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I heard a voice beckoning me to Olympic National Park. Many years ago, my Mom moved to the area, in nearby Bremerton, after she remarried (after my Father passed away in 1971). I visited several times, with my son, but never made it over to Olympic, though I could see its beauty on a clear day. She always told me that I should go.
After a soft landing at Sea-Tac, we drove about two hours over to the Olympic National Park. The best way to get there? To reach U.S. 101 from Sea-Tac, the options are three: 1) the great Washington Ferry System car ferry, 2) Route 16 and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and 3) south to Olympia, catching 101 there. The ferry should be the prettiest route in the summer.
Again, it was President Theodore Roosevelt who created Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909. It did not become a national park until President Franklin Roosevelt designated it in June, 1938. It became a World Heritage Site in 1981. The park has four distinct regions: the Pacific shoreline, alpine areas, rainforest, and the dry east side forest. Many call it either three or four parks in one! Another apt
description is an "ecological island."
The coastal portion is 60 miles long, but only a few miles wide. The most popular portion is the Ozette Loop, a nine mile trail through coastal cedar swamp. The center of the park consists of the Olympic Mountains, featuring massive, ancient glaciers. The western half is dominated by the highest point in the park, Mount Olympus at 7965 feet. Since Olympus receives a great amount of snow, it has the greatest glaciation of any non-volcanic peak in the contiguous U.S. outside of the North Cascades. The largest glacier is Hoh Glacier, nearly 5 km in length.
The western side of the park is dominated by temperate rainforest, with 150 inches of rain annually. This makes it the wettest area in the U.S. outside of the Na Pali coast in Kauai, Hawaii. I guess I can say I have been to the two wettest places in the country, along with the driest (Mojave and Death Valley). Differing from tropical rainforests, Olympic rainforests are dominated by coniferous trees, like the Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, Coast Douglas-fir, and Western Redcedar.
Before the discovery by Europeans, the area was inhabited by Native Americans who hunted
and fished the region. In the 1920's, the settlers also brought large scale logging to the area, perhaps prompting the eventual formation of the national park.
Hurricane Ridge is the most popular viewpoint in the park. Naturally, both Alpine and Nordic skiing are available here, along with miles and miles of hiking trails. The Hurricane hill trail is quite popular, and only 1.6 miles long and an elevation change of 700 feet. Snow can be found on the trails well into July.
What can we find in the way of four legged creatures, fins, or wings? Well, how about nine large terrestrial mammals, 50 small mammals, and 14 marine mammals. The large include: black bear, bobcat, coyote, elk, gray wolf, mountain goat, mountain lion, mule deer, red fox, and Buddy's favorite, wild boar. Smaller mammals include: raccoons, badgers, weasels, skunks, hares, rabbits, beaver, and porcupines, among others. The elk here played a large role in the formation of the park. When President Theodore Roosevelt set aside the area to protect the elk, the declining herds now bear his name. The marine mammals are a rather interesting bunch: Orca or killer whales, otters, elephant seal, gray whale, three types of porpoise, Harbor seal, California sea lion (got lost?), and even the Humpback whale. The Orca or killer whales are actually found in all of earth's oceans. They have a diverse diet, including fish, sea lions, seals, walruses, and even large whales. Killer whales are apex predators, in other words, they do not have a natural predator. The likelihood of seeing the Orcas is rated "uncommon." The most likely animals to see are the mole and the harbor seal.
By the way, the Park is quite large and requires more time than the day and half we had to see it. I suggest a minimum of two days and two nights to see it all. You will be amply rewarded!
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