Olympic National Park

Places like these are the reasons why domestic travel is incredible. Before arriving to Washington I hardly knew that Olympic National Park (commonly referred to as the Olympic Peninsula) existed, but upon research the day before entering the park, I was mind boggled by its diverse and breathtaking beauty. Who knew that just one federal park, one unpretentious area of land, could present its visitors dramatic landscapes of the unforgiving northern Pacific coast, rainforests seemingly from another continent, and panoramas of alpine mountains? If the weather cooperates (which it rarely does in this region), one can summit a glacier-filled mountain, traverse mossy rainforests, kayak in pristine lakes, and stroll along vast stretches of beaches—all in the same weekend.

We ended up boondocking on a random forest road in the forest just south of Neilton.IMG_4566

Sunrises and sunsets are typically taken into account when I plan my day at national parks, but at Olympic tides also had to be observed. There were too many beaches that I wished to see, and timing it all with low tide in order to observe the rocks, driftwood, and tidal pools was a bit tricky.

First was Ruby Beach, whose low tide was 4:30am and high tide was 10:30am. We aimed for 7:30am, somewhere in the middle.IMG_4569

The next low tide for the coast was 4:30pm, so we planned to return to the beaches later that afternoon. Between Ruby Beach and the next set of beaches, we ventured east into the Hoh Rainforest’s Hall of Mosses. It is said that not even J.R.R. Tolkien himself could have imagined a fantasy rainforest such as Hoh, but no description could have prepared us for the short .75-mile loop through the magical Hoh rainforest.

With all the rain and perpetual moisture in the air, curtains of Spanish moss draped from branches and soft clusters of moss clung to massive trunks.IMG_4604

I assume most visitors see the Hall of Mosses in its full green glory during the peak summer season. Thanks to autumn, the trail beneath and the canopy above were speckled with orange.20151008_11370020151008_113823

My favorite photo from Olympic National Park is below. No filters were used, no color adjustments were made. Just Mother Nature at its finest. It’s hard to believe that this is still the United States, never mind Washington state.IMG_4607

Not long after we made our way over to what would be my favorite beach at Olympic: Second Beach. The short trail through the rainforest onto the sandy beach was dotted with mushrooms of all shapes and colors. I had to stop to admire these adorable little guys.IMG_4665 IMG_4672 IMG_4671IMG_4670

And on the beach I got a bit camera crazy—it was simply all too beautiful. It was impossible to take a crappy photo. Massive sea stacks in the distance were easily framed by driftwood in the foreground:IMG_4673

And moss-covered rocks only visible at low tide:IMG_4683

Giant sea stacks and rock formations:IMG_4701 IMG_4689IMG_4702

Tidal pools that displayed sea anemone:IMG_4704

And hundreds of clams clinging to rocks:20151008_144844

I ran around the vast stretch of sand in solitude, with arms outstretched:20151008_150238

Our final beach of the day was Rialto Beach. Never before had I seen such spooky landscape along the coast!IMG_4715IMG_4742

During our second day after waiting for a morning rain to pass, we made a brief stop at Lake Crescent.IMG_4750

There we strolled a short, gentle trail through the woods to Marymere Falls.IMG_4760

We encountered more gigantic trees along the way.20151009_134516

I hesitated whether or not to make the drive up to Hurricane Hill due to on and off rain and wind, but we had nothing else better to do so up we went for the national park’s best high altitude views at over 5,200 ft.  On a rare, clear day a panorama of peaks and glaciers could be seen from the road and parking lot.  But it proved true to its name, and thick, gray clouds engulfed the majority of the peaks that day, but every now and then the clouds parted way for some glaciers.IMG_4788

The epic road up to Hurricane Hill:IMG_4785

Unfavorable weather (mostly unforgiving wind) prevented us from attempting any long hikes, so we settled with a stroll around the area.IMG_4783

We departed Olympic National Park before the weather worsened.  Apparently the seasons don’t matter too much in this area–rain seems to be the park’s regular friend. Although we couldn’t hike the Olympic mountains, we enjoyed soaking in the dramatic landscapes of the magical rain forests and eerie beaches.  It was a bit disheartening that we could not spend time in the Olympic mountains but I knew we would make up for it with our next national park–Mount Rainier.

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