Thursday, September 16, 2010 Peeks of sun early a.m., fog and rain by late morning, 55 degrees
With the promise of some sun today, we headed out to see the Elwha Valley section of the park. When we spoke with the park ranger, he told us that most of the roads there are closed. Preparations are being made to remove the dam on the Elwha River in the spring. This will return the river to its original course and allow coho salmon to swim upstream to spawn. Then the ranger accessed the web cam on Hurricane Ridge where the sun was shining on the mountain peaks, so we decided to return there to hike the trails we missed yesterday.
You might have guessed that by the time we made it to the ridge, clouds had begun to lower. No sunshine, but at least it was dry. The trails we hiked retraced much of what we walked yesterday. We continued on to an overlook where we could see across a valley to an area that had been destroyed by fire seven years ago. From our prospective all we could see were burned tree trunks although the display stated that small plants are beginning to take hold. Further on we reached Sunrise Point. Views from there were into valleys and beyond to mountains and their glaciers. If the skies had been clear, we would have been able to see Puget Sound and Juan De Fuca.
When we returned to the Visitor Center for lunch, the clouds continued to lower, and soon everything was shrouded in thick fog, and light rain had begun to fall. Having hiked all that we could, we inched our way down the mountainside. As we went along, we tossed out ideas of what we could do in and around Port Angeles, but the fog followed us and reduced visibility in every direction. We cried "Uncle," and now the mountain we are tackling is laundry.
Rain is forecast again tomorrow. We hope to reach the beaches before the it becomes too heavy and then head to---what could be more appropriate?---the rain forest. Stay tuned for further updates.
GENERAL PARK INFORMATION: Olympic NP contains three distinct ecosystems: coastal, forest, and mountain. The forest is the largest old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest with trees 200-1,000 years old. Differences in rainfall create a rain forest along the coast, and lowland, montane and subalpine forests in other park areas. Mountain landscapes include glacier chiseled U-shaped valleys, subalpine meadows, and glaciers carving their way down volcanic mountainsides. Both sandy and rocky beaches are found along the coast which is home to a variety of birds and sea life.
TODAY'S ROUTE: US 101W to Elwha, back to Port Angeles and to Hurricane Ridge and back.