Monday, October 11, 2010

Sol Duc Exploration

Roger and I left the Hoh Rain Forest late in the afternoon.  Our destination was Sol Duc Hot Springs.  After a cold, wet hike in the rainforest, a soak in a hot springs sounded wonderful.   Our guidebook mentioned there was a nice campground a mile from the hot springs.  Perfect!  

This photo is for all you "Twilight" fans

On our way to the Sol Duc area, we passed through the town of Forks, Washington.  This small logging town has rocketed to fame thanks to the success of the "Twilight" books.  I've never read the books myself, but my daughter Denise and her friends are big-time fans.  So, for Denise, we made a stop at the local Chamber of Commerce visitor information center.

Signs in the window of the Forks visitor information center

The lady working inside was most enthusiastic.  She gave me all kinds of info about the "Twilight" points of interest in town.  Apparently Forks was a dying town before "Twilight" resurrected it.  Driving through the town, there were a few businesses cashing in on the "Twihard" craze.  A couple of tour companies and some souvenir shops occupied downtown storefronts.  Even the local supermarket had an aisle dedicated to everything Twilight.  I've never seen so many t-shirts and trinkets with vampire and werewolf themes.  And it wasn't Halloween!

Our campsite had this beautiful view of the Sol Duc River

After leaving Forks, Roger and I drove on, following Hwy 101 around the Olympic Peninsula.  It took about an hour to reach Sol Duc Hot Springs.  We drove into the nearby campground to find a spot.  I thought our previous night's campsite on Kalaloch Beach could not be beat.  But we found a site even better.  This campground was hands down the most beautiful place I've camped in a long time.  We got a site right on the Sol Duc River.  The view was incredible.  The Sol Duc is a beautiful river, made even more scenic by the fall colors.  We could hear the sound of the rushing river, and it was wonderful.  The site was sheltered by a large grove of big beautiful fir trees.  And - best of all - there was hardly anyone camping here!  We had the entire campground loop all to ourselves.

We camped under the canopy of these big trees

Roger and I set up our tent, and then grabbed our swimsuits for a soak in the hot springs.  The Sol Duc Hot Springs is a developed resort with a lodge and cabins for rent, as well as many hot pools for soaking.  The hot springs was a busy place that evening, and all of the five hot tubs and one swimming pool were full of people.  I don't know where all of these people came from! 

We soaked in the hot sulphur-smelling water for as long as we could stand it.  Then Roger and I went to our respective locker rooms, and took showers.  When you are camping, a shower is always appreciated!  We returned to our campsite in the dark, and had a quick supper (with more wine) and then it was off to bed.  The warm water had loosened my muscles, and that, along with the cheerful sound of the nearby river, lulled me off to sleep.  I slept very well that night.

Whoever made this trail sign misspelled "Sol Duc"

The next morning dawned chilly, but DRY!  Breakfast and camp take-down moved at a much more leisurely pace than the previous morning.  Roger and I planned to take a hike along the Sol Duc River to see Sol Duc Falls, and then continue to Deer Lake.  There is a highly recommended "Seven Lakes Basin Loop" from the Sol Duc Falls Trailhead that visits seven beautiful mountain lakes, but the hike is over 18 miles in length.  Too far of a dayhike for us!  So we settled on visiting one of the seven lakes instead.

The sun came out and began streaming through the trees

This trail was just as beautiful as the Hoh Rainforest trail.  But there was one big difference - it wasn't raining!  As a matter of fact, the sun came out soon after we began our hike.  The sun's rays streamed through the trees making cool patterns of light.  It was so lovely.  I felt like I was in a cathedral - nature's cathedral.

The sun's rays made cool patterns as they came through the trees

Roger and I took some time and attempted to capture the sunshine patterns with our cameras.  We got a couple of good shots.  And we had fun trying.

Sol Duc Falls

A little less than a mile down the trail, we came upon Sol Duc Falls.  I had no idea what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful triple cascade.  The rain from the day before swelled the river, and the falls were roaring mightily.

What a lovely setting!

I didn't have my tripod, but did my best to capture the falls at their finest.  There was a wood footbridge over the creek that faced the falls, and I braced my camera on the railing and slowed the shutter speed as much as I could.  There were lots of "throw away" photos taken, but I did get a couple of keepers.

View from the very top of the falls

Roger was very patient and waited while I ran around taking tons of photos.  We started our hike early enough in the morning, that there was only one other couple at the falls.  It was nice not having to dodge people to get my shots.  On our way back later that afternoon, the viewing area would be crowded with tourists.

Sol Duc Falls viewing area

Finally, Roger pulled me away from the waterfalls, and we resumed our hike.  After a little searching, we found the continuation of the trail, and began climbing.

A rare clearing along the trail

We climbed along through the woods.  The trail followed Canyon Creek, a cheerful little brook that we occasionally crossed.  We crossed a small clearing and got a glimpse of the adjacent mountains.

A little fall color brightens the trail

Roger climbed steadily up the trail, while I lingered behind, taking photos.  At one point, some red-orange vine maples provided a little trailside color.

Hmm.....what do you think this tree knot looks like??

Roger came upon a tall tree with a large round knot in the middle of the trunk, about halfway up.  This knot had a very peculiar shape. 

A closer look at the "butt-tree"

Yep, you guessed it.  Both Roger and I agreed the tree knot looked like someone's rear end.  We had a good laugh, and dubbed it the "butt-tree."

Deer Lake reflections

We climbed and climbed over a very rocky trail.  I was getting tired and hungry and wondered when we'd arrive at Deer Lake.  And then we saw the gurgling outlet creek, and came upon the lake.  Yahoo!

The lake was rimmed by huckleberry bushes

The lakeshore was covered in huckleberry bushes with ripe berries.  Some of the leaves had turned red, and were very colorful.

Roger samples the huckleberries

 Roger decided to sample the berries, and went right to work picking and tasting.

I'm enjoying the scenery

Deer Lake was a serene, peaceful spot. I was ready for a break, and found a nice sunny rock on the lakeshore to rest and have lunch.

Deer Lake and the forest beyond

After fueling myself with Luna bars and fruit, and Roger with huckleberries, we packed up and bid Deer Lake goodbye.  We rejoined the trail, and headed back to Sol Duc Falls.

The green forest

The closer Roger and I got to Sol Duc Falls, the more people we encountered on the trail.  After seeing no one the entire hike up, It seemed like everybody finally woke up, and decided to hike this particular trail.  Some folks weren't very prepared.  They either had the wrong footwear, minimal or no food and water, or looked really out of shape.  They all wanted to know "how much farther to the lake?"

Interesting blow-down

I thought the position of this blow-down tree in the above photo was interesting.  Usually blow-down trees fall across the trail, and you have to either crawl over, wriggle under, or find a way to scramble around the blockage.  This tree fell vertically, and was considerate enough to leave room for hikers to walk around.

I like the name of the first trail!  Maybe we should've hike that one.

As mentioned earlier, when we passed by Sol Duc Falls again, there were tons of people in the viewing area.  Roger and I didn't stop this time, and continued on towards the trailhead.  We encountered a steady stream of people hiking to the falls.  Glad we started our hike so early!  We practically had the trail to ourselves that morning.

Another great hike in Olympic National Park.  Another place I'd like to return for further exploration.  Next time, we'll bring our big backpacks and hike the Seven Lakes Basin in several days.  I can't say enough about how much I liked the Sol Duc area.  It was probably my most favorite spot in the park.  Yes, we will definitely be back!

I have one more blog post about our last Olympic National Park destination - Hurricane Ridge.  Keep it right here, you won't want to miss it!


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