Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Olympic National Park was set aside as a national monument in 1909, and given national park status 29 years later in 1938. The park contains over 1,400 square miles – too much to see in one day – so we decided to enter the park on the south side rather than going north to Port Angeles. That saved us an hour of driving each way, and we still had a lovely visit.
The road into the park is lined with trees that are 100-150 feet in height, providing a grand entrance to all visitors.
We checked in at the Quinault Rain Forest Ranger Station, and the guide there gave us some excellent recommendations. We started with a short hike to the world’s largest Sitka Spruce tree. Estimated to be 1,000 years old, it was an impressive 191 feet tall and almost 59 feet in circumference. This park is also home to the world’s largest Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir and Mountain Hemlock.
We took another hike to Gatton Creek Falls. As at Rainier, there are many wildflowers in bloom, and many varieties of ferns. We also saw plants that looked like shamrocks to us. Actually, this is the Oregon Oxalis, which is in a different family from the shamrock.
Not to be outdone, Gatton Creek Falls provided its own beauty, from the sound of the rushing water to the color of the algae in the creek.
Next was a rain forest nature trail loop, with examples of stilt trees forming (this occurs when a tree grows around another log or trunk, and the log or trunk later rots away,) and an unfriendly plant we first saw in Alaska – the Devil’s Club. It has stickers on the stems and on both the tops and bottoms of the leaves. We gave these plants a wide berth.
We then drove to the beaches. Although only 20 miles away, the temperature dropped from the mid-80’s to the upper 50’s, although we Minnesotans were comfortable enough in our short sleeves. We also drove from sunshine to fog as we approached the shoreline. We scrambled over some rocks to reach the beach, and it was worth the trip.