Wildflower View Fest

Published: April 22nd 2012
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Port Angeles Art MuseumPort Angeles Art MuseumPort Angeles Art Museum

The view from the parking lot of the Port Angeles Art Museum. The little sign marks the sculpture path to the museum

Port Angeles Art Center

I need a break from the wilderness, at least for a little while, so I went to the Port Angeles Art Center.

The site overlooks the city of Port Angeles and the Strait of Juan De Fucha.

Many cities have a museum like this, which shows work of local artists.

The quality varies considerably.

In the Olympic Peninsula, this is one of the better ones.

The first difference for this museum is the parking lot.

It has a wonderful view of a group of trees and the city, but no museum.

On the far end are three metal sculptures that resemble cartoon word balloons.

A sign at the base points to a sculpture path.

The museum is hidden in the woods, and the path is the only way there.

The main path passes a number of sculptures, such as reflective squares designed to look like highway signs, before the museum appears.

The museum itself contains only one major room.

It holds temporary shows.

Most of the work is for sale.

The current show was on the
A world of wonderA world of wonderA world of wonder

One of many sculptures along the Port Angeles Art Center sculpture trail
theme of “The Back Country”, which is appropriate next to the National Park.

What does a wilderness place mean, and how should people respond to it?

Like most contemporary art, the responses were all over the place.

Charlotte Watts had large format photos of old growth forest.

Some artists painted pictures of recognizable places that with exaggerated features and colors for emotional effect (a technique pioneered by the German Expressionists, see Arch Madness)

Karen Hackenberg created a miniature model of a campsite entirely out of matchsticks, which are by necessity created by cutting down trees.

Yet another had an abstract canvas meant to evoke the feeling of being under a wilderness sky at night.

Like most shows of this type, I liked some of the work, hated others, and found some incomprehensible.

After the museum, the sculpture path heads back into the woods, where it breaks into multiple strands.

The woods became a place of discovery and wonder, where seemingly every turn produced something new.

A large snake lies along the ground, with words from poems carved on its back.

One artist built a woodshed entirely out of recyclable bottles.
Morse Creek CanyonMorse Creek CanyonMorse Creek Canyon

Morse Creek, flowing from snow covered mountains in the background.

One path leads into an open field with the Minotaur maze of Greek legend lay out with river stones and an apple tree in the middle.

A series of colored glass panes sit on poles, creating reflection effects on the surrounding trees.

The entire area is effectively one giant installation, which it does rather well.

I enjoyed watching the work revealed bit by bit rather than seeing it all at once like many sculpture parks in open fields.

Hurricane Ridge

My art needs satisfied, I headed for the one part of Olympic National Park that suffers from tourist overload, Hurricane Ridge.

It suffers for good reason, being the highest part of the park reachable by road.

It has an incredible view.

Like other popular areas, getting to that view may drive me insane. (see Thar She Blows, Captain)

The only way to the ridge is a steep and curvy road.

The lower part is all pine trees, until it reaches the canyon of Morse Creek.

Views of distant mountains, and pullover spots to look at them, begin at this point.

One has a sign pointing out that the entire water cycle appears in
Mount OlympusMount OlympusMount Olympus

Mount Olympus and the central Olympic Mounains from the Hurricane Ridge visitor's center.
this view.

It first falls on the mountains as snow.

The snow melts to form the river.

The river finally ends up in the ocean in the distance, where the cycle starts all over again.

The road climbs the wall of that canyon, a long way.

It eventually reaches a huge parking lot in front of a visitors’ center on a ridge close to tree line.

One side of the ridge has a huge view of the central Olympic Mountains across a valley.

All of them were covered in snow.

Behind the closest peaks was a group of black spikes covered in white.

This is Mount Olympus, the highest mountain of them all.

Since the mountain is surrounded by others that are almost as high, it does not dominate the view the way some mountains do (see Mount Hood in Grand Gorge).

On the other side is a low ridge covered in wildflowers.

The ridge led to an obvious peak in one direction, and a low spot in the other.

A network of trails leads through the wildflowers on the ridge.

They have
Snow in July!Snow in July!Snow in July!

People play on the snowbanks on Hurricane Ridge
signs pointing out the various species.

These flowers are very fragile; they have only three months to flower and seed.

Unfortunately, this area also had a late snowmelt, so half the trails were still covered.

The first open trail led across the ridge to an overlook.

The overlook points west, so it showed the Crescent Lake area I had hiked the day before, along with many other ridges.

One of them was covered in black trees, the legacy of a wildfire from five years ago.

The trail continues past the overlook, directly into a huge snow bank.

For some reason, people couldn’t resist taking pictures of themselves throwing snow balls.

Another of the open trails lead up the obvious peak on the ridge.

The area has relatively few trees, so the views are long and distances are deceiving.

It first climbed into yet another snow bank.

This one was lower and easier to hike.

All the footprints made the trail obvious.

After the snow bank, the trail climbs a series of switchbacks.

They were all covered in wildflowers.

The corners gave
Straight of Juan De FucaStraight of Juan De FucaStraight of Juan De Fuca

The Straight of Juan De Fuca, with Port Angeles on the near shore and Victoria BC on the other, from Sunrise Point
yet more huge views of the central mountains, plus the path the road followed up here.

At the top was a clump of fir trees.

These trees were only two inches wide, but nearly as old as the ones in Hoh (see The Hall of Mosses).

Past the trees, the trail reached Sunrise Point.

The point has a three sixty degree view of this area.

The view combined, more or less, the one seen from the visitors’ center and the one from the overlook.

A long ridge stretched to the north, terminating in a high mountain, Mt. Angeles.

The road up climbed its flanks.

In the other direction, the view reveals a low spot in the ridge, followed by another mountain, Hurricane Hill.

To its right is a large glacial valley, the perfect definition of a cirque.

This valley had a huge mass of snow sitting on the wall near the top (the same mass that covered some of the trails).

Hurricane Mountain Trail

Hurricane Mountain lies at the end of the most popular long distance hiking trail in the park.

The trail is so popular the park service paved it to
Hurricane Ridge wildflowersHurricane Ridge wildflowersHurricane Ridge wildflowers

A tiny sample of the wildflowers along the trail to Hurricane Hill.
prevent damage.

Even with those detractions, this hike is still spectacular.

The trail starts at a parking long located in the low spot along the ridge.

The views start immediately, and rarely diminish afterward.

The sides of the trail are absolutely covered in wildflowers, to the point the mountain view may play second fiddle in the scenery department.

On top of that, the first part of the trail has a gentle grade, making this hike a high-altitude walk in the park.

The large numbers of people also made it feel like a walk in the park 😞

The trail gradually ascends along the side of the ridge.

It then gradually descends to a low spot.

The view along this stretch reaches to the mountains on one side and the glacial valley on the other.

From here, it gets tougher.

The trail steeply climbs along the side of a rising ridge.

One side has a very steep drop off, still covered in flowers.

I really wish this part had stairs instead of being a steep ramp.

Olympic MarmotOlympic MarmotOlympic Marmot

The endangered Olympic Marmot in a high mountain meadow near the top of Hurricane Hill.

The trail entered a group of trees which cut off the view.

When it emerged, it was at the base of an even steeper hill that was all open meadow.

This mound is the actual Hurricane Hill.

The trail now climbs it on a series of long switchbacks.

I wish there had been stairs in this stretch; the asphalt did a number on my calves.

The mountain had fewer flowers than the ridge, probably because it is more exposed.

As the trail started to flatten out near the top, I saw a rodent like creature sitting in a burro.

It is an Olympic Marmot, an endangered species that only lives here.

Finally, the trail reaches the summit.

A series of sign boards explains the view.

It covers the entirety of the northern Olympic Mountains, with the central peaks to the south and east, Hurricane Ridge to the northeast, and the mountains around Lake Crescent to the west.

The northern view showed an expanse of water with towns along it.

This, of course, is the Strait of Juan de Fucha.

The towns are Port Angeles and Port Townsend.
Hurricane Hill viewHurricane Hill viewHurricane Hill view

A tiny portion of the view from Hurricane Hill. This view looks northwest to Lake Crescent

A mountain ridge appeared on the far side with another obvious town at the end, Victoria on Vancouver Island in Canada.

The hike back is pretty much the reverse of the hike in, with lots of views, lots of wild flowers, and burning legs.

I did see something special on the way down.

While hiking along the side of the ridge, I head little rocks falling.

I looked up and ahead, and an entire herd of deer was making their way along the ridge.

I stopped long enough to get the picture.

Port Townsend

After the ridge, I went to Port Townsend on the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula.

The sign for the highway turnoff has something I have never seen before, a note to have lodging reserved first!

The town has some good bars, most of which have a nautical theme.

I ate at one called Sirens, which had another notable beer selection.

I spent the night at Fort Robinson State Park.


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