The drive to the rain forest from Port Angeles took us alongside Crescent Lake. I suspect I don’t need to tell you roughly what shape the lake is but, if you don’t know, check it out on a map! It was a pretty overcast morning when we drove by but this provided some soft lighting on the surrounding hills and also gave some interesting clouds to sit in some of the valleys and near the hill tops.
There were plenty of pull off locations along the road that skirts the south side of the lake. It appears that the north side is pretty inaccessible by vehicle when looking at the maps of the area. Only when you get to the west end of the lake do you start to see properties on the other side so I guess the road access up there does not go too far. The water in the lake was very calm and the whole thing had a very ethereal feel about it.
From Hurricane Ridge, you get a great view of the surrounding mountains of the Olympics. September obviously is not the time to see the snow on most of the mountains but there are some glaciers on some of the peaks. However, it appears like they are in retreat. Photos on the display boards near the visitors’ center show the extent of the glaciers in previous decades and they have retreated a long way. If they don’t slow down (and usually this accelerates), they will be gone before too long. We saw them but it seems plenty won’t get the chance.
Hurricane Ridge is a popular place to visit but go a bit further along and you come to the trailhead for the climb to Hurricane Hill. We felt up for a bit of hiking. The hike is not terribly long but it has two elements to consider. One is a fair bit of climbing with some reasonably steep grades. The other is that you are quite high so the air is noticeably thinner. That is a great excuse for taking things at a steady pace. It isn’t me, it is the altitude!
It certainly is a popular trail. Plenty of people passed us as we were going up and coming back down. The views as you climb get better and better. Some wildlife shows up as well. We saw a marmot at one point. It only lives between certain elevations so this was the only place we were going to catch it. Once you get to the top, you have a view down to the coast. Port Angeles lay beneath us and you could see over to the islands in the distance although the view was a little obscured by the haze. The trip back down was okay but walking downhill is something I don’t enjoy if it is steep. Climbing may be tiring but I find it less hard on the knees. This wasn’t too bad though. You stop less on the way back down since you have seen all of the views on the way up when you were more than happy to pause (only for the photo – not tired at all).
Planning our time in the Olympics meant checking the weather forecast. We wanted to go up to Hurricane Ridge but doing so on a day that was forecast for rain was not going to be very good idea. However, one of our days was showing clear skies so we headed up the mountains. The forecast was not wrong. The weather was great and there were plenty of nice overlooks to check out on the way up. Once we got to the top, I was turning in to park when I saw some people stopped ahead of me. Turns out that there are a bunch of deer that hang around up on the ridge and they don’t seem in the least bit bothered by the presence of people. One was looking to come through the parking space I was planning on using. I waited until it decided it was ready to move and then we parked the car. It headed off to join its family.
It rained when we went to the rainforest. What a shocker! Of course, it really added to the atmosphere. However, there is a limit to how much atmosphere you really need. Most of the time, we were doing just fine though. The Hoh Rain Forest is in the Olympics National Park and it is certainly worth the drive to get to. The growth of the plants in such a damp environment is impressive. Ferns that are huge, trees that dwarf everything, decaying material on the ground that is being recycled back into the ecosystem. It is all there to see. Seeing it when it is lush and damp is how it is supposed to be seen.
You do occasionally find yourself popping out of the vegetation and alongside a river. This comes as something of a shock after being immersed in the forest. The surrounding hills were shrouded in cloud since this is an area that takes a lot of the moisture out of the air coming off the ocean (and what results in the nice weather on the Gulf Islands that lie in its shadow). The clouds really add to the sense of the place.
We headed back into the forest and took a loop trail through the Hall of Mosses. The title might not be one that immediately makes you think you have to see this but I assure you it was quite a place to be. Everything felt like it was glowing. So much moss was hanging all over the forest and the dampness made the colors so much more vibrant. It really did cause you to stop and stare. Many people came through while we were there and they all seemed to have the same response. It was quite something. Shortly after this, the rain turned from steady into rather more persistent. By the time we got back to the car, our coats had done their work but everything else was pretty saturated. The drive back gave us plenty of time for the heater to do some drying!