Friday, August 21, 2009

On the Olympic Peninsula

Hiking in Olympic National Park on a crowded day.
Sharon and Allan in Port Townsend
Out with the birders.
From the road to Hurricane Ridge we could see Mt. Baker and the New Dungeness Lighthouse.
From Hurricane Ridge; The bright spot in the middle is the sun reflecting off a building in Victoria, BC.
A panorama of the Olympic Mountains.
Glacier covered Mt. Olympus and some of the animals we saw.
Spots in Port Townsend that were in the movie, An Officer and a Gentleman.

We awoke Sunday to a blue nearly cloudless sky and decided to go to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park even though it was a free admission day and would be crowded. As expected, the visitors center in Port Angeles was overrun with people, but unexpectedly we learned a landslide had closed the road to the ridge. We were only able to drive about five miles and had to settle for a short hike through an old growth forest. It was a great forest walk but there were no views of the surrounding land and sea.

On Monday, Allan And Sharon took the ferry from Whidbey Island and we picked them up and showed them around the area. We went to a campground right on the waterfront in Port Townsend and then drove out to the SKP park where we are staying. We later explored a few shops, had lunch overlooking the water at Fins and delivered them back to the ferry landing. We enjoyed the day as the weather continued to be clear and sunny.

On Tuesday we took advantage of being in a SKP park, where washing your rig is allowed, and did a complete inside and outside cleaning including washing the roof to cut down on some of the chalking that runs down the sides. Now washing the roof is something I never had to do when we lived in a stix and brix.

With the great weather continuing we had a really big day on Wednesday. We set the alarm:( for 6:30 AM and drove to the Dungeness River Audubon Center to go on a bird walk. This was a first for us and we had a grand time. We have a bird book and often try to identify birds we see but we have never gone to an organized event. Sue and Dave Woodson (?) neighbors we met in the park told us about it and we figured it would be fun. A group of about twenty strolled along a path and pointed out many different species. They had a spotting scope so we got very good looks. Even though we were amateurs, we were made to feel very welcome and the group was very helpful on ways to spot birds and we did see a couple birds we had not seen before. We did learn if birding is going to become a bigger interest, we are going to have to do a serious optics upgrade. As in all things, you have to have the right equipment.

After the bird walk we took advantage of the Olympic Discovery Trail to work on our year three goal to do more biking and rode from Sequim to Port Angeles, a 33 mile round trip. With this ride we have already passed last year's total miles. As part of our commitment to this goal we have purchased new tires, a new pump and replaced our helmets which were 33 years old. It was well passed time wouldn't you say?? The trail is part of an extensive and growing on and off road biking system on the peninsula. Most of the portion we travelled was a rails to trails which was once the route of the Seattle Port Angeles Railroad. From our starting point we rode through farmland and then into the forest. As we neared Port Angeles the trail ran right along the water. One big difference from other rail trails we have ridden was the many steep hills where it crossed over streams. This was really kind of nice since where there were hard climbs in one direction we could coast on the return. Usually, on rail trails you are pedaling the entire time.

We topped off Wednesday (literally) when we learned the road had reopened and we could drive the 17 miles and nearly one mile up to 5242 foot high Hurricane Ridge. We were rewarded with fantastic views. From the top you can look into the interior of the park and see the glacier covered peaks and in the other direction you can see across the Strait of Juan de Fuca all the way to Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island. We could even see Mt. Baker over seventy miles away. It was rather unique to see the ice covered mountains then walk a short distance and see the water far below. We were so glad to get these clear days. The interior mountains are one of the three distinct areas of Olympic National Park. Even though these mountains are all under 8000 feet, they receive a huge amount of rain and snow as storms come in from the Pacific. Because most of the precipitation falls there, Sequim just northeast of the park is in a "blue hole" and only receives about 17 inches of rain a year. There are no roads that cross the park so the interior is only accessible by back country hiking. We are planning to visit the other two areas, the rain forest and coast, next week. Our stay in Washington has been well rewarded with the spectacular views of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainer, Mt. Baker, and now the Olympic Range which includes Mt. Olympus.

Another unique thing about the Port Townsend area is that the movie, An Officer and a Gentleman, was filmed here. So we decided to view it again and were able to borrow it at the park. It was neat being able to identify many of the locations used in the movie. We also couldn't believe how long ago the movie was made. WOW how time flies!!!

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