoon.  Mt. Olympus dominated the skyline to the southwest:

We took the Hurricane Hill trail -- the visibility from the top was excellent, with Mt. Baker to the northeast, Glacier Peak to the southeast, and all of British Columbia to the north.  This video provides a sample of the view:

Along the trail, an Olympic marmot (different from ordinary marmots) posed for Felice as he munched nonchalantly on a lupine bush:

We also came across a family of ptarmigans, chasing (and eating) grasshoppers in the meadow -- the birds looked and sounded like drab muted turkeys (which would be a good name for a rock band):

Late that evening, the sky was still clear, so we drove back up to Hurricane Ridge from the campground.  The Milky Way illuminated the glaciers on Mt. Olympus:

(Full disclosure:  although we could see the Milky Way clearly with our own eyes and could just make out the glaciers on the mountain, this picture reveals far more detail than we could really see.  It is a 30 second time exposure at an ISO of 1600.)

September 21:  We took an easy hike (a little over four miles round trip) to the Goblin’s Gate area on the Elwha River:

It was a hot day, probably around 80 degrees, so we spent a lot of time wading in the clear, cold water and enjoying the warm breeze.  Instead of a boot shot, this is a feet shot: 

September 22:  We moved the trailer from Heart o’ the Hills to Sol Duc campground.  Once again, our campsite was at the water’s edge.  That afternoon, we hiked from the campground up to the falls and spent a lot of time hanging out by the water:

Felice clambered out onto the rocks for this shot -- she is in the upper-right corner:

In this picture, she is on the bridge overlooking the falls:

We hiked upriver a little way:

Back at the campground, we actually made a campfire, a very rare event for us:

September 23:  It started raining during the night and rained off and on throughout the day.  We decided to try the North Fork of the Sol Duc River, a seldom-used trail that requires a tricky river crossing.  We put on our special water hiking shoes at the edge of the river, and I wore our hiking boots around my neck to keep them dry:

The trail followed the river very closely.  The vine maples were brilliant, especially because the leaves were wet:

September 24 :  We took the trail along the left bank of the main fork of the Sol Duc River, which was pleasant but unremarkable -- the trail was not quite at the river for most of the way, so we could hear the water but could not see it very often.  We came across a fallen tree that had split in a spiral pattern:

When we got home, I did a little research and discovered (surprisingly) that no one really knows why some trees grow in spirals -- maybe the tree is better able to resist high winds.  

Back at the falls, we could see that the heavy rains of the past two days had caused the river to rise a lot -- compare the first shot (from the 22nd) with the second shot (taken on the 24th):

This is a quick video of the falls:

That evening, we hung our soggy garments from the plethora of hooks we’ve installed in the trailer, for exactly this reason; the trailer looked like a mobile laundry room:

September 25:  After a quick stop in the town of Forks for laundry and groceries, we moved the trailer to the Hoh River campground, again finding a campsite right on the river.  It rained very hard all night long; during the heaviest downpours, the pounding on the roof of the trailer woke us up. (Usually, rain has the opposite effect -- excellent "white noise.")

September 26:  We took several small hikes in the rain, in the vicinity of the campground.  This huge spooky maple was on the Hall of Mosses trail:

The river looked rough and uninviting, clouded with a big load of glacial flour:

The mist and fog came and went, rolling up and down the river:

September 27:  The rain stopped, and we watched the sun come up over the river from our campsite:

After breakfast, Felice spotted an eagle across the river -- in the first shot, I have highlighted the bird in the top of the tree:

Then Felice zoomed in:

We set out on the Hoh River Trail, through a dense rain forest -- it was so freakishly green that it looked like a photo taken with the wrong white balance setting.  This picture is absolutely accurate -- this is how the whole jungle looked, mile after mile, a riot of thick vegetation:

The vine maples were set off against the blue-gray river:

Felice caught this little vine maple seedling with stylish two-tone leaves:

This banana slug gets the prize for “Most Banana-ish” -- it looks perfectly ripe:

We made it all the way to Five Mile Island and back -- with a stop for a therapeutic foot soak in very cold water:

We toasted the end of our stay in Washington with another riverbank cocktail hour:

Late that night, I stepped outside the trailer, and both Orion and Sirius were rising over the river and the mountains to our south. Sirius is in the notch of the mountains.  The bright pink star at the top is Betelguese.  There is a fog bank up against the mountains, and the Hoh River is in the left foreground:

September 28:  We left the Hoh Valley and drove down through Washington to the Oregon Coast.  We stayed in Nehalem Bay State Park, right on the beach.  We had heard that Dungeness crabs were in season; we found a nearby place called Kelly’s Brighton Marina where they cook the fresh crab right on the dock.  The crab was delicious, especially on a warm, sunny evening at a picnic table overlooking the harbor.  That’s Kelly himself in the red hat:

That night, we took a walk on the beach near the campground.  The moon was setting over the ocean and yet the Milky Way was visible, an unusual combination.  This picture (a 30 second exposure) makes it look like the moon was full, but it wasn’t -- it was about a quarter moon:

September 29:  On a rainy day, we drove to Grants Pass to Valley of the Rogue State Park.  The riverbank was lined with huge blackberry bushes, but we were a month too late for the peak of the season.

September 30:  On a whim, we drove to Lassen National Park, since the weather was cool and we were in the neighborhood.  We stayed at Manzanita Lake Campground, at about 6000 feet in elevation.  Very pretty, but lots of schoolchildren noisily enjoying “outdoor science camp.”

October 1:  On a clear, cool day, we drove up the mountain toward the high country; on the way, Felice caught this reflection in Hat Creek:

Starting at about the 8,000 foot level, we hiked into “Bumpass Hell” --Bumpass was the last name of the poor fellow who discovered the geothermal area and then stepped into a hot spring, scalding his leg so badly that it later had to be amputated.  As we got near the crater, we could hear it and smell it before we could see it.  The steam vents were roaring, and the sulfur in the steam had discolored the rocks:

This quick video provides an overview:

There were quite a few vigorously boiling mud pots -- Felice zoomed in on a mud mini-geyser:

These two short video clips show the mud pots:

Later that afternoon, we hiked down to Kings Creek Falls, which was nice but a bit of a disappointment -- there was no safe way to get down to the base of the falls.  Instead, this is a side view; Felice is the little blue dot in the top right corner: 

October 2:  We made a quick stop in Oakland to see Matt and Greg, and of course Haydn.  And then home.


Ski3pin said...

A well rounded and multifaceted adventure and your foot did not appear to hamper your hiking too badly. Thanks for sharing this with us; very enjoyable!

MTWaggin said...

Your foot must be feeling better and your photos are FABULOUS! Inspires me to get out and start trying to get some of those night shots!

tooth said...

Thanks guys for the great photo's. I think they are your best ever. Always enjoy the commentary !

Unknown said...

I'm in agreement here with everyone ... your photos are magnificent. Also I can't help but think you are both educators (possibly retired) as you seem to know a great deal about your surroundings, from astronomy to geology. Once again, you inspire me to do more hiking and take more pictures. Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventures.