Tag Archive | Hoh Rainforest

Olympic National Park: Lake Crescent and the Hoh!

Our second day in Olympic National Park was a big day.  We were going to spend the day in the Hoh Rain Forest!  We got up super-early (5:40 am!) to make the several hour drive from Sequim over to the rainforest.  The night before, we had gone to the grocery store, and made sure that we would have enough snacks for a long day of driving and hiking – plus a new sweatshirt for me because I forgot to bring a warm sweatshirt from home.

We headed out from the hotel in the dark.  At the beginning, there was some misty rain – we chatted about how much it would suck to spend the whole day hiking in the rain.  But soon enough, it gave way to a beautiful morning!  Our first stop on the drive was at Lake Crescent, which is about 17 miles west (and slightly south) of Port Angeles.  Lake Crescent was created during the last Ice Age when the glaciers carved a deep valley; it drained into the Elwha River, which is one of the major rivers in the park.  About 8,000 years ago, there was a giant landslide that created a second lake, Lake Sutherland, and cut Lake Crescent off from the Elwha River.  Fish were trapped in the lake and began to evolve; today there are two subspecies of trout that are genetically distinct from nearby trout.

The moon over Lake Crescent

The moon over Lake Crescent

We were at Lake Crescent just after sunrise, and the lake was absolutely beautiful.  The water is a deep, clear, turquoise blue, a result of the lack of nitrogen in the water, which inhibits the growth of algae in the lake.  Lake Crescent is officially the second deepest lake in Washington state (the first is Lake Chelan), with an official depth of 624 feet.  However, unofficial depth surveys have recorded depths of more than 1,000 feet!

After our quick stop at Lake Crescent, we continued on our way to the Hoh Rain Forest.  The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the United States’ temperate rainforests, with average rainfall of 140 – 170 inches of rain per year.  That’s 12 to 14 feet!  I know some of you think that it rains a lot in all of Washington, but to give you some perspective, Seattle receives an average of 36 inches per year, and New York City receives 45 inches.

Welcome to the Hoh Rain Forest!

Welcome to the Hoh Rain Forest!

When we got to the forest, we stopped off at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor’s Center and got our National Park Passport stamps (one of their stamps is a banana slug!) and set off for a hike.  We started off in the Hall of Mosses, an easy 0.8 mile jaunt near the Visitor’s Center, with signs letting you know which species are out there, and information on the rainforest ecosystem.

The Hoh Rain Forest is dominated by Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock, which grow to extreme sizes because of the abundant rainfall.  The Hall of Mosses shows that there are many types of mosses and lichens too; the lettuce lichen is a favorite of the deer and elk in the forest.  Animals in the Hoh Rain Forest include deer, Roosevelt elk, black bear, cougar, bobcat, tree frogs, spotted owls and of course, the banana slug.

These trees in the Hoh Rain Forest are massive!

These trees in the Hoh Rain Forest are massive!

That's a lot of Moss!

That’s a lot of Moss!

Piddles the Traveling Owl Posing with some of the Hoh's Lichens

Piddles the Traveling Owl Posing with some of the Hoh’s Lichens

After enjoying the Hall of Mosses, and watching Jon play with the camera for awhile, we hiked out the Hoh River trail, a trail that stretches for over 17 miles near the river.  You can hike out and camp if you want, or you can head out as far as you want and then turn around and come back.  There are several small trails that lead to the river, and after running into some other hikers who tipped us off to where the elk were, we took one of the small trails over to the river and found a herd of elk grazing and sleeping along the banks of the river.  We watched them for awhile, trading the camera and the binoculars back and forth.  Seeing the elk was really the highlight of the rainforest for me!

A Roosevelt Elk Bull with two females in the Hoh Rain Forest

A Roosevelt Elk Bull with two females in the Hoh Rain Forest

When we were there, we were mostly alone.  We ran into other hikers about every 15 or 20 minutes, but otherwise, it was just us.  It is not a difficult hike either, with most of the first several miles relatively flat.  And even better, the whole time we were at the Hoh Rain Forest, there was no rain!  I have no idea how that happened, but we certainly lucked out.

Our First Peek at Olympic National Park

The first day of our Olympic National Park weekend began in Bremerton, Washington, with me wrapping up my conference in the morning.  I came back to the hotel just before noon to finish packing up my things while Jon took a shower after his run.  We checked out and then got on the road, heading north to our home for the next few days, Sequim.  We stopped for a panini, soup and salad lunch at Panera Bread (don’t you just love their food!), and then we were on our way!

I have always thought of the Olympic Peninsula being a good distance away from our home just south of Canada.  To get there from home, we have to drive south, then west, then take a ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend, then drive to whatever our final destination is.  For some reason I just have a mental block about it, even though it really isn’t that far away – so I had never been there, and neither had Jon.  But driving up to Sequim from Bremerton was just over an hour, on mostly country highways with light traffic.  The sun was shining and the workweek was done, so it was really a pleasant excursion.

The View on the Way to Sequim

The View on the Way to Sequim

We got to Sequim and checked into our hotel, changed into hiking clothes, and then headed out to the Olympic National Park Visitor’s Center to try to beat the rain.  We knew the weekend would bring some, but in Washington, even if rain is promised, you never really know if it will start, when it will start, how much you will get, or how long it will last.

Olympic National Park is a huge park, spanning 922,650 acres, with several entrances, and several Visitor’s Centers.  President Theodore Roosevelt designated the area as a National Monument in 1909, and it was changed to National Park status in 1938 by Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The park has four distinct ecosystems: coastal, alpine, temperate rainforest, and drier coniferous forest on the east side of the park.  The park contains 60 miles of coastline on the West Coast of Washington, rainforests that receive over 150 inches of precipitation annually, and a mountain range with a summit of 7,788 feet, Mount Deception, and a glacier of over 5 kilometers.

The main Visitor’s Center at Olympic National Park is just outside of Port Angeles, which is about 15 miles east of where we were staying in Sequim.  The rangers there are very helpful, giving you advice on which trails you might want to hike, or equipping you with a bear box if you are going to be camping in the park.  The Visitor’s Center also contains the Beaumont Cabin, a log cabin built by Elliott Beaumont in 1887, on his 160 acre homestead claim.

The Front of the Beaumont Cabin - What a Tiny House!

The Front of the Beaumont Cabin – What a Tiny House!

Beaumont lived in the cabin with his wife for almost 40 years.  It was donated to the Clallam County Historical Society in the 1960s, and has been restored and furnished with period furnishings.  You can peek in and see the decor, and immediately realize how small a pioneer cabin is.  It is about 10 feet by 10 feet!  You really get a good idea of the phrase cabin fever!

The Side of the Beaumont Cabin

The Side of the Beaumont Cabin

After checking out the cabin, it wasn’t raining, so we were ready to head up to Hurricane Ridge to see some awesome views!