National Parks

Olympic National Park: Hiking in the Clouds

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I love visiting National Parks.  Ryan and I started visiting the parks two years ago, and it’s kind of become our thing.  I don’t know what it is about the parks but there is something truly magical that happens when you visit one.  For that brief moment all your other cares have disappeared and everything is good in your world.  Maybe it’s the stillness of it, the views, or the wildness, whatever it is, I was reminded of this feeling when we visited Olympic National Park last week.

We traveled to Anacortes for our friend Travis’ wedding.  This was our first time in the PNW and there are three parks in the Seattle area, so we knew we wanted to try to see at least one.  With my Ironman training at full throttle we only had one day for sight seeing.  We decided on Olympic NP thinking it was “on the way” back to Seattle from Anacortes.  After a four-hour long car ride, we were still 2.5 hours away from Seattle, but we finally made it to Port Angeles.  Needless to say we were tired, hungry  and cranky.  We stopped at the Next Door Gastropub downtown for lunch (check them out on Yelp!), and headed to the visitor center.

After we got our passport stamped we finally entered the park.  Our neighbor Steve had told us about some great hikes at Hurricane Ridge so we headed that way.  We knew we only had time for short hike, plus I was exhausted from my 20 mile run the day before, but we hoped we would see some neat views.  We drove past the Hurricane Ridge visitor center and lookout, which was packed with tourists, and parked at the Hurricane Hill trailhead to start our hike.  The trail was a nice smooth semi paved/dirt path, which makes it easy for anyone to hike.  We started out walking along a ridgeline with views of the snow-covered Olympic Mountains to our left.  It was  becoming obvious that the clouds would obstruct some of our views as they were quickly moving over us, Ryan became super interested in trying to capture the clouds in the pictures, turns out he did a pretty good job!

Eventually the trail left the ridgeline and began to climb upwards, as we climbed beautiful subalpine meadows blanketed with wildflowers and clusters of pine tress came into view and we spotted a few deer grazing in the distance.  As we continued the clouds became more and more dense.  We could no longer see the mountain ranges, or what was below us (secretly I was thankful for the clouds due to my fear of heights – completely irrational!), as a matter of fact we could hardly see five feet in front of us!  At one point I asked Ryan if we should even continue on because we couldn’t see anything, we thought we were close to the end of our hike so we decided to press on.  After a few switchbacks we made it to the end of the trail, which opened up into another meadow with a few dirt trails shooting off in various directions.  We walked toward the silhouettes of other hikers gathered at the end of the trail and were lucky enough to stumble right into a friendly little marmot. After taking a few pictures and wandering around hoping the clouds would break, we headed back down. The clouds continued rolling in and out so we took a few pictures along the way and we even got to see a black tail deer eating right beside the trail, and it didn’t seem to mind us snapping a few close-ups.  After the short hike back to the car we stopped at the Hurricane Ridge visitor center and walked around some of the paved pathways that circled the meadow and then headed back down to Port Angeles, stopping for one last short hike at a small waterfall.  On this hike, we literally shared the trail with a deer for a few hundred yards, as if we were all out on a walk together!

While our time at Olympic was brief, both Ryan and I have this park ranked pretty high on our list and can’t wait to go back someday.  We only saw tiny sliver of the park, yet we were both amazed by the beauty of the trees and meadows, the abundance of wildlife and the grandness of the mountains.  We hope one day we can plan a camping or backpacking trip at this park!

Learn more about Hurricane Ridge and Olympic National Park here.

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