Olympic Nat’l Park: day 3

Did I mention that I hiked 11 miles yesterday?!

I arose at 6:30am again today and hustled to get out of camp. I was on the road by 8:30. I realized that I had time to get out to the Pacific coast today as well, as it was only 12 miles to the south! Though I was worried about having enough gas, I made it out to Ruby Beach. The parking area is situated in a stand of towering spruce trees. the ocean is audible and visible through the trees. There is a short, steep path leading down to the beach. After crossing over a pile of bleached driftwood at the end of the path, I finally arrive on the beach. In front of me, the Pacific Ocean churns and crashes against grey sand and smoothly polished round stones. Behind me, cliffs reach upwards, and tall spruce tower from their tops. Between the two are the bleached trees that have fallen from the cliffs and become smoothly polished driftwood. It was another stunning sight and I started taking photos. Close to shore were towering outcroppings that had been eroded from the underlying rock. Further out to the south-west I could see Destruction Island, the home of a major lighthouse that at one time housed a magnificent fresnel lens, though as the name implies, it lost as many ships as it eventually saved.

From the beach, I turned northwards towards Forks. I was unable to capture this on film, but there was a dramatic illustration of the two competing philosophies of the Park Service and the Forestry Service. The Park Service believes in preserving land in its natural state in perpetuity. Driving through the towering spruce forest on the way to the beach was a clear example of this. However, Park and Forest land leapfrog each other in this part of Washington. No sooner as I passed a billboard saying I was entering the Olympic National Forest then the forest transitioned to a clear-cut lot. The devastation was striking! The Forest Service believes active management is the best way to protect land. They allow logging, let the land recover for 30 years, and then will open up that section to logging again. I think they have a reasonable philosophy, but it still looks terrible in person.

After gassing up in Forks, I pulled in to a roadside espresso shack, a common feature in this part of the world. My latte was DELICIOUS! Not sure if that was due to having been in the woods, but I’ll believe it really was amazing. That latte also helped break up the persistent cloud cover I had been experiencing since I left the Hoh River valley. As soon as I got east of Forks and started hitting the Sol Duc River, the sun came out! Finally, I turned up the park road to Sol Duc. They were doing some major road improvements on this road, so I sat in traffic for about 10-20 minutes waiting for the one lane road to clear.

Sol Duc Hot Springs are naturally occurring hot springs in the Sol Duc River valley. There is a pretty fancy resort built up around them (and a $12 entrance fee), and the park campground is at the inflated price of $14/night (as opposed to $12 throughout the rest of the park). I finally got a lovely camp site situated amongst the towering trees, and then headed up into the mountains. Today I hiked up to Mink Lake. This secluded lake has a nice shelter and camp site. It is about 1000′ higher than the valley floor, so the resort guests don’t tend to make it up here, even though it is only 2.5 miles away. I spent about 15 minutes sitting by the lake, watching the water foul play and dive. I hiked back down to the resort, then headed along the river to Sol Duc falls. The falls were small, but fast-moving. The forest here was much more open than in the Hoh, with leafier ferns throughout. It ended up being a bigger hiking day than I had wanted, though the evening was capped by a hot shower at the resort, and a fresh change of clothes for my last day in the park! I had an earlier dinner of chicken and rice, read briefly, and went to sleep.

ps: pictures at Flickr

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