Friday, April 21, 2017

The mountains of Olympic National Park

After a day in the rain forest, it was time to head to the mountains. We drove the 18-mile curvy road to Hurricane Ridge, the most popular scenic route in Olympic National Park and the easiest access to the mountains.
Hiking to Sunrise Point at Olympic National Park
Near the Hurricane Hill Visitor Center, a short uphill trail takes visitors to Sunrise Point. At an elevation of more than 5200 feet, spectacular views of wildflowers and mountains whetted our tastes for more.
Amazing views at Sunrise Point, even with a haze on the mountains.

Beverly and Deb start the hike.
Then it was time to tackle the Hurricane Hill hike. Although the path is paved at the start (first half mile is wheelchair accessible), the gain of 700 feet in elevation meant there was a lot of uphill trekking. This hike (3.2 miles round-trip) leads to the highest point in the park at 5757 feet.
As the path took us to the tree line, windblown fir and pine trees were the norm. Tall, straight trees stood out in this tangle of vegetation. Massive roots were splayed in all directions, and branches overlapped each other on the side away from the wind. Vegetation along the way included flowers like bunch berry, Scottish bells, lily of the valley, and violets.

Past the tree line, switchbacks were common on the steep incline toward the summit. Stopping to take photos allowed us to catch our breath, too.
So much to see and photograph
on the Hurricane Hill trail
Although the day was mostly sunny with temps in the 60s and we could see the ocean and nearby city of Port Angeles, a light haze restricted our views at the top. On a really clear day it’s possible to see 360 degree views that include Olympus Mountains, Vancouver Island, Cascade Range, Seattle, and Mt. Rainier.

For a late lunch we happened upon Granny’s, a small local eatery on Hwy.101, where the salads were delicious. We then drove along Crescent Lake, watching it ripple in the breeze on the way to the Sol Duc area.
Salmon Cascades where salmon run in the summer
Just past the town of Fairholme, we turned onto Sol Duc River Hot Springs Road, part of Olympic Discovery Route. The road parallels Sol Duc River, one of the longest in Olympic National Park, and the only river with salmon runs in the summer. Although our September visit was a little late, we stopped at Salmon Cascades and imagined what this phenomenon might have looked like.

Three distinct sections of Sol Duc Falls
A well-marked trail winds through a forest filled with lush ferns and mosses to Sol Duc Falls, one of the best in the park. We could hear torrents of water pounding through a chasm below long before we could see the waterfall.
A bridge over the river provided a great view of the stunning triple fall. Three powerful streams of water cascade over the rock face, searching for paths of least resistance and cutting deeper as the water washes away any debris in its path.

The views are simply amazing in Olympic National Park.
Our day in the mountains had lasted 12 hours and included almost 10 miles of hiking, but we looked forward to the next day of exploring the last of the three ecosystems, the coast.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier


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