Olympic National Park (North)
We visited the western side of Olympic National Park from Forks 101 RV Park in Forks, WA. We could have also visited the northern side of the park from there, but there were other things we wanted to do to the north, so we moved the motor home about an hour's drive to the Salt Creek Recreation Area in Port Angeles, WA.
Salt Creek Recreation Area is a Clallam County Park located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which is the waterway that separates western Washington from Canada. The recreation area includes 196 acres of forests, beaches, and rocky coastline. The campground has 39 RV sites with 50 amp electric and water hookups, and about 50 tent sites with no hookups. The roads and RV pads are paved, and there is grass between the sites. The RV sites are a little narrower than we usually see in state and county parks, but seven of the RV sites are pull-throughs, which are extra long. The photo below shows our pull-through site at Salt Creek.
Salt Creek Recreation area was very popular. Most of the RV sites were filled every day we were there, as were many of the tent sites. As soon as someone would leave, someone else would pull in, even in mid-week. They were mostly locals who were coming out to enjoy the great outdoors. Some of the locals were even staying at the recreation area and getting up every morning and going to work.
It's easy to see why the campground was so popular. Most of the sites have a nice view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The photo below is the view from our site. That's Vancouver Island, Canada on the other side.
A spit of land called Tongue Point is located within Salt Creek Recreation Area. We took a walk out to Tongue Point for some photos.
There are several places where there are steps down onto the rocks where you can check out the tidal pools. The tide was still pretty high when we were there, so there most of the pools were still underwater. We did see a few anemones like the ones in the photo below.
There are several things to see on the northern side of Olympic National Park. Our first excursion was to the northeastern corner of the park to an area called Sol Duc, also sometimes spelled Sole Duck. The name is a corruption of a Native American phrase meaning "sparkling waters."
On the way to Sol Duc, we passed by Lake Crescent, which is located in Olympic National Park. Lake Crescent is a 624-foot deep, glacially-carved lake. It is about 8 miles long and one to two miles wide. The photo below shows Lake Crescent.
There is hot spring resort at Sol Duc, but the reviews we read said the pools were small and crowded, so we opted to skip the springs and hike to Sol Duc Falls. From the end of the road, there was a fairly easy hike of .8 miles each way to the falls.
In our last post, we talked about our visit to the rain forest. The forest at Sol Duc is a lowland forest without the heavy rainfall that the western side of the park gets. There are some big trees, but not as many as in the rain forest, and there isn't as much moss or lush understory growth.
At the falls, the Sol Duc River splits into three parts before tumbling down into a narrow slot. The trail approaches the falls from the downstream side.
The next photo shows us on the bridge that overlooks the falls.
And the next photo is looking over the falls from upstream.
The other area of Olympic National Park we visited while we were staying in Port Angeles was Hurricane Ridge. Hurricane Ridge is the most easily accessible location to view the Olympic Mountains. Hurricane Ridge is named for the gale force winds that can occur. Fortunately, the winds usually only occur in winter, and it was a relatively warm, calm day when we were there.
On the way up to the ridge, we got some nice views back down toward Port Angeles.
At the top of the ridge, we checked out the visitor center. They had a good video about the Olympic Mountains and a few displays about the park, including the section of Douglas fir tree in the photo below. The tree was 650 years old when it fell. The seedling sprouted in 1349. Paul is pointing out 1492 when Columbus landed in the New World.
We had packed a lunch, and we got to enjoy it on the patio behind the visitor center with spectacular views across to the Olympic Mountains like those shown in the next two photos.
Unlike the volcanic Cascade Range to the east, the Olympic Mountains are an uplifted wedge of sandstone and oceanic basalt. Even though the mountains are not that high (Mount Olympus is the tallest at 7,942 feet), the large amount of snow the mountains receive in winter means there are numerous glaciers.
After we finished our lunch, we noticed a black-tailed deer sitting under a tree about 15 or 20 feet below the patio.
There are several hiking trails at Hurricane Ridge. We took one that travels along the rim of a glacial cirque, which is the bowl-shaped starting point of a glacier. In the photo below, you can see one side of the bowl that was carved by the glacier that once existed along the ridge.
There are sub-alpine meadows at Hurricane Ridge; and unlike the ones at Yosemite and at Lassen Volcano, it was late enough in the year that these meadows were not snow covered. We saw numerous wildflowers blooming like the ones next to the road in the photo below.
We also saw quite a few Columbia lilies.
The most common wildflowers at the top of the ridge were lupines.
After our hike, we drove back down from the ridge to the motor home. We used Port Angeles as a home base for more adventures, so look for our next post.