Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge is a mountain viewpoint in Olympic National Park.  It is located at the end of a long, steep, windy road that begins in Port Angeles, WA.  The road climbs from sea level to 5,250 feet in 17 miles.

After hiking most of the day at Sol Duc, Roger and I headed towards Hurricane Ridge.  We were hoping the morning's clear, sunny weather would hold long enough for us to see some mountains once we arrived.

This was all we could see at Hurricane Ridge

A ranger recommended we first stop at the Olympic National Park visitor center in Port Angeles to get a weather report before we made the drive up Hurricane Ridge.  The ranger at the visitor center was friendly, but not a lot of help.  He looked at the webcam, and said it was partly cloudy, but the views were "dramatic."  So, on  his advice, Roger and I drove up the long, steep winding road to the top of Hurricane Ridge.  Boy what a road!  It is not for the easily car sick.  Lots of tight curves and steep grades makes for slow travel.

This is what we were supposed to see

We finally arrived at the visitor center, only to find clouds and fog.  No mountain views whatsoever!  What a disappointment! Roger and I hung out on the observation deck anyway, hoping things would clear up.  After awhile I went into the gift shop, and chatted with the man behind the counter.  He said there had not been a sunny day at Hurricane Ridge for two weeks.  After hearing this, I didn't feel as bad.

This lady was too busy taking photos to notice what was behind her

There was a German lady tourist with a long lens camera clicking away at something in the clouds. I'm not sure what she was taking so many photos of.  A herd of deer came walking by the visitor center.  The deer were apparently used to humans, because they lingered around the walkway munching away on the vegetation.  They walked right behind the German lady and she was so busy taking photos, she didn't even notice them.

A deer begs for food

The deer wandered around in front of the visitor center.  They were followed by a small group of us tourists, clicking away on our cameras.  There were three does and two fawns.  It was very fun to watch the deer, and I did manage to get a couple of good photographs.  If we couldn't see the mountains, at least we got to see some wildlife.

No views here today

Since Roger and I had driven all the way up here, we figured we'd spend some time and hike around the trails.  We hiked up to the top of a nearby ridge.  A sign explained you could see the ocean from here.  Not today!

Roger gets up close and personal with the deer

As we were walking down the trail back to our car, we encountered the deer herd again.  The deer were hanging alongside the trail munching away.  I got a few more photos, and then the deer slowly wandered across the path, right next to Roger.

After driving back down that harrowing road, Roger and I pitched out tent at a campground near Port Angeles.  It was a nice enough place, but after staying the previous two nights at such outstanding campgrounds, it paled in comparison.

The next morning we got to see the view we'd missed

We awoke up the next morning to find cold but clear skies.  Roger and I decided to make one more trip up the road to Hurricane Ridge.  This time we were rewarded with the mountain views we'd missed the day before.

Mount Olympus and the rest of the mountains

Oh what a glorious view it was!  There were large, snow-capped mountains to the southwest, and smaller tree-covered peaks to the southeast.  Mt. Olympus, the largest of the mountains, showed its broad glacial summit.

View to the north - the Strait of  Juan De Fuca and Vancouver Island

We  hiked back up the same ridge as yesterday.  This time there was a view at the viewpoint.  We could see north to Port Angles, and the Strait of Juan De Fuca.  Beyond, we could barely make out Vancouver Island and the city of Victoria.

Kinda looks like Switzerland, doesn't it?

We hiked the ridge opposite the visitor center, and got a great vantage of the mountain panorama.  The  sights were even better than views from the patio at the visitor center.

The windy road up to this place

Up on top of the ridge you could see all kinds of things.  To the north, I could see the Pacific Ocean.  To the south and west, a broad wall of mountains.  To the east, I could see the winding ribbon of the roadway we'd driven up to get here.  Being in the road building business, I appreciated the work it must've taken to build such a highway.

Looking down the ridge toward the mountains

Roger and I lingered up on the ridge for awhile, soaking in the scenery.  We were so happy we'd decided to come back up Hurricane Ridge that day.  It was nice to be able to see views this place is famous for.

Grouse near the visitor center

I went back to the visitor center for one last round of photos.  As I was shooting away, I kept hearing a cooing noise.  I didn't think anything of it, but when I finally put down my camera and looked, there were three grouse on the ground below me.  I was as bad as the German lady the day before!  I was able to get a couple of shots of the birds before they hid in the underbrush.

So that's the story of our whirlwind tour of Olympic National Park.  After wanting to visit this park for at least three years, I'm happy I finally got to see it.  But we only scratched the surface, and I'm hopeful to plan a trip next summer and get to the places we missed.  And of course, I'd like to revisit a couple of my favorite spots too. 

What a wonderful, special place!

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