Olympic Nat’l Park: day 2

I woke up at Heart o’ the Hills campground at 6:30am, certainly not typical for me, but giving me plenty of time to start the day off right! I made coffee, hot granola, packed, and was back in the car by 8am. Though there were some clouds, it was fairly clear so I decided to drive to the top of Hurricane Ridge. The scenery was stunning! There was a young female deer on the precipice as I ascended, and then again as I descended! The view from the summit was breathtaking, and almost made up for not doing the hike.

But I had a new mission now. After a few photo ops, I went to town, got some soap (which I had forgotten at the Lyman’s), had an espresso (decent, not great), and headed west. It was a leisurely drive, with many stops for photos of the mountains and lakes. Even so, I arrived at the Hoh Rainforest campground around noon. By 12:30 I had a riverfront campsite and hit the trail.

I hiked out to 5-mile Island campsite. The trip through old growth Sitka Spruce, Maple, ane Pine was amazing. The trees averaged between 5′ & 8′ in diameter. Crazy! Lush ferns and mosses were everywhere. It was like hiking in the Northeast…with the plants on steroids and everything smelling better. I leapfrogged another young hiker for a bit, and a few groups heading out on longer expeditions.

The campsite at 5-mile island was great…privy, bear wire, right on the river…I should have planned to rent a car and come out here all along! This trail at its longest is 18mi to the glacial moraines of Mount Olympus, with many opportunities for shorter trips too. It also has the ability to see a diverse terrain, from the lush temperate rainforest, the mountains, alpine meadows, and the glaciers. This area definitely deserves more exploration.

It took about 2 hours to get out this far, and so it was about time to start heading back. After passing the young hiker one more time, I made it back and went to set up camp. The ground here was much better than the ground at Heart o’the Hills, though still rocky. My hands still were sore from driving in my tent stakes the night before! I put on my flip flops and headed back out to explore the nature trails surrounding the visitor center. The hall of mosses trail was gorgeous. Since I had just did a long hike, I wasn’t expecting to see anything else new. However, this short trail wove its was through more old growth trees that were covered in lacy moss. I was also interesting seeing the forest with the aid of the interpretive signs. Clearly this was built for the tourists, but I can say the Park Service did a great job and shared some great views with them. There was also a small brook running through this section that was crystal clear. Another highlight of this trail, the rotting 190 foot long tree.

I also wanted to do the spruce nature trail, but that was a little longer (1.5 mi) and I certainly wasn’t doing that in flip flops, so I headed to camp to change again, and then back to the trails. While the Hall of Mosses was up on a hill, the Spruce trail was closer to the river. The undergrowth here was more cleaned out, probably due to grazing deer and elk. I took a short video of the rushing river. There were also some great examples of “nurse logs” in this section. When a giant tree falls, it provides food for new plants and fungus. Over time, you can get a series of trees growing in a straight line, absorbing nutrients from their fallen nurse tree. Eventually, the original tree rots away and you are left with a straight line of new trees. After learning about this phenomenon, it was easy to see evidence of it everywhere!

I had headed out towards the river to try and see some elk, to no avail. As I walked back into camp, what was grazing right there but a young buck, 50 paces from the road! If I had know they came right into the campground I would have stayed there and made dinner. In any event, I made some chili mac & beef (BEST camp meal of the trip), did some reading, watched sunset and the stars by the river, and went to bed.

ps: photos at Flickr