A quick commuter plane trip brought us north to our next stop in the National Parks Expedition – the beautiful state of Washington. I knew this was going to be another unique journey based on this above view – which was taken from a shopping mall parking lot – certainly not what I see when I am at my local Key Food supermarket!
Once again I am stunned by the diversity of the ecosystems and I think you will agree after reading this post. Here we are, on the border of Northwestern Canada and are about to see Rainforests! Beaches! And, even though we are not in Glacier National Park – Glaciers!
But let’s start at the beginning – at the eye candy known as the Lake Crescent Lodge and the Lake Quinault Lodge. It was not only impossible to decide which had a better view, it was equally difficult to leave them every morning for our daily excursions – here’s why:
Despite our short stay, we made sure we took advantage of this spot right outside one of our cabins:
There was also lots of wildlife to photograph (another teaser to an upcoming post).
We did manage to drag ourselves away and were well rewarded, as the various ecosystems of the park are breathtaking, each with its own unique beauty.
The Mountains The Olympic Mountain Range rises from the Pacific Ocean to an elevation of 7,980 feet at the peak of Mount Olympus, shown at the top of this post. The mountain range is bounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean to the west, Puget Sound to the east, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north. The higher peaks are covered with glaciers and snow fields:
The Olympic Mountains are composed of a large uplifted and folded section of oceanic crust that formed over the last 40 million years. The range has sedimentary and metamorphic (“change in form” due to intense heat and pressure) and basalt rocks.
I was able to get some detailed pics while flying over the Mountains on our trip from Kalispell to Seattle:
The enormous amount of rain and snow that falls on this mountain range feeds the glaciers and streams as well as the many forest ecosystems that are found in this park which are classified according to their elevation:
Temperate Rain Forest – Lush and with an explosion of green hues, the rain forests have cushy carpets of moss and ferns and a plethora of tall trees growing to the sky – Hemlock (the Western Hemlock is Washington State’s official tree and grows up to 300 feet high) Maples, Sitka Spruce, Red Cedar, Douglas Fir and more . We visited the Hoh Rainforest, named for the indigenous peoples that lived in the area. The Hoh gets about 14 feet of rain a year and the constant fog and mist contribute another 30 inches of rain, resulting in one of the world’s lushest rain forests. In fact, the Hoh is the only one that has been titled a World Heritage Site. It has remained unchanged for thousands of years and even has its own Hall Of Mosses, a very old section of the forest that definitely feels primeval with its giant trees covered with moss:
Lowland – The lowland forests have very old and very tall trees of over 200 years of age and over 30 stories tall. These are usually Douglas Firs and Western Hemlock. While I didn’t join the group on the hike through one of these nearby forests (having opted to go bird/animal watching) Lenore did go – here are some of her captures:
To “protect the innocent” I have photoshopped the 14 people who stood side by side, arms outstretched at the base of this, the “World’s Tallest Spruce Tree.” Here are its dimensions:
58’11” circumference 191′ tall 1000 years old
Montane – In between the river valleys and the peaks of the mountains is the montane zone from about 1500 to 2000 feet. There are thousands of acres of montane forests in the park of this more challenging ecosystem which has a wetter side on the west, a drier side on the east and a sunny south-facing slope that often entertains fires. The trees here – Yellow Cedar, Douglas Fir, Silver Fir, Western Red Cedar and Western Hemlock grow more slowly.
SubAlpine –Beginning at 4000 feet in elevation
Our Hike along Hurricane Ridge gave us not only great views of montane and subalpine ecosystems, but also a panoramic view of the Olympic and Cascade Mountain Ranges. And, a peak at Canada:
It’s hard to tell, but this view overlooks, British Columbia and Vancouver Island in the far distance:
This was a particularly steep and at some places, narrow and treacherous hike, so once again I had moments when the camera needed to be stowed, but these should give you and idea of the climb from the montane into the subalpine and to the top:
There is a ski lift in this area and although we, including our guide and geologist thought it quite creaky, we were told it is still used during the winter – don’t think I wold try it:
Once at the top of the ridge – the spectacular view of the mountain ranges is breathtaking – that and also the fact that we were up almost at 5500 feet:
And one other point of interest – how many remember the 1968 Cold War espionage movie starring Rock Hudson? That was set in the frozen wastes of the North Pole, and yet here, in the Olympic National Park, is this:
Next: Let’s go to the beach!