The Northern Edges of the Olympic Peninsula

Sol Duc Valley

The Sol Duc Valley Resort opened in 1912, and in its heyday boasted thousands of visitors per day from all over the world to bathe in the volcanic springs. Now it is a small series of cabins rather than a massive hotel like resort. However people still come from all over the world to bathe in the hot springs. Alyssa and Kylie were among them. We camped in the campground and explored the local trails. Even though it was within the same national park as Hoh Valley and Quinault, it seemed less wet. It average nearly 40 inches per year a third of what the Quinault Valley gets. It was still green and mossy with rivers and creeks, but it definitely had a different vibe (to use a word that Alyssa uses)

Sol Duc Falls

Hurricane Ridge

We had the good fortune of being in Port Angeles when a solar flare reached Earth. This meant that we had a good opportunity to witness the aura borealis. We spent an hour for two nights snapping pictures of the northern sky and allowed the camera to capture what our eyes could barely see. The lights were barely a green glow to the North and luckily Sharleen’s camera was sensitive enough to snap a picture.   We’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights, and even though they were not the flashy ribbons in the sky that we were expected, we were still happy we got to see what we did.  We were also treated a starry night.PXL_20220723_072917088.NIGHT

The Northern Lights over Port Angeles

During the day the we could view the Olympic Mountains sandwiched between blue sky and green to the South and Port Angles and Canada to the North.

Big Meadow at Hurricane Ridge
This big black bear was grazing roadside and posed for a picture for us

The Elwa Vallay

In 1913 the State of Washington dammed the Elwa River. To the delight of many it became a prime recreation area. Boat ramps, picnic areas, and rv campgrounds hosted people for decades. Even though it was obvious dam was bad for the environment the powers that be figured the power it produced and the recreational purposes it served were more important. It took an act of congress, Elwha River Ecosystem and Restoration Act (1992), to remove the dam. The dam was removed in in 2014. Salmon carcasses are being found upriver, so the removal is working and tremendous win for salmon, the environment, indigenous people, and environmentalists. Finding data to substantiate the success is more challenging as it lands within the ongoing debate as to whether fisheries work (click here). I would like to say it is a sign of the times that data-driven decision making is hard to come by, but the fact of the matter is that data-driven decision has always been abnormal. Most people develop a belief, and use that belief to inform which facts they use. The only difference in today’s world is that there are more and louder blowhorns and taller soap boxes.

A picture of the valley from 2014 after Dam Removal
A picture on 7/2022 showing the current state of recovery

The Trail

I hiked from Madison Falls up to Hayes River and back nearly 50 miles of backcountry trail.  I beat the trail crew to Hayes River.  There are several advantages to being first on a trail.  Seeing things before the trail is cleared gives one a sense of being closer to nature.  The path seems less travelled.

Lilian River
The Trail is through here. I’m standing on a downed tree to take this picture, most of these plants grow over my head.
A Big Leaf Maple Grove
I was the first person at Mary’s Falls Camp for the season.   Everything was overgrown.  There was no one else here, and I had a private beach.

A few words about the trail crews.   Olympic National Park endures hard seasons and extreme weather.  I caught up with the trail crew on the way back.  Seven mules and two along this trail there were several cabins.  They would head out for days at a time.  Downed trees, avalanches, trail rebuilds due to slides or washouts were no problem for these souls. “Clearing trails saved my life. I’m just so happy that people enjoy these special places as much as I do.” One trail crew member said during our conversation.

A trail crew clears the way to Hayes River. 
Along the trail are various cabins.  This particular cabin was build by Hume in the 1920s for a lawyer who was renown for his fishing prowess. There were also cabins belong to Cougar Mike, Hume, and a few others.   The park keeps these cabins in place, reminders of past lives who shunned society to live in the wild.  They also give some small indication of the difficulty people had living in far from society. The inside of these cabins were bare.  Sleeping quarters were in a loft most likely for security.   Cougar Mike’s cabin had a sink with a P trap, which I thought was odd.  Some cabins had windows with glass.  It made wonder how in the early 1900s these folks transported such items from society, which at the time was over 50 miles away.
An Elwa River Tributary

Wildlife

This American dipper was part of a couple engaged in courtship for over an hour near my campsite.   As I sat on the beach this came right up to me and didn’t even care that I was there.
This red breasted sapsucker, together with a Robin were going nuts because an Owl was near by…they were more concerned about the OWL than they were about me.
Snowshoe Hares turn brown for the spring and summer.

Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge

The five mile Dungeness Spit
The Dungeness lighthouse.  

Together with the Dungeness Recreation Area, this space provides critical habitat for migrating species. It was a 10 mile round trip hike through sand to the Dungeness Lighthouse. The lighthouse and the history was interesting, but the journey provided some amazing wildlife encounters.  Although I didn’t see them, a couple told they saw an Orca Pod earlier.   Cormorants, Rhinoceros Auklets, Loons, Surf Scooters, and many other shorebirds forage on either side of the spit.

This Barred Owl flew over my head and landed on the trail just meters from where I was walking.  It let me take a bunch of pictures and never flew off.  I was quiet as I could be and felt somewhat honored that it let me share its space.   After a while, I walked off and let it be.  I may sound silly, but I believe in a kind of nature karma.  If I do right by nature, than nature will share itself with me.   I must have done something really right to earn this experience.
The cliffs near Dungeness Spit hosted a colony of Pigeon Guillemots.   They flew to and from the cliffs bringing food to their hatchings.    
There weren’t many people walking up and down the beach.  On person I came across was so attentive to a type of bird they saw in the ocean, that they didn’t see this Heron right behind them on in the logs.   It’s so easy to miss one thing when we pay so much attention to the others.  
A common loon.  
Even a Deer family came down to the beach to see what was happening!  

2 comments

  1. Dear LWC…again, AWESOME! And even a photo of my beloved Dipper ;-). Some of the photos didn’t come thru, but if I keep trying, they eventually do. Love that Sharleen and the girls got to enjoy some of this with you. Being there…makes it REAL….plus getting to enjoy some of the splendor with YOU! I LOVE YOU! Xoxo Mom

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