High Peaks, Lush Forest, and Wild Coast… Part 3

Olympic National Park

Today we visit the high peaks.

The Olympic Mountain Range is a cluster of rugged mountain ridges surrounded by meadows, lakes, and steep forested-slopes. In all directions mountains and valleys radiate from the 7,980 foot summit of Mt. Olympus like spokes on a wheel. (nps.gov)

Hurricane Ridge, at nearly a mile above sea level, is the easiest place to view the mountains. From the entrance to the National Park in Port Angeles, the drive to the Ridge is 17 miles one way.

As we ascend, an overcast day becomes obstructed with clouds. We stop at a few overlooks and see absolutely nothing. It’s almost like we are blinded by snow! We wonder if we will ever see Mt. Olympus, even at the end of Hurricane Ridge Road.

Then, all of a sudden, we burst through to sunny blue skies! The clouds are below us now and there stands Mt. Olympus named for the mythical home of the Greek gods by English sea captain John Meares in 1788.

Abundant snow and cool summers create the ideal conditions for Pacific Northwest glaciers. A healthy glacier receives enough snow in winter to offset its summer melt. But now this sustaining snow more often falls as rain. From the 1970s to 2010 the Olympic Mountain glaciers lost over 30 percent of their surface area. (plaque at Hurricane Ridge)

Life at Hurricane Ridge is shaped by wind and snow. Winds gusting over 75 miles per hour pound the ridge, hence the nickname “Hurricane.” As much as 30-35 feet of snow falls here annually. (nps.gov)

Unfortunately the Hurricane Hill Trail is closed for repairs and mountain goat capture activities. So, we enjoy looping together 3 smaller nature hikes suggested at a trailhead outside the Visitor Center:

The Cirque Rim Trail winds along the ridge. A plaque explains that a cirque is a bowl-shaped amphitheater scooped out of a hillside by a glacier:

During daylight thaw, snow and ice seeped into rock cracks, refroze and expanded at night, and fractured the slope. Gradually the glacier steepened and cut into the rock creating a round open indention.

I try and capture the cirque with my camera, but you will just have to take my word for it, that this is a picture of it.

According to the sign at the trailhead, it’s possible to see views of Port Angeles, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Canada at this overlook… Not today!

We climb up the steep High Ridge Trail into an alpine setting.

A short spur trail leads up to Sunrise Point.

As we descend from Sunrise Point, notice the trail sloping down to the left. That trail is the Klahhane Ridge Trail. The first 2.8 miles leads to the junction with the Klahhane Switchback Trail. An additional mile on the Switchback Trail climbs 800 feet to Klahhane Ridge. Did I forget to mention that the 3.8 total miles is one way? Oops…

We descend only to ascend again before making our way back down the High Ridge Trail.

We cut through the short Big Meadow Trail that leads us back to the trailhead and Visitor Center.

During summer, wildflowers carpet the subalpine meadows spreading softly before a backdrop of rugged peaks and glaciers. Lucky for us, there are signs along these nature trails that identify most of these.

These clusters of tiny white flowers on dissected leaves are called Partridgefeet. Since this plant thrives on bare ground, it is valuable for revegetating areas damaged by stray footsteps. (But that is no excuse for stepping off the marked trails!)

Broadleaf Lupine are pretty in pink and purple and are relatives of the pea family. Bacteria in their roots convert nitrogen from the air into minerals for the soil. They are a natural fertilizer for themselves and neighboring wildflowers.

Harebell is also called “Bluebells-of-Scotland.” This belle of a bell  is one of the few flowers that decorate these mountain meadows in late summer.

Reminding me of couscous, these tiny Pearly Everlasting flowers are enclosed in a kind of husk, called a bract, that look like petals. They are able to withstand the elements and are unappealing to animals.

Mountain Owl-Clover is a small annual flower that manages to grow in these mountains. Their pink color is a showy bract. The actual flower is an inconspicuous small tube.

Western Wormwood is related to sagebrush. I rubbed the silky leaves between my fingers, and sure enough, they smelled like sage!

I really like this lichen called Ghost Beard Lichen. These wispy, pale green threads fasten to the boughs of firs yet take nothing from the tree. They produce their own food and thrive on the humidity of the trees.

According to wildflowersearch.org, this white daisy-looking wonder is Parry’s Catchfly, also known as Parry’s Silene.

According to my sleuthing skills, this sunny yellow brilliance is a Woolly Sunflower. It contains specially adapted plant hairs or “wool” which protects it from the harsh alpine climate.

This has to be Pearly Everlasting gone to seed… or maybe still blooming?

I think these lavender lovelies are either Alpine Aster or Cascade Aster.

This low growing groundcover is Spreading Phlox.

It’s time for one last pic of Mt. Olympus before we say goodbye and return to Port Angeles and Sequim.

We start our descent into sunshine and beautiful blue skies.

And then, wait for it…

Yep, pull-outs are still smothered in clouds…

At this next pull-out, however, Doe the deer tamely walks up to a visitor who has her hand outstretched.

I mean this woman could pet the deer!

And me? Just look how close I get!

Since there is nothing to view from the overlook, I turn around and look across the road. A plaque explains that what I am looking at is volcanic rock. But how can this be since there are no volcanoes in the Olympic Mountains?

I’m glad you asked that question and I’ll try to make sense of what I am reading…

Eons ago underwater eruptions occurred in the Pacific Ocean and formed pillow-shaped structures of lava from the movement of magma onto the surface of the earth.  The rocks in this valley across the street were formed from sediments blasted onto the ocean floor.

Both kinds of rock were rafted toward North America by ocean floor movement, then uplifted and tilted by powerful  forces.

Traveling down to sea level…

Oh, say can you see Canada and the volcanic peaks of the Cascade Mountains? No…

A little more mist…

And we are below the clouds again…

Purple Haze

Lavender Love from Laurel

Sequim is the Lavender Capital of North America. How this came to be is an interesting story.

The city of Sequim, the village of Dungeness, and the valley in between were once a major dairy region. During the 1930s and 1940s, there was a pea industry here. A mini-oil boom took place from 1955-1957. Logging, sawmills, and mining were also important to the local economy.

As the dairy industry eventually declined, Sequim and the Dungeness Valley had to reinvent itself. In early 1995, the Sequim 2000 Committee began meeting to consider ways to boost the economy and encourage tourism.

After researching various options, the group discovered that the soils and microclimate of this area were ideal for growing a purple flowering herb known for its calming scent and wide variety of uses. July 1996 saw the first harvest of lavender, planted in 1995, and the concept of “agritourism” took off.

Today more than 2 dozen lavender farms and lavender-related businesses adorn the Sequim-Dungeness Valley with their subtlety fragrant scent and purple haze. (Olympic Peninsula Summer Visitors Guide 2019)

We visit Purple Haze Lavender Farm, a 12-acre certified organic farm in the Dungeness Valley.

A landscape of gardens, orchards, ponds, wetlands, and buildings are incorporated into the beauty and design of its lavender fields.

Purple Haze grows over 15,000 plants of more than 50 varieties. In July lavender is harvested by hand. (purplehazelavender.com)

Chickens, rabbits, and peacocks live among the rows of lavender. When we arrive I talk to the owner as she pulls a round carrot out of the soil to feed the bunnies.

We walk around these beautiful gardens completely mesmerized by the flowers, plants, and setting.

Please visit the Purple Haze website to find out so much more about lavender and its uses. You won’t be disappointed. I guarantee it!

(My name is Laurel and I love lavender.)

Dungeness Spit

The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge is home to one of the world’s largest natural sand spits.

A spit is a coastal landform composed of beach material that projects out to sea. It has 2 ends. The one connected to the mainland is called the proximal end and the one jutting out into the water is called the distal end. (worldatlas.com)

Waves, breaking at an angle to the shoreline, create a longshore current that moves parallel to the shore. These large angled swells sweep the shoreline with great force and push water and sediment down the length of the beach in one direction. This movement of sediment is called beach drift. (malibumakos.com)

As these crashing waves lose their energy, they can no longer carry a full load of sediment with them as backwash. What they leave behind is deposited in a long bar-like feature called a spit. (worldatlas.com)

A short trail leads through a forest to a bluff overlooking the Dungeness Spit.

Orange “chicken of the woods” shelf fungus brighten our way.

This display along the trail is my very favorite…

Come on world! Wake up! It’s time to be kind to Mother Earth or we will poison her. There’s a 4th R needed here… RE-THINK how we treat her. Change habits for our habitat!

Here’s a bird’s eye view of the spit from the bluff.

The Dungeness Spit is 5.5 miles long and is growing at a rate of about 13 feet per year. At its highest point, the Spit is only 15 feet above sea level.

A steep hill leads down to the Spit trail.

Near the tip of the Spit, a 10.2 mile out and back trek, is the New Dungeness Lighthouse. This was the first lighthouse on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and has operated continuously since its lard oil lamp was lit in December of 1857.


The New Dungeness Lighthouse Keeper Program allows families and friends a rare opportunity to be “lighthouse keepers” for a week. Keepers perform duties such as raising and lowering the flag, watering and mowing when needed, polishing the brass in the tower, and most importantly greeting visitors. (newdungenhsslighthouse.com)

Since we’re not prepared for an 11 mile hike today, we turn back after exploring and experiencing this amazing coastal land formation.

The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge is a place for wildlife and people by both protecting critical habitat and providing viewing opportunities. Some recreational activities are allowed only in selected areas during certain times of the year. (pamphlet from the Refuge)

The Far West

Cape Flattery

I used to think that Cape Blanco on the southern coast of Oregon was the most westerly point of the contiguous United States. But when I started doing tours for the Cape Blanco Lighthouse, I discovered that Cape Flattery in Washington actually deserves this distinction. To verify this fact I went to lat-long.com and compared the longitudinal degrees of both capes. Cape Blanco measures 124.564 degrees west and Cape Flattery measures 124.714 degrees west… just a few feet difference.

Today we set out on a scenic road trip that will take us to the most northwestern point in the contiguous United States. And it just happens to be on the tip of the Olympic Peninsula, not far from where we are staying.

Our first stop is Clallam Bay, the farthest north we can travel before heading west. On a clear day you can see Vancouver Island across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

No such luck today…

The Clallam River empties into the Bay where it then makes it way into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

On the western end of the Bay sits another seafront town, Sekiu. A plaque at the overlook explains the importance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca as both a shipping lane and a passageway for marine animals. Orcas swim through and some gray whales take a detour through the Strait as they migrate along the coast. A small resident population of humpback whales remain near shore year round. At any rate, both the fishing population and the whale population enjoy the abundance of chinook salmon during spawning season. (plaque at overlook)

In it’s past, Sekiu has been the site of a salmon cannery, a factory that extracted leather tanning solution from hemlock tree bark, a commercial fishing port, a residential center for timber workers, and a port for shipping timber to regional mills.

In the 1930s fishing regulations restricted commercial fishing to areas that were more than 3 miles away from the mouth of rivers. Seiku’s commercial fishery eventually was replaced with recreational fishing. (plaque at overlook)

The next stop on our way to Cape Flattery is Neah Bay, a census designated area of 2.4 square miles on the Makah Reservation. The name “Neah” refers to the Makah Chief Dee-ah, pronounced Neah in a now extinct language once spoken by the Klallam peoples. Archaeological research suggests that Makah people have inhabited Neah Bay for more than 3,800 years.(en.m.wikipedia.org)

According to makah.com, the name Makah was attributed to the Tribe by neighboring tribes. It means “people generous with food” in the Salish language.

The indigenous Makah held a vast territory of inland and coastal territory bordered by the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean. Until historic times, 5 permanent villages existed along the shore of the most northwesterly point of what is now the Olympic Peninsula. The villages were composed of large cedar plank longhouses where many members of an extended family lived. Cultural practices, called tupat, varied from family to family. Thus, even today, Makah families, and not the tribe as a whole, “own” their varied songs, dances, stories, land/ocean resources, and cultural information. (makah.com)

In 1970 tidal erosion exposed a group of 500-year-old homes in Ozette, 15 miles south of Neah Bay, that had been perfectly preserved in an ancient mudslide. Over 55,000 artifacts were discovered. The Makah share this rich legacy at a museum at the Makah Cultural and Research Center. (museum brochures)

Since Cape Flattery is on the Tribal Reservation, a $10 annual recreational permit issued by the Makah is required.  

The 3/4 mile trail (one way) leads through a lush forest.

Three observation decks offer views of the Pacific Ocean, The Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Vancouver Island (on a clear day).

I spy with my little eye mussels, barnacles, a sea star, and purple flowers growing out of the right side of the cavern rock.

The trail ends at the third observation deck which has to be accessed by climbing several steep rungs on a wooden ladder.

We are now standing on a 60- foot high cliff at the farthest northwesterly point in the lower 48 states. Tattoosh Island and Lighthouse are just across from us.

The lighthouse marks the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a deep and wide passage from the open Pacific Ocean to Puget Sound at Point Wilson. Tatoosh Island is an important center for intertidal studies, including climate change and ocean acidification research. (Olympic Peninsula Visitors Guide, Summer 2019)  (We all know how that’s going these days… Don’t get me started!)

I walk under the observation deck to take this next picture. It’s a sheer drop into the ocean. Just one misstep is all it would take.

It’s time to head back. And time for a few more pics.

What a wonderful day! The only regret I have is that we did not spend time at the Makah Museum.

High Peaks, Lush Forest, and Wild Coast… Part 2

Olympic National Park

The 3 unique environments of Olympic NP—mountains, forest, and coast—can all be accessed off Highway 101.

Today we explore a tiny part of the more than 73 miles of wild coastal beaches that run north to south from Shi Shi Beach to South Beach.

Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach is a public beach in Clallum County in the Olympic Peninsula. It is located near the mouth of the Quillayute River adjacent to Mora Campground in the Olympic National Park.

This beach and coastal forest is noted for its pounding waves, rocky shore, giant drift logs, and sea stacks.

It’s minus tide today and we walk along the beach for 1.5 miles one way toward our destination… a sea-carved arch called Hole in the Wall.

Walk with me and enjoy…

We study the tidal pools and discover sea anemones…

Sea stars…

Limpets in their shell, clinging to the rocks…

More sea anemones…

Seaweed and kelp…


Small mussels…

We arrive at the Hole in the Wall.

After taking pictures and treading the rocks, we start back and retrace our steps for another 1.5 miles.

I love the picture below. This hiker says it all with his pose!

Forest and drift…

The Quileute Reservation

Today these Native Americans live within 1 square mile in La Push. But thousands of winters ago the Quileute and the ghosts of their ancestors flourished in the territory which originally stretched from the Pacific beaches along the rain forest rivers to the glaciers of Mt. Olympus. Their ancient mythic stories recount the days when animals were still people and they challenged kwalla, the mighty whale. Creation legends involve bayak, the trickster raven, who placed the sun in the sky. They believe their peoples were changed from wolves by a wandering Transformer. (quileutenation.org)

Hmmm… I wonder if Stephenie Meyer knew about this when she chose Forks as the setting for the Twilight series…

The Quileute language is still spoken by the elders and children are taught the basics of this complex language at the Tribal School.

I stopped into this general store below and heard the spoken language myself. It is a mix of clicking sounds and epiglottal oral consonant stops. It is 1 of only 5 languages in the world with no nasal sounds, such as m or n.

The Quileute Language is known for its tongue twisting strings of consonants with words that run off the page. For example, kitlayakwokwilkwolasstaxasalas means “Those are the people who think that I am the one who is going to Forks.” (quileutenation.org)

The Quillayute River blocks access from Rialto Beach to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Beaches.

Beach One is part of the Quileute Indian Reservation and was a setting in the movie version of the Twilight series.

Beach Two is part of the Olympic National Park, along with Beach Three.

We stop, pull over, park, and head down the .7 one way trail to the beach.

It’s quite beautiful with the nurse logs sculpting the roots and the various shades and textures of green moss, lichens, and air plants.

The trail dead ends into an obstacle course of drift logs. We scramble through a short ways.

And take a few pics of the beach. Notice the pirate flag near the tent and another sea-carved arch.

We’re ready to return and call it a day.

Did I mention that it’s pretty much uphill all the way back? It’s a good thing that I can stop now and then to take an interesting picture. (What? I never said anything about catching my breath!)

I watch as a woman, holding this slug with chopsticks, gently places it into the shrubs. She tells me she found it on the road…

A few of our treasures from Rialto Beach…

High Peaks, Lush Forest, and Wild Coast… Part 1

Olympic National Park

Precipitation, elevation, and diversity are the hallmarks of Olympic National Park. Encompassing nearly a million acres, the park protects a vast wilderness, thousands of years of human history, and several distinctly different ecosystems, including glacier-capped mountains, old-growth temperate rain forests, and over 70 miles of wild coastline. (nps.gov)

Today we explore a lush forest.

Hoh Rain Forest

This Part of Olympic National Park is located on the western side of the park, thirteen miles south of Forks and then seventeen miles east.

Driving into the NP, we follow the Hoh River.

A canopy of spruces, firs, and hemlocks salute us.

There are 3 trails…

The Mosses and Spruce trails are short loops and combined equal about 2 miles. The River trail is 17 miles plus, one way and is very popular with backpackers.

Unlike a tropical rain forest, the Hoh Rain Forest is coniferous. (plaque on trail)

Hall of Mosses Loop

Enter a world of sparkling sprinkled sun, giant trees dripping with beards, trunks shaggy with clubmoss and licorice ferns, moldering logs supporting new growth, and lettuce lichen lying under your feet.

The “Holy Mosses Trail”, my nickname for the Hall of Mosses, ascends a bank to a higher river terrace and an older part of the rain forest. (plaque on trail)

The upper reach of these conifers may well be over 200 feet.

Here’s how to identify these giant trees according to a plaque on the trail:

Now, let me translate. The needles on a Sitka spruce grow all around the branch. Western hemlocks have drooping tops. The Douglas-fir has a thick, red-brown, deeply furrowed bark. (And you are correct, the diagram of the pine cones on the plaque is not very helpful unless you are looking at the branches…)

I can’t believe my eyes sometimes! All these roots tangled in knots and branches draped in green moss amaze me.

Here’s a great picture of dappled sunlight piercing the forest.

Moss-covered trees contort into forest monsters.

This root looks like a serpent to me.

Heavy beards of clubmoss attach to boughs but feed only on air and light. The rain forest atmosphere provides enough moisture and wind-borne nutrients.

Some trees, such as big leaf maples, support denser clusters of lichens and hanging air plants or mosses, called epiphytes. (plaque on trail)

When a large tree falls, it provides the environment to support new growth. Hemlock and spruce seedlings, for example, cannot survive on the tangled forest floor. Decaying tree trunks, called nurselogs, provide warmth and protection and allow the seedlings to absorb the minerals and moisture needed to grow and mature. (plaque on trail)

Even after their young roots reach the soil, the new trees look like they are standing on stilts as the nurselog molders away.

This spruce looks ghostly with its hairy limbs and burls. The burls are actually bumpy growths due to insect damage or a tree virus.

Mother Nature has a talent for decorating and landscaping the forest…

And some visitors add their whimsical touches as well…

I notice a woman hunched over this indentation of trees and a nursed root. Wondering what she finds so interesting that she needs to take a picture, I walk up to her and then break out in a smile. She has placed Barbie’s boyfriend, a Ken doll, into this little cavern. Apparently she takes Ken with her on her adventures and makes him pose for pictures, just like some people use gnomes or flat Stanleys or candy peeps 🐥. I ask her permission to take this picture.

This fallen spruce tree trunk is 190 feet long! Sitka spruces grow an average of 220 feet tall. (plaque on trail)

Spruce Trail Loop

This trail stands on top of a former riverbank and represents a younger forest with more open areas. Douglas-firs cannot reproduce in deep shade. Here they have enough light to grow old. (plaque on trail)

A banana slug slithers across our path and into the ferns, herbs, mosses, and shrubs.

Shelf fungus fruits on a dying spruce trunk. Shhh… I’m not sure the tree knows it’s dying yet…

Do you recognize the effect of nurselogs here?

This Sitka spruce bark is unique. According to Jeff, Sitka spruce wood makes great guitars…. especially the soundboard for acoustic guitars.

The tree branches bogged down with moss still look like haunted creatures on this trail too.

This is Taft Creek. In the late fall and winter Coho salmon spawn in the stream gravels. The fry emerge in spring and feed in the river for a year before swimming to the sea. Surviving salmon return as 3-year-olds to spawn and die.

Over 130 wildlife species thrive off salmon. Their carcasses decompose and nourish the forest.

Salmon are just one example of how the mountains, forests, and seas are united. (plaque on trail)

Back on the Spruce Trail…

The western hemlock below is actually composed of several individuals. Originally many seedlings took root on a rotting stump, or nurselog. The seedlings near the edge grew roots down the sides of the stump and reached ground first. Eventually the soil-rooted hemlocks crowded out the others and joined together, giving the appearance of a single tree. (plaque on trail)

This colonnade of Sitka spruce and western hemlock used to straddle the remains of its nurselog. Their buttressed roots now support standing trees. (plaque on trail)

A tiny brook trickles across the trail.

And we complete the Spruce Trail Loop…

Hoh River Trail

As we head back to the Visitor Center, we decide to take the Hoh River Trail for a short out-and-back.

A hairy monster with burls…

As Jeff and I return from the Hoh River Trail, I hear an unusual sound and stop in my tracks. Jeff notices the source of the sound, and to my amazement, a pileated woodpecker pecks away on my immediate left. I have never been so close to a woodpecker before!

As we leave the Hoh Rain Forest and head back to Highway 101, we notice a pile-up of cars parked along the Hoh River. I spot a brown animal in the water and tell Jeff to stop and pull over. That’s when we both realize why all the other cars are stopped here… elk.

What a great day!

Bite Me!

Forks, Washington

Does the name ring any bells?

Look closely at the name of this store.

Now, here’s a dead giveaway, pun intended…

Yeppers… Forks is famous for the setting and filming location of the Twilight series of books and movies.

We are staying about 7 miles outside of Forks on the 110 Spur at…

Here’s what the park looks like on a postcard photo:

It’s a great location for visiting the Hoh Rain Forest, the Olympic Coast beaches, and Cape Flattery, the most westerly point in the lower 48 States.

Across the street from us is the 3 Rivers Resort, a cute campground with cabins and tents in the woods.

And, it’s home to the treaty line between werewolves and vampires…

It’s “Forever Twilight in Forks”…

Forks offers self-guided Twilight tours with the help of this brochure and map.

Personally, I’m not a Twilight fan, but the books and movies sure help boost the economy of this timber town of some 3,7000 people.

Forks is named after the forks in the nearby Quillayute, Bogachiel, Calawah, and Sol Duc rivers. Sport fishers fish for salmon and rainbow trout. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

Other visitors, like us, stay in Forks to explore parts of Olympic National Park.