Olympic National Park: A Magical Fairytale! (1/2)

"A walk in nature walks the soul back home" Mary Davis

State 19: Washington - October 25, 2017


After having a one-day reprieve from the rain, we woke at a Walmart in Sequim to another overcast day, and more precipitation! It has rained more over the past week in Washington, than it has on our entire cross country trip thus far. We had finally reached our breaking point, and decided if you can’t beat em', then you mind as well join em' !!! Off we went to visit the national park depicted on the reverse of the Washington state quarter “Olympic National Park; a subtropical rainforest!

Designated by President Franklin Roosevelt on June 29, 1938, Olympic National Park consists of 922,651 acres with three distinctly different ecosystems: rugged glacier mountains, wild Pacific Coast, and majestic old-growth rain forest. Surprisingly, these 3 drastically different ecosystems coexist is close proximity due to an unusual combination of: geographic isolation, extreme changes in elevation, wildly varying temperatures, and drastic differences of precipitation throughout the park. Simply stated, Olympic National Park features a combination of extremely unique and undisturbed natural beauty to the likes of which you will find nowhere else in the US!

The visitor center was currently under construction, and they even covered the sign to the park’s entrance where we usually take a picture to celebrate our arrival! Nevertheless, we still took our picture in front of the covered sign to keep in line with tradition. Please see the pictures below.

A quick google search revealed the park had a temporary visitor center set up a few miles down the road, and we immediately set in a course. After speaking with the Ranger and getting our passport stamped, we eagerly plotted our path through Olympic National Park. Over a period of 2 days, we would explore Olympic via Route 101, which encircles the entire park. According to Google maps, the drive will be 359 miles, and would take 7 hours and 26 minutes to complete. Since Nate and I forgot to bring our crampons and ice axes, (like we have room for those in a 76 sq ft van), we would save our exploration of the Mount Olympus ancient glaciers for a future adventure, and we would limit our visit to the old growth forests and rugged coastline.

After leaving the visitor center, we drove 5 miles South to the entrance of Hurricane Ridge. Standing at 5,252 feet, Hurricane Ridge offers the most beautiful and easily accessible vantage point of Olympic National Park. We would drive up an 18 mile out and back paved road to the mountains overlook. The drive up to the Hurricane Ridge overlook was absolutely beautiful! The big leaf maples tree's foliage was in full color, and families of deer grazed beneath the most magnificent old growth firs. What an exciting build up! We could not wait to see the view from the top of Hurricane Ridge! Please see the pictures below!

Upon our arrival at the Hurricane Ridge Overlook, we were extremely disappointed with what we had found. What initially appeared to be an ideal location to begin our exploration of the park was now ruined by a rainy, foggy and overcast sky. We could not see a darn thing! Please see the pictures below. I also included a picture what the view would have been on a clear day.

After departing Hurricane Ridge, we drove 32 miles West to the Elwha Valley to view the ruins of the Glines Canyon Dam. Built in 1927 and 210 feet tall, the Glines Canyon Dam was a Hydroelectric Dam built along the Elwha River, and it formed a reservoir known as Lake Mills. For decades, Native Americans, animal rights activists, and even the locals lobbied Congress to remove the dam, because it blocked the migration of salmon. The Elwha river was once home to over 400,000 adult salmon, and by the turn of the millennium, only 4000 remained. In 1992, the Elwha Ecosystem Restoration Project was passed by Congress, which included removal of the Glines Canyon Dam. Although the decision was appealed and tied up in court for decades, the removal of the dam finally received the green light, and on August 26, 2014, 15 tons of explosives was used to blast 12,000 cubic yards of the dam’s concrete. On either side of the canyon wall they left a portion of the dam intact to serve as overlooks, which was a very clever design. The Glines Canyon Dam is the tallest dam in US history to be intentionally breached, the demolition of the dam was the second largest ecological restoration project in the history of the National Park Service. Even to this very day, Olympic National Park crews are hard at work at the ecological restoration in hopes the salmon will one day return. Go salmon!!! We are rooting for you!!! Please see the pictures below.


After departing the dam’s ruins, we noticed a nearby windy gravel road, and decided to engage in some freestyle exploration to see where it led. The road continued for 10 miles, and got more treacherous the farther we traveled. Eventually, we arrived at a trail head, parked Rosie and hiked 5 miles along the Elwha River to the Hot Springs. Overall, the trail was a relatively level, easy and enjoyable hike. There were 2 interesting river crossings via a log bridge. Lori handled the crossings like a pro, and I was very proud of her. Please see the pictures below.

When we arrived at the hot springs, a group of teens were bathing in them, so we decided to head back to Rosie. On our way back, we passed an outhouse in the middle of the woods. Since I had never used an outhouse before, I decided to give it a go! Lori wanted absolutely no part of it, and I can’t say I blame her. It was so disgustingly nasty! I felt like I needed a shower and an antibiotic! I must say, my first experience in an outhouse left me with a greater appreciation for modern sanitation! Please see the pictures below.

Please see the additional pictures below of our 5 mile hike along the Hot spring trail in Olympic National Park.

After arriving back at the trail head, we drove Rosie down the 10-mile narrow and windy one lane gravel road. Before leaving the Elwha valley, we had one last stop: Madison Falls. After parking Rosie, we hiked an 1/8-mile level paved trail surrounded by blackberry bushes and more spectacular old growth trees, before reaching the falls. Please see the picture below.

After departing Madison Falls, we drove 15 miles West to Lake Crescent. Lake Crescent is federal protected undeveloped fresh water lake located entirely within Olympic National Park. At almost 600 feet, it is the 2nd deepest lake in Washington State, and features brilliant crystal clear blue water. While I was busy attempting to absorb the full magnitude of lakes grandeur, Lori was busy making friends with 2 ducks nearby. Please see the pictures below.

As we continued our exploration of Lake Crescent, we discovered a pleasant ½ mile nature trail called Moments in Time. From the breathtaking views of Lake Crescent, to quaint wildflower meadows, to towering evergreens and spectacular examples of moss and fungi, the trail offers a wide variety of diverse and fascinating environments. One old growth tree I came across was of particular interest because it appeared to defy gravity. A forest fire had burned out the center of the 300-foot-tall and 20 foot diameter tree, and all that remained of the trees base was 2/3 of the bark. Somehow the bark of the tree was able to support the massive weight of this goliath tree! Of course I had to stand inside of the hollowed tree, because when would I ever have the opportunity to do so again! Please see the pictures below.


Moments in Time was the best nature trail I had ever hiked, and we felt like Hansel and Gretel. Thankfully, we did not get lost, because I was plum out of breadcrumbs. I may be getting a little too metaphysical, but I believe every life form emits a specific energy field into the universe. I sensed such a unique and intense energy from these old growth trees. It was a powerful, soulful, and an almost magical experience I will always remember. Please enjoy the pictures below.


After departing the Moments in Time Trail at Lake Crescent, we drove 48 miles West to Rialto Beach. Rialto Beach is the Northwestern most beach on the West Coast within Olympic National Park, and was the perfect place to view the Pacific Ocean for the first time on our journey. We departed for our yearlong cross country trip on May 28, 2017 from Milford, Connecticut, which sits on the shore of Long Island Sound connected to the Atlantic Ocean. 5 months later with 19 states explored, today was the day we would stand on the shores of her sister.

We arrived at Rialto Beach at dusk, and our visibility was impeded by the encroaching darkness, and an ominous thick gray fog blanketing the horizon. The strong scent of salt water seared my nostrils. The beach was littered with a mangled mass of jagged uprooted stumps. In the far off distance, we saw dark shadows of hundreds of fallen tree trunks bobbing wildly in the surf. The ocean waves mercilessly crashed the floating forests graveyard violently against the coast with a thunderous roar. Were in awe of mother nature’s ferocity, and had unknowingly ventured into a place where humans are unwelcome. In spite of our tumultuous surroundings, hand in hand we stood in silence on that cold dark abandoned beach on a rainy wind swept Washington Autumn night. For this exact moment in time marked a significant millstone on our Cross Country Journey. We had arrived at the Pacific Ocean!

After an unknown amount of time had elapsed, we departed to find a place to park Rosie for the night, and discovered a nearby campground for $20.00 within the Old Growth Forests of Olympia National Park. First thing tomorrow morning, we would return to explore Rialto Beach in the daylight.

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