Thursday, June 22, 2017

DESTINATION: Mount Rainier, Washington


It was time to say goodbye to Washington State.  Here's one last look at the beautiful mountains out of our plane window as we flew by.  We really enjoyed this adventure!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

DESTINATION: Ruby Beach, Washington

Since we were just a few miles from the Pacific Coast we decided to leave the Hoh Rainforest and spend a few minutes at Ruby Beach, Washington.  We were not disappointed with our decision.  The view from the look-out just below the parking lot was breath taking as was the beach once we got a closer look.

Cedar Creek empties into the Pacific Ocean at Ruby Beach

Famous for the reddish sand that occasionally gathers and large, rock islands known as sea stacks, Ruby Beach is one of the most well-known and highly anticipated beaches to visit along the Olympic coastline. This beach is the northernmost of the southern beaches in the coastal section of Olympic National Park. It is located on Highway 101, in Jefferson County, 27 miles south of the town of Forks.

Where's the beach?

Beautiful sight after climbing over all that driftwood

Like virtually all beaches on the northern coast, Ruby Beach has a tremendous amount of driftwood which we had to climb over to walk the beach and get closer to the sea stacks. 

Sea stacks on Ruby Beach

Destruction Island (also known historically as Green Island) is a 30-acre island located approximately 3.5 miles of Ruby Beach. Home to seabirds, shorebirds, and marine mammals, it is part of the Quillayute Needles National Wildlife Refuge.

Destruction Island as seen from Ruby Beach

Destruction Island was used as an anchorage by Spanish ships in 1775. A crew of seven men was sent to the mainland to procure supplies of wood and water, but was massacred by the local Indians, leading naval lieutenant Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra to name it the Isla de Dolores (the Island of Sorrows). Twelve years later, Captain Charles William Barkley, an independent English fur trader, arrived in the ship Imperial Eagle, and sent a party ashore from the island to a similar fate. He named the river where the second massacre took place the Destruction River. Captain George Vancouver later transferred the name to the Isla de Dolores when the river was given its Indian name, the Hoh River.

Three shipwrecks occurred at the island in 1889: Cassanora AdamsPort Gordon, and Wide West. The 94 foot Destruction Island Lighthouse was built on Destruction Island in 1888-91. A US Coast Guard detachment operated the lighthouse from 1939 to the early 1970s. The light was automated in 1968, before it was shut off for good in April 2008. The island itself is accessible only by boat.Jump up

DESTINATION: Hoh Rainforest, Washington

On our last day in the Olympic National Park we visited the Hoh Rainforest. It is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S.  Within Olympic National Park, the forest is protected from commercial exploitation. This includes 24 miles of low elevation forest 394 to 2,493 feet along the Hoh River. The Hoh River valley was formed thousands of years ago by glaciers. Between the park boundary and the Pacific Ocean, 48 km of river, much of the forest has been logged within the last century, although many pockets of forest remain.

The beautiful Hoh River flows in and out of Olympic National Park

Forks, Washington welcome sign

It looks like Bella is visiting the Forks Timber Museum! See her red truck on the left?

To get to the Hoh Rainforest we traveled west on Highway 101 and then headed south on the same highway going through Forks, Washington.  Forks may look familiar because it is the setting (and partial filming location) for the Twilight Movies.

After passing through Forks we turned back to the east and traveled on the Upper Hoh Road and back into the Olympic National Park.

Hoh Visitors Center

EVERYTHING in the forest is covered with moss!

The Hoh Rainforest is home to a National Park Service ranger station, from which backcountry trails extend deeper into the national park.

Near the visitor center is the Hall of Mosses Trail, a short trail—0.8 miles - which gives visitors a feel for the local ecosystem and views of maples draped with large growths of spikemoss. There is also the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles), which includes signs that identify various trailside trees and plants.  We enjoyed a hike through the Hall of Mossess but, unfortunately, we didn't have the time or energy to tackle the Spruce Nature Trail before we headed to Ruby Beach and back to home base, Lake Sutherland.

Gman or Hobbit?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

DESTINATION: Lake Crescent, Washington

Our "home base" for our Olympic National Park tour was Lake Sutherland, Washington.  Lake Crescent is just west of Lake Sutherland off Highway 101.  

Spooky Highway 101 between Lake Sutherland and Lake Crescent

Stopped by the Shadow Mountain General Store to get a geocache and look what we found!

Lake Crescent is a deep lake located entirely within Olympic National Park.  At an official maximum depth of 624 feet also the maximum depth of the depth sounder used to find that depth, it is officially the second deepest lake in Washington. Unofficial depth measurements of more than 1,000 feet have been rumored in the region for years, although this figure has recently been proven false after a lake-wide bathymetric survey was performed from 2013 to 2014. The results of this survey showed the maximum depth as being 596 feet. Using GIS statistical analysis, this survey also showed the lake contains approximately 0.5 cubic miles of fresh water.

Posing in front of Lake Crescent

Sun going down behind mountains

Around 8,000 years ago a great landslide from one of the Olympic Mountains dammed Indian Creek and the deep valley filled with water. Many geologists believe that Lake Crescent and nearby Lake Sutherland formed at the same time, but became separated by the landslide. This theory is supported by Klallum tribe legend which tells a story of Mount Storm King being angered by warring tribes and throwing a boulder to cut Lake Sutherland in two, resulting in Lake Crescent. The results of the landslide are easily visible from the summit of Pyramid Mountain. Eventually, the water found an alternative route out of the valley, spilling into the Lyre River, over the Lyre River Falls, and out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Lake Crescent is known for its brilliant blue waters and exceptional clarity, caused by a lack of nitrogen in the water which inhibits the growth of algae. It is located in a popular recreational area which is home to a number of trails, including the Spruce Railroad Trail, Pyramid Mountain trail, and the Barnes Creek trail to Marymere Falls. The Spruce Railroad Trail follows the grade of what was once the tracks of a logging railroad along the shores of the lake. Following this trail on the north side of the lake, one can find the entrance to an old railroad tunnel as well as "Devils Punch Bowl", a popular swimming and diving area.

Outside the Lake Crescent Lodge

Barnes Creek runs near Lake Crescent Lodge and into the lake

Daisies at Barnes Creek

Cabins for rent at Lake Crescent Lodge

Deer outside cabins offered at Lake Crescent Lodge

Historic Lake Crescent Lodge sits on the shores of Lake Crescent. It was built in 1915 and is an ideal base camp for enjoying Olympic National Park, while experiencing the charm of a turn-of-the-century resort.

DESTINATION: Elwha River, Washington

After our whale watching tour out of Port Angeles we decided to head back to Lake Sutherland but made a quick stop to view the Elwha River and what use to be the Glines Canyon River Damn.

The Elwha Dam was a 108-ft high dam located in the state of Washington, on the Elwha River approximately 4.9 miles upstream from the mouth of the river on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Map showing location of Elwha Dam and Glines Canyon Dam

The Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act of 1992 authorized the US Federal Government to acquire the Elwha Dam and Glines Canyon Dam hydroelectric power projects for decommissioning and demolition for habitat restoration. Removal of the Elwha Dam began in September 2011 and was fully complete by March 2012, allowing the Elwha River to flow freely through the site.  The removal of the largest dam in U.S. History was featured in National Geographic.

Sun shining on the Elwha River Valley

From what was Glines Canyon Dam looking north towards the where the Elwha river empties into the Strait of Juan de Fuca

(Close-up) From what was Glines Canyon Dam looking north towards the where the Elwha river empties into the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Elwha River Valley looking south

(Close-up) Elwha River Valley looking south

Below is a short time-lapse video of the removal of the dam.

DESTINATION: Strait of Juan de Fuca, Washington

The Strait of Juan de Fuca is a large body of water about 95 miles that is the Salish Sea's outlet to the Pacific Ocean. The international boundary between Canada and the United States runs down the center of the Strait.

Leaving Port Angeles Harbor, view of observation deck in background

It was named in 1787 by the maritime fur trader Charles William Barkley, captain of the Imperial Eagle, for Juan de Fuca, the Greek navigator who sailed in a Spanish expedition in 1592 to seek the fabled Strait of Anián. Barkley was the first non-indigenous person to find the strait.

Port Angeles Harbor

The San Juan Island, border the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and provide one of the best whale watching opportunities anywhere in the world, offering calm waters (yeah, right!) and a huge variety of wildlife which includes three pods of resident Orca whales.  There are also humpback, minke, and grey whales that frequent the waters surrounding whale watching departure locations.

Entrance to Landing Mall at Port Angeles, Washington

We boarded the Explorer 3 at the Landing Mall in Port Angeles, WA. The Explorer 3 is one of several vessels in a fleet owned by Island Adventures Whale Watching Company.  We were warned at boarding that gale force winds were expected in the strait before the day was over.  Although cold, we decided to go on with our adventure and not reschedule for another day.

The Explorer 3 with dark ominous clouds in background

Our adventure started as soon as we poked our nose into the Strait of Juan de Fuca from the protected harbor of the Ediz Hook. We were immediately on a rodeo ride due to big waves! Shortly into the trip, guests on the upper deck spotted whale spray on the horizon line! 

First sign of whales

We then cruised in that direction toward the rockpile and were treated to a great humpback show with lots of tails and close encounters. Soon the whales started traveling into the swell, so we continued in the opposite direction until a shipping barge reported two more active whales on his port side! 

Humpback whale spy hop

As we approached we could see the whales going crazy with breaches, pectoral slaps, and peduncle throws! It looked like the whales were having a blast playing in the big waves! 

Humpback - Full body breach

Another humpback full body breach

Unfortunately, there was no playing from inside the boat - just sea sick passengers - including us!

Monday, June 19, 2017

DESTINATION: Port Angeles, Washington

After leaving Fort Worden we traveled west to Port Angeles, Washington.  We rented a house on Lake Sutherland, located west of Port Angeles, to use a "home-base" as we explored the Olympic National Park and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Welcome to Port Angeles, Washington

Look out tower as seen from downtown Port Angeles

This area was long occupied by succeeding cultures of indigenous peoples. In 1791 the harbor was entered by Spanish explorer Francisco de Eliza, who named it Puerto de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (Port of Our Lady of the Angels), claiming it for Spain. He was on an expedition from southern California. This name was shortened to the current one of Port Angeles.  Port Angeles is home to Peninsula College. It is the birthplace of football hall of famer John Elway and residents include writers and artists.

View of Olympic Mountains from downtown Port Angeles, Washington

Ship being tugged into the harbor at Port Angeles.  In the background is a narrow strip of land called Ediz Hook.

Lake Sutherland is located on the Olympic Peninsula about 17 miles west of Port Angeles, Washington. The lake is located just to the east of Lake Crescent. Lake Sutherland drains into Indian Creek, which is a tributary of the Elwha River.

The house we rented at Lake Sutherland, Washington

This bald eagle nested somewhere over the house.  We heard the eagle several times but didn't see it until the day before we left Lake Sutherland.

Lake Sutherland lies just outside Olympic National Park and is private land. The lake is surrounded by houses, many of which are vacation homes inhabited only seasonally. Boating and fishing on the lake are very popular.

Lake Sutherland is named for the Canadian fur trapper John Sutherland who, with John Everett, discovered the lake around 1865. The lake contains a population of kokanee sockeye salmon, which spawn in Lake Sutherland and then migrate to Lake Aldwell, to use as their "ocean". 

Clouds settle down on top of the mountain.  View of Lake Sutherland from the deck of our cabin.